“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials."
1 Peter 1:6 (ESV)
There's an inspiring saying that God will never give us more than we can handle. From my experience, He definitely gave me much more than I can humanly handle. Perhaps, He was testing me to stand firm in my faith? Thankfully, I can testify God has proven Himself faithful to me, while providing amazing miracles.
My Christian walk has taken me far outside my comfort zone. It required me to release control and stop relying on myself. When our world tells me to crumble in despair, it forces me to choose between distorted viewpoints or biblical truths. In reality, my unrelenting hardships are too big for me, but they aren't too big for our Heavenly Father. My eyes must be fixed on Him; my source of hope.
Trials, disappointments, and heartaches aren't meant to destroy us. Rather, they're meant to teach us humility, patience, and perseverance in which our faith grows stronger. They are valuable building blocks to create our unique testimony. If our lives were smooth sailing without painful trials, unexpected disappointments, or frustrating challenges, we wouldn't have our own personal testimony as credible evidence revealing God's omnipotence.
In 1989, I was living a secular lifestyle when my marriage struggled miserably. The love of my life became addicted to alcohol, drugs, and gambling. Before long, our marriage turned into a battlefield and was ripped apart. Prior to coming to Christ, I tried with all of my might to stop my husband, Tony, from his destructive addictions.
At first, I threatened him by saying I'd tell his parents. Then I tried to use reverse psychology, which is a method of getting another person to do what you want by pretending not to want it. Therefore, I acted as if I didn't care when he overindulged or gambled.
Instead of nagging, I pretended everything was perfectly fine. Of course, reverse psychology had its drawbacks, especially when it was unsuccessful. After each failed attempt I behaved rather childish by slamming doors and having ridiculous hissy fits. In our early marriage, the one thing I never mastered was how to remain calm and not overreact when others around me were out of control.
Regardless of what I said or did, Tony never budged. Despite marriage counseling, confiding in his parents, and detaching myself from the stressful situation, his addictions continued. During this time we lived in Las Vegas, Nevada; over wise known as Sin City. After four years, it became apparent he would never be set free of his powerful addictions with temptations on our doorstep.
Feeling utterly disillusioned with my marriage, I longed for something more meaningful to give my life a deeper purpose. I couldn't think of anything more significant than motherhood. On May 27, 1991, I gave birth to our beautiful baby boy, Tony Lee. Our son wasn't considered a junior because him and his daddy had different middle names. Having two Tony's in one household was confusing. It made perfect sense to give our son the nickname little Tony.
Following our son's birth, my husband continued living his addictive lifestyle. Completely disgusted, I made up my mind to return home to Pittsburgh, PA. In determination to make major changes with or without Tony, I courageously said I'd no longer tolerate his destructive behavior. Enough was enough!
The morning before Thanksgiving Day, 1991, I boarded American Airlines with my son, stroller, and diaper bag in tow. A defining moment when I dared to cross the fork in the road and didn't allow fear or uncertainties hold me back. When being a new mom meant looking out for my baby's best interest and placing his needs first. I firmly believed little Tony deserved a healthy, happy, and stable upbringing. Having this enormous responsibility compelled me to take a giant step in a new direction.
Two weeks after my son and I moved to Pittsburgh, my husband realized he wanted to keep our family intact. Coming to terms with his new role as a parent, he packed our furniture to join us. Briefly, we lived with my in-laws, while he earnestly sought employment. Once Tony obtained a steady job we rented a two-bedroom townhouse. We were excited for our independence and new beginnings.
Although I was relieved that Tony joined us in Pittsburgh, I desperately wanted him to seek professional help for his addictions. To acknowledge he had a serious problem. It was important to me that he'd be free from this. No more stumbling home drunk, numbing out to mind-warping drugs, or dwindling our bank account to zero.
The most gut-wrenching challenge was raising a child in the same home as an addicted spouse. There's nothing worse for a new mom than to stand by in utter fear when her innocent toddler's safety is at risk. Mere words can't fully explain the emotional torment a defenseless mom confronts as she observes never ending incidences of her child being harmed by an inebriated father. It was dreadful!
This was the precise time I reached my second turning point, despite feeling helpless. My heart was breaking. I was filled with constant fear. What frightened me the most were the potentially dangerous situations when little Tony was alone with his dad. Time after time, I'd return home from a college class or grocery store to discover my toddler unsupervised.
One time, I came home to find our living room table and lamp tipped over with my husband passed out on the floor. On other occasions, I was horrified to discover cigarette burns on little Tony's arms and legs. The next day, when I confronted Tony about burn marks on our son, he seemed unaware that he was at fault. Apparently, he had no recollection because he was too intoxicated.
When my husband wasn't under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he was a loving and gentle man. Without a doubt, Tony would never intentionally hurt me or our son. He wasn't violent or aggressive. By no means did I consider him physically abusive. However, I believed he was extremely irresponsible when under the influence.
Tony's down-to-earth personality made him very easy to get along with. This is what attracted me to him when we were high school sweethearts. He was romantic with a dry sense of humor. He treated me like royalty. From the moment we first fell in love, he adored me.
When we became parents, Tony proved to be extremely attentive and willing to pitch in. While most men assume their wives are the primary caregiver, my husband provided exceptional help with child rearing and household responsibilities. When he wasn't working as a journeyman carpenter, he cooked, cleaned, and enjoyed spending quality time with our son. If it were not for his addictions he would have been a perfect father.
Gambling and partying turned Tony into a different person. He was oblivious to his surroundings and obligations. Perhaps, he was escaping from a troubled childhood? After all, his grandfather was a heavy drinker who died of cirrohosis of the liver. Cirrohosis is a consequence of chronic liver disease, which is most commonly caused by alcoholism.
When Tony was growing up, he couldn't recall one single time his grandfather didn't have a beer in his hand. His grandparents lived nearby and visited often. I suppose the image of his grandfather drinking may have been forever ingrained in his mind. Although, alcoholism was in his family background it didn't stop me from trying to change him. What I didn't realize at the time was genetics played a large role. There was nothing I could have done to stop my husband from sabotaging his life.
I'll never forget the evening when I was busy cooking dinner and heard a loud cry coming from outside. The piercing sound sent a chill down my spine. It was springtime when Tony was drinking Budweiser as he sat on our porch with our twelve-month-old son. Little Tony was sitting inside a baby walker on wheels. My husband forgot to close and lock the child-proof gate at the top of the staircase. No sooner had they gone out to the porch when our son accidentally tumbled down a flight of concrete steps.
As soon as I heard my little boy's screeching cry I rushed to the porch to see what was wrong. Immediately, I ran to the bottom of the steps to gently pick him up. With little Tony bleeding and sobbing uncontrollably, I tried to comfort him. His arms and knees had multiple abrasions, but I was most concerned about a head injury. Fuming in anger, I yelled at my husband as I dialed 911.
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