What I want you to know about surviving multiple abusive relationships

 What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is anonymous.

I am the eldest adult child of an alcoholic mother. I am turning 48 on the 10th and I am disappointed in myself for never reporting her verbal and physical abuse when I was growing up. Because I never told anyone what was being done to me, she demoralized, degraded, and verbally and physically abused three more children. I tried running away a few times but guilt over leaving my younger siblings always made me go back. I ended up attempting suicide in my sophomore year in high school. My mother was a narcissistic, super-critical, hypocrite, pompous practicing Catholic that would come home from her bartender job weeknights and Saturday nights, blotto and pass out. Sunday mornings she forced us kids to go to church. The language coming out of her hangover mouth while we were all getting ready for church was the twilight zone very week. I finally had the guts to comment on her behavior last year, took me 30 years to work up the courage, but I finally said to her face that she was a hypocrite, how she could she call herself a Christian, let alone a Catholic by spewing that filth before or after church service? She turned beet red and was speechless. It was the first time I had ever stood up to her in my life.

Within a year of graduating high school I finally escaped this toxic household. Some may ask, where was my father during all of this? Why, he was passive to the core; to point of becoming morbidly obese. My two brothers, younger sister and I have yet to experience a healthy intimate relationship. Every one of us kids ending up having a relationship with an abusive alcoholic. Our mother had done a hell of a job destroying our self-confidence and self-esteem. We each did and we each thought that this drunk I can fix, we fixed nothing. My relationship with my ex-boyfriend was not alcoholic or abusive in the first few years. His trigger had been jealousy of me; no matter what job he would get I would always make more. His skills were in automotive, mine was with customer service and computers; I am not ashamed to say that I made substantially more and apparently this emasculated him.

He started abusing around year five, it had been my first adult relationship and I had not seen him coming because his telltale signs and signals had become numb to me from living with them for so many years with my mother. Apparently I had not built up my self-esteem enough after my experiences with my mother for I ended up staying a total of 16 years with this man, including the birth of a son. I finally left him when kneed me in the stomach when I came out of the kitchen with a cup of hot tea. I had just gotten home from work and still had my coat on. I didn't know he had been drinking yet, but he was bombed and stumbling. He said he needed to talk to me and I said, wait a minute I am nuking some water for tea. Two minutes later I am walking out and boom, knee to the stomach, right in front of his brother and our three year old son. There had been punches, slaps, and kicks over the years, but I had always managed to hide all of it from everybody, including our son. This was the first time he had attacked me in front of other people. I woke up, finally; after all of the ignored advice from friends and family over the years, I hit my limit. There was no way I was going to stick around long enough for him to make a single agressive move towards our son.

The next day I took my son to the police station and we both told an officer what happened. The officer asked me if I wanted to press charges and I said no, I wanted the incident recorded and that was all. I needed time to prepare so that I could escape with my son. A friend at my work helped me find an apartment of my own. When I had the keys and the lease was signed, I told my ex that I was leaving and he didn’t believe me, so much so that he packed me up himself trying to call my bluff. He lost, he went to go help his parents move, my brother showed up with the truck and we were out of there in two hours. My son and I had a great time at this apartment, mommy wasn’t crying all of the time anymore, mommy was smiling more and more each coming day.

Shoot ahead twelve years and I thought that I was healed enough to date and my timing was perfect, the online dating craze had just begun. I tried them all, had a few dinners, mostly coffee dates, and ended up falling in love with someone from one of these sites. I thought I was part of my first healthy relationship, only took 35 years, or so I thought. I learned early that my husband, yes I ended up marrying him, was a bullshitter. I just didn’t realize that this character flaw was hiding a menace I thought I would spot or at least recognize, my husband had become an alcoholic. He was injured in an accident about six months into our marriage and both of our fathers died within a year of us marrying. It was a trying time for sure, but one is supposed to morn, deal with it, and move on. My husband did none of these things, once he qualified and then received disability payments, he sat around for the next four years drinking, wining and bitching about who he could have been.

