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Katy: Addiction and Cancer

Having addiction run in your family is one of the hardest thing to shield our children from. Sometimes, we just can’t help our children.

This is part one of a three part series from one of our amazing Facebook friends.

If you want to submit something to us and would rather use email, please email becky@bandbacktogether.com or stacey@bandbacktogether.com. Remember, your story matters too.

My daughter Katy was always a challenge – she’d not left the Terrible Twos – and when she got older, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). As much of a challenge as she could be, she was also very pretty, smart, and funny. One of my favorite memories is how she loved to eat so much that she’d eat in her sleep – sometimes she’d fall asleep and wake up and continue chewing. No one came between her and her food.

My very favorite Katy moment was right after she was born, they laid her on me, and she lifted her head and looked right at me. Crazy, right?

I still hold that moment close to my heart – has gotten me through a lot of tough times.

Addiction runs in the family, her father was an addict, and by the time she was five, we divorced. He was a terrible, mean person, but never did anything that kept him from seeing his kids. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t just pack up the kids and leave.

By the seventh grade, Katy had begun doing drugs and skipping school.

We fought a lot and when Katy was 16,  she told me that she wanted to go live with her dad. Instead of my usual, “you can go when the judge says so,” I said,

“You can go and you can come back if you change your mind, but if you do this again, you cannot come back to live with me. I can’t keep doing this back and forth.”

And that was exactly what happened, she stayed a few weeks and came home. Her father moved in with Katy’s grandfather, who was dying of cancer, and Katy helped out with him and the problems caused by cancer. She decided to stay with her dad and go to school there.

Her grandpa was on hospice which meant that he had a lot of morphine around. Later, I realized that her dad was taking his father’s morphine and giving it to Katy.

addiction

Morphine turned into methamphetamines and our relationship began to crumble.

By then, I’d gotten remarried and my new husband didn’t want her to live with us when she asked to move back in. I enforced my previous statement, telling her that she couldn’t come home. We even got a restraining order on her so that she couldn’t come near us.

Shortly thereafter, she moved back in with her dad.

In 2007, she married a nice guy; one who complemented Katy well. She was very manipulative and he was able to deal with it. Unfortunately, after he joined the Army Reserves and was deployed to Egypt, which left Katy alone with my newborn granddaughter, Rae. Her daughter’s birth, of course, was crippled with complications; she developed a uterine infection and a week after discharge, her uterus burst.

After her major surgery, the doctors told Katy that she probably couldn’t have any more kids.

Katy was a fierce mom. She was a good mother – very firm but fair. Rae still has excellent manners and is very well-behaved because of her amazing mother. During her ten day hospital stay, she fought the nurses to make sure she could nurse Rae. Once home, she was in huge amounts of pain. This is when I believe her addiction to opiates began.

With her husband away in Egypt, Katy got involved with an old friend and with her pain pill prescriptions used up, she turned to heroin. Our relationship was still very shaky – when I told her she wasn’t allowed to come to Easter, we didn’t speak for over a year. Even still, she let me see my granddaughter.

Drugs had rotted her teeth and beautiful smile. The poor thing had to have them extracted and get dentures. I was with her and it was gruesome.

For my own mental health, I had to distance myself from her. I couldn’t deal with the drama in her life – especially the drama with her father. He, and I believe Katy as well, had borderline personality disorder. She was a difficult person – always talking, needing help, wanting something, craving love, starved for attention, and it drained my husband and son. I’d try to avoid getting drawn into her drama, but she’d sense me pulling away and she’d draw me back in.

When Mike, her husband returned from Egypt, Mike began using heroin as well and the three of them moved in with my ex-husband.

On and off drugs, Katy was overwhelming.

At 56, her dad died due to multiple overdoses. He’d been a heavy drinker and drug abuser all of his life. As Katy had bought the drugs that killed him, so her half-brothers blamed her for their dad’s death. They became estranged, which broke Katy’s heart as she loved family above all.

Both Katy and my son, Chris were very relieved when their dad died because he was so cruel to them. Katy replied to someone who said that “he was in a better place” by saying that “no, he was in hell.”

