#189 I Shouldn’t Be Here

 

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I was born and raised on Long Island, New York. I am a twin, born on Christmas Day with Christine; the youngest of four children, along with eldest sister Janet and older brother Billy. My dad was a New York City police officer. When I was 8 years old, my father told our family he would no longer be living with us. He left my mother for another woman. That was the day our world changed. My mother was a devout Catholic and never dated or remarried. She spent her time working to provide for and take care of us. She had a really rough time, and we kids took full advantage of her having to be away from the house. I lost my virginity when I was 14 years old and really could have been raped. My brother was in the next room when it happened. I was under the influence of barbiturates. My brother tore into and hit me all the way home because of what happened. I had no self-worth or confidence because of my dad leaving us. I felt total rejection, as if he had walked out on me.

When I was 17, I dropped out of high school and started working in the women’s sportswear buying department for J.C. Penney’s corporate office in Manhattan. I was the sample size, so I was always the model to try on clothes vendors would bring to show to buyers. I received a lot of attention and found myself extremely vulnerable to the desires of the corporate executives. Lots of wining and dining back then, and I slept with a few. I drank a lot to self-medicate and deal with life. I got engaged when I was 17, then broke it off. I got married when I was 23, which didn’t last. It was abusive. All the while I was drinking, smoking weed, and snorting cocaine.

Prior to my divorce, I left J.C. Penney in 1983 and started working for American Airlines in New York. I went to Dallas for five weeks training, where I had an affair. I brought home a letter from the man with whom I’d had the affair. My husband found the letter, then filed for divorce. I transferred to Los Angeles thinking maybe things would change for the better. My first six months in LA, I got arrested for drunk driving. Whenever I found myself feeling guilty about bad choices and having low self-esteem, I would go to church, and sit and talk to God. I had three abortions. I couldn’t even think of having a child after having the abortions. I was young and selfish. Over the years the guilt weighed heavily. In LA, I felt the need to go back to the Catholic church where I grew up on Long Island and confess my sins. I flew back to New York, went to confession and unloaded on the priest. I will never forget the impact of what he said to me. It did not make me feel absolved of my sins or forgiven. It drove me deeper into despair. He made me feel worthless and condemned. I got on the plane back to LA and drank so much I passed out. I remember waking up in the galley in the back of the aircraft. They had an ambulance meet me plane-side to take me to the hospital when we landed.

I met my second husband in LA, who also worked for American. We got married in 1988. In 1990, we transferred to Nashville, Tennessee. I was his fourth wife. He was older with two grown kids, so we were not going to have children. When his second grandchild was born, I had a yearning for a child and that brought back the guilt and grief of what I had done. I felt I was being punished by God. My second husband was not affectionate and often showed no compassion. That was appealing in the beginning, as it made him appear to be strong and manly, but after time that didn’t work. I was extremely unhappy in this marriage and really wanted to just die. I didn’t even want to go home after work. I would pull into the garage and just wanted to leave the car running. It was yet another dark time in my life. I wound up having another affair. I was scared to death when my husband almost caught me with the other man in our own home. I was still intoxicated from the night before. I was scared and couldn’t face him or myself. I knew where he kept his gun and wanted to kill myself. I was about to take the gun, but my husband took it from me. I went outside to smoke, pacing, wondering what was I going to do. I went back inside, and my husband had just hung up with Baptist Hospital about rehab. I was really remorseful, stopped the affair, and went to rehab. Yet, I still knew I needed to do something about my marriage. After rehab I became a dry drunk. I was sober but miserable and, after three years, I started drinking again and the cycle continued.

On July 11, 2001, we were at a float party with friends. People were jumping off a cliff into the water all afternoon. I wasn’t drunk but had been drinking. I decided to jump off the cliff for the thrill of it. I closed my eyes as I jumped, and as my back-side hit the water I knew something bad had happened. My L1 vertebrae was crushed on impact. I couldn’t move. Thank God there were people there to get me to our boat. There was a young man on our boat studying to be a paramedic. He told them not to lift me, but to get the chaise lounge and put it under me to get me out of the water. If they had lifted me under my arms, I would have been paralyzed. I was airlifted to a trauma hospital. The next day, I had a seven-hour surgery and spinal fusion. While I was recuperating, 9/11 hit. Nine days later, I lost my job. I had been with the airline for 19 years.

