Mentor Letter

A Mentor Letter: Vicki Benard

Vicki is a CDC scientist for cancer research. She is a longtime volunteer for Victoria’s Friends that serves as a Board Member as well as Liaison to Churches, Organizations & Partnerships.

Early on in my life, I struggled with deep insecurities. I was always attracted to the most popular girl and being her best friend, and I spent most of my time trying to be exactly like her. I began drinking in my early teens because it gave me the confidence I lacked. From the beginning, alcohol created such an empty pit inside of me; I was always trying to be someone else, yet not feeling as though I measured up. I still managed to perform well during my school years and made good grades, but I wore many masks and deceived myself in pretending that everything was alright.

While finishing my undergraduate college degree, I accepted Christ as my Savior. I would read my Bible and life felt somewhat meaningful. However, this feeling didn’t last long. I continued to drink, which as a new Christian brought on a deep sense of guilt. I got married and moved to South Carolina to finish a doctorate degree. As a Christian, but without any knowledge of His true Grace, I was desperately trying to be the good Christian I thought I should be, all while the masks and pretending continued. At night and on the weekend I was drinking, and on Sunday was sitting hung-over in the first pew. I would spend hours reading my Bible, invited myself into every Bible study in our church, trying so hard to make up for the drunken state I would inevitably be in. It was a constant and draining struggle.

After completing my doctorate degree, my husband and I moved to Atlanta where I was offered a job at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When we arrived in Atlanta, we joined a church and I became very active in a women’s group. Through their support and encouragement, I was finally able to get the help I needed to get sober. With my sobriety, the guilt did subside, and I saw glimpses of Grace. But I still felt the same emptiness and insecurities as before. I got rid of the burden of alcohol that I thought was keeping me from the foot of the cross, but I still lacked the passion and zeal for the Lord. What was wrong with me?

I soon realized that I had always tried to work for God’s love. I never really accepted that He loved me for me as I am, and not what I could do. I tried so hard for so many years to be like anyone else but me to feel loved – to go along with the popular crowd. I had lost who I was and who God was. I saw God as a judge checking off my every wrong. Even though I read the Bible, it never went from my head to my heart. When I finally came to a place of honesty with myself and others about my inner struggles, then I was able to really get the help I needed. My masks came down and I began to accept in my heart all the things I had heard for years: that God’s Grace is for all of us here and now the emptiness was now filled with Christ and there was a new purpose and a plan for my life.

This is my story and the things that I had to overcome. As you’ve read, early in my teens, I struggled with insecurities and searching for significance in many places, including alcohol. However, I hid behind these feelings of inadequacy by pretending to have it all together, but inside feeling very lonely and empty. It wasn’t until I was married with children, that I began to take down the masks and deal with all of my baggage. I had great support from Christian friends around me that I trusted, and they helped me find the resources I needed.  I had a heart that wanted to grow and change, even at the risk of being transparent and broken.

I wish that I had that courage in my teens, to reach out to a safe group of friends and be honest about my struggles and to seek Godly counsel early on. Perhaps I would’ve saved myself from much inner turmoil and destruction. I know how hard it is to envision how to get from where you are to where you want to be, especially if you feel alone in this desire to change. I hope that if you are struggling with similar insecurities, feeling you are trying to be someone you are not and making poor choices to fit in, that you would reach out now for help. You have the courage inside of you to stop pretending. God created each of you with a unique purpose and plan. He wants to help you carry that out now. He is safe, He is loving – it is so worth it!!

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