Resurrection Song – Samantha’s Story
To the outside world I had an idyllic childhood. My younger sister and I grew up on a small farm on the Mid-North Coast of NSW. My mother and father had immigrated independently from England and Germany respectively, and met in Sydney. They were both adventurers at heart and initially were not planning on having children. My father was very keen to have a daughter however and I was born when my mother was 40. My sister was born 15 months later. They were not perfect parents but they were good people who loved us.
Despite all this, I was an unhappy child. From as young as I can remember, I lived with low self-esteem and fear. I suffered strange paranoias and felt very disconnected from people and life. From the age of eight, I struggled with an eating disorder and bouts of anxiety, insomnia and depression that continued into my adult years. I did my best to keep up appearances and didn’t ask for help. I suffered in silence.
I first became aware of God after my parents sent me to the local Catholic primary school. At the age of 16, I was invited by a friend to attend a Christian music event. It was there that I made the decision to become a Christian. I became involved in the local church youth group and threw myself into church life. Although my relationship with God was growing, the stress of my parent’s divorce, the same year I became a Christian, triggered an intense season of bulimia that did not subside until I became pregnant with my first child many years later.
My first husband and I met at church. By the time I was 23 years old, I was married with two children and we had relocated to the South Coast for my husband’s job. After the birth of my second son, I suffered severe postnatal depression that saw me battling extreme anxiety, depression and insecurity. I felt detached from my own life and experienced irrational mood swings that led to some devastating decisions on my part and eventually the breakdown of my marriage.
My life continued to spiral out of control. I left the church that my husband and I had been attending and continued to isolate myself from others. It was a flawed protective mechanism that only served to increase my reckless behaviour. My husband and I separated in 2008 and in 2009 we were divorced.
That same year I made the decision to begin working as an escort with a Sydney-based agency. I attended a formal interview for the position, an experience that normalised a decision that led to a life that was incredibly destructive and anything but normal.
Within months of starting work in the sex industry, I began dating a drug dealer and developed a heavy dependence on cocaine, base (speed), ecstasy and alcohol. For the next six years, I worked in most legal brothels and massage parlours in Sydney. The combination of this environment and my addiction resulted in numerous life-threatening situations. I have been physically beaten, arrested and, on one occasion, drugged and then raped by two men. My self-worth was zero and I constantly battled suicidal fantasies and drug-induced paranoia and psychosis. Eventually, I lost custody of my two sons and truly believed there was no way out of the situation I had put myself in.
I lived with a level of anxiety and recklessness that seemed beyond my control. It was not until I was 31 years old that I realised where this destructive behaviour and self-loathing stemmed from. I had been repeatedly sexually abused as a young child. In an attempt to shield myself from the trauma of that experience, I had blocked the memories from my conscious mind, but the effects were astronomical and had set me on a path of pain, suffering & self-destruction.
My journey to wholeness had begun but it would take years before I experienced real breakthrough. I slowly transitioned out of working in the sex industry but it was not an instant or easy journey. I returned to church and began intermittent counselling but, for the next few years, I had a foot in both camps. I began a romantic relationship with an amazing man named Greg yet even when we were together I struggled to leave behind my former life. I was attending church and tithing the money I earned as a prostitute (without Greg’s knowledge) to the church we were both attending. We both had our fair share of emotional baggage from our respective pasts and our relationship became a toxic rollercoaster. In 2015, Greg and I got married but within a month I had walked out on him and began a relationship with a woman that worked at the gym that I now owned. It seemed impossible that my marriage to Greg could ever be restored or that I would ever be truly free.
In 2016, at the age of 33, I finally hit rock bottom. I was experiencing the worst anxiety, depression, panic attacks and psychosis of my life. I felt completely hopeless. I cried out to God and told Him I would do anything it took to be truly set free. I began to see that even though what had happened to me in the past was tragic and unfair, the way I had responded had caused others, including my own children, a great deal of pain. Instead of running to God for help, I had tried to run from the pain in all sorts of destructive ways. It was time to hand my whole heart and life over to Jesus and trust Him to heal me.
