When people look at me, they see a happy woman, slow to take and quick to give. What they don’t know is the harsh truth under this smile. I was born on June 27, 1969 in Chicago, Illinois and lived with two loving parents and an older brother. I stayed there up until the age of six when my family moved to Upstate New York.
I was a daddy’s girl. My dad was a very intelligent man who also liked to dance around and act goofy. He’d think of crazy songs to sing to us that made me laugh. He was quite a genius in mathematics, although he’d drive me nuts trying to teach me to go around the world to find the answer to a problem. He challenged me to be better, and I had a great deal of respect for him. He was a perfect role model for us. He’d wake up with a bright smile, put on an expensive suit, and go to his high-paying job.
Everything changed when drugs became his new career when I was 16 years old. I guess life was just too much to bear and he turned to the toxic habit to escape the weight of the world. His drug use got worse over time, and eventually, he lost his job.
This impacted my life both inside and outside of home. I became the protector of my friends, and I shunned away from people who smoked and drank in high school. On top of the impact of my dad’s addiction, I was also going through an identity crisis. As a mixed girl with loose curly hair, I didn’t fit in anywhere. I was too dark for the white kids and too light-skinned for the African- American kids. I never found a group to accept me.
My mom had a hard time dealing with my dad’s deterioration. My understanding of love used to come from watching my parents’ marriage. They instilled in me that when two people join hands, they make a promise to stick with each other no matter how dirty their hands may get, so that’s what I believed. However, as my dad sank deeper into his addiction, I saw all their struggles right before my eyes. My mom had to control and hide money from my dad who’d otherwise take it to buy drugs. I too started locking my door when I noticed my piggy bank and TV set went missing.
I felt like I was living with a stranger, so at 19 years old, I decided to follow in my brother’s footsteps and join the military. Joining gave me a reason to escape my home, but also to protect my family financially. At this time, my little sister was born, my mom had quit her job and my dad was out in the streets doing God knows what, and I wanted to help alleviate some of my mom’s stress.
I moved to San Antonio, Texas to start basic training for the U.S Air Force. During my time there, I met the man of my dreams. It was refreshing. He liked me for being myself, and I didn’t feel like I had to conform to anything or try to fit in. We had our Saturday rituals where we’d get up, go to breakfast, and then go shopping. I felt at peace with him.
As we got more serious, I saw flashes of changes in his character when he started drinking, but I brushed it off at first. I thought, “Everyone acts a little different when they drink, so it couldn’t be a big deal, right?”
Hoping that my situation would get better, I married him after knowing him for two years and we settled down in San Antonio. By then, I had been out of the Military. Deep down, I knew I was trying to escape my past again — at least if I married him, I wouldn’t have to live with the mayhem back home. I was wrong.
I felt secure in the beginning, but I soon learned my new husband couldn’t protect me from his alcohol addiction, the biggest thing I needed to be protected from. I saw my dad’s behavior reflected in my husband, but it was too late to stop it. I began to lose trust in the man who I thought loved me. Still, I tried to love him past the pain just as my parents taught me as a little girl.
At first, my attitude towards my husband was that I was a strong, independent woman who could handle things on my own, but that became harder when we had our kids — Anna and Eric.
Although my husband was present in their lives, he made a lot of empty promises that were never followed through, like buying a car for our son or taking us to somewhere special. As our marriage got worse, I started playing the blame game and justified his behavior by convincing myself that if I had done certain things, he wouldn’t drink as much. That didn’t work. He started coming home really drunk and would pick fights with us. My kids and I dealt with his addiction for over a decade until one of us finally had had enough.
You must be thinking that I would’ve been the one to leave because I should, right? But before I could even consider it, my husband beat me to it and walked out on me one day in 2007. He never came back.
Despite all the arguing and terror we had faced, I was still devastated by his desertion because through it all, he was still my husband. I completely shut down from my family and friends, and fell into a deep depression. I’d come home, go in my room, and lie in bed, playing all the good memories of him in my head. I thought back to one of Anna’s birthdays, where he played around and slapped a piece of cake in my face. I splashed water on him, and then he got a bigger cup of water and splashed me with it. We used to always play jokes like this and he could make me laugh until my stomach hurt. I just couldn’t understand how such a good man could turn into a monster.
To make matters worse, our house went into foreclosure not long after my husband left. It was like a domino effect, and my life was shattered even more.
In my time of sorrow, I turned to God and through conversations with Him, I began to see the truth of our marriage. When you care for a toxic person, they will know the ways to manipulate and control you until you’re broken and malleable. As I had more time to reflect on our marriage, I knew I was better off without my husband. From that moment forward, I deepened my relationship with God and cast out the dark elements in my life.
In the process of recovering over the next few years, I was faced with more hardships. Devastation hit again in 2013 when both my parents passed away six months apart. I leaned more on God. Besides my kids, God was all I had left. I’d pray at night asking why terrible things must always happen to me.
I started reading the bible more often, looking for comfort and answers and one night, I finally had an epiphany. A passage in it said, “Let a man examine himself.” This basically means that in order for you to get through any pain this world has given you, you have to be able to stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself all the good things you are and forgive yourself for all the bad things you’ve done, so for once and for all, you can bury them.
I looked at my life and realized what I had been doing wrong — I wasn’t treating myself right. I reminded myself of my own worth and decided to finally take control over my life. I didn’t need a man or anyone to define me. I was awesome with or without him. At that moment, I made a promise to myself that I’d always rise above to see my own value and that I’d give my kids positive changes in our lives.
To help put my plan into action, I began ministering to young people, starting with my children, teaching them their self-worth. My kids started bringing their friends home that needed help. Opening up my home to adolescents changed my life. I realized that God placed young adults in my life so I could encourage them that if I could overcome my obstacles, they could too.
Since I’ve submitted my life to God, I feel free in an environment where I can be vulnerable to share my testimony and finally feel at peace. I’ve been through tough times in my life, but since I’ve discovered my own worth, I’ve come out on the other end, stronger and happier.
This is the story of Sydney Williams
Sydney currently lives in San Antonio, Texas and works as Human Resource Manager. Growing up in a household of substance abuse, she struggled to find closure as she experienced trust issues with her father. After leaving to go to the military, she hoped to escape her past and married a man who soon left her due to his addiction with alcohol. She eventually turned her life to God and is now a vessel to young people, teaching them the value of themselves. She is a proud mom of two and a prayer warrior. Sydney would like to be married again someday, but this time she wants it to be done the right way. She also volunteers at her church to do interior design. Her dream is to start her own interior design company.
Life Log #187
This story first touched our hearts on October 9, 2018.
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