Michelle & Melissa - March 2010
Recently, Michelle had to write an autobiographical narrative for her master's portfolio. She emailed it to me & my parents for us to read. I began to read it & by the end, i wanted to publish it on my blog. I was just sooo proud of her. She has been through a difficulat situation, but she came out on the other side a stronger person. I felt that maybe her story could help others. I wasn't sure if she would agree to publishing this on my blog - but she did.
As you probably know (if you've been reading my blog for any length of time), lately I've had several friends go through divorce. Or "almost" go through divorce. I was heartbroken; I literally grieved as if someone had died. I was sad because i knew they were devastated. I know how much they wanted their marriage to work. And i know how willing they were to make that happen. If you know me at all, you know that i am not in any way advocating divorce. Unfortunately, sometimes keeping your marriage together is beyond your control. I am posting my sister's narrative in hopes that it can encourage you or anyone you know who may have gone through a similar situation. I know it is long (& i'm making it longer with this intro!), but i felt it was worth sharing. Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your story. I love you!
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My parents have been happily married for over 35 years. They have set an example for my sister and I from the beginning. My parents raised us in the church. As long as I can remember we would attend church together as a family. Our Sundays were an all day affair. We attended church in the morning, went to lunch together, and then returned to church for the evening service. We all looked forward to Sundays together as a family. Before my teenage years, we were raised in a Baptist church. During my teen years until my present age I was raised in a full gospel church.
My memories of my father, the dominant parent, are of him waking up every morning at 4 a.m. to read the Bible before he went to work. He truly loves theology and would often preach when called upon by our pastor. I remember the first time I heard my dad preach from the pulpit. He preached an evangelical sermon that truly inspired me. I am proud to have him as my dad.
My father and I have always had a special bond. “Daddy’s little girl” rings true for our relationship. My father never had a son. With my athletic abilities he taught me how to play sports. It was our time together that taught me teamwork and built confidence. My sister, Melissa, is more of the artistic type so she was more interested in reading a book than playing ball. She is very gifted in the dramatic arts. My mother and sister are much more alike in that regard.
My mother and I also have a special relationship. I am the older daughter. She counted on me to watch out for my younger sister while she was at work. I was expected to do chores and learn how to cook. My mother was more of the disciplinarian in the family. She taught me respect and how to love. I admire my mother and the struggles in her life. She taught me how to overcome.
I only have one sibling. My sister, Melissa, is 32 years of age. I am the older daughter. I am 35 years of age. I remember the day my sister came home from the hospital once she was born. I was so young, but wanted to hold my baby sister. I remember saying to anyone who would listen, “She is my baby”. I think that sums up how I feel about my sister. I have always protected her and taken care of her. Melissa and I couldn’t be any more different in personalities. She is temperate and quiet, whereas, I am much more excitable. In spite of our differences, we got along famously. Perhaps it is a mutual respect.
My sister Melissa was very ill as a young child. I can recall many nights where she would run high fevers and my parents would have to take her to the hospital. I worried about my sister. I wanted her to be healthy.
I have always been the healthy one. Luckily, by God’s grace I have been spared any serious illnesses. Only the minor broken arm or sprain from the various sports I was involved in. I feel blessed to have had such a wonderful childhood.
I was always a bright student, but not very focused. I was much more interested in my social life than schoolwork. I always got along with my teachers. As a matter of fact, some have even become friends of mine to this day. My grades were average. It wasn’t until college that I became interested in my education.
Since my dad taught me sports, I have always been comfortable around the opposite sex. My dad taught me how to talk to other boys in that regard. I always had boyfriends or dates to functions. I never dated anyone with an addictive behavior before I met my now ex-husband.
My ex-husband and I met in a restaurant where we were both working. We became friends. He had a history of drug and alcohol abuse. I had no clue of his past history and struggles. He kept all of it hidden from me. I still don’t know why he lied to me and kept all of this from me. I wish I had an answer for all of it. Perhaps he knew I would never marry someone like that.
The two of us opened a restaurant together. We spent the first year of our courtship putting all of our hard work into opening and running this business. It was a dream of his to open and own a restaurant and I wanted that dream to be a reality for him. I would speculate that this is the reason he wanted to marry me. I made his dream a reality and I was good for his business.
We dated for approximately 11 months before our engagement. At the time, he was in agreement regarding the same value system. We agreed to attend church regularly and to raise our children in the church. We agreed that fidelity was an essential part of marriage and that neither of us should break it. The topic and issue of drugs and alcohol never came up because I never saw any issue or warning sign. He was a master manipulator and liar as so many addicts are.
Most of my friends didn’t know him. We were so busy trying to get the restaurant up and running, we rarely had time for my friends. Only one friend warned me about him. She didn’t like him and I couldn’t understand why. Our friendship ended for a brief period because of her distaste for him. Once we were married, I then began to understand what she saw and quickly reconciled our friendship.
