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Until it happened again. It was a vicious cycle that Texan Jackie Holland couldn't break. It all started when she married her high school sweetheart at 15.
"I wanted to have my own home and my own husband," she says. "We have dreams, but sometimes things just don't work out."
Like Jackie's dream of living "happily ever after." Jackie had been raised in a poor, but loving Christian home. Her husband had a tough childhood. Eventually, he started drinking, and when he drank, he became a monster.
"It got to the point there were black eyes and bloody noses and bruises that you had to cover with heavy makeup, and a lot of shame because I thought, 'It must be my fault. If I hadn't done this or that, well then, he wouldn't have slapped me or hit me," Jackie explains.
Jackie loved her husband and lived for his approval. She thought the abuse would stop when she had children, but it didn't. When Jackie's husband almost suffocated her, she left -- only to jump into the arms of another man.
"I had two small children, and I just thought I couldn't make it on my own.
Part of the problem was the fact that Jackie was attracted to the wrong kind of man.
"I thought real men were tough men, macho men," she says, "so I guess I looked for that."
But appearances can be deceiving, and Jackie's second marriage was no better than her first.
"He picked me up and threw me on the ground -- and he weighed over 200 pounds -- jumped on top of me, pinned me down, beat me with his fist. I was laying there thinking, This is it. He's going to kill me," Jackie recalls.
That put an end to marriage number two, but not to Jackie's search for someone to complete her. She went so far as to live with men outside of marriage.
Says Jackie, explaining why she felt that she needed men so much back then, "I guess I thought I was half of a person because I didn't have a man in my life, so I guess I didn't feel that I had enough on my own to be happy."
Jackie also had a skewed perspective on God and God's people.
She says, "I knew I loved God, and I knew He loved me, but I knew that people, especially church people, if I went into a church and I had sin in my life, I felt like they could see it."
Jackie felt like a hypocrite because, by this time, she didn't just have a problem with men; she also had a drug addiction and didn't know how to break free.
"Whenever I did ask other people, it was like, 'Well, you need to do this, this, and this.' And so it was like, 'Wow. I can't do that. That's too hard,' " she recalls.
Jackie married and divorced a third time. Still looking for love and acceptance, Jackie hit the club scene.
"I had this weird thing about getting all dressed up and going out. That was the thrill. It was terrible. I just needed attention so bad," says Jackie. "I needed people to look at me and say, 'You're so pretty. You're just beautiful.' "
But even that didn't satisfy.
"I really didn't like myself very much. That's what happened," she says. "I'd gotten to the point where I didn't like myself at all. In fact, I was so depressed that I would pray, 'Please don't let me wake up. I can't live like this. I don't want to live like this.' "
The club scene got old and empty, but Jackie was still searching for that perfect man. So, she married a fourth time and guess what? This guy was a beater and a cheater, too. When Jackie found evidence he'd been with another women, she snapped.
"I shot him. I know that's a horrible thing to do, but I didn't feel like I could take it anymore. I just felt overwhelmed and I felt so trapped. It was like, 'No, no one else is going to walk out on me again.' I guess I tried to kill him," she explains.
Jackie spent the night in jail. Her husband didn't die, nor did he press charges. But Jackie came out a changed woman.
"Instead of saying, 'God, just change him, change him' -- that's what I' had been praying -- I was like, 'Lord, change me,' " Jackie says. "I remember that day saying, 'God, if I lose everything -- my family, my children, my husband, anything, anything -- I want to serve You. I want You to be enough.' "
Jackie's request was soon put to the test. Her husband left. Then, her son took his life. In the height of these storms, Jackie turned to her Savior and He was enough.
Today, Jackie is joyfully single. She runs a restoration center for women and helps them find healing in the loving arms of Jesus. Jackie says her dream of living "happily ever after" has finally come true -- only because she surrendered her broken life and chose to follow Christ.
"I used to think, 'I can't ever change.' I couldn't either. But with God, all things are possible. Even those bad things that happen in your life, God will turn those things around and use them for good," she says. "Right where you're at, no matter what you're doing, no matter what you've done, just dare to trust Him. I promise if you trust Him, you won't be sorry."
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