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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Conversation with Juliet Van Heerden

John Bradshaw - Conversation with Juliet Van Heerden

John Bradshaw - Conversation with Juliet Van Heerden
TOPICS: Conversations

John Bradshaw: Welcome to Conversations. I'm John Bradshaw, and my guest is Juliet Van Heerden. She is an author, a public speaker, and a teacher, and this is our conversation. Juliet, thanks for joining me.

Juliet Van Heerden: Thank you for the invitation.

John Bradshaw: Hey, let's go back to about where you think the beginning is. Where does your story... it's a fascinating story, it's a moving story, a very powerful story, and a story that's going to impact a lot of lives as you share it, so where does this story begin?

Juliet Van Heerden: Well, I grew up in a Christian family, a Christian home. My mom is a very devout Christian woman. But I am the product of divorce, and my parents divorced when I was 4. And then when I was 14 there was another divorce. And so I was a child who experienced the feelings of abandonment and the idea that happily ever after doesn't always turn out that way. And I made a vow to myself as a child that I would never get divorced. And I didn't want that legacy, and that was a promise that I made to myself and really ended up trying very hard to keep.

John Bradshaw: Let me ask you this. Do you feel now that growing up in two divorced homes, that that had any bearing on some of the decisions you made that now you regret making? That play into that at all?

Juliet Van Heerden: Of course. Of course. I was a person who likes order and structure and routine and stability. And when you suffer divorce, whether as a child or an adult, your structure and your routine and your stability just gets all messed up. And so I think it, it caused me to want to always create to control my environment, to control my world and create this, I'll say "perfect world," that didn't have the chaos that I had experienced as a child. So it definitely did affect me.

John Bradshaw: So, raised in a home where the Bible was important.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Faith in God was important.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes. Prayer was important.

John Bradshaw: And all those things were normal to you, and they became a part of your life.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Christian college?

Juliet Van Heerden: Uh, Christian education my whole life.

John Bradshaw: Okay, and did you... that was a good, positive experience?

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Yeah? No regrets about that?

Juliet Van Heerden: No. I, I wanted to be a teacher. I loved school. I enjoyed Christian, my Christian school. I, I learned I learned a lot about the Bible and about God.

John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm.'ve mentioned that you were the bridesmaid several times and that you may have, well, you may have made a decision that later on you regret. So, walk through that dynamic with me. You got married along the way. Um, if this was a decision that later on you might have wanted to do over, tell me how that, how that came to be; tell me about the, the circumstances around your marriage.

Juliet Van Heerden: Okay, well, I I ended up making a decision to marry a person that I probably would not have consciously chosen, but sometimes as a young person, we'll make a compromise. And I tell young people when I speak to them, "Be careful who you date. Be careful who you go on one date with, because that person might end up being the person you spend the rest of your life with". And so I became friends and involved with a person that I probably wouldn't have initially chosen, but because you end up getting your heart strings pulled a certain direction, and you make, make commitments, and, and you feel pressure. Well, I, I won't say "you". I'll say "me". I felt the pressure around me of my friends getting married, and my, my little timeline that I had made as a kid wasn't... it wasn't working out. Because, if I was going to have all these kids, then I needed to, you know, go ahead and find a husband and get going. But I, I rushed things, and I did not do my homework. And I tell my students, "Do your homework," but I didn't do mine. And I did not even know what questions to ask a potential spouse. I didn't I just didn't research. I took everything at face value. I was a very trusting person.

John Bradshaw: Okay, let's go through some of these things. What questions, what questions should a person ask?

Juliet Van Heerden: Well, I would definitely recommend asking, have you... "What is your experience with substance abuse, with alcohol and drugs? What is your experience with, with pornography? What longstanding friendships do you have"? Um, maybe even wanting to meet those friends and hang out with people that have been in this person's life for a long time. Um, what else would I ask? Sexual history? Really we say "Yes" and "I do" to somebody that we really don't know, if they haven't been transparent with us, and sometimes people like to keep the skeletons in their closet.

John Bradshaw: I remember saying to my fiancée, "Check me out; do your homework. Go and talk to the people who make up the fabric of my life".

Juliet Van Heerden: That's right.

John Bradshaw: I was scared to death when she actually did.

Juliet Van Heerden: Oh, but it's good.

John Bradshaw: When she did that and then said "I do" was one of the biggest surprises of my life, but... So that's the sort of thing you're talking about, right?

Juliet Van Heerden: Mm-hmm. Accountability.

John Bradshaw: Yeah. So how do you marry someone without really knowing them? You did.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: How, how do you, how do you go through that? How do you make what you now consider... "mistake" is a strong word...but how do you make that mistake? And the reason I'm asking you is because I want you to help somebody else who maybe is standing in that place now and not make that mistake. How is it possible?

Juliet Van Heerden: Right. Well, I mean, you get caught up in the moment. You believe a person. You take, you take what you see at this moment, and you don't realize that there's something behind what you see. So, I mean, I just felt, I felt excited that someone was interested in me, that they enjoyed some of the same things that I enjoyed. Yes, we had a little bit different background, but I was an optimist. I thought that whatever wasn't just right I could make right. And I recently heard a sermon where, uh, someone said, "Women need, need to not think of men as projects, and men need to not think of women as possessions". And I think I, I like a project, and so that might have been part of it, um, a challenge that, you know, you can, you can change a person.