In 2017, Katy began the process of getting clean and sober and had moved to a city with a friend to get away from her husband who was still using.

She’d gone to the hospital for something and called me afterward, stating that she’d been diagnosed with lymphoma – a kind of cancer.

I didn’t believe her.

I thought she was faking it and using the lymphoma as a way for us to take her in. We had a huge blowout and she turned around and left my house.

Thanks to the heroin, her husband Mike had a bad heart valve and needed open heart surgery, and, being a caregiver, she moved back in with him.

That summer, she ended up staying with us in our cabin in Pennsylvania and I noticed she was tired. Always so tired. She slept so much and so often that I wondered if she was on drugs.

Concerned, we took her to a hospital in Pittsburgh on Father’s Day 2017 where she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).

cancer addiction

I remember staring at those three awful words written on a whiteboard in her room. She had been within days of dying. Days.

And I hadn’t believed her.

The hospital started her treatment and we had her transferred to the Cleveland Clinic closer to our house. From then on, I was on auto-pilot.

I was a caretaker too: my mom was bipolar which meant that I had to take care of her when I was a kid.

I was the oldest of four and my parents divorced when I was 15, so becoming her caretaker fell into my lap. She’d made numerous suicide attempts and was in and out of the inpatient psych ward multiple times a year.

My dad had a stroke 12 years ago and was in and out of the hospital and nursing homes for seven months before he died. I went multiple times a week to visit, it was nice to spend time with him.

I was raised to be a caretaker.

I stayed with Katy constantly from the moment she had been admitted until the day she died. There were a few nights that her friends would spend time with her so that I could rest. Otherwise, I slept on a chair that converted to a bed. I showered in the family showers and drank coffee from their family lounge

Katy’s first treatment course lasted five weeks and she was stuck in the hospital for the entirety of it. The staff was awesome. They didn’t even mention the track marks on her arms or asked if she’d done drugs.

And that was the beginning of the end for us all.

Is This Living? Because It Feels Like Waiting

Addiction isn’t called a “family disease for nothing.” The family of an addict is just as impacted as the addict.

This is her story of her son’s addiction:

 

My child has become an addict and loving my child is so very hard. I’m trying to find my happy as I learn to deal with his addiction.

With the overload of health issues around here, along with the common “life stuff,”  I willing took a break from blogging after the last attacks from trolls; trolls who don’t know me, know my child, know my life, know my situation, and will never understand my life or my thoughts.

Simply: I took a break because I wasn’t strong enough to keep going,

Three blogs, five days a week, and two little freelance writing gigs with groups have kept me tied to the computer dumping out my odd take on humor, insane fake advice, and occasional a vaguely serious topic.

I have decided I will blog, on my blog, and the trolls will not, cannot affect me. I won’t allow them that kind of power. I have to share this story because as odd or awful as this is, I can’t believe I am the only one. Sometimes knowing you aren’t alone, can make a differences on your life. It has in mine, just like everyone here at Band Back Together.

For a very long time, I’ve been living while waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I call it “living” but it’s really just existing –  when I can muster the strength to push the elephant in the room to the back of my mind. This horrible addiction elephant.

an addiction elephant in the room

When someone you love makes horrible choices, you can still love your addict child, but you also have to make a choice.

I made a choice to love from a distance to allow my son to deal with his addiction on his own time, allow that person to do things at their will, wherever they wanted. The condition was: I would not support that person, their activities: not emotionally and definitely not financially.

Of course that comes with a higher emotional consequence for me, a soul-eating, mind -boggling, hellish existence.

Torn when the phone doesn’t ring, furious, emotional and torn when it does. There is no happy medium, is no mutual enjoyment of life, it’s an inner ring of hell.

loving an addict family

It’s odd how the human brain learns to process things so completely outrageous and unacceptable if they happen often enough; the brain removes logic to save the heart. The brain knows if one more little piece of your soul falls to the floor, you will collapse and finally fade away.

