One of my favorite quotes comes from St. Catherine of Siena: “Be who God created you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” I appreciate the wisdom of St. Catherine immensely because it reminds me of the story of the first Pentecost, which always fills me with excitement and energy.
I like to imagine heaven opening up and the power of the Holy Spirit descending upon the Apostles. I think about how it miraculously transformed them from the inside out – infusing them with the gifts of the Spirit and strengthening their unique charisms that enabled them to work together to build the early Church. Talk about setting the world on fire!
By the grace of God, I know what it feels like to move from darkness into light and have one’s soul set ablaze with the love and mercy of the Lord! I know what it feels like to have the Holy Spirit working in me and through me. It is amazing, and I wish every Christian could experience the same!
But it hasn’t always been this way for me…
I’m Christie Walker, a joy-filled Catholic, wife, mom, Catholic Sobriety and Life Coach, speaker, podcaster, and ministry leader, but the core of my identity is that of a beloved daughter of God. I have been invited to share a bit of my own testimony that reveals how the Lord slowly and gently transformed me from a person with little faith – to one seeking to be a lighthouse for Christ, leading His children home.
One thing you should know about me is that I have always marched to my own beat. That fact was really annoying to me as I was growing up, but as I’ve aged, I have come to appreciate it and see it as a gift.
As a young person, it was hard for me not to feel like I didn’t really belong in any group, often sensing there was something different about me. I don’t know if others noticed this or if it was an inner knowing given to me by the Lord.
I was born and raised in Idaho, a wonderful place to grow up. I had open heart surgery when I was 15 months old. I nearly didn’t survive, but by the grace of God, I did. I was often lovingly reminded that “You are a miracle. God has special plans for you.” Though I appreciated the sentiment, I rarely thought that could be the case.
I experienced several supernatural occurrences throughout my childhood that, for now, are still just for the Lord and me. He has not asked me to reveal them. But I will say that I think those precious pearls were given to me to cling to when I could have otherwise fallen into despair. Thankfully, no matter how difficult my life has felt at times, I have always had an ember of hope guiding me forward.
I began dance lessons when I was almost 3 years old and loved it from the start and continued on through high school (with a little break in middle school when I took up cheerleading). I’ll be the first to admit that I was never the most talented, but I can hold my own. Dance was been a big part of my life and an outlet of sorts, though in recent years, most of my dancing happens while cleaning the house.
Despite my insecurities, I felt the most happy, confident, and free when I was performing in front of an audience. There are times I would have loved to do that forever, but I knew God was absolutely not asking me to dance for the rest of my life. However, the desire to BE in front of people to entertain, teach, or do something has been in my heart from an early age—though I had no idea what that would even look like.
My parents divorced when I was about five or six years old. I’m pretty sure I was in kindergarten and the only kid whose parents were divorced. That might not be true, but that’s how I felt for many years. It’s such a mix of emotions to think about it because when I do, I experience the feelings of hurt, disappointment, anger, sadness, and woundedness that weighed me down for so long.
But thanks to God’s grace, I am quickly overcome with waves of forgiveness and love, knowing that my dad didn’t mean to hurt our family—he was a deeply wounded person himself—and that my mom did her very best under the circumstances. Looking back, I can see how the Lord has used those experiences to mold me into the person, wife, and mother I am today, and I am forever grateful.
I have never had many close friends, and looking back, I think that’s because I unintentionally keep most people at a distance. I often describe myself as an introverted extrovert. I am most comfortable at home with my family, but I can talk to just about anyone, and I don’t mind being in front of a crowd.
Yet, in my younger years, I was not very assertive and longed to be part of a friend group. It seemed hopeless at times. I just couldn’t find my people! I thought maybe it was my clothes, my personality, the fact that I looked twelve when I was sixteen—I didn’t know.
But one day, I discovered the magic elixir. Something that made me feel fun, popular, pretty, and, best of all, normal!
Eureka! I finally felt like I was part of something. I had cracked the code. I had discovered alcohol! I had friends, a boyfriend, and things to do on Friday and Saturday nights. I was no longer viewed as the immature “goody two shoes.” I was like THEM!
From the moment I had my first drink, I wouldn’t stop unless I ran out (because it’s hard to go buy more alcohol when you are in high school) or I passed out. I didn’t even care that I felt terrible the next day; it was completely worth it to me because I was finally part of something, and I felt like I had everything I had hoped for.
My drinking increased in frequency and amount after high school. A lot of my friends went off to college, I broke things off with my boyfriend, and I felt like I didn’t know who I was anymore or where to go. My family and I moved to Portland, OR, where I continued my downward spiral.
I’ll spare you all of the details and timeline of my decline. Let’s just say that I was the prodigal daughter who was working hard to forfeit her inheritance in the Kingdom of God for all the worldly pleasures and comforts she could find. I spent my time and energy trying to fill a void that I now know could only be filled by Him.
I gravitated toward people who liked to drink a lot. Despite growing up in Idaho, I didn’t care for country music, but when I was introduced to country line dancing, I loved it! So the draw each weekend to “go out dancing” was huge for me. I would drink and dance the night away. But soon, weekends weren’t enough. I couldn’t contain it, and I needed more…
I felt like I had things under control, but everything was unraveling around me. Friendships crumbled, and bridges were burned. A cloud of lies, broken promises, disappointment, shame, and guilt followed me wherever I went.
Every morning, I woke up in a panic, unsure of what I had done or said the night before, who I needed to apologize to. And an aching pit filled with regret in my stomach. I began to realize I had a problem with alcohol before I even turned 21—“But I’m too young for that!” I told myself that I’d stop eventually. Though I knew I had a problem – I wasn’t ready to look my addiction in the eye and admit the facts.
But the Lord is so patient. So gentle. I look back at those days, and though I felt very alone at the time, I can see all the ways that the Lord protected, guided, pursued, and placed people in my path to speak truth into my life – some of those were even my “drinking buddies.” That’s how I knew it had gotten really bad!
I didn’t realize it then, but I could hear His voice and He was calling me back to Him. I tried to get sober and failed. I set rules for myself and broke them. I told myself I just have an addictive personality. No “off” switch. No willpower to be found.
But God did not leave me. He was walking with me day by day, strengthening me, telling me that I was made for more. This was not all there was. He had the most beautiful life prepared for me that I could not even dare to imagine in my sorry state.
Finally, it clicked and in February of 1997, at the age of 23, I took my last drink. I wish I could say that as soon as I stopped drinking, everything was set right. Don’t get me wrong, things improved a lot, but I still had a LONG, bumpy road ahead of me.
My sobriety journey and my spiritual journey are tightly intertwined. I could not have one without the other. I could not have done it without the Lord’s grace, mercy, and love pouring over me.
When did my real transformation occur? The moment I finally stopped acting like an orphan; left out in the cold, begging for scraps. When I had the courage to claim my true identity, which is this…
I am a beloved child of God.
I have an inheritance generously given to me by my loving Father.
I do whatever God calls me to do.
I am His!
And so are you. May the Lord bless and keep you!
Christie Walker is a joy-filled Catholic wife, mom, podcaster, speaker, and The Catholic Sobriety Coach. As a trained life coach through the Professional Christian Coaching Institute and with over 26 years of sobriety, Christie specializes in coaching Catholic women who are ready to unravel the mystery surrounding their drinking habits to discover a sense of peace and clarity they never imagined possible. She also coaches women in recovery who want to learn how to invite the Holy Spirit in to clear up the “mental mess” that can stick around long after the last drink.