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By Jess Carper-Walther

I began cutting at age eleven and abusing alcohol and drugs two years later. Trauma and substance abuse became an endless cycle. This is initially the reason why I became a licensed, professional counselor; I wanted to help other people deal with life’s difficulties in a healthy way.

I experienced periods of sobriety and happiness, but it never lasted. Any traumatic experience, one being the death of my younger brother, ended in inevitable relapse. The worst part was that I was alone. I hid my addiction from everyone I knew. On the outside it appeared as though I was living a successful life but I was a hypocrite. I was counseling others when I was the one who needed healing. I felt it was my job to fix others; I did not need to be fixed.

Jess and Jad with their two dogs.

Jess and Jad with their two dogs.

My husband was one of the people I wanted to fix. He had struggled with several addiction issues, including sex addiction. After I interrupted his suicide attempt two months into our marriage, I knew I was not the answer. I researched treatment options and found a long-term residential Christian program for men. It was out of state, so we communicated by phone and letters. Two months into his treatment, he asked me for a divorce. I was devastated. After rejecting relationships my entire life, I finally had let someone in. And now it was over.

After a painful intervention, I consented to treatment and found myself at the doors of Teen Challenge. The program was twelve months long; I reluctantly committed to three to six months. Pride stood in my way of surrendering to this program. The only reason I was there was because my husband hurt me. I wasn’t the one who needed to change. I tried to leave on my fourth day, which coincidentally was the day I met my mentor, Paula Sutherland. Her husband, Aaron, pastors New Hope Eugene, an Open Bible church in Eugene, Oregon. I let Paula know that I wouldn’t be talking to her. Despite my attitude, Paula was patient and kind. She had such gentleness about her. I could tell she was truly a woman of God.

I had considered myself a Christ-follower for about ten years when I entered Teen Challenge. However, my addiction hindered my walk with the Lord. I would walk with the Lord for a while, find a place of peace and joy, and then decide to do it on my own again. This was a theme I explored with Paula during our weekly meetings. I also worked on my own personal studies to grow closer to God. About six weeks into my program, with Paula’s help, I finally surrendered everything to God. I told Him I couldn’t do it on my own anymore.

After participating in therapy for fifteen years, attending various rehabs, and being a therapist myself, I can honestly tell you the only one who can heal completely is Jesus Christ. He alone delivered me. He taught me humility, gratitude, and perseverance. He chose Teen Challenge as the vessel to redeem, restore, and rebuild me. He chose godly women like Paula to encourage me and guide me to His truth. During my year-long program my husband and I reconciled, which is nothing short of a miracle. We both are new creations. We are finally together and committed to having a Christ-centered marriage. We believe it is God’s will for us to become Christian counselors, helping others find the freedom we have so graciously been given. “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13).



Jess-Jad-and-Jess-flannel-authorJess Carper-Walther resides in Portland, Oregon, where she is returning to the field of professional counseling. She and her husband, Jad, are eager to walk in all that God has ahead for them. Her mentor, Paula Sutherland, said, “I watched Jess surrender everything to Jesus after a few months at Teen Challenge. She trusted Him to accomplish all that concerned her, just as God promised her in Psalm 138:8. God continues to do exactly that in her life.

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