Between Life

As a human being, I still feel like a child some days. I can feel like the insecure teenager I was in high school, or the curious and slightly less insecure college student, or the pretending to be an adult “grown up.” As parent, I feel different and much more educated.

I can still remember my two best friends from HS coming to visit in the hospital after I had my son. Paraphrasing one friend, she said “[dude, can you believe you like, made a person!?]” I just smiled and laughed, but my head wasn’t wrapped around the reality of the situation yet either.

One of the most terrifying moments of my life was coming home from the hospital with that little “nugget,” as my friend would call him. I managed to get him in to the bassinet/rocker thing that he practically lived out of the first two months. My husband went out for something (probably a pack of smokes), and I passed out on the couch rocking the tiny human to sleep. I remember thinking I have no fuckng clue what I’m doing here, as I drifted off. He returned about 20 minutes later, and I don’t know why I remember this, but he said the one kind thing I can remember him saying for years before and  after that. He said, “[y]ou’re a good mom,” and he was sincere. I still didn’t have much experience in keeping that defenseless little thing alive, but I felt a whole lot better. I thought, as long as I do my best for him, everything will work out.

About a week later, I broke down in a sobbing lunacy, because I thought I was never going to sleep again. My son never slept well nor through the night until he was at least a year and a half old. It was during this sleep deprived nightmare that I found out I was an alcoholic, and with the turmoil at home (5 hour fight-a-thons), I’m not sure how I survived those first couple years. Yet here we are, and I feel all the wiser for it.  As a mom, I feel like my real age. In regards to anything else in life, this is usually not the case.

I can remember my heart beating over middle school crushes like it was yesterday. Not so long ago I snuck out every night to hang out with my friends. Only a handful of years ago I was thriving in academic glory in college. I’m certain I just got married recently, but somehow I have a 3 and a half year old and am over a year into divorce. When the hell did all this happen?

Now I’m in this weird in between space. I have a not so new partner, but we are evolving and recovering anew in sobriety. I have a young child who is dealing with grown up situations. I have a stable job that I am ready at any moment to leap from to a more enticing opportunity or more fulfilling career path. I have had a home for six and a half years, filled with both horrible and wonderful memories, that I will soon have to leave. My days with this last name are numbered, and I have so much uncertainty about the future that I’d be terrified if it weren’t for the amazing program known (or not) as AA. It is the one constant in my life that will always be there, and as long as I lean on it, I know I will be ok.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Married or Else…

I always thought that the ultimate goal in life was to get married. I was never the kind of person that wanted to be rich or famous. Yes, I wanted to travel and learn about different cultures and languages, but I thought there was always time for that. What if I miss my chance to get married!? Eternal love and happily ever after was out there if any Disney story I ever saw was real. How horrible it would be to wind up alone and miserable! All my friends and family kept getting married, and I felt enormous pressure to find The One and get it done. So I did.

First comes the ring, then the announcement, and then a date is picked; among a million other decisions now lining up to be made. Getting married was such a whirlwind of chaos and joy that I hardly knew what was really going on in my relationship. Denial is a powerful thing in my mind, and I assumed the constant fighting and misery was normal. Planning a wedding is stressful after all, especially when you are mostly doing it by yourself. It was to be expected, I thought.

The day comes, everything is finally out of your hands and you just have to roll with it. Every detail has been hand picked; the music, the venue, the guests, the officiate, the words, the time and place. And then, you’re married. Everyone cheers, pictures are taken, people say nice words, and then everyone parties. Everyone there is there for you. All of you family, from near and far, and your friends give up their time and attention to make this your day. You can even drink as much as you want, provided you have time to take a sip in between visiting with everyone. It is indeed quite a wonderful experience.

I loved seeing my family from up north, and my Father even made the trip back to a town he swore he’d never step foot in again. He gave me a poem, titled “Are You Sure.” It referenced the first night we spent in the tree house he built just for me out in Iowa. It was windy that night, and the wood kept creaking. I kept asking my Dad, “Are you sure it won’t fall?” I ignored the implied “Are you sure?” to getting married. Everyone knows the divorce rates, and everyone saying “I Do” is certain they will beat it. My father credits wanting to walk me down the isle for getting him off major painkillers for his back pain and back in to his life again. So… I guess it wasn’t all a waste.

