My journey: Dark to light
By Ed Donnally
In 1995, I was chained and shackled inside a bus on my way
to a pretrial hearing in San Pedro, Calif. At 5’ 3” and 53, I had been a horse
jockey, Eclipse Award-winning journalist and TV production studio owner. After
six days in jail, I was detoxing cold-turkey and had strep throat. Still, I
started talking with the young man who shared my shackles. Nearing the
courthouse, I took out a tiny New Testament, and we prayed for a miracle.
I needed one.
I grew up in southwest Virginia. My mother died of cancer
when I was 6. My father remarried, and I lived with my stepmother’s family. A
relative sexually abused me for more than two years.
After graduating from high school, I left for Lexington,
Ky., where I had found a job breaking thoroughbred yearlings. I dreamed of
becoming a jockey. Within three years, I was living in a downtown Baltimore
high-rise, driving a new car and riding races at the city’s famous Pimlico
racetrack. Oddly, the rage inside my heart fit well racing atop a thoroughbred.
Twenty years, 13 broken bones and some 1,200 victories later, I retired.
I sold articles to more than a dozen newspapers and became
the turf writer for the Dallas Morning News. I resigned eight years later with
Eclipse Awards for Newspaper Feature Writing and Television Production. Yet my
rage had no outlet. After 14 years, I lost my marriage and my sanity. After I
took 36 sleeping pills, a psychiatric ward doctor told me I was bipolar. Worse,
the sexual abuse and divorce had so twisted my mind I felt I had to live as a
I became a principle in a Dallas television production
company, where my rage manifested at work. Even with Lithium and Paxil,
bipolar episodes continued. Ecstatic one minute, I would walk into my office
and burst into tears the next.
Six years into a second marriage, I divorced again, sold my
interest in the production company, bought a new sports car and set out for
California. I began living with a woman who hired me to market her company. I
decided that seven years of Lithium and three years of Paxil were enough. Awake
for more than 50 hours and drinking heavily, I believed she was having an
affair. I hit her and landed in jail.
At the San Pedro Courthouse, we waited in a large holding
cell rimmed with concrete seating shelves. Different prisoners shared their sad
stories. Then my friend from the bus started talking about God. I did the same.
Everywhere prisoners went to their knees, using the shelf as an altar or lay
prostrate on the barren floor. All were praying and crying.
I cried as well, first for what my life had become, then in
shame for the things I had done. I suddenly realized I was forgiven and had
forgiven my abuser. I cried for joy. The prisoners and I stood, held hands and
prayed that Christ would become our Lord and Savior. God gave me a special
He also healed me. To this day, I have not used alcohol or
drugs. For three years I lived at the Los Angeles Dream Center, a huge
hospital-turned-refuge center, where I earned an Urban Bible Training
Certificate from the AG’s Global University. I have been married to Sandi, whom
I met at the Dream Center, for eight wonderful years. God mercifully restored
Today, I’m an associate pastor, speak in many venues, write
for Christian publications and am a chaplain.
ED DONNALLY is the associate pastor at Venice (Calif.)
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