By Confronting Addiction, This Couple Revived Their Marriage
“The first thing I would do when I was in my addiction is I would reach for a pill. There were times when I would be in my sleep thinking about waking up and talking a pill,” says Cheryl Edwards, about the six years she was addicted to painkillers. “That’s what you go to bed thinking about, and that’s what you wake up thinking about.” Cheryl’s addiction to pain killers was controlling her life, and destroying her marriage. “You really don’t realize how much addiction will do,” she says.
Cheryl was a popular radio personality in the Chicago area. She married Mark, a friend from high school who had since become a Christian. Cheryl was raised in the church and her parents were Christians. “I believed I was saved through their faith, looking back, but, it takes more than that.”
Though both had children from previous marriages, everything seemed to be falling in place. One Thanksgiving, the two were on their way to Memphis to see her father, when the weather turned treacherous. “An eighteen wheeler thought I was going to go through the yellow-light, and I stopped, and it took our truck out. I woke up three days later and had a broken neck,” Cheryl says.
Cheryl and Mark both recovered, but for Cheryl, the greatest damage would come long after the accident. “As a result of those injuries, they loaded me up on painkillers, and I came back home to Rockford, where I was given more painkillers,” she says.
The prescriptions kept getting refilled, and Mark became concerned. “Our doctor was just giving us an outrageous number of pills,’ he says. “It was crazy.”
“At first I thought it was acceptable because it came prescribed by a doctor. I thought it was OK.” Cheryl says. Then Mark and Cheryl noticed her supply of pills was dwindling faster than it should. They discovered her son, Stephen, had been taking them. One day he seemed to be sick, so Cheryl gave him a pill, thinking it would help him wind down. “I thought I was taking care of my son,” she says. “He needed me. He was going through withdrawals.”
Soon both mother and son were addicted to prescription drugs.
“You shut yourself off from the world” Cheryl says. “You don’t want to go outside. Your personal hygiene—it affects that,” I ended up divorcing Mark. I ended up losing all of it: my career, a home to foreclosure, my marriage. The only thing that kept me from being out on the street was my mother.”
One night Cheryl was about to give Stephen another dose.
“God showed me a vision--a vision of myself holding Stephen, and hand-feeding him pills as a baby, and I had never seen myself in that light before. When I saw myself hand-feeding him pills, I thought, ‘I’m killing my child.’”
That vision was the turning point for Cheryl, who turned her life over to Christ.
“We always think that we have to clean up first, that we will never be good enough, but that’s not true. I really surrendered my life to the Lord that night in the bedroom after the Lord showed me what I had done.”
Cheryl knew she had to get herself and her son into rehab, but it was very expensive, so she began praying for a way to pay for it. One day, she saw an ad in the paper. “I came across an ad that said, 'Are you or someone you love addicted to painkillers?” So I called them back and shared our story.”
The ad was for an upcoming episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show that featured parents and children who were both addicts. After Cheryl and Stephen along with Cheryl’s daughter Veronica, appeared on the show, Harpo Productions agreed to pay for their rehab. “When I got out, it was so alarming to see out how many people were addicted.” Cheryl remembers.
Although they were divorced, Mark was supportive of Cheryl through her entire treatment. Afterwards they were watching an episode of The 700 Club. “There was a segment on about Bill and Carolyn Reiser,’ Cheryl says. “Their story was a lot like ours. In the segment, Carolyn tells Bill, ‘If God can forgive you, I can too.’ It just spoke to Mark and I.”
Mark recalls, “We both just broke down crying. It was such a beautiful story about how God had given her the strength to do this.”
Mark and Cheryl were inspired by the Reisers’ story and believed God could restore their marriage as well. They were remarried in 2010. This time around, God is at the center of their relationship.
Mark says, “When we can find it in ourselves, through God, to love those that are not loving us back, I believe that makes God smile. And I like to make God smile.”
Cheryl no longer wakes up thinking about painkillers. “Today I wake up and I think about the Lord, and my family. The Lord wants you wherever you are in your life. There’s a scripture that says, ‘He reached down from on high and took a hold of me and drug me out of the deep waters.’ The Lord rescued me, and He can do that to you.”