Featuring Teresa Velardi
Never let anyone steal your joy.
Who are you and why are you here? I demanded, sobbing as I gazed at myself in the mirror.
It had been a long time since I’d looked myself in the eye. With tears streaming down my face from swollen eyes, it was difficult to recognize myself. It wasn’t just the tears that had me wondering who the stranger in the mirror was. It was the lack of life, the long-lost joy, and the missing smile that made me ask those tough questions.
That was my “come to Jesus” moment. You the one I mean.
It was the moment I finally got real about life, my authentic self, and God.
My two-fold question had to be answered from two perspectives. “Who are you?” I had become completely lost in the insanity of my marriage to an abusive, alcoholic, drug-addicted man. Everything I’d once loved had been sacrificed in the name of love: my art, my writing, my friends. Everything was now under his control. Without realizing it, I had utterly abandoned myself and my power. Even my perspective on what it meant to be a good mother to my young son was lost. We weren’t safe.
That led to, “Why are you here?” The answer scared me. I didn’t know how to get out and was overwhelmed with fear—afraid for my life, my sanity, and my child.
My answers to those questions needed to come from a higher perspective. Who did God create me to be, and what was my purpose in life? I had no clue how to answer either of those important questions—just the desire to find out!
For nearly fifteen years leading up to that moment, I’d lived a “scripted life.” There was never any hope of my dreams coming true, because someone else had become the center of my every day. It seemed as if my life didn’t matter. I’ll admit, at times, I believed it to be true.
If not for my son, I might not have lived to tell the story of breaking free from a life of unimportance.
My life was controlled by manipulation, codependence, and deceit.
Would life have been different without the drugs and alcohol that seemed to consume every waking moment of my husband’s existence? Was I dealing with who he truly was, or with an alter-ego created by the effects of the substances? There was no way to know. I only knew I was living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
I kept telling myself, “He said he was gonna stop being verbally abusive, yet he’s doing it again. It must be the alcohol and drugs talking. That’s not really who he is—is it?”
With every critical moment that came and went, his promises to change his ways evaporated. It made no sense for me to believe he would honor the promise he’d made to stop drinking and drugging when we got married. So why had I ever believed that lie?
I stood at the altar before the priest who had married my parents more than a quarter of a century before.
The limousine had been tardy to pick me up. That was the first thing that went wrong. I arrived at the church for my wedding nearly an hour late. Although I didn’t realize it then, God had put up a huge roadblock. The Long Island Expressway traffic kept the limo from getting me to the church on time. It’s no coincidence that the roadway is called the LIE, because my life became just that—a LIE!
My father had doubled up on his dental appointments the previous day so he could look his very best as he walked me down the aisle. As Dad handed me over to my soon-to-be husband, I was overcome by a sinking feeling of dread. Gazing lovingly into my groom’s eyes, I could see that he was high as a kite.
He couldn’t even keep his promise to be sober when we took our vows!
For a fleeting moment, I thought about running. I gave my future husband a look of disappointment that said, “Really?”
Why did I go through with the wedding? I was more concerned about what everyone else in the church would think if I were to hightail it out of there, with my dress flapping in the wind, than what I would think of myself if I did not run from this mistake. However, obstacle number two was quickly swept under the rug.
Then the priest read the wrong passages. After all the time I’d spent choosing the perfect words for my wedding, I was left with a puzzled look on my face. The groom could not have cared less. Another thing had gone wrong. What else could possibly happen on this most important day of my life?
Our vows were next. The groom said his vows first, and then it was my turn. The priest asked, “Teresa, do you take this man to be your wedded husband …”
As the priest was reading the words, I was staring at the kite flying high in the eyes of the groom. My heart spoke: Teresa, don’t do this. It stopped me cold.
* * * * * * * * * *
Editor’s Note: This excerpt is from just one of many Sacred Stories of our time. Powerful voices from around the globe that speak to our shared human experience. May they inspire you and give you great hope. Order your personal copy of CHAOS TO CLARITY: SACRED STORIES OF TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE today and discover hope for the future and a blueprint for your life ⤵︎