Things you never thought you would hear, become expected. Disappointing? Of course. Scary? Almost every time.  Seeing red with anger? A lot. Somehow, your brain allows it to roll off your back.

loving an addict through childhood

loving an addict through childhood

You can’t fix it, they don’t want to be fixed, no matter how absolutely insane and ludicrous the situation, you cannot even point out how completely illogical the situation is, let alone offer solutions. There are no less than 683 million reasons why all of your ideas are completely stupid.

You learn to focus not on the highs, not on the lows. Not the shocking news, but only that you love that person, your child, who just happens to be an addict.

You make sure whatever you say won’t offend them, or their choices, and you make double damn sure that person knows you love them, you love them deeply, you love them completely, you love them from your soul.  You only want the best for them, safety for them, happiness for them.

No one really has the same idea of happiness.

it took me 43 years to realize that.

Another thing I learned; just because it’s ” the normal” thing that you’d make anyone happy, happy and delighted and feeling so very lucky, this can seem like hell on earth to someone with a different view of happy. So who am I to attempt to enforce my idea of happy on anyone? Simply put, I am no one. I am just a daughter, a wife, a sister, a mother, an aunt, a friend.

I am made up as we all our of a unique cocktail of our childhoods, our teachers, our elders, our peers, our life lessons, co-workers, books, and shows we have seen. Just a big casserole of a human being trying to find “happy.”  When I achieved happiness, I assumed it would be wonderful – more than wonderful – and that, in turn, everyone else would become happy. Everyone would see how hard work brings happy, how loving each other brings happy, how walking the right road, singing your own song, and smiling would obviously land you in happiness.

The past 20 years, I tried to shove people into the happy, I tried to drag them into happy, push them in, beg them, lure them, slide shows of happy, handmade cards, long emails, song dedications, heartfelt talks, and hugs, I could surely get them to happy. Once they saw happy they would be like “duh, I want to be happy too!”

I was wrong. Their happy was so different than mine so I had to accept they would not be in my happy with me. Maybe they were taking a different route, and we would meet up in happy. Maybe their happy just meant more pit stops, more experiences, different criteria, maybe their happy would never lead to the same location as my happy. What would I do then?

image of addict son as he gets older

Their happy could be really good for them, so I will work on being happy for their happy.

Little crumbles of your heart fall as your soul tears.

In the end, all you really want is for them to be happy. You convince yourself not to be such as narrow-minded selfish ass who demands everyone’s happiness is within arms reach of your happiness.  We are not all alike, and really, what a boring world that would be. Keep telling yourself this as it makes it easier to persevere your heart, mind, and soul. Besides, it makes them happy that you are happy for them. It’s painful but it’s good for them and for the relationship.

Then the call comes, not a happy call, you are prepared because you know when this disease spins ’round, the calls come in two forms and two forms ONLY.

One, the world’s best thing ever, everything is amazing.

The next call, though, could be in a week, a month, a day, or within several minutes: the world is ending, there is no hope, no escape.

There’s not a single thing you can do to make it better. So you listen, try not to cry, remembering to love, offer helpful solutions, offer to make arrangements or calls, you do what you can and it’s usually for nothing. It rarely works out, but you make damn sure they know you love them so much you can’t breathe when they are in pain.

The calls – you see the caller ID – it’s a number from a state that you don’t know, but you do know who is on the other end, you never know the type of call, only that it’s from them. So you take deep breaths and you prepare to play the roulette game of their life. What kind of call you don’t know it could be: an incredibly fantastic words of grandeur.

Or the call can be gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, sobbing pleads for help.

You don’t know, because you can’t know but you answer the phone, inviting the roller-coaster of love and hate and pain into your world.

Nothing surprises you now.

As long as it’s their voice on the end, you are prepared, it’s now become common practice. You’ve learned to stop yelling, begging, urging, and learned to focus on conveying the fact that you love the elephant in the room. You love that elephant when your eyes open in the morning, and you love that elephant when your eyes close at night without a tear running down your cheek. No one sees your tear.

No one hears your cry and no one, no one can understand why this elephant is needed, deeply; it has become comforting.

Then as you are in your happiness on the back porch wind blowing you sit with your little family, cross-legged looking at your happiness, eating sandwiches, and thinking how peaceful and loving and happy this all is.

The phone rings.

