Posted by: Kara Luker | September 13, 2016

My chains fell off

I was born a sugar fiend. It wasn’t about just a delectable taste on my tongue. When that intoxicating substance hit my bloodstream, all felt right with the world; it was goodness to my soul. I  would like to say that my pleasure-seeking ended there – oh, how much I wish that were true – but it was just the start.

There was the discovery of cigarettes at 13 and, while I didn’t initially enjoy the taste or way smoking made me feel, the delight of being so grown up and worldly made me giddy. I stuck with it, not realizing I would bond so wholly that quitting this “delight” when I became pregnant nearly a decade later would be the hardest thing I would do.

At 14, I discovered alcohol, which delivered a whole new release. The shyness that followed me to each new school and all the accompanying inhibitions melted like wax in a flame. My intensely self-conscious nature was replaced by the carefree, outgoing one I admired in others and longed to have. Shame inevitably followed because, even then, I knew this wasn’t who I was.

After a humiliating and traumatic experience brought about by my excessive use of alcohol, my emotions suffered and my body followed. It was then – after being laid up with a broken heart and a case of mono – that I discovered caffeine. A seemingly innocuous substance, especially when compared to other vices, but one that I learned to rely heavily upon. It picked me up like a good friend, helping me push through days of feeling hollow and tired.. and then dropped me hard, leaving me alone and craving more of its faulty friendship.

It’s no surprise that a few years later, methamphetamine became my new bestie. It electrified me; vitalizing the disconnected pile of wires I’d become. The community surrounding it was dark and ugly – paranoid people snorting up lines of burning white powder in cheap hotel rooms – but it was community nonetheless. And this powder gave me power to connect. But it failed to give life, only robbing what remained.

By the time I was 18, my lungs burned from the multiple packs of cigarettes I smoked each day and I couldn’t get enough alcohol in my system to achieve “normal,” let alone its previous euphoria. I accepted any offer of any substance at any time, for which there were increasing repercussions. I was kidnapped by three young men who had gifted me a line of cocaine at a nightclub (followed by many more during the hours I was in their custody), and then again put myself at risk by accepting a line of speed in the car of another stranger at a gas station immediately following my escape. A week later, a friend shot me up with heroine which, after drenching me in a half moment’s pleasure, very nearly ended my life.

I would have told you I didn’t care. It didn’t matter if I lived or died. But that seeming indifference was actually disconnect. Underneath all the layers of numbness I had created to separate myself from myself lived a warm, beating heart. A passionate one. One that hurt and rejoiced. One that wanted not just to survive, but to live fully and well. Covering it up didn’t make it go away; it simply stifled its voice until it couldn’t be heard – or at least understood – anymore.

But I didn’t know that then. I could feel nothing of life or value within and earnestly thought that if all the layers were peeled back and the cloud of drama dissipated, there would be a sign saying “vacant.” Not a temporary emptiness like a bathroom stall or hotel room, but one of permanence that proclaimed my lack of identity and worth; a declaration that nothing meaningful existed – or could ever exist – in this empty framework of a person.

While the voice of my heart was mute, that of my body was loud and demanding, perpetually harassing me with its wants and needs. I had no ability to discern the difference. When there was a true need like rest, which I feared above all things, I bullied my body forward. I believed it had betrayed me and was undeserving of my kindness.

My pregnancy at 21 changed so much. This unborn child drew a fierce love out of my buried, still-beating heart. Being entrusted with such a valuable gift imparted a secondary worth – not by my own perceived merit, of which there was none, but through this untainted soul placed in my hands.

To nurture this little being required me to nurture my own. So, by miraculous grace, I did. It was weak and fumbling and terrifying and empowering. I wept in pain at my inability to overcome habits that could damage this baby; my son. God almighty met me there in the raw, dirty tension of death and life, loving me in a way that only the humblest of saviors could; teaching me His power through my weakness. It was the beginning of freedom.

The God who loved me through my child became the God who loved me. It broke my heart and humbled me, much like the prodigal son returning from his imperious escapades into the boundless embrace of the father who loved him tenderly; who missed him; who brought him under the safety and provision of his roof once again without a single word of condemnation.

The years that followed were filled with the painful pricks of a waking limb that’s been asleep, as connections to spirit, soul and body were slowly roused. To feel at all was such a wondrous joy, but it was new, often confusing and unsettling. Though there were no longer illicit drugs to battle, I still felt addiction’s pull, fearful of experiencing life without a backup plan. My old standbys of sugar, caffeine and alcohol, albeit in more acceptable amounts, were close at hand to be used as needed, as were various distractions to cope with a life I didn’t know how to live.

But I began to learn that freedom is not found in the absence of something. My life could be purged of every outward impurity and, like the pharisees, could still be without wholeness; without the heartbeat of freedom. Rather, it is found in the presence of the living God, who calls out the true identity he breathed into us upon our creation. Bonding with Him – who is the answer to our every cry – satisfies the soul and breaks the suction to all the imposters that seek to win our affections and distract us from the fullness of life found only in Love.

When that warm, transforming presence seeped into the cracks of my self-erected fortress, the rigid walls began to show signs of weakness, then to break apart, and now I see them melting like lava before me. Along with the hardness of my heart and the fear of being found wanting, the things that once comforted me are losing their grip. Not because I am trying so hard to avoid them, but because a morsel is insignificant before a feast and a flashlight useless under the brightly burning sun.

As the Lord continues to lead me forward on this great adventure, I believe that not only will the chains that once bound me continue to fall at the feet of the God who saved me, but that my ears will be filled with the liberating sound of clanking metal as the chains of many others fall to the ground and their prison doors swing open. In the mighty name of Jesus.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,

and he saved them from their distress.

He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,

and broke away their chains.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for mankind,

for he breaks down gates of bronze

and cuts through bars of iron.  Psalm 107: 13-16



  1. My sweet Kara, I am leading a ladies encounter retreat this weekend , may i share this post with the ladies? We will be speaking on our identities and this falls so in line with words that i feel and teachings I have prepared …let me know if this would be ok with you, xo sue >

    • My sweet Sue, I would be honored! My prayers are with you for your retreat. Much love, Kara

  2. I teach a class on Jesus to sophomores at a prep school in Westlake Village, CA. Do you mind if I share this post with them?
    Bill Myers

    • Please feel free. I would be honored!

  3. Wow! I don’t if you know about Cursillo; what a rollo your witness would be. Thank you.

    • I don’t, but would be so glad to be an encouragement!

  4. This sounds like the beginning of a great book God desires you to write for our nation’s teenagers.

    • That has been on my heart for a long time! I’m hoping I can get moving on it soon. Thanks for the encouragement Marabel!

  5. This sounds like the beginnings of a great book for teenagers.

  6. Dear Kara,
    What a great God we serve who loves you so and has given you gifts to share with all of us. This is so well written and so encouraging. I teach the Bible at the Dove’s Nest Rehabilitation Center for Women in Charlotte and I know this will be a message that will grab many hearts to not give up. Thank you. Eleanor Barley

    • Thank you Eleanor! He is so faithful to lead us through as we learn to trust. I would be honored to have you share this with the women at the rehabilitation center. I will be praying for Hope and freedom for each of them. Xoxo

  7. So so beautiful Kara. A book awaiting to be written. Love your testimony and love your heart.

    • Thank you sweet Meg. So much love to you.

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