Debra Cobbs never had a normal childhood and never knew what it felt like to be someone’s daughter. Born into a family haunted by drug and alcohol abuse, Debra has battled the same addictions for the past 36 years.
As she spent her childhood seeking love and approval from her family, Debra never knew her real father and lost her mother at an early age. Her addiction began when she was 15 years old and led her down a winding path of destruction and loneliness. When Debra’s mom wasn’t able to take care of her, she was placed with different family members who began to physically take advantage of her.
“When they got what they wanted from me, they were done with me. I never felt like I was wanted,” Debra tearfully remembers.
As an adult, Debra spent her life on the streets. She found her value in alcohol, drugs and men. During those years, she was never able to look at herself in the mirror because she was too ashamed.
“I remember the person I had become. I was an animal. I was sitting in the streets, drunk, and no one wanted to be around me.”
In 2012, Debra stumbled upon a faith-based organization, Mission: Possible! Austin, which aims to connect the body of Christ to Austin’s urban communities in order to foster life transformation and impact those who are struggling with homelessness. Even though she was not yet a believer, Debra had always felt a tugging in her heart to find out who God was.
At first she was hesitant and guarded, but when the workers at Mission: Possible! Austin revealed to her their own past sins and showed her that she wasn’t alone, Debra started to feel more comfortable. But she was still using drugs.
It wasn’t long until Debra was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. It was her first drug charge and felony. After she was released from jail, she quickly slipped back into her old habits of substance abuse. Her friends from Mission: Possible! Austin continued to encourage Debra to return. She did, but could not stop using.
Finally, in 2014, Debra decided she’d had enough. In the solitude of her apartment, she fell to her knees at the foot of her bed and cried out to Jesus. She begged God to help her fight the addiction. When programs and counseling didn’t work for her, she felt the only cure could be God. In the past, Debra felt glimpses of his presence during the tough times but never felt like she really knew him.
But, in that painful moment when she was drowning in the pit of her sin, God finally revealed himself to her.
Debra was only sober for two weeks when she visited Jobs for Life, a global nonprofit with a mission to equip the church to help introduce the jobless back into the workplace. Debra was terrified to attend classes and, since she was clean from all substances for the first time in years, she was afraid to be herself.
The class taught Debra more than how to find a job. It taught her how to see who she was in Christ. One of her instructors used an illustration of self-worth and value that stirred in her a desire to change.
If you were to take a $20 bill, crumble it up and throw it on the floor, would it not be worth anything because it’s crumbled up? If you picked it up and straightened it out, it still has value.
“And from that point on I thought, Wow, really? I still have value? Even though I’ve been damaged?” Debra recalls. “And that right there gave me room to breathe and my heart began to be opened.”
The class also became a vessel for an unexpected friendship with Lynda, her once-mentor and now, one of her closest friends.
“When I first met Lynda, I thought she was too strict. I didn’t want to be paired up with her. But now I see that is what I needed. She has helped me to be where I am today,” Debra remembers. “I thank God for the people he has put in my life, because when I first knew I wanted to change I was crying out to God asking him for friends, I was angry that I didn’t know anyone.”
The relationship between Debra and Lynda allowed her to experience living in community for the first time. The strong and assertive characteristics of Lynda that Debra once feared have become the qualities that she now treasures the most. Without the tough moments when Lynda challenged Debra to make wise choices, Debra wouldn’t have learned how to keep steady employment for the first time in her life.
“As I listen to Debra now, she is just so firm in what she believes and who she is,” Lynda shares. “She wasn’t like that when I first met her, but God has done a work in her and given her that confidence. It’s exponential what God is redeeming in her life.”
Debra fights every day for her freedom from addiction and for her relationship with her Savior. She won’t start her day without first immersing herself in the Word. But most importantly, Debra now knows where her identity is found.
“Jesus says he is the way, the truth, and the life. And I want life with Christ. I am a daughter of a King and that is now my identity,” Debra says. At 51, Debra now confidently knows what it feels like to be a daughter.