The addiction elephant steps outside. The elephant sits on your chest, takes your breath, and overcomes you. Sometimes, when that elephant climbs on you, you compartmentalize you soul, your heart, and your brain as this allows you to attempt to speak in a sane, calm, tone, using gentle words, no blame, just love.

The call ends, with mutual ” I love you’s.”

The happiness is now gone for them as they are faced with a very adult matter that can’t be “worked away.”

You don’t remember the rest of the happy picnic: the people in your happiness with you do not have a conversation about it. You move on as you do after every call. But something is wrong, very wrong

You can’t tell anyone, yet you don’t cry, you don’t sob, you don’t fall to the floor, you don’t steal a car to get to the addiction elephant to hold them.

What the hell is wrong with you?

Why are you not responding like a human?

Why aren’t you happy?

Why not like the other times?

You haven’t fallen apart yet.

Will you fall apart?

Will this change your ability to move forward?

You know that If this person comes back, can you handle it?

Can the happy team handle it?  What will be the cost of the elephant if you don’t?

What will be the cost of happy if you do?

I know the other shoe will fall, there’s just no way to process this without dying more inside. Maybe I am out of a soul, a heart, tears. Maybe I have been cried out, maybe I am stronger, maybe my brain is trying to protect me.

I am very much not okay, mostly because I feel okay, there is no way that I should feel okay.

Why am I not shaking, sitting in the shower crying, sobbing, and vomiting like I’ve done before when the bad news comes?

I’m not even shaking.

The shoe will drop, I hope, I beg, I have the strength, the knowledge, the wisdom, the compassion, the ability, the life experience, balanced with the brain, the heart and soul, to take this journey.

To share my happy, to understand their happy, to make a new happy, but most of all, to convey they undying, deepest of love and the basic humanity to make their happy the best happy I can.

Please find your happy; let everyone you know how much you love them – no matter what what makes them happy.

The Quiet Shame of Self-Injury

Self-Injury is a shameful secret many of us hold and we can often see no real way out. If you self-injure, please know that there is hope for you. Click here for more information about coping with self-harm.

This is her story:

i haven’t engaged in self-injury since april 8, 2004.

six months before my wedding years after i started dating my husband. just over three months after my stepfather died.

my soon-to-be husband and i were about to move in with my mom and younger brother to help fix up the house and pay the bills. it was a good arrangement – i was living with my dad for the first time since my parent’s divorce, and it was not an ideal situation.

he didn’t know how to deal with my craziness. he didn’t know what to do with a grown daughter who had trouble holding a job, was a recovering addict, was clinically depressed.

he didn’t know what to do when i would bang my head into the wall, lock myself into a closet, have to walk out of a room in the middle of a sentence. just because i haven’t cut, i don’t think that means i haven’t been involved in self injury, or si, self-harm, self-injurious behavior, as it is also referred to.

self-injury includes many types of injury or mutilation – cutting, burning, picking, biting. some people consider trichotillomania (self-pulling of hair) in the scope of si, even though it has it’s own diagnosis.

self injury

there is no fancy word for cutters. we cut. we burn. we bite. we scratch. we self injure. that’s it. i first identified myself as a cutter when i was 12.

TRIGGER

i realized that physical pain of the cut almost released the emotional pain i felt. as i got older, i could look back and see even more instances of it. i remembered biting my fingers and hands until they bled when i was only 5. i can’t remember what made me want to do that, but i remember feelings of emptiness, even then. i remember pulling out my hair around the age of 7 or 8. i remember digging my fingernails into my palm hard enough to break skin. at those ages,

i do not consciously remember why i did what i was doing.

i only remember doing it, and that some how it made me feel better.

i don’t know where i got the idea. i hadn’t seen a television special, i didn’t have any friends cutting. many people think it’s a goth or emo thing, that girls do it to seem cool or special or mysterious. that they do it because their friends do, because it makes them hard or whatever the
fuck stupid people think. i didn’t know anyone who cut or self-harmed in any way.

TRIGGER

i do remember taking a pen cap and scraping it back and forth across my arm hard enough and long enough that i drew scraggly lines of blood.