Once we were married, he told me he didn’t want to have children. I asked him why he changed his mind. He told me he never wanted kids and gave no explanation as to why he lied to me. I begged him to change his mind. He continued to refuse. I was devastated. I desperately want children.
During the first year of our marriage money began to turn up missing from our restaurant. I thought some of our employees were stealing, so I installed a camera above the cash register. I never saw anyone take any money. I witnessed my husband taking money from the remnants of the register which was placed in our safe in our home while he thought I wasn’t looking. I confronted him to which he screamed at me and left our home all night.
He also refused to go to church with me. He confessed that he was actually an atheist and did not share the same beliefs. I couldn’t believe he lied to me about children and now about his faith! I didn’t know what to do. What could I do? We were already married. I began praying for him. That is all I thought I could do.
We had a joint account once we were married. Whenever we got into a disagreement, he would drain our account and disappear all night. I became very ill during this period of time. I had constant migraines and would be sick to my stomach with worry. He felt our money was his to use for whatever he desired. I ran the restaurant and the household while he stayed out all night at the local bar. We fought constantly and he rarely came home. He left me to run our restaurant and manage the household by myself. Luckily we never had any children. Although never physically abusive, his addictive behavior left me fearful of my safety.
I became aware of his drug use on June 23, 2006. I remember this date specifically because it is my birthday. I woke up early in the morning around 5:00 as I usually do to get ready to open the restaurant. I awoke alone. I began looking for him in the house. I found him hunched over on the sofa snorting some white powder into his nose. I asked him what he was doing to which he was startled and jumped. I asked him what he had in his hands and he tried to hide it from me. It was like a light bulb went off in my head and I finally understood his strange behavior since we got married. The nights alone, the fights, the missing money all became so clear to me why. I called his father immediately and asked him to help me. He flushed the drugs in the toilet and began looking for other drugs in the house to destroy. I closed the restaurant for the day and took him to rehab. We immediately went to the Tau Center in Baton Rouge. They turned us away since he wasn’t an opiate or alcohol user only. The Tau Center recommended a substance abuse counselor in the area. I made an appointment right away and we saw this counselor a few times. Once therapy began getting in the way of my husband’s addictions, he refused to continue treatment. He didn’t think he had a problem and didn’t see the point.
I began seeing a therapist on my own. I needed a sounding board to get my thoughts straight and figure out what I was going to do now. I decided then that divorce was the only option if he refused to get help. I proceeded for 1 year to get him help. I prayed for him, begged and pleaded with him. He continued to refuse. I can honestly say I tried everything I could to save him. He began staying out all night again. He became unfaithful. I believe throughout our marriage he was unfaithful, not only at the end. He asked for a divorce in July of 2007. Although I didn’t know at the time, he had found someone else. Despite my efforts to try to save the marriage, he didn’t want to reconcile and didn’t want to go to counseling. Once he filed for divorce I left and returned home to my parent’s home.
Due to unexpected life experiences such as a divorce, I began to realize how important a college education is. My mother raised me to depend on myself and no one else for my financial future. I finished college once my marriage had ended. I became driven to succeed after my divorce. I wanted to turn my negative experiences into something positive. I went back to school the last few months of my marriage and earned a degree in Health Promotion and Education. My college professors became advisors and were always accessible. I stay in touch with several of my former professors. They have become mentors and I really respect and admire them. I began working for a substance abuse prevention organization. One unexpected benefit, the path of education and experience were a healing experience for me. Helping others work through their addictions also helped me cope with a divorce.
I was recruited by the American Cancer Society to work as a field representative. It was there I realized my love for the field of oncology. From there I was recruited by Slidell Memorial Hospital. I am now a certified oncology patient navigator. I enjoy coming into work every day. Working with patients is truly an honor. I feel I can give more if I get my master’s in counseling.
I have rarely dated since my divorce. I am now engaged to a wonderful man. He has a wonderful network of family and friends. We are looking forward to our upcoming nuptials in November of next year.
I think my family would say I am a strong person. My family would say I am strong in my mind and will and in my spirit. My friends would say I am an overcomer. My coworkers would say that I am compassionate and caring. Many of my friends have told me they admire me and respect me because of what I have been through and what I have become now. My father told me he admires me. He said that not many people would go through a divorce and come out smiling. I truly believe that God’s grace saved me. I believe that God is the reason I am the person I am today. I could have been defeated, but with God’s help I have overcome.
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I am currently pursuing my Master’s in Counseling with a concentration in family and marriage therapy. I couldn’t change what had happened. I could only focus on my future. What did I want my future to become? Something positive or be bound by the past? I truly believe God honors marriage. I also believe God will pull you out of something to make you grow in the glory of Him. Growing is never easy. There is life after divorce.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson