My story is no different than hundreds of others who have gone before me. Amazing people with stories of heartache, destruction, abuse, despair. Somehow, by the Grace of God, I have healed. I have survived. And now, I am on a path of thriving as I help others to find their way as well.
Like many teenagers, I felt I was invincible, powerful and capable of doing anything I set my mind to. Working my way through college, I graduated with honors and set out to explore the world, eager to taste all the treasures and treats that lay before me. I found myself in San Francisco, and fell madly in love with a man whom I can only say I thought was a genius. I was swept off my feet, and nine months later we were married.
Shortly after that, my fairytale romance started to crumble. The man was an alcoholic, and while I knew that, I was certain it wouldn't affect my life. I was that confident that I had everything under control and could handle anything that came my way that I overlooked this seemingly small detail.
The abuse started in very subtle ways. Critiquing my choices of activities and friends. Jealousy and pouting when I would make plans to spend time with friends. Making comments that left me feeling I was not good enough. My strong confidence in myself started to erode, and I found myself giving up my activities, my friends and spending all my time worrying about keeping him happy.
The first time he hit me, I was in shock and denial. It was stupid-he threw the TV remote control at me and hit me square in the face. I had bruises running from my forehead to my chin, and when friends asked about it, I laughed and told them what had happened. The second time he hit me, it was in front of my sister, standing at a bus stop on a busy street in San Francisco. He was drunk and we were arguing, and while I was hurt and angry and pissed off, I made excuses to my sister. The next day he apologized and said it would never happen again, and I believed him.
Three years into our marriage, I knew I was in hell. I was the sole breadwinner by this time, he having lost his job, and too messed up to go find another one. My days were spent working, coming home, making dinner he wouldn't eat till the next day, afraid I might poison him, so he'd wait to see if I died from the food I ate, and being on edge constantly, wondering when the next outburst would come.
The day I decided to leave him, he called me to tell me he wasn't feeling good and could I come home from work to help him. When I got there, he was vomiting blood. I called for an ambulance and waiting by the door while they worked on him, securing him to a stretcher to move him to the hospital. He had internal bleeding brought on by an extensive amount of alcohol and drugs.
I knew by this time I no longer had control of my life but had no idea what to do. I started seeing a therapist who kept suggesting I was the one with the problem, not him. Again, denial blinded me. I wasn't the drunk. I wasn't the one who wasn't working. I was just trying to help him! I fired that therapist and tried to figure it out by myself.
When he finally got out of the hospital, a nightmarish experience of detoxing that I would never wish on my worst enemy, I set my boundaries. We were moving, getting away from all the drugs and the alcohol, and going to live someplace calmer and more quiet so we could get our marriage back on track.
A few months after the move, he started drinking again, telling me that beer was not drinking, that now he was just the same as everyone else. He was working again, and felt like having a beer to unwind from work, and in my ignorance and denial, I wanted to believe him. When the shouting, control, and name calling started again, I kept telling myself he was just adjusting to our new life. I walked around on egg-shells, never knowing when he would lose it. I started seeing a therapist again who somehow finally got through to me that I was in an abusive relationship, and that he would not change, that I was the one who had to change. A friend suggested I read Melody Beattie's book Codependent No More, and I was shocked to see myself in those mind-blowing pages. He suggested I attend an Al Anon meeting too, or at least start reading the literature, and again, I was flabbergasted to see myself reflected in those pages.
The night my husband pulled a knife on me, and threatened to slit me from navel to nose, I finally realized I was in trouble. I never told a soul, too afraid people would judge me for the mistakes I'd made in wanting to trust him. That was the first time I started praying.
I had no idea where to go, or what to do, or how to get out of the situation I was in. After months of living in fear, going to bed each night with him standing over me flicking a knife open and shut, talking about Charles Manson and how much he admired him, I was not sure I would live to even move out, but I did.
But I still was unclear about God. Being raised Catholic, I was taught alot of things that really didn't make sense to me and how I saw God. But who was I to question? So I just stopped believing, stopped having faith in a higher power that wanted good for me and watched out for me. But now, I had no where else to turn, so I started talking to God regularly, and asking for help.
I started to get an inkling my prayers might be getting answered when I had managed to secretly secure a new apartment in a town that had a .5% vacancy rate. I called my parents and told them what was going on and asked for help. They drove all night and the next morning were there when he woke up to find me packing my stuff to move.
While I would like to say this is the last time I found myself in this situation, it wasn't. Despite months of abuse therapy and healing, I ended up repeating this type of relationship with a business partner with the verbal abuse, and accompanying loss of self-confidence.
When I finally worked up the courage after six years to end the partnership, I was really aware I had a problem with owning my own power. I constantly gave away my power and my seniority to those I thought knew more than I, were cooler than I, had more of an idea of how life should go than I.
I finally knew I couldn't live like that anymore, and found courage from deep with in, as well as from the new spiritual community I was becoming involved with. And again, lots of prayers.
As my life continued to melt down, I prayed harder and harder for help, until one day, I knew I had to just let go. It was like this sudden calm in a storm. I knew I could no longer fix my life despite all my efforts. I found myself in tears on the floor begging for help to end it all. To end the pain, the suffering, the fear, the stress, the constant worry that had followed me for almost fifteen years by this point. I was done. So with financial pressure crushing the life out of me, banks suing me, and my whole business headed for the cliff, I filed for bankruptcy and just let go. I surrendered. I couldn't control it anymore, and frankly didn't want to.
And that's when the miracle happened. And the healing began. I was guided to a decent compassionate lawyer (I know!) who helped me and emotionoally supported me through the bankruptcy, which ended up going so easily and smoothly, I knew a higher power was watching over me.
I started meditating, exercising, and going to spiritual awareness classes, and now, almost 5 years later, I find myself in this place of peace and joy, wholeness and calm.
I can honestly tell my clients that they too can find their way to this place by surrendering the control, and just having faith that they can change their lives because they're willing. Finding life affirming activities like meditation, prayer, spiritual support, and faith. But most of all, having courage that while it may seem rough right now, they will feel better, happy, and even want to laugh again.
I know without a doubt, because I've been there. The path is rocky, but I know I will always come to a place where it's smooth sailing for a while. But when the rough patches come, I know how to navigate now by leaning on God/The Universe/Source, praying, letting go of control, asking for help from friends and family, and stepping out in faith. There but for the Grace of God I go.