TRIGGER

there was this initial release, like the darkness escaping, and then this delicious numbness spread through my body.

TRIGGER

before the blood had even dried, i methodically started to clean up with tissues. this would become a ritualistic experience for me.

i stole a paring knife from the kitchen, hid it in a drawer, and knew i had an option at all times. i can’t explain why, but the ritual became almost as important as the cutting.

TRIGGER

i would get my secret stash of hydrogen peroxide and gauze. i’d cut, i’d bleed, i’d revel in the numbness. then i’d clean up the blood, clean out the cut, wrap up in bandages. by the time i was around 15, it got worse.

TRIGGER

i would enter almost a trancelike state, methodically cutting and bloodletting for hours at a time. i’d make small cuts, long cuts, perpendicular cuts.

TRIGGER

instead of using the paper towels to clean up, i’d press them to my cuts so the blood would seep into it, then save them in my notebook. i know, it sounds horrifying. then i decided it would make more sense to do that on the actual paper – i would be able to keep them forever.

i still have them. i cannot get rid of them.

i was always afraid of being discovered.

my scars and cuts were not a badge to show my friends, they did not make me cool. i cut almost everywhere, and had ways to hide everything. i did not want to have to explain how it made me feel.

TRIGGER

i cut my forearms rarely, although that is the only place i now have scars. i cut my thighs, my calves, my shoulders, my hips, my stomach, my breasts. i would cut, bleed, mark, clean, wrap. constantly.

i finally got caught out at 16. i had a fight with my boyfriend, went home, got high, and put on hole’s ‘live through this’. i don’t even remember getting my paring knife or other tools.

TRIGGER

i do know that i spent almost five hours smoking pot and carving the lyrics from two songs into my legs. i didn’t do my own laundry at the time, and ended up throwing out the sheet i had on my bed at the time because of the blood. i didn’t want anyone to know. i was ashamed and afraid and addicted.

my boyfriend found out.

we were talking about our fight, sitting on his couch. i pulled my leg up under me, and my jeans leg rode up. he saw my calf and made me take off my pants. he then told me he wouldn’t see me anymore unless i told my mother.

i did.

i told my mother, she got me counseling. he did stay with me for a few more months. he tried. i continued cutting on a near-daily basis for years, until i was 20. i moved in with my dad after his second divorce. i still had my knife; i needed to have it. i went almost four years without cutting. i was helping my soon-to-be husband move into my mother’s house. i don’t know what set me off, but i needed my knife and couldn’t find it. this made it worse.

TRIGGER

i took out my keychain-sized swiss army knife and dug into my upper arm until i bled.

i haven’t cut since then. but i haven’t stopped self injuring.

i cannot.

i have scratched my face until it bled. i have banged my head on a tile floor hard enough to concuss myself. i have pulled hunks of hair out in frustration. i bite my tongue until it is raw and bleeding at times. i pick and pinch at myself more than i care to admit. i have gone to get a tattoo in desperation to feel something (incidentally, not the right reason for ink).

the worst part is, and i think any cutter will agree with this. the worst part is that we do what we do TO FEEL SOMETHING. but the problem is we already feel too much. we have so much (fill in the emotion) inside us, that we need to feel something else.

is it that we need to feel something we can control?

like eating disorders, is it about having control over something in our lives when it feels like everything else is out of control?

do i cut or self harm so that I AM IN CHARGE OF MY PAIN… at least for a few minutes?

Sometimes, I Can’t Help But Feel This Way

Living with borderline personality disorder can be a huge challenge for all involved.

This is her story:

Sometimes I wish what I had was as real and tangible as alcoholism or drug addiction: there is something real to battle and win. Instead I have this intangible illness – this personality disorder – that affects everything I do. I can never be cured of Borderline Personality Disorder, that hurts everyone, and I just have to deal with it until it eventually kills me.

I wonder how many people who have Borderline Personality Disorder die of old age? I know it isn’t impossible, but I wonder what the odds are. Even if they don’t commit suicide, borderline habits can lead to early demise.

