Freedom

Grabbing a bottle to drown my sorrows is easy. Drinking to fuel the self destructive fire in my heart is effortless. Watching everything crumble around me is surreal yet common place. Living, feeling, and growing; that is hard.

Yet, change seems to happen easily when I am immersed in the program and fellowship of AA. Not being my first time around the rooms, I have the advantage of knowing that it works and have no trust barrier to get over or prejudices to climb free of. I didn’t even know it happened, but I found my strength again. Fear has left me, and I no longer feel like I’m being battered in the throws of life’s current. I’m at peace, sitting in a boat, letting life take me where it will.

I no longer fear my former abuser, and I have no fucking clue how that happened. Going from vomiting when I heard his voice, to being able to carry on a civil conversation about our son face to face in the matter of a month… it’s nothing short of amazing. Relief from that fear and trauma is like setting down a sack of bricks I was dragging around. No, I have not forgotten. No, what happened will never be “okay,” but I don’t have to continue to be at the mercy of that emotional torment. It no longer gets to weigh me down.

I could say I guess “[t]ime heals all things,” but it’s not just time. I have held on to grudges a clung to self righteous indignation for far longer in the past. This is time, growth, and trust in something greater that myself. I am truly amazed and grateful for the relief, freedom, and happiness I get to enjoy today.

From Fear

I realized a couple days ago that I am starting to move past the fear I used to live in daily. I accepted a friend request from an old friend without a second thought and then it dawned on me. I would have never done that a year and a half ago. It would have incited such a terrible fight it would have felt like the end of the world. Under his reign of terror, the smallest thing could light the fuse.

I make no excuses about the fact that I am imperfect and played a part in all this, but I did not twist my entire way of thinking into something so grotesque all by myself. I thought I had to get permission to go out with a friend. I was isolated and had very few people I could talk to. Even those people, like my mother and a handful of friends, he treated as enemies. If I ever went out, which was rare, I was under extreme anxiety the entire time wondering just how angry he would be once I got home. I cut plans short or cancelled all the time to avoid this. I even had to be careful what I posted on social media, because if it was negative in any way, he took it as a personal attack on him. Poor, poor him! He would ask how I could treat him like that. Didn’t I know that I should shut up and be grateful for all the long hours he worked? Didn’t I know this was a complete and sufficient contribution to our family? Screw that!

I vividly remember the anxiety I experienced any time I heard the outside door to our condo building open and shut. Was it him? Most of the time it wasn’t, but I still felt the same fearful stab in my gut well after the plenary order of protection went into effect.

In an attempt to minimize fighting, I would try and cook or bake him things to keep him happy. It never did for long. We couldn’t go to the store together, because it always turned into a fight. Yet he would criticize things I bought as wasting money, despite spending hours combing over coupons, ads, and comparing prices and sales.

If I asked him to do anything when he got home, he would tell me I was nagging him. It was like that even before we got married. If I asked for his opinion or for help planning the wedding, I was nagging. The few dancing lessons we didn’t even have to pay for were “unnecessary,” even though I didn’t know how to dance. He criticized me mid lesson for not doing what I was supposed to. Before our son was born, I asked him to come to the store with me to pick out a color for the nursery area in our room. It was one small wall. We fought at the store and all the way the way home. Only after I had been baffled, bawling my eyes out for an hour did he turn the car around to go back and get one measly bucket of paint together.

As a single mother working full time, I understand the tiredness one feels after a long day at work. I get it. But, that is hardly an excuse to be a miserable, angry human being, taking it out on the people around you. I cannot count how many times I was called a b*tch, a nag, a c*nt, etc. Screw that!

He always had to know where I was, and if I developed any kind of autonomy as a person, he reacted as though I was having an affair. “Who is there? Whose d*ck are you sucking?” It went on like this for years. The thing is, I never cheated on him. He was the one who wound up having an affair after our son was born, because he “needed to feel appreciated.” He lost his restaurant and a huge promotion over it. Worse, he swore up and down it was all a rumor. I was supportive of him until the day I saw the proof. After years of verbal abuse, he did the very thing he harassed me about. Screw that!

