Well this seemed like the most logical thing to post next so here goes...(sorry if this is all rambled together...and long :\...I'm not much of a skilled writer so I'm just going to put it all out there..ignore what you choose lol :P).
My reversion was quite quick to be honest, but the journey to the actual reversion took every part of 8 years. I was raised in a family where we acknowledged God existed, but neither of my parents wished to force a religion upon me. My father is (sort of) a Catholic, and my mother is Agnostic. They would rather I choose for myself when, and if, I ever felt inclined to believe vs having them choose one for me. They didn't even force me to state a belief in God. In short religion was not a very large part of my life even into my early teens.
Kindergarden through 8th grade (all of the elementary/primary school in the states) I attended a private institution for my education. It's a very good school, and therefore attracted students from around the world to attend. In my class of 55 students I had classmates from Pakistan, India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, France, England, etc etc etc. Needless to say I was exposed to a wide range of beliefs, ways of life, and cultures straight away. Also, because of the rigorous testing required for entry and continued study at this school everyone was rather devoted to learning and academics. I mention this because I feel it's the one thing that saved me from becoming a full blown Atheist at a very young age. Everyone was constantly wanting to learn more about anything and everything, and although I hadn't had a personal religion at that time (and was actually leaning towards agnosticism at the time) religion fascinated me so I asked a lot of questions. The one religion that always drew the most out of a conversation for me was Islam because of the extreme devotion I noticed even in these young children (at the time though they were my peers..but now it amazes me looking back).
One event that sticks out in my mind was when my friend in the 8th grade and her family went for Hajj. I remember when she returned how much she seemed to have been changed by what she experienced. As she told me of the events of Hajj I could tell she was remembering them with quite a bit of fondness. Afterwards she always has had a very positive glow about her. I'm always delighted when I have a chance to spend time with her even after over a decade of time. At the time, considering some of my best friends were Muslims, I was familiar with how much stress Islam places upon praying on time, fasting, and especially what struck me was manners and politeness. I grew up in an area that was full of what seemed the rudest people in America...which is saying something. (when not in school of course as we were to behave according to a very strict set of rules/etiquette so I became accustomed to this...the 'outside' world seemed awful) Even though they were surrounded by all this negativity my Muslim friends and their families always seemed to embody everything I felt was missing in society so I always tried to spend time with them instead of my other friends when possible. Obviously when you spend days at a time (my parents would go on quite a few vacations and my friends parents were kind enough to allow me to stay when them weeks at a time even) around someone you can't help but start to delve into more meaningful topics instead of only having 'small talk'. My best friends grandfather had moved to the states with her and her family from Saudi Arabia after they performed Hajj so I would always ask him questions (through my friend or her mother as a translator) about what life was like outside of the US. I didn't have the chance to leave the country until my final year, grade 12 here, of high school when some of us were selected to visit Europe, so at that age I was fascinated by anything different. He would tell me little stories and anecdotes about daily life, but after a year or two of just having fun conversations he asked me if I would like to learn a little bit about their religion. By this point in time (I was about 13) I was so confused about religion that I was determined to be a theology major in college (lol at least I had a goal :P) so of course I was excited for any conversation focusing on my favorite topic. He was a bit better with his English by this time so there was no need for a translator. He read to me Al-Fatiha in Arabic, and then translated for me the best he could. He said, and this sticks out in my mind, "Although this book has many pages that is all of our Religion". He gave me an english copy of the Quran, and then excused himself to go nap (he was always sleeping lol). I was a bit confused to say the least lol. Here I thought we were going to have a long conversation about religion, different beliefs etc...and I got 5 mins of him reading to me half in a language I didn't understand; but, he got me thinking. If what looked like 1000+ pages at the time could be summarized in 1 short poem (I called it at the time) there must be so much 'between the lines' on all those other pages. I was a bit overwhelmed by this thought, and so I set the book aside. It sat on my bookshelf tucked between all my other books for years. I was almost a bit scared of reading it because I was afraid I wouldn't undersand the full meaning (I was a huge book 'nerd'/geek lol...I took a little pride at the time in being able to explain works by authors the other kids were not even familiar with...yeah I was that girl lol). Little did I know this was when Allah planted the seed...but it took almost 10 years to produce any fruits. I graduated the next year, and while most of my friends when on to study at private secondary schools my parents couldn't afford to keep me in that system (they felt the base was the most important part to invest in if they had to choose one and I'm thankful to them for even that :)) When my friend moved away I stayed in contact with her and her family, but we didn't see each other as much; maybe once or twice a year when she would come home for breaks. At my public high school I was confronted with a whole new structure of living...I felt like I was in prison. From an environment where I could study what I like (from 4th to 8th grade I had qualified for the independent study as long as I could continue to show I was studying the basic subjects on my own), to being forced through the halls like cattle...my heart sank, and became extremely heavy. I was ostracized for caring about my education. The very thing that bonded my friends from my previous school cast me out at the new one. It was awful, and needless to stay I fell in with the other social outcasts..and that's when I was introduced to drugs. I quickly went from being a straight A student who took pride in her work to a grungy stoner (this is why "Freeks and Geeks" resonated with me so hard when I watched it lol). I ruined myself, and to be honest my chances of ever going to college. I barely scraped my way to graduation, and when I did finally graduate at 17 I was addicted to herion, drinking heavily, and smoking a ton of pot. I was a mess, and I was going to community college. The only good thing I could say that came from this new crowd of friends was an increased appreciation for the gifts Allah gave me for creating art work. Photography and painting (as well as reading, I always continued to