“Sometimes you have to go backwards in order to move forward”, were the words that came from Pastor Craig’s mouth as I sat reflecting on the fact that even though my current struggles remain fierce, I had survived much worse. You see, this is a picture of two days worth of alcohol consumption from my #FallenSoldier ex-husband, which always led to the pesky #VodkaFlu that he seemed to suffer from more and more.
But this story isn’t about his demons. This story is about the process I went through walking away after 5.5 years of abuse. They weren’t all bad. They weren’t all good. People often asked me after why I even bothered to stay as long as I did. My answer is always the same…At first, you dream hopefully that it’s just a phase and they will choose you and go back to being the person you fell in love with. Once reality kicks in, you’re in so deep that you feel like being the responsible party in keeping society safe. I had gotten really good at lying for him, hiding his keys so he wouldn’t accidentally kill anyone, playing submissive to tell him what he needed to hear to keep him behind locked doors, and spent a lot of time secretly praying that he was already passed out by the time I got home since I was the only one able to hold down a job. My soul and spirit were MIA, and I had even gotten to the point where I didn’t care if I lived or died. So I finally gained the courage to walk away in order to save myself this time. Everyone else would have to be on their own for a little while. I had to put myself first, or I was going to be lost forever. This much I knew.
As I secretly made arrangements, and packed up what I could get away with taking, I was flooded with emotions. Heartbreak as I mourned for the man I had originally fallen in love with, and saying good-bye to the relationship I was never going to receive. I was scared to be alone. I worried if I would actually be able to survive on my own. I was embarrassed for people to know what had been going on behind closed doors. Some suspected because I’m a terrible liar, but no one knew the physical and emotional abuse that took place because nothing seemed to leave a visible mark. However, there was plenty of invisible marks left behind. I had to make a choice to let go of the toxic relationship or be consumed by it forever. I finally found my will to live again.
On New Year’s Eve about five years ago, I packed what I was able to behind the locked bedroom door as quickly and quietly as I could. Shortly after, a friend came to help me move. Embarrassment consumed me as strangers hired to help me tripped on the empty vodka bottles that fell out as furniture was moved, but I couldn’t focus on that. I didn’t have time to break down. I was in the middle of survival mode.
Once everything was on the truck or in a car, I slowly walked around collecting the empty bottles and quietly lined them up on the couch that I left behind for him. I stood and silence, with my head tilted, surprised at what emotions were swarming around me. My friend watched me cautiously before gently whispering, “Are you ready?”
“This is why I am leaving,” I said matter of factly.
“Yes,” my friend whispered, “and now it’s time for us to go.”
“I know,” I said without emotion. I turned my back on the empty bottles for the last time and walked out the door. My friend locked up, and we headed to my new place. My place, that was all my own. I silently cried as I drove away. Not because I felt bad. Not because I felt guilty. I was mourning…the relationship that I would never get, and the man I had fallen in love with that was gone forever. But I was also relieved. I inhaled air like I hadn’t been able to for the last several years. Freedom was mine for the taking. For the first time in a long time, I was actually excited for the unknown.
It’s never easy to walk away from a toxic relationship, but five years later the only thing that I would have changed is I wish I had done it sooner. Unfortunately, for the #FallenSoilder he did end up finding peace and is hopefully with his brother and other missed loved ones. Occasionally, I come across something that makes me have to deal with a ghost from the past. However, I can happily got forward and backwards often with a lot less anxiety and emotional breakdown. I had to lose him to find me. I had to hate him to love me. Two choices I would gladly make again and again, because even if he couldn’t always see it….I am worth it.