John Bradshaw: So in your experience you discovered you can't change a person?

Juliet Van Heerden: No.

John Bradshaw: Did you try?

Juliet Van Heerden: Oh yes.

John Bradshaw: How did you try?

Juliet Van Heerden: Uh, I tried to hmmm... I manipulated. I tried to control the person. I tried to force them into my mold. And you can't take a person who is who they are and try to make them someone that you want them to be. But when I realized things weren't exactly happily ever after for me, I, I was really trying very hard to make this person fit into, into what I thought was the mold for a good Christian husband.

John Bradshaw: Let me ask you about this. Because no one has ever married the perfect person.

Juliet Van Heerden: No.

John Bradshaw: So you've got to accept some imperfections, some limitations, right?

Juliet Van Heerden: Of course.

John Bradshaw: In a person. But there are some things you should never accept and think that you're going to be able to change. How do we know where that line is? How do we know what it' know, he, she isn't everything he or she might be in this area, but that's okay; in other areas, it's not okay. Help us navigate that.

Juliet Van Heerden: Well, knowing ourselves is important, you know, knowing, knowing what I can live with and what I, what I can't. Because no one's perfect. I mean, I wasn't a perfect spouse or a perfect person, either, and I didn't I really just, I wasn't sure what to do with the things that I saw that weren't right. But I think honesty is, like, a core foundational, uh, piece. If, if we have a question about a person's integrity or about their honesty, or if we catch them in a lie or something like that, then we really need to not brush... I would say that to any woman: "Don't brush that under the rug. Really have your radar up. If you get that feeling like, something's fishy, something's not right, follow through with that. Don't ignore that". Because if we, uh, if we are dealing with a person who's not honest, then we're going to have serious problems.

John Bradshaw: Now, if you detect dishonesty before you walk down the aisle?

Juliet Van Heerden: Run.

John Bradshaw: If you detect it after you walk down the aisle, what do we do then?

Juliet Van Heerden: Pray. It's... I experienced it. I experienced it, shortly after I walked down the aisle. Um, I was, I was able to catch the person in the lie. And it was devastating. And I really didn't know what to do. I wanted to undo what I had done, but remember the vow that I made to myself? "I'm never going to get divorced". So what do I do? Well, then you kick into this "I can change this person. I can fix this person". Uh, and your prayers become all about, "God change this person," and you forget that you're also a broken person in need of a Savior. And a lot of times...uh, I would say women especially, but not just women...we try to be the savior for somebody else, and it doesn't work. They already have a Savior, but it's not us.

John Bradshaw: You say the thing to do is to pray.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: But I'm certain you would advocate some other concrete steps. Who do you talk to? I know it will, I know it will depend on what your spouse is involved in.

Juliet Van Heerden: What's going on, of course.

John Bradshaw: But, but who are the type of people you can turn to when you're in a marriage and you think to yourself, "Oh, my goodness, this is not what I signed up for"?

Juliet Van Heerden: No, I would definitely find a trusted, um, friend, counselor. Um, I advocate for recovery groups and a support system where, where we can be transparent about what's really going on. And not gossiping...I'm not talking about that, but I'm talking about sharing and getting insight. Because when we're caught up emotionally in, in something that's bigger than we are, sometimes we don't think clearly. And my situation caused me to be in denial, and I, I wasn't accountable to anyone initially in, in my early years of, of my first marriage, and I just I, I wish that I had been. If I had been honest and transparent and listened to godly counsel, I might have made some different decisions, but I just walled up and kept everything close to me.

John Bradshaw: Can you explain that? Can you, can you elaborate on that just a little bit? I don't want to take you into any uncomfortable place.

Juliet Van Heerden: What do you mean?

John Bradshaw: But for somebody who... you said you weren't transparent, and you didn't listen to godly counsel.

Juliet Van Heerden: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: Give me an example of that.

Juliet Van Heerden: Okay, well, some, there were people in my life that I did trust, and they did ask me some questions before I actually walked down the aisle. But I didn't listen, you know. They, they did try, but I, I was just stubborn, I think, and wanting what I wanted. And so, I didn't take into account that God places... I believe God places people in our lives to hold us accountable, and the Bible speaks of seeking godly counsel. And sometimes, especially if we're caught up emotionally in an emotional relationship or are riding an emotional high, we're not thinking clearly, and that's where the people that we know that we can trust around us, that's where they come in, and we can listen to them. But I didn't listen before the marriage, and then after, I realized I had really, I should have listened. Then I felt ashamed, and I felt embarrassed, and I didn't want to tell; um, I didn't want to admit, you know, even to myself, I really didn't want to admit that I, I had messed up, and then I certainly didn't want to go back to my, my people, who, who had tried to warn me, and, and admit. So I just, my, my pride just kept my mouth closed.

John Bradshaw: If you had a chance to talk to the pre-first-marriage Juliet, and you took her by the hands and pulled her aside, what would you say to her?

