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Faith Brought Her Back from the Brink

After a failed suicide attempt, a young woman learns to love and be loved.

Tamara Johnson-George and her husband Eddie

Slowly, my eyes adjusted to the light. My mind was so foggy. Where am I? This bricklike bed wasn’t mine. I tried to lift my arms. My wrists. They were strapped to the bed frame. Dear God, what have I done? A nurse came in. She took my hand and undid the straps.

“You’re in the hospital,” she said gently. “You made an attempt on your life.”

A panicky recollection stirred inside me. I remembered swallowing a handful of sleeping pills. The phone suddenly ringing. A girlfriend. My words coming out in a confused garble, her saying she was calling 911.

“Baby, you’re too young to be tired of living,” the nurse continued. “But we’re going to take good care of you and you’re going to get better.” She squeezed my hand. “I’ll be back in a bit.”

Her words stuck with me. What was it I had to live for? I’d struggled all my life to find…what? Happiness? Acceptance? Love? At 25, I was washed up, my brief chart-topping career as an R & B singer over.

But the emptiness I felt went deeper than that. I wondered: Does anyone really care whether I live or die? Do I?

The men I’d dated, the two women I’d sung with in Sisters With Voices, our manager, the relatives I’d been shuffled off to as a teenager, all had crushed me in a way that seemed irreversible. Maybe I was the problem.

The one person—Eddie—who I’d thought might be different I hadn’t even gone out with, only talked to for a short period on the phone long ago. Yet for some reason I’d never forgotten him. Too late now, I told myself.

A knock on the door interrupted my thoughts. My brother Wayne rushed in. “I came as soon as I heard,” he said. He touched my arm. “You look just like Mommy…” His voice trailed off.

Our mother died when I was 14, her last years bedridden, her once strong, beautiful body slowly wasting away. There was no one to care for her in our tiny apartment except for my three older brothers and me. We used to take turns skipping school to be with her.

“Don’t ever lose faith,” she whispered to me one afternoon. All she’d ever known was grinding poverty, abuse and disappointment. So many nights she went hungry so we’d have a few more bites of food.

We lived in Brooklyn, New York’s tough Bed-Stuy neighborhood. But she’d done everything she could to shield us from harm, even if it meant constant beatings from our stepfather.

After she died my brothers and I were split up among relatives. All I wanted was to escape my life. A year out of high school, I heard about two women looking to start a singing group. Our first album sold three million copies. I thought I’d found my ticket out.

“I’m so sorry,” Wayne said. “They said I couldn’t stay long. Why didn’t you tell me you were going through something? I wish there was more I could do.” He gave me a gentle hug and left.

Fame couldn’t fill the emptiness. There was constant drama with the other girls. I tried to find comfort from my boyfriends. But I wasn’t much better than Mommy at picking men.

I dated the last guy for nearly three years. I thought he’d change his ways if I could just show him how much I needed him. But I couldn’t hold him tight enough to keep him from straying.

One Christmas, after we’d been dating about a year, we went to Orlando, Florida. We dropped by a mall one evening. I turned to look at a dress and when I looked back he was gone. Unbelievable! I called his cell. Straight to voicemail.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and whirled around. “Where were…” I started to snap at him. But it was just two young guys.

“Can I get your autograph?” the taller one said, holding out a pen. “My name’s Eddie and I’m a huge fan.”

“Sure,” I said. I took the pen and scribbled my name on his shopping bag, barely looking up before they melted into the crowd of holiday shoppers.

My boyfriend resurfaced an hour later. “What?” he said when I pressed him on his disappearance. “Do I have to get your permission to breathe?” That angry tone I’d heard many times before. But I felt trapped. I couldn’t bear the thought of being alone.

Things only got worse in the next year. I slipped into a depression. Every day seemed a struggle, another fight with the Sisters, our CD sales in decline.

One cold December night about a year after the mall incident a girlfriend called. “A bunch of us are going out,” she said. “Come with us. It’ll do you good.”

But the music at the trendy jazz club couldn’t lift my spirits. I was about to go home when my friend spotted a group of tall, handsome men across the room. “Come on,” she whispered. She dragged me to their table.

One of the men saw us coming and jumped up from his chair to greet us. “Hi, I’m Eddie George,” he said. “You signed an autograph for me…last year at The Florida Mall. I was there playing in the Citrus Bowl.”

The what? A Citrus Bowl? I smiled without knowing what I was smiling about. I felt myself nodding, but…those eyes. So kind. Those dimples. I would have remembered meeting him, right?

