After four months of jail for underage alcohol and drug abuse by age 23, Nikki Gibbons decided that she couldn’t live her old life anymore. She decided to turn her life around to God.
What she didn’t know at the time was that her decision would begin transforming other lives.
Heading in a downward spiral
Growing up in what she called a family of “seasonal Catholics,” Gibbons had parents who split up and family members who drank. While Gibbons believed that this atmosphere influenced her negatively, she now knows that her family wasn’t the main reason for her consumption abuses. “[I was] just trying to really fill a void in me,” she said. “I didn’t grow up in Christian traits.” In the absence of her parents, she began a pattern of internalizing her issues to cope with situations she didn’t know how to handle.
Her adolescence boiled up to a domino effect of consumption abuse and self-esteem issues. By age 12, Gibbons started drinking. By age 15, she had been consuming narcotics such as marijuana. By age 23, she had a record of four DWI’s, four underage consumption arrests, a total of four months of jail, and two periods of treatment. In addition, she had been enduring bulimia for about 12 years.
Gibbons said her old lifestyle “didn’t phase” her until her fourth DWI at age 23. “I was in a blackout state and I just really realized when I went to jail…that this has got to be it,” she said. “I just really realized I couldn’t keep doing that anymore.”
Finding healing and redemption
She began going to a Bible study at her jail in downtown Minneapolis. Initially it wasn’t for the Christian aspect. She grew up hating church. But, as she spent time with women who knew God, she became enamored with God.
“I just broke down and God just…really introduced Himself. I was really open to learning about God and forming a relationship with Him,” Gibbons said. “From then then I was able to…learn and grow more and develop a relationship with God.”
When she said yes to God’s redemption, Gibbons experienced one blessing after the other. After her release from jail, she was enrolled at Minnesota Teen Challenge, where she would eventually become a staff member and meet her husband Terrence Gibbons. As the years went on, she would have two children, a master’s degree in marriage and family, ten years’ experience as a therapist or health coach, and a license in marriage and family therapy before opening Wellness Renewal Counseling.
Her original goal for her life after jail was going into missions. “I swear I had a calling to do missions,” Gibbons said, admitting that she couldn’t leave the country when graduating undergraduate college from Northcentral University because she was on probation for her fourth DWI. However, she felt that God led her into counseling where she is now giving kindness to those who were struggling, particularly women and girls.
“I do feel like God’s directed me and shown me that this is the path to take,” Gibbons said. “[When] I was working at Teen Challenge as a staff [member], I worked with teen girls especially and I saw them struggle with the same kind of struggles that I had.” The struggles included self-esteem, body image issues, eating disorders, and addiction. “It was really sad,” she said.
Through her schooling and experience as a marriage and family therapist, Gibbons learned that if kids have emotionally absent parents, “it takes one supportive adult in their life” to turn their situations around for the better. That supportive adult could be a parent, counselor, or teacher.
Gibbons said, “It always really stuck to me and [I thought], ‘Wow, just one? If kids don’t have parents that are really active in their life, maybe I could do that to them.’ That’s where I wanted to be a counselor to…work with kids and women that had the same struggles I had in my life, and to be someone in their life to help them.”
In 2016, Gibbons opened Wellness Renewal Counseling. The journey that took her here isn’t perfect, but it’s relatable to the clients whom Gibbons is helping today.
Her focus is helping women and girls overcome psychological, spiritual, and emotional struggles such as the following areas: addiction, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, trauma, and life transitions such as family or relationship issues. When her clients are open to healing, she helps them through whichever areas they wish to have redemption from.
Staying focused on God
Gibbons knows that she has to keep healthy introspection when helping clients overcome their struggles. Although she has zero interest in any of her former addictions, she sees her anxieties resurface occasionally. But she’s allowed herself the grace that she’s not perfect.
“God is everything,” she said. She maintains her mental health by reading devotionals throughout the day. “It helps me to connect with God throughout the day…Even if something is struggling or frustrating, [I] just bring it to God and [trust] that there’s a greater purpose for it.”
Looking back, Gibbons finds that her life has been blossoming into something more wonderful than she expected. Her journey of redemption grew into reciprocation. Because she was given kindness and light through her darkest times, she is giving back that kindness to those who are struggling through the same issues she had.
“I don’t know where I’d be without God,” Gibbons said, giving God the ultimate glory and credit for redeeming her and inspiring her to start her counseling business.
For more information about Wellness Renewal Counseling go to wellnessrenewalcounseling.com.
— by Hannah J. Gullickson