recovery in Christ when life is broken

Andrew P's Story

“I never anticipated having life, ‘to the fullest.’ I would have been happy with a life that was simply tolerable,” said Andrew Prentice. “Having spent most of my time struggling with depression, I didn’t expect that, through Christ, I would experience fulfillment, purpose and actual joy.

“The root of my depression is that I have a brain that really doesn’t shut off. Despite being a straight-A student in high school, I couldn’t stay interested. I played different sports and tried many side jobs – fast food, retail, lifeguarding, forklift and tractor mower operator and public utility worker. While work and other distractions kept me from becoming more depressed, distraction also became a compulsion. A single day of negative thoughts would leave me scarred as my anxious brain repeatedly ran through dark, depressed thoughts. I worried that life would never be enjoyable. I would have ended my life, but thankfully God had other plans and did not allow my wrong thinking to control my actions.

“I’d always known about Jesus, but didn’t absorb much in the passive church in which I was raised. Faith was basically ‘fire insurance’ for me and didn’t really influence my life. As a young adult, I had no Christians in my life, and faith rarely entered into my conversations. “After graduating top of my class in college I got a great job and obtained an MBA on the side. I achieved success early in my career, but nothing ever satisfied. I was too worldly focused to consider being a devoted follower of Christ. But soon, two events would present such uncertainty for me that I would be brought to the end of myself.

“When I learned that a woman I was dating had become pregnant, I was terrified. She had moved to Tampa just one month before learning of the pregnancy. I didn’t want to be an absent father, but was not confident I could be a good dad. However, in 2004, God blessed me with the best daughter a daddy could have. She and her mother returned to Dallas when my daughter was nine months old.

“Eventually, conflict with my former girlfriend threatened my ability to see my daughter. I also was told that I needed to find a new position at the company I worked for or risk being laid off. Facing an uncertain future at work and the prospect of losing my daughter, the downward spiral of depression brought me to near-constant tears.

“That’s when I was hit with the worst major depressive episode of my life. I was already on medicine and went to weekly talk therapy. I soon checked into an outpatient treatment program. I took more medications, said daily affirmations, read books, tried alternative medicines and exercised and regularly prayed for God to make me better. It was a very rough time and nothing was working. When I was out of options, I agreed to try Electroconvulsive Therapy, or ECT. Without a doubt, it was an extreme treatment.

“When receiving ECT, a nurse places a bite block into your mouth and knocks you out while a doctor electrocutes your head. Afterward, you’re wheeled away in a semi-vegetative state. I had 18 of these treatments.

“In addition to the trauma my loved ones experienced witnessing that vegetative state, there was another problem with ECT. It had a brutal affect on my memory. At the time, I was dating a wonderful woman named Betty, whom I’ve now been married to for three years. After ECT, I couldn’t remember how long we’d been a couple or even my own pet’s name. I lost more than a year of my memory and some earlier memories that will never return. ECT helped a little, but it didn’t bring me back.

“It was during that time that another patient told me about re:generation recovery.  When I first attended I felt out of place. But as I listened to stories from others, I didn’t feel so alone. I met leaders who seemed joyful in spite of circumstances that had left them broken. Was such a transformation possible for me?

“Only when I was ready for the Lord to take over my life did healing begin. Through time both in re:gen and God’s Word, I discovered that the cycle of keeping my mind busy, in hopes that it would bring me peace, had become my idol. I made harmful decisions, like focusing exclusively on work, my illness and material things, instead of focusing on Christ. I learned that only Jesus offers true, lasting, abiding peace.

“In recovery, we talked about entitlement. I always thought it meant feeling ‘owed’ the finest things in life. I realized mine was a different sense of entitlement. I was given talents and abilities, so I felt entitled to be happy, successful and healthy.

“John 16:33 makes it clear that as Christians, we will have trouble in this world. I had to accept that bad things would happen, because as a Christian, this is not my heaven. God might not choose to fully cure my depression. But I could honor Christ in the way I live, using my struggle for His glory by being joyful in all circumstances. “Today, I’m surrounded by other Christians and spend time in God’s Word, living daily in conversation with the Lord. I am serving others and trying daily to be a better father, husband and Christ-follower.

“I’m also no longer terrified of having nothing to do. Are depressive thoughts still in the background? Yes. But those thoughts no longer define or defeat me. Today I’m thankful for depression because it brought me to an abundant, joyful life in Christ instead of living in passing familiarity with our Savior. Once I began praying with abandon instead of praying for what I thought I needed, the Lord led me to ‘life to the fullest’ that comes from dependence on Christ alone.”