Don’t worry: I don’t intend to turn to alcohol. I can’t mix it with my medication. And I won’t turn to drug addiction. I rattle enough as it is, with my daily meds. No, those aren’t the only reasons. My illness hurts those around me enough as it is – why purposely add to that?

All I’m saying is that “15 years sober” sounds better than “15 years off my rocker.”

A Letter To My Exes That I Can’t Send

We all have letters we’d like to send, but know that we can’t. A letter to someone we no longer have a relationship with, a letter to a family member or friend who has died, a letter to reclaim our power or our voice from an abuser. Letters where actual contact is just not possible for whatever reason.

Hello Ex #1. You were wonderful. You were kind, thoughtful, loving, attentive. You were there for me through a very rough time when my parents were divorcing. You were loved by all of my family. You were an amazing first boyfriend and I loved you with all my heart. Thank you for being such a wonderful first.

Hello Ex #2. You were revenge on my parents for splitting up and “ruining everything”. You were MANY years older than me. You were fun because you provided everything I needed to escape my shitty teenage reality. I drank and did drugs. You became a heroin addict. I became pregnant. I made an incredibly difficult decision to abort and then a really smart decision to leave you. Please stop trying to “friend” me on Facebook. I am never going to accept the request. You are in the past. Stay there.

Hello Ex #3. You were my self-punishment for the abortion. You were incredibly gorgeous and charming. Then you weren’t. You picked fights over everything. I could never give you enough of my time and energy. I let you isolate me from my friends and family. I hated myself. You hit me. I only ended it because my friend would have killed me (figuratively speaking) if I went back to you. After all, she got a black eye when she stepped in front of me to protect me from your swing. You suck. I was stupid.

Hello Ex #4. You were very charming, sweet and funny. We had so much in common. Eventually I moved in with you. Then you stopped working. I supported us (and your friend) for two years. I kept giving you chance after chance to make something of yourself. How could I leave you high and dry? You had no job. You’d be kicked out of the apartment. Where would you go? What the hell was I thinking? When I finally left, I did it all wrong, but you were just fine. You found someone else to take care of you. I pity her. I was proud of me for thinking more of myself and wanting more for myself than what you were giving.

Hello Husband. It took these exes and so many more for me to grow up and learn self-respect; to learn how to love someone else correctly. And to learn to be loved the right way. Yes, sometimes we argue, but you know what? Those arguments are healthy. It took me a lot of years to learn how to argue healthily. We communicate, we share our feelings and our points (sometimes loudly, but always respectfully), we compromise where it’s appropriate, and give in sometimes, too. We work together to make us work. You always think of me, my needs and how things will affect me before you make decisions. I’ve learned to do that, too. You love me so much. I love you equally. We have a beautiful life and three beautiful girls. We have had some REALLY hard times in the nine years we’ve been married. But we work through them together and we are stronger for it. My love for you grows and my respect for you grows. You have my trust.

Thank you for growing with me.

Three Years Later

Three years ago I started dating my now ex-boyfriend. He was my entire world. I thought that no one would ever be anything close to the level of amazing that I saw in him. He was perfect. I made him perfect in my mind.

He wasn’t.

When we started dating, it wasn’t under the best circumstances. We had been friends for fifteen years. I had just moved out of my parents’ house to get away from their physical, emotional, and mental abuse, as well as their out of control drinking habits. I was dealing with the aftermath of being sexually assaulted and my parents refuting my rape claim – claiming I was just vying for attention. Heh, if only they had any idea that all the times I acted out as a teenager were linked to that one instance.

Of course, I didn’t know that back then.

We ended up moving in together after six months. It was out of necessity, really, since we didn’t have another option.

I loved everything about him. He was tall and strong and handsome and had beautiful blue eyes. He was the only man I’d ever fully given myself to, and he was the first person I ever had an intimate relationship with.

Everyone always teased me about staying a virgin for so long, but I wanted to wait until I felt I was ready. Looking back, maybe I was and maybe I wasn’t. More likely than not, I wasn’t. But in the turmoil of sexual assault, I wanted so desperately to be loved and wanted that I convinced both of us I was ready.

