Fueled by an endless supply of cocaine and vodka, my first husband fired a bullet through a closed door, into the room where I was standing. My response was immediate. Instinctual. No time to plan my jump from the second story window. I shoved it open and leapt into the night, hoping the tree outside would break my fall.
I tumbled down through sticks and branches. Limbs and tree bark scraped and gouged my flesh. I was wearing ballet slippers and short babydoll pajamas, and the temperature was near-freezing, but none of that mattered. I landed, hard, at the base of the tree and took off running down the backside of the property, into the wooded area beyond the house.
MY MISTAKE WAS THINKING I COULD FIX HIM.
I ran past the old red barn where I’d done dozens of photoshoots, stopping just shy of the sharp drop off at the back of the hill. Out of options, I dove under a thorny pyracantha bush and made myself as small as possible. I don’t know how long I stayed there without moving. It could have been an hour, maybe two. I knew I’d become part of the landscape when the deer walked past me like I wasn’t even there.
At some point it began to rain, and my thoughts turned from whether he was coming for me, to what had happened, or could have happened. The evening had started out like thousands of others. Buoyed by the nightly pint of vodka he drank on his way home, he became the smart, funny man I’d married. It was only a matter of time before the other guy, the alcohol and cocaine crazy, the guy who picked fights about nothing, would emerge. I dreaded the nights. They were like walking through a minefield, never knowing which innocent step would trigger the explosion, and there was always an explosion.
My mistake was thinking I could fix him. Thinking I could make him see there were better ways than self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. Thinking he could hear past his addiction long enough for me to tell him about the book I’d read: I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can, one woman’s tortured journey after going cold turkey on valium. Her story was his story. I wanted to tell him he hadn’t been crazy when he’d rocked back and forth in the dark all those months. They were both victims of a mental health system that didn’t understand the destructive power of valium, but she’d found her way out. He could… we could, too.
When I crawled out from under the pyracantha, the rain had stopped. My arms and legs were cold and cramped; my pajamas torn and bloody. I made my way back to the house, afraid of what I might find. His car was gone. The front door wide open, waiting for everything to start, again, the next night.
This wasn’t supposed to happen to women like me. I was a woman of means, married to a brilliant and prominent man, but addiction is education and income agnostic. I was young. I loved him and was unflinchingly loyal. I hid what was happening in the infamous house on the hill. I wanted to protect him, fix him so no one would ever have to know he’d slipped off his pedestal. In the end, I learned addiction is stronger than all the logic and good intentions in the world. At the cemetery, I slammed my fist into the top of his casket and said, “Damn you!”
If you’re in any kind of an abusive relationship, get out. A helping hand is better than the alternatives. Alinon and ProjectKnow. Also The National Domestic Violence Hotline (TheHotline.org/) 800-799-7233
So brave of you for being transparent! I pray your openness will help some else seek help before it’s too late.
Thank you for your support. I don’t know any other way to be other than transparent whether it’s how I conduct business, in my relationships or with my writing. I’ve survived more than you can imagine. I want women to know they have the power to survive and become more than they ever dreamed they could. We just need to take that first step and then the next, like learning to walk. Fall down… Get up. Repeat. xoxoxo, Brenda
You survived, and that’s the important thing. We don’t have the power to make someone we love quit their addiction. I know that much. But we don’t have to stay and watch them destroy themselves, either….and all too often, us along with them. Thank you for sharing your story. You are an inspiration, Brenda XOX
We stay for all the wrong reasons. Like me, we think we can “fix them,” or they’ll see the light and stop their destructive behavior. Some women are bullied and become afraid of leaving. They stay for financial reasons or don’t want to keep their children from their father. If I give one message to women it’s “act in your own best interest” because in turn, that’s what’s best for everyone concerned. xoxoxo, Brenda
Brenda ~ I just had to stop by to thank you for sharing your life story with me at my blog, Heaven’s Walk. Your words of encouragement and support meant so much to me. I don’t know how anyone in this world gets through the trials, sadness, and loss of every day life without the hope and faith and grace that God provides. For example, I just received a comment on the same post you read, from another gal, Lexie, who is obviously not a Believer and is in a deep struggle with Satan. Her words were sharp, cutting, frustrated, stressed, and angry. Since she is a no-reply blogger, I had to leave my reply to her in the comment section of my blog. If you have some time, please stop by my post again and read what she wrote. This poor lost soul truly needs to be lifted up in prayer. And know that I will be keeping you in my prayers, too, Brenda. You are certainly a reflection of God’s love and faithfulness!
Wow… Sad. Her pain is so great, and she has no inner support system or beliefs. And to tell you to eliminate those in your life who physically, spiritually and mentally lift you up is irresponsible advice. You’re strong enough not to take her words to heart. It’s the people who are adrift, susceptible to listening to her who I worry about. I remember a time when I watched Jim & Tammy Faye on TV. There was nothing about them I identified with. I thought they were charlatans. They scared me. While they’re not my cup of tea, I’ve found my way and surrounded myself with those who are. Your response to Lexie was full of love. Even if she doesn’t “buy” what you said, I hope she walks away and thinks about why and how you can be so loving in return to her. Thank you for your sweet words. XOXOX, Brenda