Survival Revival

Alyssa Caldwell

My first Sunday-night worship service in college, the chorus of the last song hit me so hard that I started bawling.

Jesus paid it all; all to him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain;
he washed it white as snow.

I stood stock still and cried; the tears rolled down my cheeks, and I couldn’t stop them.


The Crimson Stain

I was twelve years old when, with my two best friends, I entered into the dark world of self-injury, suicide attempts, anti-depressants, and late-night phone calls. Without even realizing it, I turned to cutting to solve my problems. I had never been happy; I never knew what I was doing or even why I was around. I had no friends and no one to turn to. I was upset all the time and couldn’t explain why. When I started cutting, it was just a silly habit I could stop at the drop of a hat; but it turned into an addiction faster than I realized possible.

For seven years, I was stuck in the world of cutting. I tried to hide it. I tried to pretend that I was happy and that nothing was wrong. Honestly, I couldn’t explain why I was sad; I just was. I couldn’t pinpoint anything that had happened to make me sad; I just was. Cutting helped at first. I was able to take my emotional pain and emptiness and turn it into physical pain. This was my world. While I didn’t thrive, I survived; and for seven years, surviving was enough.


Turning to God

After that first Sunday night worship service, I realized my eyes had been closed to the truth. I began meeting with a chaplain on campus, desiring to turn my life over to God. I was exhausted from constantly fighting for survival and needed someone to fight for me.

devozine z102981806With his help, I realized that life was so much more than the dull ache in my chest. But change hasn’t come overnight. Almost eight months later, there are still nights when I sit up shaking, wondering if the battle is worth fighting. Some days, I pay attention to nothing but my own misery. It isn’t easy for me to smile. Yet I’ve learned some important lessons, thanks to the prophet Jeremiah and to Jon Foreman, the lead singer of Switchfoot.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” I claim that verse with all my heart, every day of my life. I’m learning to look for the little things and to find the moments when it’s obvious that God is working in my life.

In the song “Your Love Is Strong” on his solo EP, Jon Foreman names two things God says to us: “You are strong” and “I love you.”

Fighting self-injury and depression as a teen is difficult; fighting it as a Christian teen is downright terrifying. I knew in my head that God loved me and believed I was worth loving; but I couldn’t convince myself that I was worth anything to anyone, especially to God. Most nights I didn’t want to breathe. But I would listen to “Your Love Is Strong,” and gradually I began to trust that God’s love for me was real.


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With the help of a good friend, I was introduced to the group To Write Love On Her Arms (, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention and awareness of self-injury and suicide. Through TWLOHA, I met other people who are struggling and many who have overcome the addiction. I no longer feel as isolated, and knowing I am not alone has made the battle easier. I may still struggle every day of my life—sometimes I wonder if I will ever be free; but I have rediscovered a passionate relationship with God, and I am slowly learning to love myself. With the help of some amazing people and an amazing God, I now know that I will beat this.


When you’re sad, what gives you hope? Who or what helps you to find comfort in God’s love?

PRAY: God, write your love all over our lives so that we may find comfort and strength to live free, always rejoicing in your holy name. Amen.

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Alyssa Caldwell , of Streamwood, Illinois, put her experience into words as a part of her healing process and to encourage teens who struggle with cutting and depression.

—from devozine (November/December 2008). Copyright © 2008 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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