When I received an email about permanent make-up, I was mildly interested. I knew Christine Collier, the sender of the email, from the Southern Christian Writers Guild. She is the author of My New Life NOW: Recovery Course. I also knew she is a Registered Nurse who specialized in Surgery, which contributed to my interested in her new venture. She had trained to be a Permanent Make-up Artist at Bella in Fort Worth and needed clients to practice her new skill during her apprenticeship, which is a requirement to fulfill the Mississippi Board of Health regulations.
Over plucking had left me with eyebrows I hid with colored makeup pencils and glasses. Correcting the damage I’d done appealed to me. The apprentice prices for her services were deeply discounted, so I indulged my vanity, and Christine reserved time at the Beauty Center for her new client.
The morning of the appointment my husband said, “Are you sure you want to do this? It’s permanent and it’s on your face.”
“I know,” I replied. “I have reservations, but the photos she sent look good, and she is going to tell me her testimony after she does my eyebrows.” I departed for a two hour drive to Mississippi with my husband’s blessings.
I laid down on the table. Christine adjusted her light and said, “There will be a little pain.” The pain wasn’t any worse than the pain of plucking my eyebrows. When she was finished, the shape of my eyebrows looked great. A little darker than I wanted, but Christine assured me they would be 30 to 40% lighter when they healed. (A week later they were lighter as promised, and I was pleased with my new eyebrows.)
After the new make-up artist completed her masterpiece we went to Piccadilly’s for lunch, so Christine could tell me her story. I prefer coffee houses when recording someone’s story. It’s difficult to talk and eat at the same time. Christine finished eating her meal before I finished my salad. I looked at her empty plates. She grinned, “Nurses learn to eat in fifteen to twenty minutes. I’m retired now, but I still eat fast.” That was fine with me. She was free to talk while I enjoyed my lunch.
“Start with your salvation,” I said.
“It’s a little hard to start with my salvation. My life now was birthed out of my old life,” said Christine.
Christine’s earliest memory of God was a visit to the Presbyterian Church when she was six years old. The experience left her in awe. She loved the singing and the peaceful feeling. The peace dissolved when she walked out of the church and eluded her until she was thirty-seven years old.
Her parents had married young. Her mother had become pregnant with Christine before her husband was ready for the responsibilities of raising a child. He left when she was an infant. Her mother remarried an older man, but the marriage was difficult. He was a hard worker that provided for his family, but could be mean when he was drunk, and he was drunk often. The marriage produced two step-sisters. Christine’s stepfather never let her forget that she was not his child. The rejection wounded Christine filling her with anger and disappointment.
Her parents liked to socialize and often attended parties. Christine tasted liquor for the first time when she joined some of the other children at a party who were drinking from glasses left near empty and unattended. Christine liked the way the liquor made her feel. By the time she was twelve years old, she often retreated to the backyard to smoke cigarettes and drink her stepfather’s Miller Ponies. The high from the liquor dulled the pain of rejection. Before she turned thirteen she added smoking marijuana and even overdosed on valium. “I wasn’t trying to commit suicide,” said Christine. “I had no clue what I was doing to myself when I took too many valium. I was trying to get a better buzz than the weed gave me, but all I got was very sick. The sickest I’d ever been in my life.”
Her mother endured her husband’s alcoholism and verbal abuse until she could take no more and divorced him. By that time, Christine had begun a love affair with alcohol and drugs. Christine was seventeen when she met her future husband. He had a voracious appetite for Jack Daniels and coke equaled only by her appetite for pills and weed. Christine’s drug and alcohol abuse lead her to many bad choices and deeds she prefers to forget.
She became pregnant and married her boyfriend. The added responsibility of caring for a child did not change the whirlwind of chaos in her life until her daughter, Amanda, was three. An assailant broke into Christine’s house, assaulted her and robbed her at gunpoint. The experience left her shaken. She later learned the assailant was someone they knew. Christine knew the assault took place because of her drinking and drug use. It scared her straight.
Christine took steps to become clean and sober. Her husband also hit rock bottom and cleaned up his life. Free from the mental fog induced by alcohol and drugs, Christine and her husband decided they would live the “American Dream”. He found a job in the oil fields. She obtained her GED and went to school to become a nurse.
Christine paused her story to explain addiction. “People with addictions tend to be extreme, we moved from one extreme to the other. We were clean and sober, but the chaos continued. We traded that lifestyle only to become workaholics, making money, spending money – a new kind of empty.”
Her husband advanced quickly in the oil field industry, and she had become a good nurse. Life appeared fine. Until they moved to Mississippi, and she saw things in her daughter’s behavior that scared her. Christine and her husband had been sober for years. They had not raised their children with drugs and alcohol in the house, yet Amanda was making many of the same choices and mistakes her mother had made. “It was as if I were looking into a mirror of my life,” said Christine.
Christine focused all of her energy on helping Amanda. Amanda’s behavior became more and more destructive as addiction consumed her. The more Christine tried to control her and make her better, the worse Amanda became. When Amanda was sixteen, Christine learned her daughter had been assaulted by a young man. For the first time, Christine understood the seriousness of her daughter’s problem. She wasn’t just a rebellious teenager, but a wounded young woman trying to numb her pain. Christine tried everything she could think of to help Amanda. Nothing worked.
A friend noticed the stress in Christine’s life and offered her “a little something” to make her feel better. It wasn’t long before Christine’s old habits found a place in her life, but this time it was different. Being high wasn’t fun. By the time Amanda was eighteen, both Christine and her daughter were a wreck. Christine lived in fear of the dreaded phone call. The call no parent wants to receive. “Your daughter was found dead.”
Christine’s work was her only solace as she quickly came close to the end of her rope. About that time the hospital she worked at hired two new surgical technicians. She thought they were both weird, and did not like working with them. She often requested they would not be in her surgery room, but somehow she always wound up with one of them. The women that Christine could only tolerate in small doses were both Christians who loved the Lord.
Christine laughed. “It never failed. If you were working with them the conversation always brought up Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. He was all they wanted to talk about.” They never condemned or forced their beliefs upon her. At separate times in their own individual ways, the women shared the love of Christ and what God had done in their lives.
The love that emanated from the women made them appealing. Christine’s attitude changed from one of disgust to a desire to her about Jesus. She stopped avoiding them in the lunch room and began looking for a seat near them. One day, the one named Marilyn told Christine, “If you ever need somebody, anytime day or night, just come to my house.”
The inability to help Amanda depressed her. The depression created marriage problems and kept her in a cycle of drinking to escape life’s unbearable realities. She often woke up in her beautiful house, on beautiful sunny mornings wondering if life was worth living. One day, she started crying and could not stop. She cried for days. Nothing made her feel better. Then she remembered Marilyn’s offer. If you ever need somebody, come to my house. Desperate for help she grabbed her purse and headed for her car.
Marilyn listened quietly and patiently as Christine poured out her grief and fear. “Christine, you have got to take your hands off of Amanda, so God can get his hands around her. And God wants you in his hands too. Will you go with me to my pastor’s house?”
“I accepted Marilyn’s invitation to talk to her pastor,” said Christine. “The pastor waiting for me. There was an awesome scent in the air and Christian praise music was playing. Marilyn and her pastor lovingly and gently led me to the Lord. We prayed. We cried. I screamed, ‘Jesus, I need you. Please come into my life and forgive me.’ I will never forget the day I called, and he came. It felt like a ton had been picked up off my body. When I walked out of the house it felt like my feet were not even touching the ground. My feelings of hopelessness and thoughts of dying were gone and have never returned. The desire to numb my pain in a destructive way was replaced with a desire to know Jesus.”