“So what brings you to New York?” I finally managed to get out. For some reason his buddies started hooting and hollering at the question.

“Don’t mind them,” he said. “We’re just here celebrating. I won the Heisman Trophy today.”

“Wow! Congratulations,” I told him, but I thought, The Heisman what?

We exchanged numbers and I went home, never expecting him to call. I’d just switched off the news when the phone rang. “I hope I’m not calling too late,” a warm voice on the other end said.

I’d never met anyone so easy to talk with. He told me he’d been born into a troubled home too, his mother and father divorced when he was five. Sent to a military academy when he was a teen. That and his strong faith had kept him on the straight and narrow.

Mostly, though, he wanted to know about me. He never interrupted, never sounded bored. He made me laugh. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d laughed like that.

I looked at the clock. It was two in the morning. “I’d love to see you again sometime,” Eddie said.

“That sounds…” I stopped. My boyfriend. We’d been together for nearly two years. I wanted to believe it could work for us. Eddie was nice, but I barely knew him. “The thing is…” I bit down hard on my lip. “I’m in a relationship. And, well, now’s just not a good time.”

That was the last I heard from Eddie. I’d heard he’d gone on to play football for the Tennessee Titans. I wondered if he ever thought about me.

I got up the nerve to call him once—by then my relationship was down the drain—but a recording said the number had been changed. My worst fear had come to pass—I was alone. I had no reason to live.

Now I stared at the walls of my hospital room. Why had I been spared?

I recovered from my suicide attempt slowly—physically, at least. Emotionally I’d never been lower. Late one evening, my hospital room quiet, I closed my eyes, desperately wanting to sleep. But my mind wouldn’t let go.

All at once I heard a voice, crystal clear, ask, “Why don’t you love yourself?”

Great, I thought, now I’m hearing things. But the question nagged at me. I thought back over my life, my abusive stepfather, those who said I was ugly and worthless, the boyfriends who cheated on me, the manager who said I wasn’t that talented.

All my life I’d seen myself through the eyes of people whose vision was negative, toxic. I believed it all.

Then a voice, more powerful than the first, said: Let me help.

Deep inside I understood where the voice came from. I’d been raised to love God. But I couldn’t accept that God loved me more than I loved myself.

Now though I felt an overpowering love, waves of warmth rushing over me, soothing me, the comfort I’d dreamed of. God reaching out, folding me into his arms. But even as I marveled at his presence, I worried. I didn’t deserve this. I’d tried to end my life.

Lord, please forgive me.

I reached over and pulled a Bible from the nightstand next to my bed, started reading. “In the beginning…”

Eventually I was released from the hospital. I found a church and met Minister Baize. “Honey, just focus on being good to yourself and let God do the rest,” she told me.

I prayed and read the Bible daily. It was amazing how much less stress I felt. I learned to like my own company, the joys of a hot bath and curling up with a good book. But I wondered if it would somehow all go away, like fame and boyfriends and love.

Months went by quietly. The Sisters went their separate ways. I’d sworn off dating. I couldn’t afford any distractions. Here and there I picked up some modeling jobs to pay the bills. That was enough excitement for now.

It was February, NBA All-Star Game weekend in New York. I’d been asked to model a new line of women’s wear for music impresario Russell Simmons’s latest fashion show.

I’d done my one turn up and down the runway. I was waiting for it to end so I could go home and relax and do my Bible reading. Thirsty, I walked to the bar and ordered a glass of cranberry juice. “Make that two,” a voice said behind me. “And give me the check.”

I turned. “Thanks, but…” And there he was. Eddie. “What…I mean…how…” My brain couldn’t seem to engage.

He laughed. “It’s great seeing you too. You were wonderful in the show. Listen, I’m here for the weekend. Would you like to meet for lunch tomorrow?”

“That’d be great,” I managed to say.

At the restaurant it was like we’d never been apart. We talked for hours, occasionally interrupted by a fan wanting his autograph. It was funny. Now he was the star, not that I knew much about football.

All I could think about was how God had brought us together three times. He’d been watching over me all along.

Eddie and I were married eight years ago. Have I finally found true love? I would say yes. I had to find something else first, though. I had to find myself, the person I was always meant to be.

Watch this Interview with the Authors as Tamara and Eddie George discuss their book, Married for Real: Building a Loving, Powerful Life Together.

Download your FREE ebook, True Inspirational Stories: 9 Real Life Stories of Hope & Faith

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