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CBN.com “My parents fought all the time. Sometimes I would be upstairs in my room, and I’d hear furniture throwing, falling down stairs, yelling. I would sneak downstairs afterwards, spend time with my mom and watch her cry. Then I’d go see with my dad, and I’d try to fix it and make it better.”
She was the middle of three children. Holly Wagner tried to hold her family together in the midst of her parents’ violent relationship. They divorced when she was 12.
“I thought that if I could do everything I was supposed to do, then it would be OK,” Holly tells The 700 Club, “which is why in high school I was on every sports team, every extracurricular activity and everything I thought my dad wanted me to do. After a while, I gave up.”
Giving up meant getting through the day the same way her mom did… with alcohol.
“I watched my mom do it, so I’d go steal her alcohol that she hid in the closet. I thought, ‘This is great. I don’t feel anything. Wake up the next morning. I don’t have to feel anything today either.'”
Alcohol became an escape for Holly, because it was the one thing at which she couldn’t fail.
“At the bottom of a beer bottle, everybody’s exactly the same,” Holly says. “You walk into a bar, nobody’s going to ask you to leave; you’re not a failure there. I definitely didn’t fail at that.”
Holly spent most of her time in high school numbing herself with alcohol. By the time she was in college, Holly was carrying a thermos of booze to class. In fact, while studying in Spain during her junior year, Holly was asked to leave because she was rarely sober. By the time she arrived home, Holly had nothing left.
“My mom was too much in the hole with drinking,” she says. “The only person I could have called was my father. I’d go stay with them. I’d steal from them -- my own family.”
The only place left for Holly was the streets. At 21, she was homeless. She wandered the streets by day and slept in shelters at night.
“I remember waking up one morning and just the smell around me made me sick. It smells like death. Then I realized that smell was coming from me. That was so scary to me.”
One day as she lied huddled in an alley, she prayed.
“I just started to cry, and I remember saying, ‘God, You have to help me, because I have no where else to go. I’m going to die.’”
This is when Holly looked up and saw Kris Soterion.
Kris remembers Holly as a “a young women, probably 70 pounds, soaking wet, huddled in a ball, pale, bruised, clearly beaten, clearly hadn’t been bathed in a very long time, shaking profusely, with her head tucked into her body. I couldn’t see her face. I closed my eyes, and I just said, ‘Father, what do you want me to do?’ It was so clear. I heard two words: ‘Love her.’”
“This woman came up to me,” Holly shares, “and she just held my hands. She just held them and kept them from shaking. Then [she] pulled me to her, hugged me, loved me and told me I was going to come home with her tonight. I couldn’t believe it.”
“I’d never done this before,” Kris confesses. “I had never brought a stranger into my home. But my thought was I was gonna bring her home, bathe her, feed her and then call state resources, detoxes, everything I could do to find a place for her.”
“That night, not only did Kris show me the Lord through her actions, but she also shared with me the Lord through the Bible and her testimony,” Holly says. “I accepted the Lord that night, but I still didn’t really know who He was. I knew I was changed. I knew something was different, because that was the first time I’d felt hope or some possibility of an inner joy.”
After five days living with Kris, Holly met Grace and George Rosada, directors of New Life Home for Women in Manchester, New Hampshire. There Holly got her life back.
Grace recalls, “Day by day you saw the healing start to take place. You start to see her taking in God’s word and realizing, ‘Wow, I can be an over comer in all of these things.’”
“It was a long, long process,” Holly says, “because I was stripped away of everything I knew and every way I knew how to act. So they taught me to fill those places with the Lord and the word. Look to Jesus first. That to me was the greatest gift.”
At times, Holly’s struggle to regain her life was an uphill battle. But with the support of people around her, she went on to finish her undergraduate degree, top of her class, with a 4.0. Even now, it’s hard for her to believe.
“I felt like this isn’t possible,” Holly says. “My mind was too far gone, and I would never finish, let alone at the top of my class.”
This year Holly will graduate from Regent University with a Master degree in Journalism.
“I look behind me and see my history and my past,” she says. “I don’t know who that person is. It blows my mind where I am right now. I feel like a miracle. I know that in reality I shouldn’t even be alive. Not only am I alive, I have a future. I have a hope; my dreams are coming true. Oh my goodness, that feels amazing.”
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