Juliet Van Heerden: I would say, "I love you and care about you, and I know you. And in my heart of hearts, I feel that this is not a good decision, and here's why". And I would, I would specifically name the things that I saw. Not in a, in an unkind way. The Bible speaks of speaking the truth in love. And sometimes, you know, especially if someone comes hard at the person we love, we get defensive. And so approaching a person softly and saying, "Because I love and care about you, and I understand you love and care about this person, but these are some things I see in this person's character..." or "This is something I know about you; you're acting out of character, and maybe just take some time and wait. It's not going anywhere. If it's, if it's really what it's supposed to be, don't rush it".

John Bradshaw: I'm thinking of you listening to you.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: And hearing you tell yourself, "This guy's not the right guy".

Juliet Van Heerden: Right.

John Bradshaw: And I'm imagining you listening and thinking, "The things you're saying are true. But what am I going to do if I walk away from this"?

Juliet Van Heerden: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: So realizing that this is wrong, that's uncomfortable, but that may not be as difficult as knowing, "What do I do now"? How do you advise a young woman, a young man who is staring the rest of his or her life in the face and now realizing, uh-oh... how do they go about extricating themselves from that? I don't know what I would have done if I had discovered that my wife was the Wicked Witch of the East, uh, my fiancée was the Wicked Witch of the East. What would I, what would I do? Where would I go? How would I go about rebuilding my life? What do you say to that person?

Juliet Van Heerden: Uh, I would suggest taking some time, like some...remove yourself physically from the person for, for some time. Taking some time alone with God. Taking some reflection time and, and seeking even professional help or professional counseling. Sometimes people are afraid at hearing the word "counselor," but just really taking a break from the intensity, the emotional intensity of what's going on. And sometimes if things are wrong it's more intense. There will be pressure from a person to make a quick decision: "Let's just do this". You know, that's when you need to raise your eyebrow and go, "Wait a second, we don't need to rush this thing". But allowing yourself to have some, some space and some time away, if it's really a solid thing and a good thing, it will still be there. But give yourself a moment to breathe, to pray, to listen to people you trust, and and come back and say, "Is this, is this true? Or is this emotion I'm riding"?

John Bradshaw: In just a moment, when we come back, I want to, I want to walk with you through your experience, your experience that led to divorce. What went wrong? What might you have done better? And, uh, in doing so, your story's going to be a help and a blessing to many other people. We'll be right back with my conversation with Juliet Van Heerden in just a moment.

John Bradshaw: Welcome back to Conversations. My guest is Juliet Van Heerden. She's a public speaker and an author and a teacher and a number of other things besides. Juliet, let's go back to... we, we spoke to the issues surrounding about, surrounding marriages and mistakes and who to speak to and when and so on. But let's talk about your experience.

Juliet Van Heerden: Okay.

John Bradshaw: You walk down the aisle. You said "I do". You were the happiest girl in the world. And then?

Juliet Van Heerden: I was, and, and I thought that I was doing right because I did marry someone who was a Christian and who had promised to come to church, and we did pray together. So there were, there were a lot of things that were positive and right and good, and we had a relationship that I felt was real. And then I started noticing that things were not always what they seemed to be.

John Bradshaw: What did you notice that really bothered you?

Juliet Van Heerden: Um, well, I call, I call him "John". It's not his real name, but we'll call him "John," because I want him to be like a real person. And I'm definitely not wanting to vilify him as a person.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Juliet Van Heerden: He was, you know, a human being. Um, and I noticed, though, that sometimes he wasn't completely honest, and I caught him in some deceit. And part of it, again, was me not doing my homework. It may seem like a small thing, but when, um, when I had started getting to know him, he was a smoker, and I remember saying to him, "I would never marry anyone who smokes," because I didn't want that in my life. And as we were dating John "quit". And I believed that. And so, when we married, I thought I wasn't marrying a smoker, but I really had; he just didn't tell me. So when I caught him smoking on our honeymoon, I felt...duped. I felt nervous. I felt betrayed.

John Bradshaw: Did you wonder, if he lied to me about this, what else is he lying to me about?

Juliet Van Heerden: I did, and, and I also blamed myself, because surely I could have noticed if he was still addicted to that habit, right? How did I miss that? Was I, was I just oblivious? Did I not want to know? You know, I asked myself a lot of questions. But, so that was...

John Bradshaw: How did you miss that?

Juliet Van Heerden: I think I think I ignored the gut feeling when he would need to disappear or get antsy when we had long car rides or whatever, you know. I, I, in hindsight I could totally see the pattern: the gum chewing, the, you know, avoiding kissing sometimes. And so, I could see it looking back, but as it was happening, I just kept putting it aside and, and dismissing it, not letting myself dwell on it or think about it. So, so I really was surprised and shocked and sad. And so, yes, you, then you question the character of a person, like, if you're going to lie to me about this, then what else is there? What, what else? And I didn't know what the "what else" was until six years later.

John Bradshaw: Okay, walk me through those six years. So you noticed deceit, and clearly this isn't, "Hey, did you take that cookie from the cookie jar"? This is something where you had clearly-defined values...

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: ...and preferences. And he was contravening those and keeping that from you. So, that's a significant thing when you're dealing with somebody's bedrock values, and he clashed with that and kept that from you.

Juliet Van Heerden: Right.

John Bradshaw: Probably important to distinguish between deceit and deceit. What else did you notice that... when did you start to get really nervous, as though, boy, maybe this marriage is in trouble?