I took us having sex as us being “serious.” I didn’t know any better. Forget that I was 21 and not exactly naïve… I thought I knew it all. I forgave him for messing around with his ex-girlfriend behind my back. I ignored him trying to hook up with his friend’s sister at a party at my house (when he didn’t live there) right in front of me. I looked past how horribly cruel he was to me the moment he threatened to take his own life. He was perfect. More importantly, I was broken, and the only way I thought I could be put back together was the way he was telling me to.

The controlling started small. He would break things off, leave me devastated for a day or two, then come back and apologize, and swear never to leave me again. He felt insecure when he couldn’t perform when we were intimate, but he would blame it on me. Yep, the sexual assault survivor is to blame for everything that went wrong when we had sex. Even when I thought things went well, he had some problem with it. He never even turned off the TV. Christ, he never stopped WATCHING the TV when we were intimate. He would wake me up in the middle of the night to perform oral sex on him… then tell me to go to bed – I was slutty if I wanted something in return.

I learned to stop asking for sex. He would humiliate me and make me feel bad for asking, so we only had sex on his terms.

Eventually the controlling moved out of the bedroom. If I went out, he wanted to know every detail of where I was. It was casual; I barely noticed it at first. I went to a coworker’s birthday party and failed to mention until the next morning that I had stopped with friends to grab a bite to eat at a Denny’s on the way home. He was livid. Why was I hiding things from him? Was I being unfaithful?

Silly me: that was as much protective nature and affection as I got from him. So I chalked it up to him being romantic. Someone anonymously left me a flower at work one day and when he found out, he threatened to sit in the lobby of my workplace and beat the shit out of whomever it was. I laughed it off, but was never entirely sure he was kidding.

Eventually, I wasn’t supposed to dress-up or put makeup on. If I so much as brushed my hair out, he would make fun of me, ask who the hell I was getting all fancy for. We never went out anywhere. I wasn’t supposed to go out much any more, either, or I’d get lectures: “I was gone all the time” or “neglecting my responsibilities around the house.” Even though we lived with three other roommates, it was my job and my job alone to clean the house.

I was supposed to do his laundry. I was supposed to make sure everything was perfect. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere or do anything. If I checked my mail, I had to give him every detail.

When we went out to group gatherings, he’d purposely act like a jackass so we would leave early. He would go out of his way to embarrass me in public so he didn’t have to stay. Work functions, my family get-togethers (he was a golden child at his family’s functions), even hanging out with my friends. He had to talk down to everyone around him.

I was only allowed to go to the bar on the nights he was working security. He had to be introduced right away as my boyfriend to anyone who talked to me, otherwise he would punish me by refusing to touch me in bed. Any affection was off the table: he wouldn’t touch me. He never held my hand in public. He never kissed me in front of anyone. He never once introduced me as his girlfriend.

He’d tell me I wasn’t an equal part of our relationship – I caused all of our fights. And I did. Mostly because if we were arguing, at least he was paying attention to only me. I’d try to stand up for myself, but it always ended with me in tears. He would say anything to make me cry, then tell me I was always crying and he didn’t sign up for my emotions.

This went on for three years. I slipped into one of the worst depressions I’ve experienced. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t shower, I could barely even get myself dressed for work. He hated when I went to work. Forget that I was the only one with anything close to a full-time job (he got paid forty bucks a weekend to bounce at the bar and went to school full-time), and I had to pay all of our bills. He hated my coworkers. They were all scum – I shouldn’t hang out with them.

On the other hand, his parents paid for everything – his rent, his car, his insurance, his cell phone, and handed him gas money every week. They paid for his groceries. I worked my ass off and was expected to pay our rent, utilities, my own cell phone, my own insurance, and for our groceries. What did he do with his money? Bought knives and guns.

When I was raped, my attacker used a gun in places I won’t go into detail about. My boyfriend kept all the guns in our closet, with the door open, on my side of the bed, so I had to stare at them. He complained that I’d never go to the shooting range with him. I can’t be near guns without shaking uncontrollably and losing it, but I went anyway. I fired guns, broke into tears, tried to improve because he was angry that I was a bad shot. But every time I cried, he comforted me, told me how well I was doing. That made him an amazing and caring man.

