I have never been real, or even partially or tolerably, comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. It is not uncommon for recovering addicts/alcoholics to share their personal story at their birthday meeting each year, but because I would get such a case of nerves, I cut it down to as little as possible, so I didn’t have to talk for too long. I have, slowly but surely, built up my courage, but to date, I have never really told my entire story. So, here it is…
I had been with my ex-husband for almost seven years. He was a mean and very controlling drunk. I was not allowed to have friends and can’t remember at what point I wasn’t even allowed to call my mother or sister, both of whom I was very close to at the time. (I instead called them from work, and since it was long distance, the company’s phone bill reached over $5,000.00 and I nearly lost my job because of it.) I was only permitted to wear make-up when we were going to be around his friend’s and I could be shown off. I was only permitted to wear a perfume called Red which was made by Giorgio. I was not allowed to watch certain shows that I enjoyed, such as ER and 911, probably because he didn’t want me getting any ideas of “telling” on him. I could only read books he approved of, which were anything that contained not one word of sexual reference of any kind. I had to ask if I could take a bubble bath. Well, I think you get the idea.
When I finally found the courage, the support of family, and had a safe place to go, I left. I could have had the support of my family much sooner had I told them of what was going on. But as many battered women are, I was ashamed and embarrassed and did not want to risk lessening my value in my family’s eyes. It was my ex-husband who actually drew their attention to the abuse I was enduring.
One evening while I was at work, he was, of course, drunk and called my sister to tell her what an awful, worthless person I was and all I deserved as a result. She later said of the call that she could tell right away that he was highly intoxicated, knew me well enough to know that all of what he said was beyond ridiculous, and was both shocked and immediately concerned by the violence he claimed I had coming to me. From there, she made a call to my mother, who spoke to my step-father, who then called my father, and then called me. My step-father first asked me to tell him what was going on and I feigned I knew not of what he was asking. He said he already knew most of it, but wanted to hear it from me, but that in the meantime, he gave me the name of three lawyers that he had personally selected in my state, told me to meet with each of them, and to get back to him with the name of the one I felt most comfortable with. He and my dad were going to split the cost of the lawyer and I was going to get a divorce.
At first, I think I was relieved, and before doing as I was told, I was invited by a colleague at work to move into her apartment with her. The apartment was large, on the ground floor (safer for my young child and infant) and she had an extra bedroom. For some reason, since the day we met, she could see right through me and knew more about my situation than I had ventured to reveal. I agreed and decided I would leave the next day. She helped me remove the backseat from my Chevy Spectrum, so there would be more room to fit any of mine and my children’s belongings that I would need. Her apartment was in Oregon, a mile from where we worked together, and I had been living in Washington and commuting 60 miles, one way, to work, five days a week.
She drove me and my car back to the house and because my ex never let me have keys, we had to break a small pane window, the bottom left of a nine pane window, in order to unlock the door to get in. This window was in the back door that opened into the small laundry room. When we entered the main part of the house, we closed the door to laundry room so we would not track glass through the house. My ex’s father, step-mother, half-brother, and half-sister, lived on the three acres that were adjacent to our two acres, so on that day, his sister heard us drive up and then the glass break. She then began watching us through binoculars carrying quite a bit out of the house and loading it into the car. That led her to call her mother who in turn called my ex-husband.
I was unaware of all of these occurrences until well after the fact. When we were finished, I first went to my oldest son’s elementary school there in town to pick him up for the drive back, but learned when I got there that he had already been picked up by my ex. Startled and in a panic, we drove back to Oregon and next went to the daycare where I had dropped off my nine month old son just hours before. Again, my ex had beaten me there by 20 minutes. I was hysterical!
We went and quickly unloaded the car, replaced the backseat, and I then called my step-dad. He instructed me to go to the police station in Washington, explain to them that I was leaving and why, and ask them to, at the very least, accompany me to the house to check on the children and make sure they were not in danger. I did that. The gentleman officer I spoke to, as I told him my story, seemed to shrink more and more with my every word. When I finished speaking, he asked me to meet him at the inner door, then led me back to a small, quiet office.
The officer sat me down at a table and then seated himself across from me. With a most uncomfortable grimace on his face, he proceeded to tell me that there was a restraining order against me and that I was not allowed within 1,000 feet of my own home and children. He said that my ex had come in and filed the complaint on the grounds that I had broken windows in the house and left shards of glass throughout, without concern for the safety and welfare of the children. I was too shocked to even speak. He then gave me the information on the emergency court hearing that would take place the following day and said I needed to be there. I was exhausted, very distressed, and my mind had completely shut down. I could do nothing more than go back to the apartment, my new address, and get as much rest as possible before defending myself in court.