Juliet Van Heerden: Uh, well when, when money wasn't accounted for, when, uh, things didn't add up; stories didn't add up. Uh, we, we started getting into debt. He would have unexplained illness a lot of times; a lot of accidents would happen to him. He worked in construction. And sometimes weird things would happen that... you know, the staple gun went through the hand or, you know, just, just too many accidents, and sometimes not being where he said he was or not, not arriving home when he said he was going to. I just started feeling, like, suspicious of him, and I couldn't figure out what it was. And then every time we ever went anywhere, like to visit relatives or anywhere, to vacations or whatever, he would always have the flu. He would be sick and in bed and shaking and whatever, dripping. It was just weird, but it took a long time for me to realize what it was. And...

John Bradshaw: And what was it?

Juliet Van Heerden: It was drug addiction. It was cocaine.

John Bradshaw: When you realized your husband was addicted to drugs, what did that do to you?

Juliet Van Heerden: It devastated me. It gutted me. I, I couldn't believe it. But in a way, I was also relieved to know what it was. Like, I knew it was something. I, I didn't know what. I thought, I, I, I thought many different things. At one point I thought, well, maybe it's like, um, like prostitutes or something like that, because the cell phone bill was like a book. It would be so thick with pages, you know, in the old days you'd get the AT&T bill, and it was...And, and I couldn't understand it. So one day I just sat down and began calling all of those numbers and getting strange, unusual voicemails and weird music, and I just, I couldn't figure it out. I thought it was like call girls, you know, whatever. So once I finally realized it's drugs... it's drugs; those are drug dealers... it was like horrible, but also like, "Oh...I get it". Like, it just clicked for me, and...

John Bradshaw: And what was your response? You discover you're, you're married to a drug user. Let me ask this first, and then I'll ask for your response. When did you realize you were married to a drug addict?

Juliet Van Heerden: Yeah, it was basically kind of all around the same time, but he was so addicted by that time that he was, like it was kind of life-or-death at that point in time. And, I mean, a $100 cocaine habit then was, $100 a day, kind of... I mean, it was a lot for, for a teacher and a construction worker.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Juliet Van Heerden: So so he was not doing well. His physical health was, was failing, and we had, uh, I had reached out to someone, to a substance-abuse counselor, and they said, "Look, it's going to be the cemetery or the rehab... your choice". It's what they said to him.

John Bradshaw: What did he choose?

Juliet Van Heerden: He chose the rehab.

John Bradshaw: How did it go?

Juliet Van Heerden: I thought it went great. I thought it went great. He checked in for, for 28 days, and they let him out early for good behavior. And, um...I'm being facetious. No, but they really did. He, he came home a little early.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Juliet Van Heerden: And, I mean, I thought it was wonderful and that life was starting over, and we hit the reset button, and he did stay clean.

John Bradshaw: So things turned around?

Juliet Van Heerden: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: For how long?

Juliet Van Heerden: For a while.

John Bradshaw: Yeah?

Juliet Van Heerden: For a while. Um...

John Bradshaw: And how did you notice, how did you notice that things were no longer going well?

Juliet Van Heerden: Oh, man, I never knew. Like, it, I never knew. Even those first six years of marriage, like sometimes he was using; sometimes he wasn't. Sometimes he was clean; sometimes he wasn't. I, I never knew where he was. Because I think he didn't want to be the slave to this either. I mean, we look at people who are chemically dependent sometimes, those of us who are not, and look at them, look down our nose at them and think, well, you know, "Look at you, you're just partying it up. You're having so much fun". It's not fun for them. It, it's, it's really, really hard to be on that, that cycle, especially if you want to come off the crazy train. You just I watched him suffer with, with rehab and relapse and...

John Bradshaw: What would he be like when he relapsed? How would that affect him emotionally and physically?

Juliet Van Heerden: Well, once he got clean and sober, he was back to normal, and we would just try to go on with life, you know, back to church, back to work, back to, you know, try to have some semblance of normalcy in our marriage. And and then when he would relapse, he would just disappear. That's, that's how I would, he just...

John Bradshaw: For how long?

Juliet Van Heerden: He would disappear, sometimes for days, usually on a Friday because that's payday, and you know, come home when the money was gone. And so after, after he came home, and the money was gone, he would be depressed; he would be sorry; he would, you know, feel worthless guilty, ashamed. It was hard to watch. And, you know, you watch, you watch someone you love and care about destroy themself, destroy their life, their health.

John Bradshaw: You've said you like a project, and you like to fix things.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: So did you get about fixing him?

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Did you think, "Okay, we're going to fix this"?

Juliet Van Heerden: Of course.

John Bradshaw: How did you endeavor to fix it?

Juliet Van Heerden: Oh, man, I...

John Bradshaw: Rehab is part of that, I guess.

Juliet Van Heerden: Uh, we can, we can use the word "codependent fear-based control". So I was afraid that he was going to die, I was gonna...afraid that he was going to OD. I was afraid that someone would find out about our dirty family secret. And so I tried to control everything. I, I tried to control every penny. "You, you have your boss write the paycheck to me. I'm going to control the finances, and I'll give you an allowance, just what you need. I'm, I'm going to control your comings and goings, so you have to be accountable". I would try to control him all the time, and it was, it's very exhausting to try to control another person. But that was the way that I coped: um, crack down and control. Well, then you're not a spouse; you're, you're...a mother... a bad one, you know.

