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Addiction started at 13; recovery came through McLouth church

October 25, 2006

Sherry Alterman's addictions go way back.

"I really started drinking pretty heavily at 13," Alterman said.

She'd obtain her alcohol through friends.

"I'd ask them to get me a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer or I would go drinking with them," Alterman said.

Despite her growing problem, she remained in high school.

"Basically, back then I just drank on the weekends," said Alterman, who is 44. "But I drank to get drunk, not just to drink."

She had her first hangover at 15 -- after a graduation party for her brother. Twenty-five kegs of beer on tap.

"I got rip-roaring drunk," Alterman said.

By then, illegal substances fast were becoming a part of her life.

"I started smoking marijuana when I was probably 14," Alterman said. "I smoked it pretty much every day."

She started working at 15. She completed high school while holding down a full-time job as a cashier.

But the drug use continued.

Cocaine?

"Not 'till I was 20," Alterman said.

At 21, she became addicted to crack.

It was expensive.

"A rock was $25, but once you have that one, you've got to have it all night long," Alterman said. "It can cost you up to $700 in one night to stay high."

And, she was addicted to meth.

She knew right away downers, such as Quaaludes, weren't for her.

"I never got addicted to downers," Alterman said. "It would just make me fall asleep."

Season of change

In 1994, Sherry and her husband, Phil Alterman, moved to McLouth.

Life went on as usual. Drinking, drugs, the occasional wild party. As she said, the usual out-of-control lifestyle.

Amazingly during her years of addiction, Alterman was never arrested.

"Never, never," Alterman said. "It's a miracle because I deserved to be in jail."

And she never had a DUI.

"And that's a miracle," Alterman said.

Her life began to change in 1996 when a friend invited her to attend worship service at McLouth's Church of the Nazarene.

What she heard struck a nerve.

"I would hear the preacher preach about Jesus and how He made us to be a certain way -- and I knew I wasn't that way," Alterman said. "I'd leave and just cry all the way home because the Lord was speaking to me telling me 'You're not living the way I created you to live.'"

For a year, Alterman went to church every now and then.

Old habits are hard to change.

"I knew that I wasn't living the way I should have been living and I wasn't ready to give up yet," Alterman said.

In June 1997, friends asked her to help with vacation Bible school.

Alterman agreed, and later realized that on one of those evenings the other teacher wouldn't be there. She'd have to teach the children alone.

"I thought to myself, I don't even know the Bible stories," Alterman said. "I hadn't read the Bible since I was 12 years old."

That evening would change her life.

"Here I was teaching these little tiny kids that Jesus died for them and that if you have any sin that Jesus can cleanse that sin and remove it," Alterman said. "I felt the Lord speak to me and tell me how can you tell the little kids this when you're not living for me."

Alterman clapped her hands together.

"At that very moment I asked the Lord to change me inside out, to remove anything and everything that wasn't pleasing to Him," Alterman said. "And let me tell you, He had a lot of work to do. But from that moment on, I haven't touched alcohol or drugs or anything that's not pleasing to the Lord."

Anyone can change for the better.

"If Jesus can do that for me,"Alterman said, "Jesus can do that for anybody, because I'm not any more special than anybody else."

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