Bottle of Worry

I wonder how much I could have accomplished in my life if I took all that time wasted, worrying, stressed, self medicating, and actually applied myself to doing something positive. I am pretty sure my life would look pretty different. As much as that might sound appealing, I do have an amazing son, I have learned a lot of life lessons, and I have some pretty special people in my life that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Where did all the wasted time and worry come from? I learned from an early age how to worry. My grandmother and my mother were chronic worries and they showed it. This is not to say they aren’t wonderful people. My grandmother practically raised me and I miss her every day. My mother and I haven’t always gotten along, but she is definitely a good person and always there for me when I need her. With that said, there was always a tone of worry in their voices. I used to hate it. I felt like if I ever hinted that something was wrong, I would get a full inquisition. This lead to me be the kind of person who keeps things to myself. I can bottle stress up like a pro, but I also eventually explode in a blaze of mind boggling self destruction. Not healthy…haha.

It is hard now, being in a loving and supportive relationship where I can be open with my partner. I am not used to it, and sometimes I fall back on my old habits of bottling things up. I’m trying to relearn how to live happily and love without fear. It is both extremely freeing and utterly terrifying all at once.

With my ex, the abuser, nothing was discussed on any deep level. We were both very closed off, and something as small as deciding what to eat for dinner usually turned into an all out brawl.  I lived in fear of those fights, so I almost never attempted to talk to him. I learned from the few times I did try, that anything I had to say was taken immediately as a personal attack on him; even if it had NOTHING to do with him.

So, I bottled up my emotions and had many disastrous self destruction events. This did not help the dynamic of our “relationship.” I would have my melt down and then he would forever have more ammo to throw in my face at any given time. He has a file folder in his mind of every little thing I had ever done wrong. It could have happened 6 years ago, but if we fought, it was today’s mud to sling.

It was ugly. Everything about being with that person was ugly. I ignored so many red flags. I blindly trudged down the path I thought I was supposed to follow. Engagement, buying a home, marriage, having a child, etc. I lost friends, I was isolated and miserable, but worst of all, I thought I was completely trapped in this ugly world. I thought I had no choice but to remain in it.

I have a wonderful, caring, insightful counselor these days, but the marriage counselors I saw with my ex seemed to be hell bent on “fixing” the marriage no matter what. As a very skilled sociopath, my ex always seemed to have the sympathies of our counselors. I was just open and honest and came off as “harsh” according to them. Of course I was harsh! I was like a trapped animal doing anything to stay alive. They didn’t see him for what he was. No one did. The only other person to recognize just how dangerous he was is his ex-girlfriend. She contacted me after it was over (for real) and apologized for the part she played in my misery and flat out said he was a master manipulator and hurt a lot of people.

No relationship is perfect, but I am very grateful to have a truly caring, loving, amazing person to share my life with right now. It’s easy to forget how good you’ve got it when you get caught up worrying about all the stressful things going on in your life. Life isn’t ugly, and with the right person, it can be beyond beautiful.

Gloves Off

I don’t know what I expected. Nothing was ever easy when it came to dealing with my husband. I was hoping he wouldn’t be a complete a$$hole when it came to getting through this divorce. That was a stupid assumption.

The judge has appointed a GAL for our son, which is not inherently a bad thing, but I have literally no money to pay for this third lawyer. $5000 retainer off the bat. I have to come up with half of that, and I cannot even pay my own lawyer. I’m not sure where the judge expects me to get this money. You could turn me upside down and shake me to see if any change fell out of my pockets, but it would be a waste of your time.

As I have said, my credit cards are maxed and closed out. I make just enough to pay for the mortgage, association fees, car payment, car insurance, and my son’s daycare. I buy clothes at Good Will. I shop for super clearance items as Big Lots and Jewel. I spend very little on anything besides the bills I absolutely have to pay. I am constantly searching for a second job, and I’m just flabbergasted at this point. My husband lawyer proposed he only has to pay $98 in child support a month… Um what?! I take care of our son 99% of the time. How did his lawyer pull that calculation out of her backside? My lawyer estimated $610. Something is severely off about both his lawyer and this judge.