John Bradshaw: And, and evidently it didn't even work anyway.

Juliet Van Heerden: It doesn't work. The more you try to squeeze someone, the more they run away.

John Bradshaw: So how was he able to run away when you squeezed his finances and there was no money to buy cocaine?

Juliet Van Heerden: Well, I gave him a gas, a gas card, you know. Um, "You can have, you can have the Chevron card to, to get gas so you can go to your work". But I don't, I, I don't still to this day understand the drug culture and the drug world, but I really didn't then. I know a lot more now than I did then. But you can, you can steal things and pawn them. You can let other people use your gas card for cash. There are lots of things you can do to get... and you can deal. Your wife doesn't have to know what you're doing.

John Bradshaw: Did your husband deal?

Juliet Van Heerden: Um, yes.

John Bradshaw: And you discovered that at the time or later?

Juliet Van Heerden: Oh, later. Later, when he accidentally left his, his driver's license at the, at the dealer's. I don't know why they had to take their license. I really don't under... I never understood that. But anyway. So, so so we started getting robbed. Our house started getting robbed a lot, cleaned out. Insurance would let us buy the stuff again, and then we get robbed again.

John Bradshaw: You were raised in a Christian home; you went to Christian schools, went to Christian college. You had a dream of being a teacher...

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: ...and having, uh, five kids and a house, I'm guessing a dog and a white picket fence.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes, all perfect dreams.

John Bradshaw: Now you're married to a drug addict, and your home is being robbed.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes, yes.

John Bradshaw: That's not what you planned.

Juliet Van Heerden: No.

John Bradshaw: What was that doing to you?

Juliet Van Heerden: No, it was tearing me up. I was, I was sick. I had ulcers. I was constantly stressed out. I was, the controlling thing just didn't work. But I couldn't stop being controlling.

John Bradshaw: You mentioned your "dirty little secret" or...

Juliet Van Heerden: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: ...your family secret.

Juliet Van Heerden: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: Why did you think about it like that? You clearly weren't comfortable sharing much of this with too many people. Why do you think that is?

Juliet Van Heerden: Um, pride and fear. When you have addiction, whether it's chemical dependency or pornography or even food addiction, any addiction, you usually don't want people, like, looking at you and talking about you. You're afraid they're going to be condemning you, gossiping about you. Everybody else's little Facebook world looks so perfect. You know, we didn't have Facebook back when I was going through this, but but every, you know... especially in church, you look around, and everybody's sitting there all dressed nice and looking nice; their family looks great. You think that you're the only weird... I thought we were the only weird family with this.

John Bradshaw: Do you think you were?

Juliet Van Heerden: No. We weren't. No, I know that now.

John Bradshaw: How many people...I'm getting ahead of myself here. How common is this in church... not just in church, for families to be dealing with someone who's battling addiction issues? How common?

Juliet Van Heerden: I would venture to say every family has someone that they love or care about who's addicted to something, either chemical dependency pornography, food, even... you know, we, we call the benign addictions, like work or codependency, um...they seem okay. But they're not. It all ends up killing us.

John Bradshaw: If you'd known this when you were younger, do you think that would have impacted the way you dealt with it, handled it, or reached out to others? If you knew you weren't actually the only one...

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: this spiral, you'd have reached out?

Juliet Van Heerden: I wouldn't have felt so alone. I felt alone. I felt ashamed. I felt afraid, and I really didn't know. I, I never heard a sermon on addiction. I didn't know about 12-step recovery until John went to rehab for the first time. And then all of a sudden a whole new world was opened up to me; like, hey, there are groups of people that meet regularly and talk about this stuff. Like, it was like, aha, wow. That's amazing. Someone actually talks about it and shares their experience and gives strength and hope to other people. So, we didn't have that in my church. We, we all just hid our stuff and pretended we were fine.

John Bradshaw: You think anything, anything's changed much between then and now?

Juliet Van Heerden: Oh, yes, and many, and many, many faith communities do have 12-step recovery programs and people are starting to talk about it. I mean, uh, addiction, drug addiction right now is rampant in our, in our country and in our culture. Like, everyone's talking about it. It's not just a certain class of people. It's, it's everyone is being affected in some way. So, so, yes, there are many more opportunities for people to be aware of the recovery community and the importance of sharing with other people what's going on in our lives and the healing that comes through vulnerability and transparency and honesty.

John Bradshaw: As your husband was descending into self-destruction and your marriage was starting to unravel, what was this doing to you spiritually?

Juliet Van Heerden: I was really having a spiritual awakening. I was, I was learning to trust God and to love Him and to know that He loved me. I, it makes me just emotional just thinking about how God opened my eyes to His love for me. And I grew up knowing about God's love, singing "Jesus loves me, this I know". I knew what God's Word said, but through that experience I learned to trust Him, to trust the heart of the Father and to lean on Him and know that He saw me, that I was not alone, that He was with me through it. And the Lord came very close. There's a verse that says God is "close to the brokenhearted" and close to "those who are crushed in spirit". And as I found myself absolutely crushed with my girlish childhood dreams, you know, devastated, I, I felt the presence of God in, in tangible ways. I could feel God's presence with me. And there were times when I just wanted to die; I wanted to give up. But the Lord did not allow that to happen.

John Bradshaw: See, I could imagine a person saying, "Spiritually, I was devastated, and I felt like I was a million miles from God," and I know that happens to people. It didn't happen to you. What was going on that this experience drew you closer to God? This, I think, is a, is a very key point because a lot of people end up adrift and without hope.

Juliet Van Heerden: Right.

John Bradshaw: What was it about you or your experience or your upbringing or your faith community that saw this experience draw you closer to God? What made the difference?

Juliet Van Heerden: I, I guess because I didn't talk to other people, I had God, and that's who I talked to. You know, I should have spoken with others, but I didn't, and so God was who I talked to. And I talked to Him. Like, when I was driving to school, I would have to put myself together, because to be able to smile and be sweet to first grade children, you know, you have to, you have to get it together before you get to school. And so that was my time where I would just pour my heart out to God as I'm driving. Like, "Lord, I've got work to do today. I need You to help me. Help me focus on loving these kids". And He would do it. Like, I could just feel the peace of God come over me, and I could do my work; I could do my job. I could, I could love on the kids at school. And, and when I poured my heart out to the Lord, He came, and He was very real to me. And I leaned in to the Word of God. I wrote promises on these little index cards and kept them on a ring, and, and when Satan's lies would come into my mind I would find the promise of God that was truth and say it out loud. And so God's Word became my friend. It became real to me; it became tangible. Um, it wasn't just like the Bible is this overwhelming book I don't even know what to do with. But it was God talking to me and giving me strength from day to day.

John Bradshaw: So where would you be now, do you think, if you didn't have God to lean on then?

Juliet Van Heerden: If I didn't have God, I would be dead. I would, I would have driven my car off a bridge or slit my wrists or done something awful.

John Bradshaw: And something kept you from that?

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes, I didn't, I didn't want to hurt Him. I didn't want to hurt my friend, God.

John Bradshaw: Encourage someone who is struggling like you struggled. It may be with an, an addict husband or...some similar thing, and they're looking at God, and they're just not sure whether He's a safe place to go. Speak to that person.

Juliet Van Heerden: God is for you. He is not against you.

John Bradshaw: But you made some... ...destructive decisions.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: You didn't listen to advice.

Juliet Van Heerden: No.

John Bradshaw: You didn't listen to the voice of God speaking through you.

Juliet Van Heerden: No.

John Bradshaw: You found yourself in this situation which you were complicit in.

Juliet Van Heerden: I was rebellious and headstrong.

John Bradshaw: Okay, but you say to that rebellious and headstrong person what about God?

Juliet Van Heerden: God loved me anyway. And God loves you anyway. And His heart toward us is good, and it is "the goodness of God that leads [us] to repentance". And I learned that, and I believe that you're not ever alone. We are never alone, and God is with us in the trenches, He is with us in the valley of the shadow or death, He is with us when our spouse is using drugs, He is with us when our child's health is failing, He is with us when we want to drive our car off a bridge, and sometimes we just have to be still and say, "God, where are you"? And listen. And He says, "I'm right here, I'm here, and I got you". And He carries us. He carried me through it. And He brought me out on the other side with such, such an amazing ending to my story, and the ending is the beginning. Um, He gave me a new life, He gave me hope, and He redeemed every dream I thought was lost.

John Bradshaw: We're going to talk about that in just a moment. He's always there, and He's always for you. More of my conversation with Juliet Van Heerden in just a moment.

John Bradshaw: Welcome back to Conversations. My guest is Juliet Van Heerden. A moment ago, Juliet, things were unraveling, things unraveled, things got dark, but you knew God was with you.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Okay, we want to bring this to the end of the story, which, as you said a moment ago, is the beginning of the story.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Your husband is drug-addicted. He's lying; he's sick; he's in and out of rehab. Your home has been robbed. You were divorced. How did that happen? How did you finally get to the point... or how did circumstances bring you to the place where this is over, and it's not getting better?

Juliet Van Heerden: Um, well, well, John just said to me, "I am tired of living the double life. I don't want to be the Christian husband that you want me to be. I want to drink what I want, smoke what I want, watch what I want, snort what I want. And I want to be with this other woman who doesn't make me feel guilty for the things that I want to do". And so, he just verbalized that he was done with my dream, and he wanted to live his dream, which didn't include me. So unfortunately, his dream led him to a 12-year prison sentence. And I was able to walk away feeling relieved.

John Bradshaw: I wanted to ask you about that, when he says, "I'm done".

Juliet Van Heerden: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: Was there pain by that stage? You said "relief". So it wasn't as painful as if he'd said that a number of years earlier?

Juliet Van Heerden: Right. At that point it was a, it was a relief. I just felt like I had done my absolute best and given it everything that I could possibly do, but a person is free to make their own choices.

John Bradshaw: You may even have felt like a failure because, after all, divorce was never going to happen.

Juliet Van Heerden: Right.

John Bradshaw: You had the plan...the five kids, and, and all of that. But you didn't feel like a failure, which is, which is interesting, I think, very, very healthy. Offer a word of encouragement to somebody who might be in the situation that you were in then, and they feel like, if I don't hang in here to the grim death, then somehow I've let God down. How do you know, how do you know when you've done your best and it's time to let go?

