By Joy Cannis: Ever have one of those dreams that wakes you from sleep with a racing heart and rapid breathing, grasping in the darkness as if you are fighting something that isn’t there?

That is how I woke up one morning recently. Shaken.  Maybe that’s one of the consequences of having a past like mine. Or maybe it’s one of the blessings.

For years I lived in bondage.  Drugs, alcohol, sex, self-inflicted wounds, and even an eating disorder spanning 12 years.  I believed all the lies. You will never be enough. You're fat, you're ugly, you're stupid...and on and on and on...

Upon discharge from one of my many hospital stays, the psychiatrist assigned to my case had written in my chart, “This girl is narcissistic and beyond human aid.”

He was right. Battered and bruised in every way imaginable, I had yet to learn how to stop fighting everyone and everything.

Surrender is a difficult thing. It can be painful and raw. Reminders of the past creep up on you and attempt to steal your peace. Sometimes it's all you can do to simply pray, over and over, “God, please direct my thinking.”

In my case, He did.  He directed me to drag the lies and secrets of my past out into the open, where, with the help of patient, encouraging, and forgiving loved ones, I watched them dissolve. I learned how to forgive myself, and learned to live more in the solution and less in the problem. In place of lies, I learned truth -- truth so deep it sometimes wakes me up shaken.

It's from that truth I'd like to share.  So here are several truths that I know about you, without knowing you.

You are a gift No matter what you have been told in the past.

You have a purpose God created you with specifics in mind.

You are not beyond forgiveness Your past has brought you to the present but does not have to define you.

You are not alone in your journey As hopeless as things may seem at times, someone else has felt the same way.

It will pass. It is never too late to create. The future can be very bright. The choice is yours.