Please note that this is a series. If you haven’t read the previous posts, you might want to do so! Please click on the “My Life” page at the top and dig in!
Note: You may want to have a coffee ready. Or chardonnay. Depending on the time of day of course…
So by now you have pieced together that I did indeed choose to marry Cam, the boy who captured my heart at an early age and recaptured it again when we found ourselves at the same college years later.
To back-track a bit, you may recall that Cam and I were college sweethearts. He was the president of his fraternity pledge class, I was the president of my sorority. We both were good students and seemed to be able to balance the Greek life with academics – our future looked bright. It was a match-made in heaven.
He proposed in December of 1997 and we were married during the summer of 1999. To be completely honest, I’m not sure if I was truly following my heart or following the dream of a big, beautiful fairy-tale wedding for when I reflect upon this, I distinctly remember thinking that I was about to make a grave mistake and this marriage would likely not survive. However, I chalked this thought up to “cold feet” and suppressed the thought anytime it arose.
I didn’t listen to that voice, that voice I now know was actually God’s. I didn’t have enough courage. It was what we were supposed to do next and everyone assumed we would always be together.
Three weeks into our marriage, I saw my first glimpse of a problem but I excused it as just a wild night of 25-year-old partying. Six months later another red flag emerged followed quickly by another and after just 18 months of being legally wed, I watched my marriage unravel at 95 miles per hour.
The night was cold and Christmas was near. Five days away to be exact.
It had been a tumultuous season due to erratic behavior and stories that just didn’t add up. The unexplained absences began around Thanksgiving and the question marks in my mind were beginning to scream.
I was teaching second and third grade at the time and was busily working on preparing my class gifts and other tasks that stress elementary teachers out during the holidays. Simultaneously, I was talking on the phone to a dear girlfriend. At the start of our conversation, Cam had gone to take a shower.
When the conversation ended two hours later (it had been a LONG time – much to discuss…), I was scared beyond measure to still hear the shower running. I was convinced he had died.
The door was locked. He was not responding to my repeated knocks and eventual pounds.
I began to sift through the contents of his briefcase and that’s when I found it – the rolled up, still-damp, $20 bill clothed in a white residue.
I also found a cell phone bill with literally hundreds of calls to someone in Las Vegas. Suddenly, his frequent trips to this area began to make sense.
I can’t say I was entirely surprised – six months after we were married, he confessed to cocaine usage. He sought help and I thought we had moved on.
I had. He had not.
He was not dead in the shower. Eventually, he opened the door. The scene was not pretty.
The next weeks leading up to a month were beyond horrid. Truthfully, I can’t give a lot of detail here because I really can’t remember much of what happened.
I was devastated. My life was absolutely not going as planned in the least and I had control of not one thing.
If you have ever loved someone with an addiction, you know that in the midst of their battle, they will say things that sear the heart. The words I endured during that time still make me weep not because I have feelings for him, because I don’t, but because when I remember it, it’s like watching a movie and I hurt, hurt, hurt for the girl hearing those phrases.
“I’m not sure I love you.”
“I’m not sure I ever did.”
“I won’t tell you anything.”
“I have passwords on all of our accounts – you have access to nothing.”
Friends began to come forward and tell me despicable stories of wild parties in which my husband held center-stage. Inappropriate comments that should never be made by a married man. Missing funds. Debt accrued without my knowledge or consent but still in my name.
Betrayal. A complete abomination of trust. A living nightmare.
I moved in with my mother and stepfather who were living primarily in Florida at the time. I had a beautiful home to myself that would have been perfect for entertaining and friends but I was empty. I just wanted to be alone, to stay in bed, to face not a soul.
We lived in limbo for a few months. I began to run. Not from my marriage though I believe it to be a fitting metaphor. I just woke up one day and decided I would run the Indianapolis Mini Marathon so I started to train.
