From A Pothead To A Preacher’s Wife
By Bonnie Cebulak
As I stood there in the dark, dingy bathroom of a friend’s home where
we had been partying most of the night, I caught a glimpse of my
reflection in the mirror. It seemed like I was looking at someone I
did not know. The constant drug and party lifestyle we had been living
left my body nothing but a shell of what it used to be. My face was
gaunt and sunken. I lost so much weight because of the amphetamines I
had been taking for several months.
As I continued to gaze in the mirror that night, it seemed like there
was an evil presence and a good presence in the room with me as I
contemplated suicide. Oh - I wasn’t actually hearing voices, but the
negative thoughts came like, “You’re a terrible mother and wife. Why
don’t you just end it all?” Then there would be thoughts of, “No!
Don’t do it. I love you!” The battle went on and on. I felt like I was
losing my mind. I now know what I was experiencing that night was the
conviction of the Holy Spirit and Satan waging war for my soul.
My thoughts then turned to my three year old son playing in the next
room. He had no idea his mother was about to take her life. I always
said I’d never raise my child in an unstable environment. My thoughts
then raced back to my childhood. I remembered laying in an open field
in the woods behind my childhood home. I would lay there … looking up
at the big blue sky and talk to God. I don’t know why, as a child, I
would talk to God.
My family did not go to church or talk about God. The only time I
would hear His name was in a curse word. I do remember going to a
near-by Baptist church at Easter time. My mother would buy my sister
and me a new dress and patent leather shoes, if we went to church on
Easter Sunday. My mother would always make holidays a big deal at our
home. She would let us children help her color the eggs for the Easter
Bunny so he could fill our baskets that evening when we went to bed.
The next day we would go Easter egg hunting and come home to an Easter
ham with all the trimmings.
Christmas time was also a big celebration with all the family. We
would have a big meal fit for a king, but we didn’t celebrate the
birth of King Jesus at Christmas. I just thought the holiday was about
Santa Claus and presents.
Through the years things started to change around our home. My mother
went to work at the local tavern as a barmaid. My father was a
mechanic and I remember every evening when he came home from work he
would take a shot of whiskey from the bottle he kept in the kitchen
cabinet. It wasn’t long before my parents would spend their weekends
going out leaving me with my older siblings.
It seemed like overnight my parents started fighting. When the
fighting got so intense, I would run to the woods to cry out to God
and escape to my fantasy world. I would daydream of when I would be a
mother and how my home would be a peaceful place.
Suddenly my thoughts were back in my friend’s bathroom, staring in the
mirror. I don’t know how long I stood there. I heard my son crying and
my husband call my name to say it was time to head home.
Our home was nine miles out in the country, and as often was the case,
my husband and I drove in silence. We weren’t very good at talking to
each other. We would often drive in companionable silence. Tonight
that suited me just fine, for as we drove, I began to play out in my
mind how I would carry out my plan to end my life. I would tell my
husband that I was going to stay up a little while and watch a late
night movie. It wasn’t unusual for me not to go to bed when he did.
Not only was I hooked on “speed,” but my husband and I were on the
verge of a divorce.
Our lives had been going in two different directions for months. He
had his drinking friends and I had my druggie friends. I hated
everything about alcohol, the smell, the taste, and the memories of my
parents drinking and fighting. My husband was the one that introduced
me to marijuana. He came home from work one night with two “joints,”
and I started to smoke one of them. I fell in love with the feeling it
gave me. It didn’t take long before my husband and I were growing and
selling marijuana from our home in the presence of our son.
My life was steadily spiraling out of control. I soon started popping
all kinds of pills and snorting a white powdery substance up my nose.
I was on a destructive path that was not only destroying me, but also
the ones I loved.
As we pulled into the driveway of our home, I began to implement my
plan. I encouraged my husband to go on to bed. I told him I was going
to find a movie on TV or something to unwind. My husband murmured
something and staggered toward the house. Before he made it to the
house he had to stop to throw up in the yard. He never could drink
much without throwing up.
