I love the idea of Flashback Friday (for more great posts and info about this, see Cable Girl's post about it, and follow her links to get the info!) because if nothing else, it gives me something to write about. But as April once wrote, it is hard to come up with ideas that aren't depressing or traumatic in some way. At the same time, those are parts of who we are, so maybe it isn't such a bad thing.
So. Because of my upcoming speaking engagement, I have been doing a lot of reflecting about my past, trying to choose which things are so important as to NOT be left out. Of course because I am an egotistical person, it is quite hard to believe that everything isn't vital, but I have really been working on overcoming that and truly separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. One event, or string of events, has been coming up a lot lately, which all psychobabble aside, makes me realize that it is, in fact, important.
I was married to this guy, and after a very tumultuous few years of marriage, he started to disappear. Of course he had been emotionally absent from very nearly the beginning, but then he started to be physically absent as well. As in, he would disappear and I wouldn't know where he was at all. The last time it happened, he and I had argued and he threw Sam's stroller through the picture window and, literally, walked off into the night. I have a very clear memory of that August evening; he walked out of the house and I could clearly see him stroll across the yard nonchalantly, keys jingling (my keys, too, as I later discovered) and whistling. Then he stepped off of the curb into the street, and it was like something out of a movie; as soon as he stepped out of the light shed from the street lamp, he was immediately invisible, instantly gone from my life.
He was gone for something like 4 months, and then one night I got a call from an alcohol/drug treatment center to which he had admitted himself. I was being asked to come participate in this event called the "Family Program," which is basically where the families of the inhabitants participate in all of this education and then you get a chance to tell the family member all of the ways in which their addiction hurt you. That is a simple explanation, but suffices. I went with the full intention of telling him to fuck off, but for one reason or another, I got sucked into feeling what could only be describes as hope; hope that if he stayed clean, we would somehow magically be restored as a family, that my life could finally be what I had hoped it would be when I married him, that we could somehow find a way to make things work. After a short period of me being the supportive wife and going to meetings with him, I started to realize that I was also an alcoholic, and decided that just maybe I should start taking it seriously.
What happened is that it all started to make sense to me. I started to do the things suggested that would help keep me sober. My life started to change, I started to change. He didn't; he went back out time and time again, but even then I was stupid and naive enough to think that if he just did X, Y, and X, things would be different this time. He left, would get clean for a little while and come back, and I was always stupid enough to let him back in, hoping that this time it would be different.
Flash forward to a few years later (sorry, stole that line from Alanis Morrisette), and he left again. He came home after spending the weekend, as I later found out, his latest in a long string of women with whom he had been unfaithful; came home on Eli's birthday to tell us that he was moving out. A whole bunch of really crappy things happened after that, including me and the kids having to immediately find a place to live because we were being kicked out of the house (this was actually the second time that had happened; at one point in 1999, Sam and I had to live in a homeless shelter for a little while. Yes, I am stupid!). We moved to our current home and had undercover cops staked out at our house for two weeks, 24/7, because my husband's drug dealers were making threats against me and my kids in order to get money he woed them. We walked scared for a long time after that, and slowly put our shattered lives back together.
And then he came crawling back, telling me he was clean and going to meetings and just loved me so much he couldn't live without me and my kids. His current girlfriend had kicked him out, he was filthy and skinny from so many drugs, weak and shaking and pathetic, but this was really and truly the turning point in my relationship with him: I said NO. A lot more really ugly things happened after that, with restraining orders and threats of violence and, when I finally got the call from his PO that they had gotten him and he was spending a year in jail, well, that was the first time in a long time I was able to draw a breath. And you know, I kept breathing, through fear and pain and heartbreak and joy, and we put our lives together and somehow managed to not only exist, but to live.
I had hopes, maybe, to inject some humor into this, but it really isn't funny. It is sad, and hard to realize how stupid I used to be. The upside, though, is that making the choices I made have given me strength to live my life free of the kinds of fear that used to wake me up nights screaming. We are good now, happy, even, and though life is certainly not without it's problems, and I am still a colossal fuck-up on lots of occasions, I am also strong and beautiful and kind. This is important for me to remember when the screaming meemies get to me as they often do-it is vital that I remember where I came from so I can see not only the forward progress I have made, but also get a glimpse of where I might be going next.