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Until recently my life was a sheltered one. I never attended a high school or college party, never smoked a cigarette, never experimented with drugs, and only began drinking socially when I was of legal age. Fresh out of high school I attended a small Bible School in England and from there worked in various ministries around the globe all within the comfortable safety of a Christian bubble. Chemical dependency was not on my radar. Addiction a foreign concept.

In retrospect, it is crystal clear Anthony was on something the night of the fair. He was larger than life. Unnervingly confident. Walking on air. Anthony liked to have a good time; he was the life of the party, this much I knew. But beyond that…I was clueless.

From the very beginning of our relationship, my life began to revolve around his. He was a seemingly successful chef at a classy Asian Fusion restaurant. He worked well into the wee hours of the night. No matter how late he would call I was sure to answer and he would find his way over to my place. We spent virtually every night together those first few months and not once did I suspect drug use. I’m sure there were signs, but I had no idea what to look for or that I should even be looking in the first place. I was so focused on keeping the fantasy alive, I was bending over backwards to accommodate him.

I found out much later that he really was trying to stay clean at first. Somewhere in the depths of his heart he longed for the fantasy as well. He wanted to be loved, he wanted a home, a family. Somehow despite everything he had done, he felt as though fate was granting him his wish. Through sheer force of will he was able to keep up the charade, but only for so long.

He came over one night, visibly distraught. It was late. He was shaking. He started talking. In a flood of emotions and words he poured out his confessions. He told me about his past. About his addiction. About arrests. About rehab. He kept saying how sorry he was. He told me that he wanted to be a better man. He needed to be. For me. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a tiny baggie of white powder. His face was the picture of helplessness.

I encouraged him to flush it. He did so willingly and then collapsed on the floor. Here was this beast of a man: 6 foot 2 inches, 200 lbs of muscle, curled up in the fetal position, weeping like a small child. I wrapped myself around him and whispered my forgiveness, spoke of help and hope. We laid on the floor like that as the minutes turned to hours. Eventually we untangled ourselves and allowed the light of day to chase away the admissions of the night.

It was just one slip up, I told myself. Everyone makes mistakes. He owned it, confessed it and rectified it. This doesn’t have to be anything more.

Just let it go. He’s okay, you’re okay. This has to work.

Bad Reputation

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About a month into this life of fantasy, otherwise known as intense denial, I went on a preplanned out-of-state vacation. It just so happened that Levi, a mutual friend of ours, lived in the city I was visiting. He reached out and wanted to catch up. The three of us had been part of the environmental magnet program in high school and he and Anthony shared in the glory of the football teams’ numerous victories. The best of friends, Levi and Anthony were scarcely seen without the other. Upon graduation they even became roommates.

Anthony and I had yet to make our relationship public knowledge, so Levi was quite taken aback when I mentioned it in passing. His shock, turned to rage, turned to worry. I was thrown by his reaction considering the depth of their friendship in high school. After taking some time to sort through his varied emotions, Levi with the aide of another mutual friend, gently laid bare some rather ghastly insights regarding Anthony’s true character. From alcoholism, to drugs, to taking advantage of drunk women, their assessment left little room for debate and confirmed my deepest fears. They emphatically pleaded with me to “get out and get out now!” essentially transforming an innocent round of beers into an intervention. Little did they know, I had already fallen victim to his immorality in the worst way. I thanked them meekly and fled as soon as good manners would permit.

At this point some, if not most, people would begin to surface from the depths of denial and slowly begin the process of accepting reality. I boarded a flight bound for home with every intention of confronting Anthony, at the very least. And yet, by an act of manipulation so masterful I still don’t fully comprehend it’s success, Anthony convinced me that now was the time to publicly announce our relationship. With just a few clicks of a mouse, we were Facebook Official.

Down. Down. Down. Ever deeper down the rabbit hole I fell.

No Means No

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The night of the fair also happened to be the week of my 30th birthday. On a whim, I decided to extend an invite to my party to Anthony. He was a no show. But the very next day he reached out and I invited him over. We talked all night long and maybe even kissed a little. He seemed perfect; everything I imagined he would be. Maybe it was the weight of becoming “middle-aged” or simply a desire to feel less alone, but something about connecting with Anthony after all those years felt like fate.

The very next night, I had him over again. Sixteen years of “history,” created a false sense of intimacy and an exaggerated level of trust. The evening started out very much like the night before. Easy flowing conversation and insatiable sparks. The kissing began to escalate to a point that made me uncomfortable. I was raised in an extremely conservative Christian home and sex was strictly reserved for the marriage bed.

As things continued to progress, I raised my concerns and asked him to stop. Dr. Jekyll became Mr. Hyde. The asking turned to begging. The begging turned to pushing. But try as I might I was too small and he was too big. He took what I wasn’t willing to give, pinning me down with his full weight until it was finished.

I burst into tears and ran to the bathroom. Falling to the floor I just kept repeating to myself, “I think I was just raped. I think I was just raped.” Eventually I felt a strong arm pull me close and then Dr. Jekyll reappeared. He spoke of love and marriage and family and a future. I clung to that fantasy. I could not face what had happened. I began to doubt myself. Surely someone who could speak of such things was incapable of rape. After all, I was admittedly attracted to him. I even kissed him back at first. Maybe I wanted this to happen. Maybe I led him on. As the doubts filled my mind, the fantasy became my lifeline. We were going to be together. We had to be together.

