Maria Lourenço

My name is Maria, and I am a happily married mother of three children. I live in Cascais, Lisbon, and work as a receptionist for a Christian charity. I graduated the Teen Challenge program 16 years ago.

I was admitted to the women’s rehab center in 2002 in a terrible condition, physically and emotionally. My body was ruined because of heroin and cocaine addiction, besides all the pills I used to take and without which I couldn’t sleep. I entered the Teen Challenge rehab because of the stubbornness of a handful of people who wouldn’t give up on me: the street outreach team of the same charity where I currently work, and the Coffee House workers (Teen Challenge supports meetings run by a local church in Cascais).

The street team was the first to reach out to me. They used to visit the drug trafficking neighborhood where I use to buy drugs. They drove a caravan where beside changing our used syringes and giving us something to eat, they spread hope in the midst of all that degradation. Their words were difficult to hear at first, because I didn’t believe them. They used to say, “There’s still time to change your life! God loves you and He has a purpose for you and your daughter. You weren’t born to die like this!” I just thought, “How could God possibly love me after all the things I’ve done?!” But their love and persistence planted two thoughts in my mind, “What if it is true what they say about God? Am I throwing away my last chance to change my life?”

In fact, I didn’t have anything else to lose…everything was ruined already, so I decided to take a chance and went to the Coffee House meetings to start the Teen Challenge rehab admission process. At the coffee house I heard God’s Word and my hope grew. The old dreams came back: to have a family, to be a good mother for my child, to recover the relationship with my family. And new dreams also start popping up: to be healthy and feel happy again, to have good and true friendships, to be truly loved and to find a purpose in life. The possibility of a whole new life made me stand firm and enter the Teen Challenge rehab center.

The Teen Challenge rehab program was hard. You have to be willing to go to the bottom of yourself and deal with all those things you tried your best to hide and numb with drugs. Only when you’re willing to face your own fears and wounds and deal with the pain, real healing takes place – from inside out! The lack of such an approach was what made all my previous recovery attempts fail. My body got cleaner, healthier, but not my heart, my soul and my emotions. My old “self” stayed the same – I stopped using drugs, but didn’t change priorities, didn’t change bad friends, didn’t change my relationship with my family… and therefore, sooner or later I would go back into drugs.

At Teen Challenge it was different. I knew people willing to sacrifice and walk with me. Above all, I learned what made them be like that – they felt loved, had hope, so they had plenty to give to others. While in Teen Challenge I discovered their secret. They had had an encounter with God – the true love and hope that really fill up the void inside men’s souls, can give us the strength to keep walking, above and beyond the hurt. In one of the Teen Challenge meetings I gave my heart to this loving God and I felt His unconditional love for me. It blew me away! It changed my heart!

Today I’m a different person. I live a healthy life; I earned the respect of people and found my place in society. I have good friends, have earned the respect of my daughter, recovered the relationship with my family, I married and am a mother again!

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans of welfare and not for evil, to give a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 – The Bible)

These words impacted my life 16 years ago and still impact me today, in all times and seasons: happiness and sadness, tears or laughter. I’m simply grateful. God is faithful! God is good!