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Celebrate Recovery

Amanda Brandon’s Testimony

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Hi, I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with grief and control. My name is Amanda. 

My heart is no longer hardened by grief, anxiety, and control. I used to hide my pain and wonder why my heart hurt, even when I prayed and read God’s Word. I was missing a piece of the puzzle. I wasn’t letting the pain out. When I started coming to Celebrate Recovery two years ago, I kept hearing James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” 

 Sharing my struggles and peeling back the layers of shame, guilt, hurt, and harm have helped me gain a sound mind. My husband Warren and I are healing old wounds, learning to communicate hard things, and finding a shared vision for parenting God’s way. I delight in my children instead of losing my cool. In fact, our entire family comes to CR. 

I grew up in a big, chaotic family as the oldest of 10 children. We suffered several tragedies, including losing my baby brother to an accidental drowning when I was 10 and our home to a fire five years later. 

By my eleventh birthday, I could get five kids ready for school, clean the house, do the laundry, and make perfect grades. I often stepped into my parents’ conflicts to try to bring peace. I had multiple secret rituals to help alleviate the stress: cleaning, leaving on certain lights, and losing myself in books. I would do anything to keep that buzz of anxiety under the surface. 

I also became obsessed with performance. I was a perfect student and a talented writer. But I was crumbling inside. My compulsive reactions to stress, fear, anxiety, and grief would haunt me for the next 30 years. 

I graduated No. 1 in high school and got a full college scholarship, forging my escape, or so I thought. 

I became a Christian at school and started praying big, bold prayers at 20. My first bold prayer was for the husband God wanted me to marry. Oh boy, did he answer my prayer! He gave me my best friend and intellectual equal, and we married in 2005. We had our first daughter in 2008 and lost my husband’s dad that year. This loss opened a gulf of stalled communication and repressed grief in our marriage. 

In 2011, we got pregnant again and were strapped for resources. The doctors told us our baby wasn’t viable, and I needed emergency surgery and weekly testing for the next year to ensure I didn’t get cancer. I was overwhelmed, terrified, and back in darkness. I know God was carrying me through these dark days, but I withdrew inside myself and pushed my husband further away. My three-year-old daughter held my hand and showed me love was still possible. But I felt like I was fading away in my grief. It was such a lonely place, but I prayed one of those big prayers. “God, please give us another child.”

Well, we got two babies — 16 months apart. Then, I was too busy raising babies to be worried about my mental health for the next few years.

In 2016, I began having panic attacks in church — a place I felt safe and loved. Between my codependent family leaning on me to clean up family crises and save the day, a looming lawsuit with our construction company, and my husband’s new adventurous career as a storm-chasing insurance adjuster, I felt stretched as a wife and mother. I felt overcome with grief and like I was losing my identity. I was at the end of myself.

I asked my husband to go with me to talk to our pastor. Our pastor shared that I was struggling as an adult child of family dysfunction and that I needed counseling to root out my deep codependence and anxiety. I went to counseling and learned some tools, but there was still a piece missing. I felt better in the counselor’s office, but the compulsions kept coming back.

Add on some struggles with our gifted son that required me to be “on” all the time, and I was as wound up as tight as a spring. My sister Michelle died very suddenly from a surgery complication the next year. I was devastated. But I didn’t have time for the grief. I was too busy running my son’s program, parenting by myself, and saving my family. I wanted to run away. 

My control issues got significantly worse over the next few years. In 2020, I decided to see a doctor to help with my anxiety. I learned that I had a rare form of OCD and chose to start medication to help me heal. I felt like an even bigger failure, hating myself for being so weak. But I was desperate.

I came to CR two years ago when a friend invited me to hear his testimony. I was already at a low point. My dad had just survived a grueling hospital stay, and my soul felt flattened. I knew my dad didn’t have long to live. 

When we moved to Colorado and joined a church with a Celebrate Recovery, I didn’t think CR would help me. I was wrong. Through the weekly share groups and step study, I started sharing what I thought made me an outsider. I found a sponsor and multiple accountability partners here, dived deep into the roots of my reaction to grief, and started to feel sound in mind and spirit. 

I got off my anxiety medication a year ago because I had new tools and a new outlook on my mental health. I found my own “program.”

My dad got sick again last spring as I was writing my inventory. We made peace with our past, and I forgave my parents. I lost my dad in July, and I didn’t completely retreat and hide for the first time. I opened up and shared the hurt and am healing from the loss. 

I know God made a mighty move in bringing me and my family to CR. I’ll keep coming back and giving back because this is where I learned to trust, let go, and let God.

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