Mary J. Blige Fights Addiction With Faith

Abused, addicted and headed for destruction. Though wildly talented and much beloved by fans around the world, this was Mary J. Blige’s story before she committed her life to Jesus and found healing and recovery from addiction, childhood sexual abuse and self-hate. Despite great success in the hip-hop music industry and beyond, Blige had been unable to get control of her alcohol and drug addiction until she came to faith.

Like many addicts, Blige suffered abuse and abandonment as a child. The victim of sexual abuse from the age of 5, she had little sense of her own self-worth and like most abused children, she believed she deserved the sexually exploitative treatment. As she grew up and began to take her place in the music industry, she sought to mask her fears and insecurities with increasingly available alcohol and drugs. Failed romantic relationships and the pressures of stardom only escalated the reliance on chemicals for coping with life. Drinking went beyond normal enjoyment into the area of dependence and need.

“I chose to learn how to drink socially and it didn’t work,” she said. “The test comes when you have to decide whether you’re drinking to be social or drinking to cover up something again. To cover up depression, to cover up guilt. Shame. Abandonment … Once I realized, ‘There you go again,’ I had to stop.”

But stopping didn’t prove to be easy. Throughout her music career, spanning over two decades, Blige continued to struggle to definitively kick the addictions and achieve consistent sobriety. It was the recent alcohol-related deaths in the music industry, such as that of Whitney Houston, which caused Blige to get serious about getting sober.

Things finally started to change when Blige began to seek God for help with her addiction. As she came to know the Lord and focus more on him than on her addictions, she started to see real change in her life.

Some may be surprised to learn she did not pursue recovery through rehab. She says, “’I don’t know why. But I didn’t want to go to rehab. I believe that anything man himself can do for me, God can do for me in a greater way. I decided to pray and to seek God on my own. I just stayed in The Word. And it worked.”

Drinking helped her to cover her low sense of self-worth and feelings that she was unattractive or unwanted. Stardom and her musical talent could never provide the fulfillment or the validation she sought. The addiction continued. In order to recover, Blige had to work through a host of painful past experiences and issues of identity, partly stemming from the experience of abuse. She has been open with the public about this journey, sharing her experiences in TV and print interviews.

As all recovering addicts, Blige needed to find a new identity—her true identity as one loved, valued and cherished by God. She could no longer be the girl who hated herself, the woman who was abused, or the addict who always needed one more fix. She needed to make peace with who she was and who she is in God.

As she stated in her interview with LA Confidential, “Just lately I have been saying that to myself a lot. ‘I forgive you, Mary. I forgive you.’ I’ve been saying that to myself out loud. I’ve been praying to God to show me how to forgive myself. Because … maybe … that’s the thing I’ve been searching for.”

Though Mary J. Blige has given up the fast life, she shows no signs of slowing down. Today, in addition to continuing to work on her music career, with plans to release her first Christmas album this year, she is also involved in the foundation she started in 2006, an organization in New York that helps women. Her candor about her painful past, her battle with addiction and her journey to faith endear her fans to her and is an inspiration to those seeking hope for recovery.