Though I defended myself as best I could, the judge felt it warranted further investigation, so he gave me visitation every other weekend, instructing us to do the “exchange” at the police station so that there was no danger for all parties involved. He also ordered that a guardian ad litem take our case and to report back to the court their findings and recommendations. This process, ending with the divorce and final custody rulings, took ten long months. During the course of all of this, and learning how to live making my own decisions and not having them made for me, I realized something, that once was a relief to me, now felt like another situation of control.
I am not sure what you could have called my state of mind at that time. Maybe I had been in denial and was transitioning to the anger stage. Whatever the case, I had come to the conclusion that my step-father had just “decided” that I was going to get a divorce and never bothered to ask me what I wanted. Don’t get me wrong; I now know that the timing could not have been better and that it realistically saved my life. But at the time, I was learning how much control my ex had over me and couldn’t help feeling that I had relinquished his control over to my step-father and once again, the events in my life were being chosen for me. I did not like that one bit!
Also during this time, the friend that I was living with was (is) a lesbian. I had told her over and over again that I wasn’t “like that” and that all we would share is friendship. What I later realized was that it was not hr that needed convincing; it was me. One day while leaning against her on the couch with my feet up, watching television, I turned to her and without a single thought in my head, I kissed her. It was soft, sweet, very tender, and it lingered. In that instant, a hundred different things in my life suddenly made so much sense! From there, a whole new kind of relationship began. Unfortunately, the good, memorable, and most enjoyable part of what turned out to be a 13 year-long relationship, only lasted a little over the first four months.
My new lover introduced me to some of her friends. Through them and a few others at work, I heard a lot about “getting high” and “getting loaded” and I listened more than I spoke. Prior to my marriage, I was a daily journal writer and now that I was out of his reach and he could not find and read my every thought, I began to write again. So, I pondered this “getting loaded” and what it meant and all of my thoughts, such as what does it feel like, is it fun, and all that goes with a new curiosity. Occasionally, I would ask my then girlfriend about trying it. She repeatedly told me, “No, we are not going there.” One Monday in the month of June 1998, I asked again and she flipped, saying what she always said and followed by “…and that is the end of this conversation.”
Uh-oh! Something inside of me snapped. I yelled right back to her that I had just left a man who told me what I could or could not do, when I could do it, and with whom, and that I sure as hell was not going to let her tell me no. I said that if she did not want to do it with me, I would find someone who would. Between her knowledge of the drug world and the people in it and understanding how very sheltered I had been most of my life, making me quite naïve, she felt I would be safer if she was with me and finally relented. We made plans to get high on the following Thursday, June 11, 1998. No, I will never forget that date as long as I live.
I was 27 years old that first time using meth. After the first few days, I HATED it, but I continued using for several reasons. First, to go along with my partner and do as she did; second, because I believed that since I was no longer being abused by my ex-husband, which I believed was my punishment for having turned my back on God (he was married and he and his wife were both members of the church I once attended, at the time we got together), I used to continue the punishment I was certain I had coming to me; and finally, I reached a point that no matter how many times I said, “This is the last time,” there was always a next time.
On two different occasions in seven years, my partner and I quit for a few months, only for me to discover that she had started using again, so, of course, I joined her. One thing led to another and we lost our apartment and everything in it, as we were locked out by the sheriff, lived on the street with my kids for almost a year, and then child services took my boys from me. We went back and forth to the courts for over two years, were told sole custody was being given to my ex-husband, who was still drinking, and then one day in court, I lost visitation and phone rights to my kids. I did not know that my lawyer had that decision reversed just three days later, and so I did not see or talk to my boys for 4 months. Things had gone too far and I was not going to let it keep going downhill, so for the first time since I started using, I told my partner that I was quitting with or without her. I was doing it for me.
On my 25th day clean, I made a commitment to never use again. It was four months in that I finally got into treatment, which required attendance to a 12-step program on at least four occasions. After I attended the four required meetings, my treatment counselor asked me, as a personal favor and not a requirement of my treatment, to attend four more. She said she really wanted to see me succeed. It was the first time in so long that someone really cared about my well-being, I promised I would go, and I did that night. I didn’t like the meetings at first and was on my out the door to go get loaded when someone called me by name…”Hi, Cindy. I was hoping you would come back.” Her name was Amy, and because she knew my name, a flicker of hope sparked inside of me and I have been coming back ever since. It took another two years, but I did get my boys back also. I now have 6 years, 6 months, and 3 weeks of continuous clean and sober time and I am living a life of recovery, happy, joyous, and free!
- Reflections of a Recovering Addict #3 (onemindmanydetours.wordpress.com)
- Reflections of a Recovering Addict #5 (onemindmanydetours.wordpress.com)
- Reflections of a Recovering Addict, #1 (onemindmanydetours.wordpress.com)