Juliet Van Heerden: Well, I think, I think the Lord lets us know. And sometimes we hang on beyond the point where God has released us. And, uh, is not God's desire for anyone to be in an abusive situation. And I had a very difficult time using the word "abuse" to describe my marriage. But, as I look back, I can say I was in an abusive marriage. I was being financially abused, I was being emotionally neglected, verbally abused, and, and so, as I look at that, I know that's not God's will and that, and that's not God's plan for us. We need to be safe. And sometimes God makes provision for, for people. Um, He says He hates divorce. Yes, He does, because it's painful and devastating. But there is provision. There are, there are times when it's a relief.

John Bradshaw: So you picked up the pieces.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: How hard was that?

Juliet Van Heerden: I had friends that let me live in their pool house for a year and a half to get myself, uh, on my feet again financially, because drug addiction is, it can be very expensive. Any...some of these addictions like gambling and these things, it can just devastate you financially. But my friends were so wonderful. They said, "Do not pay us a penny. You save every cent, and then when you're ready, you can take your money and go put yourself a down payment on a house". And they really helped me. And they helped me get a vehicle that was safe, and, so I, I had people surrounding me in my life who supported me. And I know what it feels like to feel like you have nothing. Even as a professional with a degree I had nothing. And...

John Bradshaw: And what I find interesting is... back up a few years...

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: ...and you were worried that someone might learn your dirty little secret.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Now, years later, the secret's out, and yet people embraced you.

Juliet Van Heerden: They embraced me, and they loved me. And they loved John through it, too. I mean, once we started sharing, we found that people embraced us and loved us through it. And it was beautiful to just be like, oh, I don't have to carry this burden of a secret anymore. So, I, I would encourage people: Please share. Find a safe place and share with somebody. Don't hold it.

John Bradshaw: You had a dream; it was a wonderful dream; but it wasn't a realistic dream. I'm going to grow up. I'm going to be married. I'm not going to get divorced like my family experienced along the way. I'm going to have all these wonderful children. Nothing. Marriage, divorce. Your dream didn't work out. Except you said, God has given you everything you ever dreamed about. So, fast-forward, and what did God do for you? How did He restore what the locusts ate?

Juliet Van Heerden: Well, I had to, I had to be willing to go where He said to go. And I was stuck in a small town, and I could have stayed at the same school and retired and, and probably just been alone. And I could have been bitter and hardened against men, which is sometimes the temptation that we have. But I just asked the Lord, "Please keep me softhearted. Keep me open". And I had an opportunity to move from my small town, where really wasn't a lot going on. Um, and I, I took the, I took advantage of it, and I moved to a new community, and I went back to school for my master's degree, and it was there that someone I knew came to me and said, "I know a man, a really nice man, and I think that he would be a good fit for you". I was scared. I was...

John Bradshaw: Yeah, I want to ask you about that.

Juliet Van Heerden: I was terrified.

John Bradshaw: What, how big a challenge was it to say, I'll dip my toe in the pond again?

Juliet Van Heerden: I, I said no. They said, "Can I, could I, can I have your phone number? Could I share your phone number with him"? And I said no. "No, you can't". And so they came back to me the next day... it was a girl in my class... she came back to me the next day with her, her laptop open with a picture of... And she said, "He's a really nice man, and he's a pastor, and he is South African...and he's really handsome, too". And she showed me this picture. And so I looked, and I was like, "Okay, well, don't give him my phone number, but you could give him my email address". And so, she did that, and he sent me an email, and we started a communication.

John Bradshaw: And I wonder if this time around whether your background checks were a little more thorough. Did you...

Juliet Van Heerden: Oh, yes! Oh, yes!

John Bradshaw: You, you did the things you didn't do the first time?

Juliet Van Heerden: I did my homework. I did my research. I, I got to know him friends and, um, longtime, longtime friends, and family. And I, I remember walking... it was Thanksgiving... uh, taking a walk after that too, too big of a dinner, with his sister, and she said to me, "You know, I really like you, and I would like to love you, and I would love it if you were my sister, but I'm going to give you some advice. Will you listen to me"? And I had learned my lesson about listening to advice, and I said, "Yes".

John Bradshaw: You were all ears this time.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes. She said to me, "Do not chase my brother". And I said, "What are you talking about"? She said, "They chase him, and every time they chase him, he runs". And so, he, he had never been married. He was 50, and he had never been married. And so she said, "Do not chase him". And I said, "Okay. I will not chase him". And I didn't.

John Bradshaw: That was risky. So, did he chase you?

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Oh, well done. That worked out. It was a pretty risky strategy there, but I guess you took, you took the advice this time, and you learned that, uh, good advice is worth taking.

Juliet Van Heerden: I took it. And his family loved him. You know, everybody had great, great things to say, and I could see that he had longtime, longtime relationships, and I knew there wasn't a history with chemical dependency, which I would have been like, "No, not, no thank you, never again". Um, so yes, I did my homework, and I didn't chase him. I listened to the counsel, and and he pursued me. And you know, it, it took two years before we were married, but we were married. And it's beautiful. We've been married eight and a half years, and it's, it's wonderful. It's wonderful. And it's, it's, uh...I feel like I'm, I'm married. And I didn't know I actually wasn't married. I mean, I was married on paper, but I did not have an intimate, emotional relationship with my first husband, because when someone is chemically dependent or, or addicted in that kind of way, that's what they're married to. They're not married to you. We didn't have, we didn't have anything close to what I have now. And I'm sad, I'm sad John didn't get to experience that. And I'm sad for the me I was, because I thought I was married and I knew what it was all about, and I didn't know anything.