Indiana January’s are not balmy and it worked to my advantage – I could run, run, run and cry my eyes out with no one ever knowing that my tears were from a broken heart. Everyone thought it was the frigid temperatures and not my shattered soul that was the cause of my red eyes.
If you had asked me before all of this happened if I believed in God, I would have told you that I did. I never didn’t NOT believe though admittedly, I never really thought much about it. Sure, there was God.
I knew something about Jesus. He loved children. All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they were precious in His sight – but that’s about the extent of my knowledge.
My aunt gave me Michael W. Smith’s “Worship” CD and I began to listen to it as I ran. And when I drove. And pretty much every other time I was around a CD player.
The words began to stir something in me and I began to question.
Not ironically, my running group met, get this, at a church. Ha. Ha. Ha. Isn’t He funny sometimes?
It was big and beautiful and well-loved in the community. It is a wonderful all-around church but an especially wonderful church for seekers and those new to the faith.
That was me.
I began attending and eventually, in that church of 3,000 people, I found the courage to join a Bible study. I got to know the lead pastor and he was pivotal in my spiritual growth.
Shortly thereafter, I began to meet with a woman from an organization called “Priority Associates”, which is basically Campus Crusade for those in the professional workforce. She answered some valuable questions I had and pointed me in the direction of some scriptures that were beyond comforting to me during that time of utter despair.
In the pit of hell, I found hope.
It was then that things began to change.
Sadly enough, I felt that I had no other choice but to file for divorce and I did. I wish I could say it ended there but it didn’t. There were some ugly aftershocks that followed.
I almost had to declare bankruptcy because I was left with an amount of debt that a teacher could never pay off.
I almost lost my self-confidence because of the destructive things that were spoken over me.
I almost lost my heart because how could this have happened to me? A smart girl? A girl that seemingly “had it all”? How?
Almost, but not quite. I met another man, a man who is flawless. Who loves more than I could ever fathom. Who has an insurmountable amount of grace to give. Whose mercy was and continues to be an immense comfort to this very-flawed daughter.
I would like to say that this was the only storm that brought me to Him but at the same time, some things began happening with my father…
My heart hurts for the girl that had to hear those things, too. Sounds like we were married to the same guy, or at least brothers.
So glad you met God…
Praying for you as you revisit the parts of your life that are painful to live through again, but that had to happen for you to be where you are today.
.-= Erin´s last blog ..Randomness =-.
Oh, Natalie. My heart is aching for what happened in your past, but is joyful that you fought through with His help. You are an inspiration.
.-= Jen´s last blog ..My Son =-.
You are so brave. Isn’t it a miracle that here you are today, telling the world about your pit of darkness with such strength? There are terrible times we all go through and either want to forget about or hide, but it is in those dark spots that we eventually find out who we are, and even better, who He is.
Thank you for sharing your story with us.
.-= Amy Sullivan´s last blog ..Vantage Point When Your Life Is Too Easy =-.
Oh, and ps GREAT PIC! What a perfect fit for this post.
.-= Amy Sullivan´s last blog ..Vantage Point When Your Life Is Too Easy =-.
Sounds like a very difficult time. I am glad you are so happy now.
I am so proud of you, not only for telling your story, but for telling it in a way that completely and utterly shows God’s tremendous glory — in your life and beyond. Well done, good and faithful servant…
.-= Jen´s last blog ..Need some incouragement Today =-.
It is hard to read and know what you had to endure. You are amazing.
.-= debbie´s last blog ..Ill Take My Sandwich Generation With Less Crazy- Please =-.
A heartwrenching story, with a powerful ending (which you’re still to write for us) ;-)
.-= Amanda´s last blog ..Regrets =-.
As I sit and read your blog I wonder why we never connected and learned more about each other. Our stories so similar but my man in shining armor became the one to hurt. As we work through our troubles God is definitely leading us. I commend you for telling your story. Thank you for sharing and showing me that I am not alone nor should I feel ashamed.