In 2004 I asked my husband for a divorce. I moved into an apartment in the complex where my mom was living in Nashville. I had been seeing another man who was also married. This man’s wife called my husband and told him I was having an affair. It was not good. She and my ex-husband ended up together later. I was at wits end and again in a very dark place. I truly didn’t want to live anymore. I drank a lot of bourbon and took about half a bottle of the prescription meds I had for my back. I laid down to let death take me. I woke up around 3:30 in the morning and thought, “Wait…I’m not supposed to be here.” I stumbled into the living room and I called the suicide hotline. They wanted me to go to the hospital, but I told them I was okay. I went to work that morning, called my mom and asked if she could meet at the Cathedral so we could talk. I wanted to confess to her what I had done. We cried. I said, “Mom, there is a reason God didn’t take me. I don’t know what it is, but I shouldn’t be alive.”

A month later, I met Steve. He became a part of my life and started me on a journey out of darkness. He was unlike anybody I had ever met. He was a complete gentleman. God placed him in my life. I always felt it was divine intervention. I started to feel more secure about myself with him. I still had a drinking problem, but he never said anything about my drinking. My best friend, Karen, said, “Doesn’t it bother it you that Steve doesn’t accept invitations anymore because of your drinking?” That was the brick that hit me over the head. I had my last drink that night. My first day of sobriety was October 30, 2007. I didn’t realize my drinking was hurting him. I got sober and he was with me every step of the way. I regularly attended AA meetings. I had been hired back with American and got my old job back in the Admirals Club. I had really wanted my job back. It was all God. Things were going well with Steve, I had stopped drinking, I was attending AA and my relationship with God was growing.

God was always with me. God was always on my mind. But I didn’t feel worthy of Him because of all of the bad things I had done. God put people in my life help me, to speak life and truth to me. Steve believed in God. He said I needed that “deep water, foot-washing, believing kind of faith.” I had no idea what he was talking about at the time. My AA sponsor said, “You just have to trust in God.” Then the light went on and I knew what Steve meant. That was the kind of deep trust I needed in God. But I needed more. I needed forgiveness.

In 2009, I went to a three-day retreat with the church. The first night was confessing our sins to God. Dying to self. I wrote down all my sins and nailed them to the cross. It was a very powerful night. It did something to me. God was working in me, drawing me to Him. That started my journey of wanting more of God. I found myself going to daily mass. I had community but longed to have that deep intimate love and relationship with God. It was still the fear of God that held me back. It could also be that I never forgave myself for all the wrong I’d done.

In 2012, my twin sister, Christine, suffered a massive heart attack. She was on life support and Steve and I were able to get the last two seats on a plane to New York. When I was with her, I had an overwhelming sense of peace. I knew she was going to be okay. I knew she was safe and was going to be in the arms of Jesus. I was with her when she took her last breath. I had my head nestled next to her ear. We came into the world together and we were together at her death. As sad as it was, it was beautiful and I was at peace.

In September 2014, I retired from American and Steve and I moved to Kingsport, Tennessee, where he was originally from. I took a new job as a travel agent. On November 21st, I came home from work to find Steve slumped over in his truck at our house. He’d had a heart attack. They pronounced him dead at the hospital. Then my mom got sick. I lost her five weeks to the day after I lost Steve, and two years to the day after I lost my twin sister. But in all this sadness and grief, I remained sober and had peace. I was still on my journey, learning to know God and reading His word. I would pray the AA Third Step Prayer over and over again. This prayer spoke to me the first time I read it, and it still does:

God, I offer myself to You, to build with me and to do with me as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Your will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Your power, Your love, and Your way of life. May I do Your will always!  

After my mom died, I left the Catholic church and started going to a non-denominational church. I felt totally connected at the new church. After Steve died, I still needed to clean out our home in Nashville and move it all to Kingsport. To say the least, it was mentally overwhelming and more than I could handle.  There was a guy I had worked with at American in Nashville who is a Christian, very service-oriented. He offered to help me. Frank was really good company and I couldn’t have done it without him. I invited him to go to church with me. His godliness really attracted me to him. His love for God is a beautiful thing. After a year of being friends, we became really good friends! I moved back to Nashville and Frank and I were married in March 2017. God is number one in my life, and I’m the happiest I have ever been. We go to Cornerstone Nashville church and are part of the PrimeLife senior care ministry.  

I have learned that God is all-forgiving and merciful. He is love and just wants us to love Him. I love to love and I love to be loved. All my life I had been looking for love in the wrong places as the song goes. I didn’t know what true love was until I met Jesus Christ. I have learned, as painful as it is, you must get real with yourself, confess your sins and surrender your heart to God’s will in total obedience. You will be amazed at how your life will change when you fully surrender to the King. You must give up all your secret sins. When I nailed my sins to the cross that was a turning point for me. There is nothing quite like the peace that comes from Christ, and I know that is the power of God. Now I stretch out my hands to Him in prayer and give thanks to Him in all circumstances. My main focus now is on eternity and not on the things of this world. There is so much freedom in that.

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV).

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

Leave a Reply