John Bradshaw: Along the way, you wrote a book.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: "Same Dress, Different Day".

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Why did you write the book?

Juliet Van Heerden: Believe me, I didn't want to. Um, for, for, for doing public speaking now and for being a teacher, I'm actually an introvert, and I'm a very private person. And that's why I kept my mouth closed for so long about things. I did not want to write this book. I am a writer. I love to write. But I was, you know, journaling and writing for myself, never thinking I would tell my story to other people. But the Holy Spirit just kept on me about this, that, that "you need to share this story because it will bring hope to others". And as a pastor's wife, I started hearing the stories of people in church who were suffering, families that are suffering with the same kind of problems that I experienced. And I really had so much compassion for them, and, and a few people said to me, "You need to share your story. You need to write your story. You need to write your story". And I kept putting it off. And I knew it, it would be difficult because I was happy. I was living the happily ever after. Who wants to go back and think about that stuff? And in order to write well, you need to relive it in your mind. But Andre, my husband, he, he gave me permission to do it. He sent was very gracious of him as a man... he gave me permission to go back and to relive that pain and to write about John and to to share my story. And it took me about three years from start to finish because it was hard. I would write a bit, and then I'd take a long break. But it was published in 2015, and the responses from readers has been... it hurts me so much to hear what they have to say. They say to me, "You're telling my story. You're, you lived what I'm going through". One woman, um...she was actually from New Zealand... she wrote to me, and she said, "My 12-year-old daughter and I just finished your book, and we cried together because this is our life". And "But you give us so much hope," and, and the women share that they have hope. They believe that God can heal... that the people in my book want to know about John, because he represents their loved one wha...the people who read my book, I should say, they, they want to know what happened. And so they ask me, you know, "Is he okay? Did he make it"? And I can honestly say, "I don't know. I don't know if he's clean and sober. I don't know if he made it". But I was able to contact him by a third party and ask his permission to share and to tell, and he was going to write the epilogue to give hope to the reader. It's not in the book, but I believe there's still hope for John, and there's hope for the loved one of, of anybody who loves, loves a chemically dependent person.

John Bradshaw: Give some advice to that, that woman especially... doesn't have to be a woman...

Juliet Van Heerden: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: ...who's in a relationship that's just spiraling downwards. Nothing he or she can do about it. There's addictions or whatever the case is.

Juliet Van Heerden: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: Where should they go? Who should they speak to? First, God.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Always God.

Juliet Van Heerden: Always God first.

John Bradshaw: But who else? Because we both know there's more going on behind closed doors than we even realize. There's so much, and so many people are suffering in silence, and sometimes they're suffering in silence. And God doesn't want that.

Juliet Van Heerden: No.

John Bradshaw: Where can a person go?

Juliet Van Heerden: No. And, and Dr. Larry Crabb says, "Healing takes place in community". So we need to find a community of people where we feel safe. And who...where we're not alone in our suffering, our suffering is, sorrow is divided. Um, and I would, I would suggest finding a local Christ-centered recovery group, recovery community. Al-Anon is a wonderful resource. Um, find a group that meets regularly for codependents. There's Codependents Anonymous where, uh, those, that's those of us who, who get caught in the cycle of rescuing that loved one. Um, not everyone can afford counseling, professional counseling. It's a wonderful resource, if you can. But if you can't, there are people who meet regularly and talk and share. And and be a reader. Um, learn about addiction. Learn about boundaries. Learn about codependency. Find out about yourself and what you can do, and then find a safe place where you can share and grow and heal. There is hope.

John Bradshaw: Your husband is a pastor.

Juliet Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: You're very involved in ministry now. You're on the front lines of ministry, your own public personal ministry and church community ministry. How important is the role of the church family in assisting people who are struggling like this, and are churches doing enough? And knowing your answer, what more could congregations do, could churches do to help people who are, who are where you were?

Juliet Van Heerden: The way that our world is today, families are not close together; people are spread out. We're...I, I was away from my, my parents, my grandparents, my extended family. So church is extremely important. The church family is vital, because sometimes that is the family that we have, and we need people that, that can wrap their arms around us physically and hug us and hold us while we cry, who can look into our eyes and, and say, "I love you. I'm sorry you're hurting". But if we don't share with them that we're hurting, and they don't have the tools in their tool belt to deal with what we're going through, it doesn't work. Churches need to become safe, healing places for people so that they can be healthy and reach out to the community, uh, outside the church and, and, and really help the people around us in our neighborhoods and our communities who are just drowning in addiction. But it starts, it starts within the church, recognizing, hey, this is in our pews. This is among us. And so I advocate for recovery in, in churches.

John Bradshaw: Juliet, thank you. Thanks for sharing your story. Thanks so much.

Juliet Van Heerden: You're welcome. Thank you.

John Bradshaw: And thanks for joining us. I'm John Bradshaw, with me Juliet Van Heerden. And this has been our conversation. See you next time.
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