Up until a year ago, my husband had prided himself and felt that he was a better man than my ex because he had never laid a hand on me. Circumstances have changed dramatically; he goes into drunken rages and punches walls, objects and throws appliances and furniture. He throws things at me, pushes me around and never stops barking. He has deteriorated tremendously into alcoholism and I stay because I do love him and it hurts me so that he is hurting. I stay because of my two previous experiences with abusive drunks; I was married and had made a commitment. I took my marriage vows seriously, through sickness and health, good times and bad, committed. I believe with all of my heart that we were brought together for a reason, if it was not to save him; then perhaps to provide a smile, regular meals, and be the one person who gave a sheet.

My husband filed a lawsuit against the company where he got hurt and it has been going on for four years. He tells me that he believes that after doctor bills and his lawyer’s fees that he will be able to buy a house. So be it, if that dream will make him drink less I am all for it. I remember the good man that he once was, I believe that he is still in there somewhere buried deep beneath the extreme disappointment, frustration with his disabilities, loss of freedom and capabilities, and the loss of satisfaction one feels when they have had a productive day. I hope he gets a house and it magically heals him of all of his inner demons. I don’t know if his lawyer can really get that for him, but it would sure send my husband’s feelings of impotence away. having a house to maintain may be enough to make him feel productive, every day again. I can appreciate that our marriage had really been awesome at the beginning and then he got hurt, almost broke him spiritually. He says that none of the medications stops the daily multiple headaches, but he doesn’t pursue new alternatives like botox, acupuncture or even hot or cold compresses. Instead he self-medicates badly and overly-dosed. Does it really make me an enabler if I choose to love him anyway, to care that he lives another day and to ensure that he lives long enough to see his children (from a previous marriage) graduate high school, go to college, marry and become grandparents?

It has been far from easy, most days my husband starts drinking around noon and only stops when he passes out. I try to feed him but he chooses to drink and eat chips instead. So I make his favorite meals anyway and they are there when he wants them. I have one mother of a silver lining that I have been working on for seven years, my MBA and I am two classes away from my degree. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I can attest to that. Starting out life with an abusive, alcoholic mother; surviving two further abusive, alcoholic relationships; along the way I nurtured the best and only healthy relationship I will probably ever have, with my son.

To any and all adults, teens and children: do not allow someone to criticize you so much that they make you think less of yourself, do not let intimidation and bullying derail you, whenever you feel like giving up and being done with life, wait another day, wait a week. Because if I had succeeded in my suicide back in high school, I never would have experienced the joy of sex and orgasms, meeting different people, working at some shitty and cool jobs, attend college, love and relationships, marriage, as well as experience childbirth and raising a child. Be the strong intellectual warrior that God intended; stand up for yourself, never be ashamed for asking or needing help, and make timely decisions so that you live with as little regret as possible.

Everyone has a purpose, whether they actually connect with it is up to the individual. For anyone in crisis, please ask for help. If the best option is to leave a toxic situation, then do so in a planned way if at all possible. My son has asked me a number of times, how can I tolerate the things that my husband says and does when he is drinking and then stay? Well, I have tried confronting him with 18 hours of audio recordings and he acted remorseful for a day or two and then back to the same old same old. I have tried my very best to ride the alcoholic episodes with a grain of salt and to truly enjoy the hour or two a day I have with my husband in the mornings when he is the most beautiful person I have ever met. I can appreciate that because of his lot in life he believes that he has the right to be bitter. Bitterness is a terrible pill to swallow and it is not any easier for someone to watch someone else struggle with life choices and challenges. I can appreciate that some readers may be disgusted with my choices, they are entitled to their opinions. For those readers that are inspired to address issues that were brought up in this story, I am so glad. Be a stinker, live; overcoming adversity will not erase what you have been through, but someday you may be able to say “You did not defeat me and smile”.

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