For me it was eight years.
He had returned from war, injured, but still whole, at least physically. And we had finally achieved our Barbie Dream-House life: three beautiful little girls, a dog, a cat, a gorgeous house with a big yard, a garden and a white picket fence.
We had it all.
And we had nothing.
“I love you, isn’t that enough?” he would always ask me in frustration when I was unhappy.
No. Love alone is not enough.
At least not the kind of love that is warped by alcoholism, abuse and lies.
It would take me a long time to realize that was never love at all. It was an imposter posing as love.
The small step forward we had made in our marriage prior to his deployment had been undone by his time in the sandbox. The abuse, the drinking, the lies… his years gone had fed those demons until that was all he had left to offer us.
We were living in Washington when our life started to collapse along with the economy. My checks became anorexic and we could no longer make our mortgage or pay the private school tuition fees and car loans. We were sinking. Fast.
It was time to reconsider what our lives “should” look like. It was time to make a change.
My husband was more attached to our house than our kids.
We moved as a family to Northern California, where we were greeted by a wonderful community, with a charter school that was FREE and a beautiful house with rent that was well within our budget. We could live comfortably on his disability paychecks the he received after he came home from Iraq emotionally wounded.
He could heal.
I could write.
Our kids could be at home more, rather than enduring nine hours a day of childcare while I worked to the point of making myself ill and he stayed home to play video games.
Only one thing stood in the way of making this a new beginning for us.
He had to go to an in-house rehab program for his alcohol and anger problems.
No more drinking.
No more choking me and threatening to kill me.
No more terrorizing our entire family with his unstable and violent mood swings.
No more wiping us out financially on weeklong drinking binges.
This had to end, for us to begin anew.
He agreed. Until it came time to actually put action to words.
Then he was gone. Never to come back.
“I can’t be the man you want me to be,” he said as his excuse for why he wasn’t willing to take steps to heal. “When I leave, I’m not coming back.”
That was it. A month into our new beginning, it ended.
He left with my heart, and all of our financial support.
Once again I found myself living in a stretched economy with no jobs (we didn’t think we needed any), and in poor health from abusing my body with pain medication just to keep going. I was always in pain and no doctor could figure out how to fix me.
And I had our three very young daughters to support.
We moved out of our nice house, into much smaller house. I hustled for freelance work. I found a doctor who knew what was wrong with me (I’m allergic to nearly every food ever made! #seriously). And I started to heal.
We all started to heal.
And I let go.
I let go of who I thought he was. Of who I wanted him to be. I let go of my fantasy and faced my reality, ready to live in the moment and let the miracle of the simple moments take my breath away.
It was a long journey to recovery.
And just as I thought I had finally, truly, let go, I had to face him in court in a battle to keep our daughters safe from him. I was going for complete custody with supervised visitations–nearly unheard of to actually win in the California system.
That’s when I realized how much of a victim I had truly been.
This is the ninth part of a 10-part series on domestic violence and relationships based on my life. Please come back next Monday for the final post, This Is Not The End, This Is Just The Beginning, or follow my blog or sign up to receive email updates. You can also like my Facebook Page for updates on my blog, my books and more. To get caught up, start with Part 1: Why We Stay.