I have been trying my very best to compromise, against my wishes. I do not want to drag this out, but you can only push a person so far. The gloves are off. Let’s go to trial. I will be in debt for the rest of my life, but I’ll be damned if I am going to let him/his lawyer go about this like he’s some poor, mistaken father that everyone should feel sorry for. He is an abuser. He is a master manipulator. He thinks the world is out to get him and he has never done anyting wrong in his entire life.

No. Just No! I’m not going to just take it for the sake of getting the divorce over with. I have way to much self respect these days to let that happen. I don’t know how exactly I’m going to fight this, but I will find a way.

Court: Money for Justice?

Today is yet another court date. There is always a 50/50 chance whether or not opposing counsel will show up, or the judge. My attorney is always there, which is good, but it also means I get charge regardless if anything gets done or not. Every phone call, e-mail, court appearance, proposal drafted, motion created/submitted, all of it I gets charged. I absolutely think that my lawyer should be paid for her hard work. But some the charges seem like I’m being taken advantage of. What can I do though? I absolutely need her services.

So we do this slow, painful, stress inducing dance called divorce proceedings. I have broken down in to tears countless times in frustration and feeling powerless. The judge has made it clear that since there was no direct abuse by my husband to our son, he should keep his parental rights despite never exercising them. Never mind that he fought with me in front of our son as I constantly begged him not to; hours on end, almost daily. Never mind the knife he brought in the room with us. Never mind throwing my phone against the wall. Never mind trapping me in his car, or the bathroom, or the bedroom so I couldn’t move freely and was forced to engage him. Never mind threatening to kill himself in front of our son and I so we could “watch,” and then deny it to anyone else.

I have hours of phone calls with this asshole recorded so people would believe me. None of it is usable in court. His ex-girlfriend even reached out to me on Facebook, completely unsolicited, to apologize and detail how she had no idea how manipulative and dangerous he was. Again, it is not directly connected to my son. So, according to the judge, none of this matters.

I wish he would have been physically abusive instead of committing so much emotional torture. At least if he hit me, everyone could see with their own eyes what a piece of shit he is. Oh well I guess. It is what it is, and all I can do anymore is try to take the best care of myself and my son as I can.

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 Part Two

One minute he would threaten to take everything away, the next, he was going to leave and never return. It was exhausting and it felt like I was watching some animal caught in a trap fighting for it’s life. But he was fighting for control back, not his life. He constantly threatening to kill himself if I left him. After saying it so many times, his mother, our second counselor, and I managed to get him committed. He was not happy about it. He took all the money out of our joint account and said he would only put it back if I got him out. I felt sad knowing he wouldn’t take advantage of the help provided in the hospital.

I knew it was only a temporary reprieve. It was a holiday weekend, and on January second, I went to court for an emergency order of protection. Since my husband was in the behavioral health unit, the judge did not see an imminent threat and did not grant it. However, a plenary order of protection was set for status.

It was granted by the skin of my teeth. The sheriff had attempted to serve him with the notice many times, but he was never home at his parents. I finally got a hold of the Sheriff’s office and gave them his work address. He was served at noon the day before court. Two years he was ordered to stay away from me, my home, and could only have supervised visitation with our son. I could breath again. I bought a new car since I didn’t have one, got a job, put my son in  the best daycare I could find, and spent two months trying to get free legal representation through the county. Free legal aid in my county is overburdened, and I realized nothing was going to happen quickly if I went down that path. So, I asked my dad for money to pay for a retainer, selected a lawyer I liked, and filed for divorce.

I was told in my consult, that I had a very good chance of getting soul custody of my son. This did not turn out to be the case. Since the abuse was only between my husband and I, the judge believed he should have rights and access to our son. I never kept our son away from him, but he would never spend time with him if I wasn’t there. If I was, it inevitably turned into a fight, and my son witnessed all of it in our small, one bedroom condo. No, my husband did not directly or physically abuse my son, but indirectly, he sure as hell did. In the eyes of the law, however, that doesn’t carry any weight.

So here we are, almost a year later, there have been multiple court dates for status, visitation proposals, unsuccessful mediation, and the money is all gone to fund my representation. What has been accomplished? Nothing. No parenting agreement, no debts nor assets divided. Only more court dates and fees to pay. I don’t know how this will all turn out, but the one thing I do know is that I am a million times happier today after taking that first scary step to get away from my abuser.