Michelle Thöle, the author of My Journey Through Darkness, struggles with drug addiction over a period of about three years during her twenties. She travelled from South Africa, where she was born and raised, to Europe, in search of her own purpose and perhaps some silence in her head. Throughout her journey, she fell hopelessly in love with one disastrous man after the next. Never letting go of her faith, she finally found redemption and through her love for writing, is able to share some of her adventures, in the hope that it may bring hope to someone else. She has now settled in Cape Town with her daughter and enjoys a healthy and wholesome life.
Clean Date: December 2nd, 2007
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Omar: Today we have Michelle Thöle joining us on The SHAIR Podcast. Michelle is the author of My Journey Through Darkness, a true life story of an ordinary young girl who records her journey as a drug addict. Sounds fascinating.
Michelle: Yes. I suppose it’s fascinating for some people.
Omar: All right. Wonderful. All right. Let’s dive right in. First of all, Michelle, take us through your daily routine and include recovery in there.
Michelle: Okay. At the moment, I work with my fiance. We work from home so we’re pretty chilled. I’ll get the kids to school, and then we work all morning. Then in the afternoons, it’s kids again, and we just go through the motions of a normal day, I suppose for a standard family. My recovery routine is basically just spending time with God, you know? I try to do it on a daily basis for at least half and hour to an hour, mostly in the evenings when I’ve got a bit of alone time.
I’m spending time with God everyday, it doesn’t only mean sitting down and reading the Bible and praying, like religiously. It’s become for me more like a really, truly personal relationship. So, whenever I’m alone, like often when I’m driving in fact, I just chat. You know? I’m trying to always, constantly be … It’s become such a habit, actually, that I’m in continual conversation with him, and getting strength from him, and just sharing my feelings on a continual basis. When I’m struggling with something, I’ll just [inaudible 00:01:48]. When I’m grateful for something, I also find I can’t stop just saying how thankful, and full of gratitude I am. So, that’s really it for me.
Omar: So, how much clean time do you have, and when is your anniversary date?
Michelle: I’ll just say very proudly that my anniversary date was the 2nd of December, 2007. That was the last time I was at a big rave, and I was pumped full of all kinds of pills and drugs, and whatever you could think of. The following day, I actually left my whole situation that I was in. I left my home, my boyfriend at the time, and I fled and I went to live back with my mom and dad. So for me, that is my anniversary date, but I did use again in the following three years after that. Just like, got gram with a buddy here and there. Probably only about five times. I never took specific note of exactly when, because I felt I’d recovered. It was not a part of my life anymore, because it had been part of my every-single-day life. So, I’d say my anniversary date really begins somewhere in 2010, if I want to be honest now.
Omar: Do you remember how old you were the first time you drank, or used drugs? And more importantly, how they made you feel? That first time?
Michelle: Yeah, I was 14 and I started smoking, and about at the age of 16 I started going to a lot of parties with the older crowd of kids. We lived outside a big city, we were in a small town. So, we had a lot of house parties. I mean, I remembered nights where my folks would come pick me up at 11 or 12, which was my curfew, and my mother would try and cover for me, because I was stumbling to the car. So, that was the beginning of drinking.
But I must say, I was always very, very afraid of drugs, because I was always kind of fascinated by it. So, I’d read a lot of books about it. You know, the usual trainspotting and basketball diaries. So, I felt very educated, and also very scared of it. I always used to say, and I guess this is so true when we think of the phrase, “the power of the spoken word,” because I used to say, “I never want be introduced to drugs, because my curiosity will get the better of me, and I’ll try it, and I’ll become a heroin addict.”
Yeah, what happened was I did end up becoming a heroin addict many years later.
Omar: What is the best suggestion you have ever received?
Michelle: Well, at the time, I must say it seemed very abstract, but it was actually the best suggestion I ever received. It was when I was in London, but also feeling like there’s just no hope, no solution, nobody can help me. I went to see a drug worker, from the Hillsong Church actually, or counselor. She listened to me, and we spoke, and I was so expectant to have some kind of answer. All she did was say to me, “I want you to go home, and I want you to go and sit before God, and get into his word again, and find out who you are in him.”
I was like, “Oh, that sucks. I though you were going to help me.” You know? That’s not a solution. But later on, I understood what that meant. Even now in my life, I’ve been through other things in the last few years, which are totally not drug related, but also very big battles. Every time, I realize when I get quiet, and I go sit at God’s feet again, I realize that I lost that thing of who I am in him. I’m not seeing myself through his eyes, I’m seeing myself through the enemy’s eyes. So, I am weak. I am pathetic. I am useless. It’s those lies that make us unable to fight any battle, and that’s where the enemy wants to keep us.
So for me, the best advice I ever had was go and find out, and go look for it. Who you are in God.
Omar: Beautiful, I love it. I love it. Well, tell us about that moment. That aha moment, or spiritual awakening that you had, when you finally accepted that you were completely powerless over drugs and alcohol, but for the first time had developed a hope that you could recover?
Michelle: I think it was definitely that day when I was in that little bed and breakfast, all by myself, where I just … I actually forgot to mention, really, that I also had a chat to my dad on the phone. That as I arrived and I unpacked, he phoned me, always. He always phoned me. Out of concern and worry, but we’re like friends. So, we had a chat, and he just … Again, I’m only remembering this right now as I speak. He also said to me, “You must remember that you are with Jesus, to God. Joined to God, with Jesus. That’s the power you have. That’s the level where you are, and you must remember that.”
Just after the conversation is when I just fell down on the bed, and said, “Lord, I am able.” That was the moment I realized that I had to surrender this fight to my God, because I couldn’t do it on my own. The enemy is out there to kill, steal and destroy. Stress, confusion, and I find one of the biggest things people are suffering from is a low self-esteem, and no self-worth. People are just living life everyday in this chaotic, broken state. Whether they become addicts or not, the people are broken beyond understanding.
I’ve really become so focused on that, and so aware of that, and my heart is so sore for people, because people are too proud or too … I don’t know what they are, but they don’t want to do that surrender to God thing. Or just to their higher power, you know? People just want to operate in their own capacity, and I just find it so sad.
Omar: Do you have a favorite book that you would recommend to our listeners? Including your own of course.
Michelle: I was actually thinking about that question before, and I actually didn’t even think about my own book. I just thought now, “Hey! My own book! That is my favorite.” No, I’m joking. I do think my own book is very inspiring, but I spoke about her earlier. The author’s name is Melinda Ferguson, and she’s a South African woman, and she has got one heck of a story. She is also an excellent writer. So, her book is called Smacked, and it’s the horrific tale of her in Hillbrow on heroin, Nigerians, and it was really, really rough times for her, and her recovery. It’s very, very beautifully written. Yeah, that’s probably the best book on addiction and recovery that I’ve ever read.
Omar: And of course, another good book would be Michelle Thöle, and My Journey Through Darkness. What is the best day for our listeners to get in touch with you, or reach out to you, Michelle?
Michelle: The best way is, I suppose by email, michelle@me-time.
Omar: If you could give our listeners only one suggestion, what would it be?
Michelle: Never give up. I guess having a fighting spirit is extremely important. I know I have to give one suggestion, but it goes hand in hand. What we’ve been saying along is surrendering. Surrendering is key for me, and I really say that with regards to not only my recovery from addition, but in terms of coping with everyday life. Surrender. Surrender to God.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE NEWCOMER
“Surrender. Surrender to God.”
CONTACT MICHELLE THOLE
See you then!
Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.