I was in and out of major depressive cycles. At the beginning of September, I was hospitalized after a suicide attempt. I didn’t know why I wanted to die, I just did. I tried to take a knife to my own throat. He stopped me. He talked me down. I checked into the hospital. I was transferred under a 5150 to another hospital. When he visited me, I tried to show him how well I was doing, because he was threatening to leave me.

I was discharged from the mental hospital, but he couldn’t come get me. If there was no other way, he’d get to it “when he had time.” So my best friend picked me up. That first night back at home, he was so glad to see me. He recreated our first dates, we were intimate on a regular basis, he was affectionate, and doing everything for me – just because. Our lives were finally on track now that I was finally medicated. Right?

A week later, he came home and told me he wanted to leave me – he didn’t love me and never had. He didn’t want to live with me anymore. We agreed I’d get my own place, and we’d work on us from there.

The next day, he told me he had been having an affair with some random girl from at the bar, so I had to move out of the house that day. I told him he couldn’t legally evict me, and I wasn’t going anywhere. He beat the ever loving shit out of me. I told him if he didn’t leave, I’d call the cops. Paranoid as he is, he finally left.

That night, I had been planning to tell him that I’d found out I was pregnant while I was in the hospital.
Where were my roommates? They’d taken his new plaything out to the casino while he dumped me, so, you know, she’d have a nice time and it wouldn’t be awkward for her. Excuse me?

I was angry, hurt, upset. I’d been sick to my stomach and couldn’t keep my medications down, which threw me into withdrawal. I thought I’d never feel again. I had no family, I’d been out of work, so I had no money, and nowhere to go.

I took every single piece of clothing he owned and threw it off the deck. I threw it up in the trees. I dumped it in the dirt. I emptied the entire contents of the fridge onto them and left them to rot in the sun. I packed up all of what had been ours – the bed, all the furniture, the dog, everything and moved into a girlfriend’s house.

I threw away everything that reminded me of him. It wasn’t much – in three years, he’d never bought me a birthday card or Christmas present. He always had the nicest I could afford, but I never even got flowers or a card.

Eventually, I told him that I was pregnant. He wanted proof; I gave it to him. Then I miscarried.

I called him, not sure what else to do. I figured it affected him, too. His response? “Deal with it by yourself, you’re not my problem anymore.”

I had bruises for weeks. The cops did nothing. When I went to collect the last of my belongings from the house, the new girlfriend was in his bed, and she bitched me out. We live in a small community; he runs his mouth every chance he gets: it’s my fault my roommate’s kids hate him; I tried to stab him to death (completely false); I stole the dog (I paid six hundred dollars for that dog and had him before we got together); I left him unexpectedly for someone else. There are a billion lies circulating that I have to deal with. He attacks anyone who knows me out of nowhere.

In that moment, I seriously thought my life was over.

Now it’s been almost three months. I don’t think about him much anymore, and I can appreciate the good memories we had. The more I look back on it, though, the more I realize how many signs I ignored.

So now I’m single. I am spending time with my friends and the people who matter in my life. I’m not dating yet – but it’s by choice. I want to spend some time letting myself heal and figuring out who I am and what I want not only from my life, but also from a life with a partner. I’m learning to define what values are important to me in a significant other. There are guys in my life, but I don’t feel the need to validate myself through them. I stick with my medications. I still go to counseling. I have started attending Al-Anon meetings in my area. I’m working on saving up to move to wherever I decide I want to be. I’m living. I’m surviving.

At the end of the day, I’m only 24 years old. The last three years do not define who I am. They will always be a part of me, and I am so thankful that I was able to learn these lessons before things got any worse. Are there still days when it’s hard? Of course. But sometimes shit just happens.

I can’t take the blame for his bad behavior. My responsibility is not to apologize for him. It’s not to make excuses for him. My responsibility is to better myself and learn from this so I don’t repeat these mistakes.

I ignored the signs for far too long and thought I could love us enough for the both of us. It still ended in heartbreak. I won’t do that again.

But LORD, did it feel good pouring all the disgusting stuff from the fridge all over his favorite outfits!