After overdosing on cocaine, Michelle Steele’s heart stopped, and she experienced a terrifying vision of hell
I was twelve years old when I was molested by two adults – one from school, and the father of a friend. After that, I began to self-destruct. Aged 15, I ran away from home and ended up on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee. I became involved with a man who talked me into selling my body. Because of the shame that was in my heart from what happened to me as a young girl, I did it.
I never told anyone about the abuse – I thought it was my fault. I was full of hatred for myself, so I made the decision to escape reality as much as possible. That meant taking drugs. I would say: “I’m never going to be sober!”
I was destroying myself. I believed I was worthless and had no value, so that’s how I lived. I was involved in shoplifting and prostitution. What began with smoking pot quickly progressed. Soon, I was a junkie, addicted to the needle. I had children during that time, and other people were raising them. That added to my shame – every day I was trying to numb the pain.
My husband at the time robbed three petrol stations, and I was in the car when it happened. I was facing ten years in prison if convicted. Before my husband went to court, someone gave him a morphine patch. He was told there was enough to last three days, so if he was sent to prison, he could just sleep through the first days of his processing.
He was released on bail, but decided to put the patch on anyway. It turned out to be faulty – it released all three days of morphine into his body in just 24 hours. I realised there was something wrong and, when he stopped breathing, I tried to do CPR. I called an ambulance. They resuscitated him, but he had been without oxygen for so long that his brain began to swell. The medics told me he’d never recover. We took him off the machines and he died that day.
A glimmer of hope
Even while my husband was on those machines, people were bringing me cocaine and I was hiding in the hospital bathroom, getting high. But the day before he died, my husband had visited his grandmother’s church. While there, he had accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and prayed with someone.
Darkness surrounded me and I found myself standing in front of a skull. I could see that hell was real
I’d refused to go with him that day. I said: “God hates me, I’m not going to church. The walls will fall in, lightning will strike…” But the man who’d prayed with my husband came to the hospital and took me to the chapel. He began to talk to me. For the first time in my life, I heard the truth about what Jesus did on the cross for me. I remember feeling a glimmer of hope. I said: “If Jesus would help me, I need his help.” The man led me in the sinner’s prayer. That was the moment I opened the door to the Lord.
Piercing the darkness
After my husband died, I was trying to clean myself up and asked God to help me, but I didn’t really understand what it was to be born again. I ended up back on cocaine for three days nonstop. I was secretly shooting up in a bar and took so much that my heart stopped and I left my body.
Darkness surrounded me and I found myself standing in front of a skull. I had such a clarity. It was as if all of the things that had been clouding my ability to see truth were lifted. I could see that hell was real.
Hands came out of the darkness and began to reach for me. They were trying to draw me into that place of punishment. I turned and ran with all of my strength. As I was doing this, I came back to my body. I awoke to a person performing CPR on me. One minute he was trying to get my pulse, and the next minute I was awake, kicking and screaming. I was fighting as if those hands were still reaching for me. I ran out of the bar and kept going until I realised I had made it back to my body and calmed down.
It was a Sunday morning, so I went back to the church that had prayed for my husband. I said: “I died this morning, can you help me?” They prayed with me, and I truly surrendered my life. That was 31 years ago. I’ve been walking with the Lord ever since.
Free to live
I’m no longer the woman who hated herself and drove herself to destruction. Today I have God in my life and I never want to be without him. It was the mercy of God that I didn’t die that day.
Now I want other people to know the truth. I want people who are in that self-destruct mode to know it’s possible to be free from shame, and to live a life that is stable and filled with the peace of God and the joy of the Lord.
I’d thought God didn’t want anything to do with me. And that is the furthest thing from the truth. God is so interested in helping people.
Michelle Steele was speaking to Sam Hailes. Read more in her book Escaping Hell (Harrison House Publishers)
Watch Dr Sharon Dirckx and Dr Emily Qureshi-Hurst debate ‘Do consciousness and near-death experiences point to an afterlife? on The Big Conversation from Premier Unbelievable. Visit thebigconversation.show (season 5, episode 4)