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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 bisexual.

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 prayer language.

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 my gender.

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.) Foursquare Church.

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