We never were able to effectively communicate. I would assume he understood rational thought processes. He assumed I knew what he expected all the time. To this day this is a barrier. Even with a plenary order of protection in place limiting our communication to our son, he is still able to reach his hand into my life and shake shit up. Granted, I have grown and the extent of the damage he can cause is minimal, but it is still baffling to me. Who is this person? How could I have thought he ever cared about me in any real capacity? I think he is fundamentally incapable of compassion. I think he is completely incapable of looking outside of his very narrow view of life in which he is the center. Screw that!

I used to live in fear. I didn’t know how to be alone. I only found meaning in being with another person. “They” made me whole. This was my fatal flaw, and it nearly killed me being married to a narcissistic sociopath. Getting away from him was and remains one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I had to rip myself out of a world I thought was real and plunge into a completely foreign world called reality. It’s a world I was not used to and very uncomfortable being in. Change and discomfort aside, I am living a new life today. I am trying to thrive. I will never return to that hell I called a life; married to my worst enemy. Screw that! 

The Twisted Middle

After the birth of my son, I no longer had a 9-5 job to go to every day. I had a 24/7 job of keeping this tiny human alive, happy, and healthy. It’s both a terrifying and wonderful thing. After about three months, I started to feel like I had a grip on keeping the bundle of needs thriving, and I started to get stir crazy.

Longing for my old life, I started inviting old friends over. I could finally have a drink again! After all, I deserved it. Well, this is when I began down the path that would lead me to the rooms of AA. I knew I used to drink a lot. I classified myself as a “partier” in high school and college. I became a bar fly while my then boyfriend and I were dating. I was a connoisseur of fine beers. The bar we used to go to had 40 different beers on tap and a revolving door of new kinds. There was always an excuse to go. I thought it was normal to go there every day. It didn’t phase me when we weren’t able to afford the pricey micro-brews anymore and just ordered draft light beers that were cheap. None of it gave me pause.

It was only after I had my son that I started to realize it was not normal. I was home alone all day, every day. I was lonely and simultaneously dreaded my husband coming home. We fought all the time. I was exhausted from doing everything to take care of our son and home. He felt working all the time was doing his part and thought I was unappreciative. I began to drink every day. I got sick and was living off of soup, cold medicine, and beer. I realized I had a problem looking in the mirror one day. I saw a soulless, selfish person unable to stop herself. But I tried anyway and stopped cold turkey. I went through such bad withdrawal I had to go to the hospital over night. It was a wake up call.

I found two AA meetings with babysitting and never looked back. My husband resented this new part of my life. We grew farther and farther apart. My shame of being an alcoholic kept me from leaving him sooner. Every fight we had he would drag it up to sling in my face. A couple times he told me to go buy a bottle in anger. I stayed in the relationship out of shame until I finally forgave myself. I had healed, had a beautiful son, and decided to give my marriage one more truly all in chance. I let down all my guards and recommitted to being a partner to my husband.

The morning after we were intimate for the first time in a long time, I found out he was having an affair with his employee. Good ol’ Facebook Messenger tipped me off. My husband was asleep, he hardly used Facebook, and I was confused why the Messenger “ding” went off on his phone. It was a reply. “I love you too. Have a good day too,” followed by a mess of kissy faces and hearts. The words and hearts blurred, my husband woke up and snatched his phone before I could read much of it. He tried to play it off, but I’m no idiot. I was done.

I turned in to a paranoid creeper for a few weeks. Checking our phone text logs, his social media, etc. He met with her the night after I found out. He said he had to meet her in person “to end it.” That was a lie I wouldn’t find out until several months later.

Queue round two of marriage counseling. The counselor, although intelligent and compassionate, seemed hell bent on keeping us together. I was over the marriage at this point and was buying time until I could afford an attorney. I started a bartender job at a snooty Italian joint so I could save money from my tips without him knowing. He was very controlling and hated that I had a job. He eventually caught on to my motives for saving money.

I had to start recording my phone calls with him. He would threaten me with anything he could and deny it all to anyone else. I finally accepted that if I was ever going to get away from him, I had to be okay with the worst he threatened to do to me. It was a micro-step of faith in something outside of my miserable little world. Then, I was free. I was free of that horrible fear based grip, and he was pissed.