They 'gave us hope to grow our family as one'
“Crystal was my best friend’s kid sister, so I’ve known her since I was 10. I didn’t pay any mind to her until a few years ago when I came back to visit her brother, Danny. That’s when something just clicked.
“Joe had been friends with my brother as far back as I can remember, so I never took a second look at him. Then, in October of 2008, Joe came over to visit Danny, not knowing he was living with me. Dan had moved into my house to help care for our father, who was recovering from a near-fatal drunken-driving accident.
“When Joe walked in, I was sitting in a chair with a coffee cup of Jack Daniels. I had become an alcoholic, trying to numb myself to all the hurt in my life. As Joe and Danny were talking, Joe also struck up a conversation with me – nothing about being together, just ‘how have you been?’
“About once a week, he’d call or visit. Every time we talked, we grew closer. By spring of 2009, my father had recovered enough to be on his own, so we found him a place to live. The night before Easter of 2009, Joe came over and that was the beginning of our story. We were inseparable.”
“I just knew. We laughed a lot together, had a lot of the same beliefs. I loved that she was a go-getter, buying her own house and caring for her self-destructive father.”
“In June of 2009, he asked me to become his wife. Everyone was convinced we were moving too fast, but we knew that being together was better than being apart. “Before Joe, I didn’t want to marry. I didn’t want children. I thought I was better off by myself, so no one could ever hurt me. The first year of our marriage was rocky. I was still drinking, we didn’t have the faith we have now and we were just learning what it meant about saying and sticking to forever.
“After we hit our first anniversary, things started to smooth out. I eventually quit drinking, and he started making more money in stocks, which gave him more confidence.
“I was raised Catholic, and my family has been active for years at Queen of the Miraculous Medal Parish (Queens) in Jackson. When we felt ready to have a child, Crystal wanted a strong faith life for our family, so she called Queens to ask about RCIA. My father was so excited, he offered to sponsor Crystal and me so I could finally be confirmed in the Catholic faith.”
“Shortly after we made the commitment to start RCIA, we found out we were pregnant. When I started the class, I was overwhelmed at the feeling of love and acceptance. Raised Baptist, I was always taught to fear God, because he would punish you if you sinned. In RCIA, I learned that God is all-loving and forgives our trespasses.
“On Easter of 2013, we were confirmed into the Catholic faith; on May 5, Ayrianna was born. It was important to us to have our marriage recognized by the Church before Ayri was baptized, so, moments before he baptized her, Father Tim MacDonald married us in the Church.
“Things were going extremely well. Joe worked from home as a stock market day-trader and cared for our beautiful baby. My management job was flexible enough that I enrolled in online human resources management classes.
“Our son, Joseph II, was born April 1, 2015, just before my employer closed its doors. I found work immediately, but in a job with less flexibility and much more stress.
“This put a lot more pressure on Joe than either of us had expected. He was caring for two kids in diapers, making appointments, taking them to the doctor. Basically he was taking care of everything in the home, plus building his day-trading practice. Still, money was tight. The stress was becoming too much.”
“We were living kind of a hamster-wheel lifestyle. We were very good parents. but not good partners. I was still madly in love with my wife, but we were separated by our careers. When our 2-year-old started biting her nails and rushing up to us saying ‘It’s alright,’ we knew it was affecting our children. We saw that if we didn’t get help, we could lose it all.”
“We were falling apart. We started separating from each other by ignoring, walking away and not talking about anything. Living like robots, not showing emotion, we had literally disconnected. On Easter of 2016, we had an argument. I took the kids and stayed at my mother’s overnight. “The next day, I gave Joe a choice: We would either get help or give up, because we couldn’t keep going this way. I had mentally prepared myself for any decision, but was relieved when he agreed. I emailed Father Tim that day to ask if we could meet with him.
“After listening, Father Tim said we needed more help than he was able to provide. When we told him we didn't have medical insurance and really didn’t have the money to pay for counseling, he recommended we call Catholic Charities. He assured us that even if we couldn’t afford the sliding-scale fee, we were going to get the help we needed to save our marriage. We set up an appointment the same week with a counselor from Catholic Charities.”
“At the end of our first session, the counselor could see that we had the tools to improve our marriage. We just needed to sharpen them.”
“[The counselor] said even though our house seemed like rubble on the ground, we had the foundation and the structure to rebuild. We went from the end of March through the middle of June seeing her once a week. She gave us tools we use every day to keep communication strong and healthy. She also helped me work through some anger that I had been holding. Once I was able to let that go and stop blaming Joe, I was able to truly love him again. “Because of the help that was graciously given to us, I have never been happier. I have never loved him so truly and deeply as I do now, and the future has never been this clear. We were given hope; hope for the future; hope for our love to grow stronger; and, best of all, hope to grow our family as one.
“I know that when you’re struggling, it can be hard to admit you have a problem, but you have to reach out and ask. Through the grace of God and the help of people like Father Tim and Catholic Charities, we rebuilt our home with the Lord and faith interwoven into the fabric of our relationship.”
“I agree. Faith is the only thing that can truly heal you and help you find that support. The Lord has been guiding us all along. It will all be worth it if we can help even one couple say, ‘You know, maybe it’s not over for us,’ and reach out for help.
“It is worth every minute, every penny, every tear and every ounce of facing your fears of the unknown. God is so good. With faith, love and trust, now we know we can make it through anything.”
Catholic Charities Counseling
Catholic Charities’ agencies provide marriage counseling, as well as counseling for addiction and individuals, for privately insured clients. The counselors are highly qualified, trained and licensed professionals, and the agencies accept many forms of insurance.
Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County
734.971.9781 | CSSWASHTENAW.ORG
Catholic Charities of Jackson, Lenawee and Hillsdale Counties
517.782.2551 | CATHOLICCHARITIESJLHC.ORG
Livingston County Catholic Charities
517.545.5944 | LIVINGSTONCATHOLICCHARITIES.ORG
Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties
810.232.9950; 989.723.8239 | CATHOLICCHARITIESFLINT.ORG
St. Vincent Catholic Charities
517.323.4734 | STVCC.ORG