How the Late Natalie Cole Found God in Her Bout with Drugs

Natalie Cole

On New Year's Eve one of the most beautiful R&B, jazz and pop songbird Natalie died.  Cole is best remembered for many of her hits including "Miss You Like Crazy," "Pink Cadillac," "When I Fall in Love," and her immortal hit duet with her dad Nat King Cole "Unforgettable."  The news of her passing shocked and grieved many of her fans.  But throughout her life, Cole has often been a close acquaintance with death.  

In an article in Billboard, Cole has been cited to say: "I feel as though death has always been at my door," she said. "My father died at age 45 in 1965, nine days after my fifteenth birthday. High on dope, I nearly died in a Las Vegas hotel fire when I was 32. The love of my life, my musical mentor and first husband Marvin Yancy, died of a stroke in 1985 when he was only 34. That same year, my dear cousin Janice, who had seen me through a successful rehab, died at age 33. Then we lost my wonderful brother Kelly when he was only 36. And in 2009, only hours before my transplant, the person I was closest to in all the world, my sister Cooke, died of cancer, at 64." 

Moreover, the singer has come close to death herself with her abuse with drugs. In 2000, Cole released an autobiography, Angel on My Shoulder, which described her battle with drugs during much of her life, including heroin and crack cocaine. Cole said she began recreational drug use while attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

She was arrested in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for possession of heroin in 1975. Cole continued to spiral out of control - including one incident during which she refused to evacuate a burning building, and another during which her young son Robert nearly drowned in the family swimming pool while she was on a drug binge. She entered rehab in 1983. 

Her constant use of drugs later resulted in Cole having been diagnosed with Hepatitis C, which is a liver disease that is spread through contact with infected blood. Cole attributed having the disease to her past intravenous drug use. It is during this time Cole found God.

In an interview with Huffingtonpost, she confesses: "The hepatitis is clearly my responsibility. I'm totally accountable for that. It's just extraordinary that it stayed in my body for that long. The truth is I should have been dead.

I think that when you are -- once you get sober and you're in a program that teaches you not to beat yourself up too much about the kinds of things that you have caused, mostly to yourself, even though it causes a lot of people a lot of pain around you, but there's only so much that you can take of beating yourself up, holding yourself accountable, blaming yourself.

Just the fact that I survived it still lets me know that God saw something redeeming in me in spite of myself. You know that saying, "God takes care of babies and fools?" This fool (laughter) -- I'll tell you, He is worn out!"

Cole explained in 2009 that hepatitis C "stayed in my body for 25 years, and it could still happen to...addicts who are fooling around with drugs, especially needles."

Four months after starting treatment for hepatitis C, Cole experienced kidney failure and required dialysis three times a week for nine months. Following her appeal for a kidney on the Larry King Show, she was contacted by the organ procurement agency One Legacy, in May 2009. The facilitated donation came from a family requesting that, if there was a match, their donor's kidney be designated for Cole.

"God was going to be to me the father that I never had, the father that I didn't have enough of, enough time with. God was saying, 'I can do that for you if you let Me.' And that's what He's been to me. I had to learn to trust that as a father He would be there for me, that He disciplines me, that He encourages me, that He tests me, that He challenges me, that He believes in me, and that He has great things for me. All I have to do is trust and follow. It's taken me from that time on until this time in my life to see that He has done exactly what He has promised.

By the time I got to the point that I was able to really release myself from the drug use, that was a strength that I could really say cemented. Now there were other weaknesses I had to work on. That was the one that could always get me. And once I had conquered that one, I started to really believe 'Gosh, I just might be able to make it.' I have not always been faithful. I have not always been good, certainly not worthy, but the wonderful thing about the Lord is that He knows your heart." 

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