My son-in-law, Josh, has fought a battle against crippling anxiety for decades. I asked him if he would be willing to share his amazing story with the world, and he agreed.
Josh is married to my daughter, and I couldn’t be prouder of him. He has fought battles many have never known, until now.
I’ll let him tell you the story…
“With panic attacks and anxiety, you get good at hiding it. I’ll bet 90% of the people I’m in contact with wouldn’t know I ever battled it if I didn’t tell them. Just a couple weeks ago, I had a panic attack while in Walmart, and had to run back out to the car. Normally I can try and slow my breathing, tell myself I’m not dying, and it passes, but when I went back in to the store, I was STILL having it. That happens sometimes.
“It also happens when I’m in line at the school to pick up Joshua (my son), but I always fight through them because I’m his dad and he’s depending on me. I have to get alone when I have one so I can work through it.
“At least when I’m alone and have a panic attack, nobody sees me.
“I’ve been to the hospital emergency room many, many, many times, because during most attacks, you honestly feel like you’re gonna die. Not always, but most of the time, and especially here lately, for me.
“I’ve either had anxiety or worried WAY more than normal about everything as long as I can remember. When I was 17 I started having really bad panic attacks and was put on Xanax. This drug basically robbed most of my younger adult life, because I got addicted to them. So I was either numb or high most of the time.
“Since they were prescribed by a doctor, though, I figured it was ok.
“I used to work at a factory, but was still having panic attacks. I was able to fight through them for a while, until they got so bad my hands would draw up, and many times I would literally pass out. At that point even WITH the meds, I was still suffering, so I started drinking.
“Eventually my anxiety got so bad I couldn’t drive anymore, and I lost my job. I was in the hospital with panic attacks at least a couple times a week, even while on very strong anxiety medication.
“It was at this point I decided to just stay in my house and never leave. I did this for about a year, because I was so terrified of having another attack. I avoided everything and everyone out of fear of having an attack.
“I got deeper and deeper into drugs and alcohol, so I could numb the pain until I didn’t feel anything. I lived like this for 10 years.
“When I met the beautiful lady who would be my wife, Jessica, I tried to get clean but just couldn’t at that time. Even when she got pregnant and gave birth to our son, Joshua Jr., I was still a mess.
“Jess eventually left me, and I thought about killing myself many, many times. If I didn’t have partial custody of Joshua Jr., I probably would have committed suicide. I was so scared of having anxiety attacks, I lost touch with family and friends.
“I checked myself into a detox and stayed for a little more than a week with no sleep because I was coming off huge amounts of tranquilizers. I then went to a Christian drug and alcohol rehabilitation, but kept having panic attacks, which this facility wasn’t equipped to handle, so I left.
“They said they couldn’t keep taking me to the Emergency Room all the time. Maybe they were understaffed, or had never seen anyone in the same shape I was, I don’t know.
“At that point I was hopeless. I thought this program was my last hope, not only with getting clean but with getting back my family. Jess and I had gotten remarried, but I was still a mess and she moved back in with her parents. By this time my baby girl, Jenna-Marie, had been born. Jess didn’t divorce me, thank God. She left so I could get clean.
“I finally found a program called ‘Living Free,’ and made it all the way through to graduation. I was still having panic attacks, however, and then relapsed with the drugs. I went to another program, ‘Higher Ground,’ and was only supposed to stay for six weeks.
“I graduated the program after the six weeks, but ended up staying over one year. I was so desperate to get clean and win my family back, I would do anything. I decided I’d climb any mountain or go through any valley. Jess and the kids are everything to me.
“Because I love my family so much, I took as many classes as I could, even a codependency course. Even after all this, though, I was still having panic attacks. I was busy almost every night going to one meeting or another: Higher Ground, Living Free, and even Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous.
“One day, Jess told me something that FINALLY gave me hope: she said she promised she’d stay with me no matter what, if I could get a job. By this point I hadn’t worked for over 15 years, but would do anything for my wife and kids, so I agreed.
“The devil knew I was trying to win my family back, and he was fighting me. I was having panic attacks worse than ever, and would get mad at God.
“’God, why am I going through this?!’ I’d shout at Him. I just felt like giving it all up and getting high, but the Lord gave me a job doing maintenance for a church. This was perfect because I could be by myself a lot, and was doing work which I’d been doing on my own and for friends and family my whole life.
“After I started working again, I decided I was going to be a good husband and dad, even while I was having panic attacks, even if it killed me.
“I decided my amazing wife deserves a husband that is PRESENT.
“My kids deserve a dad who is THERE.
“About this time, my in-laws, my wife and kids decided they would take a day-trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which is about two hours away. I had barely been out of town my whole life, but decided I was going to go on the trip with them.
“I was terrified, but survived it, and even drove back home so my father-in-law could relax and rest his back.
“After that, the family took a trip to Orlando, Florida. Instead of flying, they always drive, even though it’s about 18 hours away. It sounded crazy, but I decided I was going with them. I’d heard my wife and kids talk about how amazing Universal Studios was, and got tired of just hearing stories.
“I wanted to experience this for myself. It was difficult, but I did it!
“I still fight my battles with anxiety every day, but I’m determined to win.
“I asked Him to give me a new heart. ‘Mine is no good,’ I told the Lord. And He did.
“I still have anxiety. I still get mad and cuss sometimes. I still get angry, but now I know how to channel my anger. I no longer direct it at the people who love me and are there for me.
“But I’ll never give up.
“Every night I tuck my kids into bed. Every night I kiss my wife good night and watch her fall asleep, never knowing how I’m going to get through tomorrow.
“I know I will make it, though, with God’s help. I made up my mind to give this life my all or die trying. I know my wife and kids love me and they know I love them.
“Someday when I die, I want my kids to say, ‘Dad used to be a dope head, but he loved us so much he struggled and cried and fought every day to get clean, and he won.’
“Satan has stolen enough from us. He can’t have me and he HATES it. He wants me dead. He wants me to live in fear every day. He wants me to relapse and lose everything I live for.
“But in the name of Jesus, he can’t have me! That’s why I fight.
“All I can say to anyone having panic attacks is, find something worth fighting for. I can’t pat you on the back and say it’ll all get better because in my case the anxiety and panic attacks haven’t.