Story of Recovery: Amy Black

I don't blame my parents.

They were/are devout Christians, but they were never strict. They never let church take over their lives like I did. With me, God and church weren't a part of my life-they WERE my life.

At age 12, I felt called to full-time ministry. I read the Bible and prayed every day. I memorized a lot of scripture and by high school, I had replaced music with listening to sermons on tape. Praying for an hour at a time was fairly normal for me. At the time, I wasn't really aware that my life wasn't normal. I went to a Christian school and my friends had basically the same spiritual goals I had.

By age 16, I thought God was calling me to go to a Christian college. With my ACT score, I could have had a scholarship to several state colleges, but I only applied to one college: an Assemblies of God college in the southern US.

Convinced I was following God's will, I packed up and moved to prison-I mean college- 5 hours away. I had dealt with rules my whole life, but this was a whole new ball game. The goal of the college is to brainwash incoming freshman as quickly as possible and maintain control of their lives until graduation.

I immediately fell under its spell. Looking back, I see how I made excuses for the people who hurt and controlled not only me but the whole student body. My relationship with my family broke down because they could see what was happening to me and I couldn't. It's like the battered housewife who gets mad at you for saying she should leave her husband. I was the battered housewife, totally unable to see what was right in front of me.

In the Spring, my spiritual mentor died suddenly. I had been very close to her and her death was devastating to me. I became angry at God.

After 3 semesters there, I remember the moment I snapped out of it, like magic. I was on vacation with my family, walking outside in front of a pet store and my mom commented that I wouldn't get to have a pet any time soon because the university forces its students under 23 to live on campus. Snap! Suddenly, I realized my mom could see something I couldn't. Not just about having a pet- about everything.

That week, the floodgates opened and I started asking questions. I finally admitted to myself that I was miserable and I had to leave. Maybe I was wrong and God hadn't called me there? Maybe I was really wrong and there was no God at all?

Both of those questions scared me. As I transferred to a state college close to home, I fought and clawed to hold on to my faith even though I was very angry with God.

Praying made me physically sick. Walking into the Christian section of a bookstore made me sick. Reading the Bible disgusted me. God disgusted me. My prayer life frequently consisted of me telling God to f*** off. I joined a church and after a few months, I considered myself a Christian Universalist, because I could no longer believe in hell. I started supporting gay rights. I questioned a lot of things.

As I became more comfortable with questioning, I accepted that my faith in God was disappearing. First, I considered myself agnostic, then atheist after a few months.

In one way, it was a huge relief for God to disappear. I didn't have to be perfect. I could do what I wanted. I could explore my sexuality. I could have emotions. I could forgive myself.

There was plenty of grief too, though. I was under a lot of stress trying to keep my family from finding out about my atheism. I basically lived two lives, which was awful and I don't recommend to anyone. I was pretty depressed. I got really thin and I started having panic attacks. I failed a class. All-in-all, the grieving lasted about 2 years.

But here's the good part: I got better. I learned to accept and love myself. I made friends who are supportive and keep me from being too serious! I'm learning to say "no" to things that stress me out. I joined a club at school that replaced church. I've been dating a great guy for two years. I never in my life thought I could be this happy, but I am.