read) saved me from completely going off the deep end and probably overdosing or dying in some other horrific manner. I was going to study art; specifically a studio degree in painting abstract expressionism. I managed to fail out of college my second semester. I was devastated, and pretty much accepted the fact that my life was going nowhere, and that I may as well party as hard as possible till I died. God had left my life completely, or at least my mind, at the time. I was lost. The only good thing to come out of my horrible mid teens was my husband whom I met my sophomore year in high school. He hung around with an entirely different crowd. His friends reminded me of my old friends, but boy were they geeky (they loved video games, comic books, etc etc). I think the only reason he put up with my problems was because I was one of the only girls to not hate him for playing video games lol; but as we grew together into young adults we learned to appreciate more about one another than just enjoying each others company. He moved to Florida with me when I stared art school, and to be honest he is the reason I am still alive today. He would help me when I would take a little too much herion and would pass out in the bathroom, he would come pick me up if I was too drunk to drive home so I wouldn't get in an accident; he was at the time one of the only people I truly felt cared for me. When he proposed my first semester in college I agreed immediately. After we were married (we had a simple clerk of courts wedding and dinner afterwards since we didn't have much money at the time, or contact with our parents. His disliked me enough to not talk to him, and mine had pretty much written me off as the black sheep of the family...my two sisters were lucky enough to never fall into hard times like this) things started to turn around briefly. I cut back quite a bit on my herion use, but my drinking and smoking were still way out of control. I was not only a herion addict at this time, but also an alcoholic. When I failed out of college my Husband decided to move us out to California where he could study at a decent university, and where we had some friend we could live with. This turned out to backfire. Once I fell back in with old friends from High school the same behavior patterns started all over again, and I was back to my old habits. One day when I drank myself into the hospital it was the wakeup call I needed. I asked my Husband if he would let me go to a rehab facility, and then move back to Ohio where things were a bit simpler than the big cities we had lived in for the past few years. He agreed...he always agreed when it was my safety. I am so thankful to have him in my life. He is honestly the greatest gift Allah has ever given to me in my life. This is where my reversion story picks up a bit lol. While I was in the rehab center I would watch A LOT of television...like a WHOLE LOT since there was not much to do, and I was trying to keep my mind off of using again (books took too much focus). Anyway, at the time Islam, Muslims, Bombs etc were all over the news. In one of my first moments of clarity I started to remember my old friend from primary school (I had by now sadly no contact with her, or her family :() and how their family, and their religion didn't seem to match up to what was being portrayed on the television every night. I asked my husband to dig through my old books (there are about 14 tubs of them in the basement, so again I'm thankful he took the time to do so...lol...I have collected a ton of books in my life ;P) and find my English copy of the Quran. He brought it to me the next time he came out to visit, and asked why I wanted it. He was an extremely devoted Christian at the time, and I think he felt he was still going to get me to convert once I got out of rehab lol. I told him I just wanted to see what actually was written in this book that is making so many people want to blow things up, and hurt others; I explained how it didn't match up to what I knew about Islam from growing up. He seemed to think it was just me being little miss theology again :P I devoured that Quran. I read it in a weekend. Then I read it again, and again, and again. By the time I left the rehab facility I had broken the bindings, and read through it at least 5 times. I didn't find one thing that seemed to match up to what the media was saying about Islam...so when I got home to Ohio I started reading other books about Islam. There's a little book store here in Cleveland I would visit often, and soon my bookshelves were full of Islamic books (I have so many books I have to rotate them out...but now my Husband has given me a whole bookshelf case just for my Islamic books :D :D :D lol). I became obsessed with learning more about this religion. At the time I wasn't working or going to school so after I finished my chores around the house I would read, or watch Islamic scholars on the internet. Embarrassingly enough I think I went through a slight obsession, but it seems common amongst reverts. After about a year of studying, and when I found myself starting to learn Arabic so I could now read the same books I had already read but in Arabic (see the book nerd coming back out lol)...I decided to take Shahadda. By that point Islam was already a part of my daily life, and I was even praying. It was a pretty easy transition for me as I didn't have any past beliefs to try and reconcile with my new ones. Allah had been kind enough to keep my mind open even through all the tests He has given me so far already in life. My husband was just happy that I had finally found God, and was on the right path. He's started to read the Quran as well so he could know what his wife believed, and we still today talk religion almost every day. He's made some comments that he feels he is in a crossroads, and is waiting for Gods to direct him where he should go with his religion. He no longer worships Jesus pbuh, and worships God alone but still calls himself a Christian (he says he relates to Sk. Yusuf Estes when he says he was an atypical Christian). I keep educating him when I can, but I'm trying not to be too pushy with him. Allah guided me without anyone pushing me, so I am going to take the same path other Muslims have taken with me and just plant little seeds. if taken care of properly they can't help but grow :D Well...that's my story :P It's extremely long I'm sorry :\ Currently my husband and I are working on opening up a salon (he's so proud of me for becoming a business owner myself, and graduating from cosmetology/hairdressing school :D). We hope to start a family soon, and let our manager run the Salon so I can be a stay at home mommy in a few years :). I have recently gotten back in contact with my old friend and her family from primary school, and they were all very happy to hear I had reverted. Sadly, her grandfather died five years ago...but, I pray he is being blessed from my reversion still today. I've cut ties with my 'friends' from my past, and I am working to make a new healthy circle of friends who value the things I used to, and do again. All in all I am extremely pleased with the life Allah has blessed me with, and although I often look back upon my past and feel guilty for how I acted I remember that Allah has forgiven me, and I don't have to be afraid to start life again. :) Thanks for reading :) I hope maybe something in here resonated with someone.