One time he got sick while driving home from a party. He didn’t even
get the car pulled over before he threw up all over the steering wheel
and driver’s seat. Even though I was eight months pregnant, I had to
drive us home because as often was the case, my husband passed out. I
tried to clean the vomit up as best as I could. It was cold outside,
but I had to leave the windows rolled down to air the car of the
We thought we were having so much fun even though our evenings would
end up in a fight, or my husband would pass out somewhere. “What kind
of life is that?” I thought, as I moved toward the television to find
I waited for my husband to go to sleep so I could carry out my plan to
end my life. I just felt everyone would be better off without me.
Once again I found myself thinking back to a time in my childhood when
I was around eight years old. My mother yelled at me for using my
older sister’s fingernail polish. I did not know at the time that my
mother was suffering from depression and she and my father were having
marital problems. But as an eight year old little girl, I felt I had
disappointed my mother. I remember I went to the kitchen and pulled
out a butcher knife from the drawer. I put the knife to my stomach,
wanting to kill myself for being a failure as a daughter. This was my
first memory of wanting to commit suicide. There would be many more
times in the years to come that I would contemplate suicide.
This time I had every intention of carrying out my plan. Once my
husband fell asleep, I would go in the bathtub, slit my wrist, and
slowly drift off. Death seemed so desirable, so peaceful. I was only
twenty-one years old, but I felt like a tired old woman who had seen
and done it all.
As I turned the channel this way and that way, I suddenly heard the
voice of a man say, “You may be out there strung out on drugs thinking
your life is hopeless and useless. What you need is Jesus Christ.”
“Who is this guy?” I thought. I moved closer to the television and
heard him say it didn’t matter what we had done, God would forgive us
and He has a plan and purpose for my life.
As I continued to listen to him, my thoughts went back to a time when
I worked at a local meat market. The woman I wrapped meat next to
shared Jesus with me everyday. I did not have a clue what she was
telling me. She talked about being “saved” and “born again.”
I now know the reason I did not know what she was talking about was
because it says in the Bible in First Corinthians 2:14 (NIV):
The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from
the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot
understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Although I did not understand what she was talking about that day, I
did know that she cared deeply about my husband and me. For some
reason God gave this lady such a burden for our souls that she would
pray for us every morning.
Now everything she had been telling me made sense. For the first time
in my life … that cold winter night in my living room … I understood
I was a sinner and I needed a Savior. I continued to listen as the
tears rolled down my cheeks. These were different tears; tears of
sadness for how I had been living my life; tears of repentance.
I asked Jesus to forgive me and to come into my life and make me the
person He wanted me to be. I then raised my hands to heaven and told
the Lord if He could do anything with my messed up life, it was His
because I could not handle life anymore. I did not know what I had
done at that moment --that in the church world I was now “born again.”
All I knew was that a peace came over me that I have never known
before. No longer did I have the plan to end my life that night. I
went to bed and slept all night. Because of my amphetamine use I did
not sleep or eat much, but that night I had the most peaceful sleep.
A few days had passed, when in the wee hours of the morning I woke up
to find my husband sitting up in bed and writing. I asked him what he
was doing writing at four in the morning. He said he was just writing
down his thoughts. I asked him if he cared if I read what he had
written. He handed me the notebook and I began to read things like:
You need to get new friends and new activities. You need to get on a
better road to life.
After reading what my husband had written, I turned to him and told
him what had happened to me a few days earlier. We both knew someone
was trying to get our attention and tell us something.
Now in the years prior to this, we had Christians and pastors come to
our home to share the Gospel with us, but we did not want anything to
do with them. Not only were we drug using hippies, but we had a six
foot Boa Constrictor that frequently slithered around freely in our
home. Needless to say, we never saw those Christians again!
On this night though, when it seemed like God was trying to get our
attention, we wondered where are the Christians now that we wanted
them? After we talked about what was apparently going on in our life
at that moment, we decided what we needed to do was to go to church.
At that time we both thought going to church would solve everything.
Of course, now we know it is not religion, but a relationship with
Jesus that makes the difference.
Since my husband’s parents and my parents did not raise either of us
in the church, we did not know where to begin. This was a whole new
world to us. We laid there tossing our thoughts back and forth, trying
to decide what we should do and where we should go. We finally came to
the decision to try a little church I attended when I was fourteen
years old. I’m ashamed to say, but the only reason I was attending
this particular church was to get the attention of a young man who
went to that church.