This is an entry from my diary during this time:
It was a tough gig, but how I responded to the abuse and trauma throughout my life, it was still sin Lord. I am sorry. You never expected me to be able to handle and stand against the trials on my own. They were way too big for me! All You expected was for me to turn to You and let You fight for and deliver me from every attack, big or small. To stay in complete surrender to You (daily, minute by minute) so the storm never took over.
This is what I finally realised:
‘Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.’
2 Corinthians 7:10 MSG
On the 24th of November 2016, I was water baptised.
This moment marked a significant turnaround in my life. Even friends who were not Christians commented on how different I was. I started making some big changes including cutting ties with some significant things in my life. I realised that some of these had become like idols to me. One area in particular, was my attachment to the gym that I owned. It had become a safety blanket. I thought I had proved to the world I was ok because I owned a successful business. Nothing could be further from the truth!
I will always deeply treasure the few months I had after truly handing my life to Jesus. I had always known about Him and He had always pursued me. I had definitely experienced His presence but I had never completely surrendered to Him. As I cried out to Him and lay my whole life down, He revealed Himself to me in the most precious way, as my Perfect Husband. There is so much I could say about this special time with Him, but let’s just say, it was like a honeymoon; so deeply intimate. I had a real revelation of just how much He loves me and just how much I could trust Him.
I began to pray for the restoration of my marriage to Greg.
Those that know Greg and supported him through this time will be able to tell you, this was a prayer of the impossible. I had done so much damage to him that he had made up his mind to never take me back and had filed for a divorce. I came to terms with the fact that my second marriage had likely been put to death by my poor choices but something in my heart knew that God would make a way. And that is just what He did! I wrote a letter to Greg, a letter of repentance, where I took full responsibility for the pain that I had caused him. That marked the beginning of the journey of restoration in our relationship.
Our marriage now has a unity and strength like never before. We work as a team and serve each other rather than seek to get our own way. We are a living testimony of the power of prayer and of just what an amazing Counsellor and Healer our Holy Spirit is.
Is my life perfect now? No.
Do I still struggle, sometimes daily? Yes.
Do I always get things right now? Certainly not!
I am still very much going through a time of great healing but I do know 100% that I am living the life I was created to live. I know in time I will be able to reach out to many women who have had similar experiences to me and pull them out of the darkness they are trapped in. I will be able to walk alongside them and show them a better way!
I am now one of the few girls I know to have escaped the sex industry and the addictions that often come with it. I have regained custody of my children, am no longer taking drugs or drinking and have managed to stay on the path of healing and health. I know how much damage this work did to me over the years and I witnessed the pain and suffering it caused hundreds of others. One of my close working-girl friends hung herself at the age of just twenty. I have spent hours researching the effects of sex work and have found countless articles likening the psychological damage to that of violent sexual abuse. Most of those who choose to work in this industry have already experienced some form of sexual abuse as a child. The dissociation needed to cope with this work causes long-term damage to the brain and can make loving relationships almost impossible. Dissociation can even lead to a total disconnection with your own children.
What I have witnessed in the brothels of Sydney just breaks my heart. These girls are worth so much more than any amount of money could buy. They deserve to be loved and respected, not used and abused. They are someone’s daughter and sister. And most importantly, they are God’s Princesses.
The reason I am sharing all of this is to encourage you. Life is not easy, healing is not always easy, but God IS faithful and He will never EVER give up on you! He can take a big mess and turn it into something absolutely beautiful! He is a God of restoration and the impossible! He says when we ask for help He will be straight there, no matter how far we have tried to run! If you need His help, simply tell Him. I promise you won’t regret it! He has an amazing way of reaching each of us in a personal and unique way that speaks directly to our hearts and situations; He meets us right where we are at.
‘All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times and, before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.’
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 MSG