From that moment on, I buried the truth. So deep it wouldn’t surface for two years. True to his word, Anthony stuck around and for the first few months we embodied the fantasy. After all, a real rapist wouldn’t have pursued me after. I must of misinterpreted that night. Besides, he loves me.

What would follow would be two years of complete and total hell. Mr. Hyde made regular appearances, punctuated by visits from Dr. Jekyll. My life became a twisted web of lies and depravity, but worst of all, a giant Anthony-shaped wedge formed between God and I.

Once Upon a Time

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Anthony Kingsley was an enigma. Hansom. Charming. Charismatic. Star of the football team. Life of the party. Voted Class Flirt in the Senior Superlatives. He embodied high school.

I, on the other hand…well, let’s just say, my primary objective in high school was to become invisible. All I wanted was to graduate and get the hell out of Dodge.

To say we came from two different worlds is a severe understatement. But as fate would have it, Anthony and I were thrown together much more often than our social circles willingly permitted. We were both enrolled in an environmental magnet program; essentially a school within a school. My graduating class of 700, was pared down to a meager 60 students participating in an intensive study of environmental sciences, cultivating an intimate learning environment for all involved.

I guess you could say there was always an underlying chemistry between Anthony and I, though at the time I would never have believed (admitted) it. As I saw it, I was the victim of unwanted attention. Our field trips generally consisted of Anthony tormenting me in one way or another: Throwing a fish down my shirt. Yes, a fish. To be fair it was probably more of a minnow, but traumatic all the same. Or running a stick up my leg, forcing me to imagine any number of creepy crawlies forging an attack. He had an arsenal of tricks up his sleeve capable of causing endless distress.

I have this memory, that may be a dream, that may be a memory. I told Anthony about it once and now he believes it more than I do. Once a year, our magnet program would take an overnight intensive field trip. In this memory-dream, we are on a night hike and Anthony decided to hide in the bushes and wait for his unsuspecting prey to walk past. As soon as I reached his hiding place, he sprang from his ambush, sending me into a full fledged panic attack. His convictions got the better of him and he grabbed my face and gave me a pop-kiss, the shock of which paralyzed me on the spot. Dream or not, there was chemistry between us.

Graduation day came and went and I made good on my goal to escape. I left the country without a second glance back and with no intention of ever returning. Over the next 12 years, I would see the world. Not quite the whole world, but close. Every once in a while, in between adventures, I would end up back in my hometown. Throughout those years, I would run into Anthony from time to time, the attraction between us ever-increasing, the timing always wrong.

Until one day, two and a half years ago, I decided to go to the fair. I was back in town (man, this town has a way of pulling you back!), the weather was beautiful and the night was young. As my girlfriend and I walked the grounds, a man stepped forcibly in front of me, arm extended. “Give me your hand,” he demanded. I ignored him and tried to walk on. “Give me your hand,” he said again. I pressed on. And yet again he commanded me to relinquish my  hand. In frustration, I thrust my hand into his, never once bothering to look at his face. He readily laid claim to his prize and spun me around pulling me close as he did so. Our eyes locked and then he relaxed, whispering the words, “I know you.” And for once the timing was right. Or so I thought.

Anthony and I knew each other. But we did not know each other.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – John 8:36

Photo: RNLI/Mike Lavis

Addiction has torn apart my family and rocked our world. My husband is currently in an 11 month regeneration program, essentially leaving me as a single mom of a beautiful 1 year old son for the duration of his recovery. Life for us will never be the same, but thank God for that! We are headed into the unknown, but for the first time in years I feel hope instead of despair. I don’t know where the road will take us, but I trust the destination will be worth the journey. Suffering breeds compassion. If sharing our pain can bring healing to others, if words can breathe life into death, beauty will spring forth from the ashes and our struggles will not be in vain. Here’s to being beautifully broken along the way!

Pain is individual. I will never proclaim to be so bold as to know what you are walking through. Addiction’s reach is wide and it’s grasp crushing. The impact is always devastating. We may have ended up in the same place, but our journeys are our own. I am not here to preach to you or share meaningless platitudes under the guise of comfort. This is simply a platform to share my story. To speak the truth of God’s love in my life. To shine a light of hope in what was once all consuming darkness. I do not know how my story will end. I do not know if my husband will stay sober. I do not know if my family will be whole. What I do know is this: Today my husband is sober. Today my family is safe. Today God is breathing new life into my heart. He’s planting seeds of forgiveness where once only bitterness grew. He’s healing wounds buried so deep, I didn’t even know they existed. Today God is working. Today I have hope.

Post by post, I’m going to tell my story. I’m not going to pull any punches. It’s founded in ugly. You may not agree with the choices I made. That is your right. Just as it was my right to make them. I’m simply laying it all out there in the hope that God will do what only God can do: Restore and renew. If you leave with nothing else, know that no matter where you are in your story, there is hope. Your story matters.