This time though I was going to church to “find God.” When we walked
into the church, I saw new faces and some old familiar ones. Sitting
to the left of the auditorium was the young man I tried to pursue when
I was a teenager. I noticed he had two little girls sitting next to
him. I later found out his wife had left him and he was a broken man
seeking God’s forgiveness and grace too.
As the service began, it all seemed so different. The warmth and
friendliness I remembered as a child did not seem to be there. It was
down right cold. For some reason this church had become cold and
uninviting. Maybe it was because my husband had long hair and a
scraggly beard. Or maybe it was because of the way we dressed. We did
not have church clothes. All we had were bell bottom jeans with
patches and tie-dyed t-shirts.
We left there feeling depressed, displaced, and dejected. That whole
week we continued our quest to find the answer to this pull toward God
and the longing to serve Him. We did not do our week-end partying as
usual and our hippie friends wondered what had happened to us.
The next Sunday we tried another church. Still the religious well
seemed to be dry. We went another week discouraged. We began to wonder
if we would ever find a church where we felt welcomed.
The following week we decided to attend a little Baptist church in
Lonedell, Missouri where we lived. The part-time pastor there had been
my husbands’ seventh and eighth grade teacher. He was also the pastor
that married us in 1970.
When we walked into the church that Sunday morning, we were surprised
to find that the pastor we were expecting to see, no longer pastored
at this church. The present pastor was someone we had never met
before. He was a middle aged man with blonde hair combed back. He wore
a bright colored sport jacket and looked like a TV evangelist.
In his sermon he talked about how he used to be a salesman constantly
on the road. He talked about how he became depressed, lonely, and
dependent on alcohol. He went on to say that one night in a motel room
he turned on the TV, mostly for background noise. Suddenly he heard
the voice of a famous crusade preacher talking about the void that
everyone has in their life. The TV evangelist went on to say that
people often try to fill that void with things like alcohol, sex, and
drugs. Jesus is the only thing that can fill that void. Jesus said,
‘He is the way, the truth, and the life.’ The pastor went on to tell
how he gave his heart and life to Jesus that night.
Sitting there … I was thinking: “That is what happened to me. That
was the same experience I had.” In this little church, unlike the
others we had attended, the pastor gave an invitation at the
conclusion of the sermon. People were invited to come forward to
pray, join the church, or whatever the Lord was leading them to do.
Everyone was standing and singing an old familiar hymn: “Just As I
Am.” It did not take long before my husband and I had tears rolling
down our face. It was though we both had a death grip on the pew. We
stood there crying, wondering what we should do. The preacher looked
right at us and said, ”You want to come, but the old devil says to
wait until next time.” It wasn’t the fact of waiting until next time
as it was that neither my husband or myself were raised in the church
and we did not know what would happen, or what was suppose to happen,
when a person went up in front of the church.
The invitation finally came to a close and we got into our car to
leave. We had gotten into the habit of asking one another after each
church visit what the other one felt about the church service. We both
agreed we liked the service and we both wanted to come back the next
We did return the next week. Again we had the same experience, when we
got to the invitation. This time though the pastor could see my
husband needed Jesus. Leaving the service that day, as my husband
reached to shake the pastor’s hand, the pastor looked my husband in
the eye and asked if he needed to talk about something.
My husband told the pastor, “Man I need to talk to someone. I feel
like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders.” The pastor
excused himself from the rest of the congregation, and took my husband
into his office to share with him from the Bible. He told my husband
that we all have sinned. The pastor told my husband that Jesus died
for his sin and all he needed to do was to ask Jesus to forgive him
and come into his life.
There in the Pastor’s office, In December of 1975, my husband gave his
heart to Jesus. That evening we both went to church. This time, when
the service came to an end, my husband and I did not hesitate to go to
the altar during the invitation. We let the congregation know what
Jesus had done in our lives.
A couple of weeks later we were baptized together. I could not have
imagined in my wildest dreams that my husband and I would one day be
standing side by side in a baptismal pool in a little country Baptist
church; me the former pot - head and him a future preacher!