Monday, June 08, 2009

What it was like: Year Seven

I celebrated 6 years of sobriety on July 24, 1990.  I had a great home group, I had a new sponsor from that group, I had a man I adored who wanted to marry me.  My family liked him, my friends liked him.  It seemed my bad taste in men was history.  

We were married on August 6, 1990.  It was a civil ceremony in a park.  We were surrounded by our AA group.  It was a nice wedding.  I don't know if I was ever happier.  

Within the first month, he slapped me across the face, but I thought it was just a strange fluke, certainly not in character for this man.  We moved back to the United States... and he began the 3 year residency before he became a citizen... but I am getting ahead of myself.  
One month and one day after we were married, his two teenage sons from Australia came to visit.  We lived in a beautiful house on a lake.  One thing I never thought about as we rented it was that the master bedroom was a loft - open to the living area downstairs.  I didn't know his sons would be living with us.  And I certainly could have never imagined two teenage boys would dislike me - hate me even.  I had never met a kid previous to this who didn't just love me.  I left my husband for the first time in October.  But came back because I realized I had no where to go.  

It got worse.  It got a lot worse.  On May 3, I wrote in my journal that as I was preparing dinner for these people, one of the kids said "64% of Americans are overweight, doesn't that make you feel better?"  I don't remember this, thank God.  I just wrote it in my journal.  And just found it now and want to go kick some Aussie ass.  The next day I wrote "I won't write that it can't get any worse than this, that's just tempting fate, isn't it?"  oh dear.  I knew. 

I had been hit in the face with a metal thermos, I had two fingers broken.  I can't even catalog the injuries, it is just ridiculous.  And of all the things I lost, the belief that I could never be a battered woman was probably the most painful.  I came to understand why they stay.  It is impossible to understand until you have experienced it, you can speculate if you would care to, it is easy to, but believe me when I tell you that it is so much more complex than you could ever imagine if you have not had the experience.

Tonight in my journal I found a little piece of paper with a journal entry from May 29, 1991.  I had walked away from the house on May 28.  With nothing but the clothes on my back.  We lived on a lake in a remote area, I had no idea how I would get out of there.  He had disabled my car.  I just walked up the hill and got on the road, and some young kid who had no idea what kind of dangerous situation he was inserting himself into picked me up.  He drove me to the hospital.  I had a broken wrist.  I remember that.  (I remembered that today when I had to come home at 9 a.m. to get my wrist brace which I have to wear from time to time because my wrist will just go all funky and hurt like hell... I thought it was ironic that it happened today when I knew I was going to be writing this. )  I had forgotten some of the details until I read this little slip of paper tonight part of which said "I have a footprint bruise on my  butt.  And a broken wrist.  But as I was rolling across the living room floor it occurred to me that I was through, I'd had enough of B.  That, of course, was mixed with the certainty that I was not going to get out of that house alive.  But I did."  

I stayed at one of those wonderful houses with 3 or 4 alcoholics living in it.  They let me stay on the couch.  I didn't want to go back to Denver with a cast on my arm, so I stayed until it was removed.  I think I also needed the time to just be with nice people and decompress from a year that was largely hell.  I also started smoking again the moment I hit the door of that house.  That first Camel cigarette might have been the single best sensual experience I have ever had, all the cigarettes that followed were not so wonderful...

Yesterday I said I was going to write about this AA group in this small town in northern Washington.  If not for that group, I think I would have died.  My husband's sponsor used to say "if you haven't got a sponsor and you haven't got a home group, you might be in something, but it probably isn't AA."  There was such structure and accountability there.  As you came into a meeting, you signed in with your name, your sobriety date, and your home group.  Which meant you really should have a sobriety date and a home group.  Most everyone did.

I became the treasurer of my group.  I got a service position with the PI committee which I really enjoyed.  I was busy with AA stuff.  It was good.  It was hard to leave that group, but I knew I had to go back home to Denver.

On my 7th birthday I was on the road to Denver.  I couldn't have been happier.  I was going back home.  I felt safe.  The long nightmare was over... or so I thought.  

From my journal July 24, 1991:  "Thank you God, seven years of continuous sobriety.  I'm closer by about 1300 miles to Denver.  I'm at the Motel 6 in Casper, Wyoming.  I went to a meeting in Sheridan tonight. I just couldn't not go to a meeting on my birthday.  God, it appears I need a lot of help.  Please give me the strength to get through this time.  It's scary."  


Steve E. said...

And now year number seven--NOT so lucky I think. Except that every adversity happening around and to you, brought you that much closer to today's more-or-less carefree happiness and freedom to choose, who, what, when, where, if, and, or but...

And Mary--you LIVED! And you tell us how. Someone surely will read this blog and say to herself or himself, "I can do that. I can escape this chaos, this debilitating life."

No, I shall never know how it is, but for your blog today. This CANNOT be easy for you, but i have a feeling it is God's Will for you to go through with it.

Bless you.
A friend.

Gin said...

You are a strong, strong woman. Thank you so much for your honesty and openness with this post. I am pretty much speechless right now.

Anonymous said...

I truly understand the trapped feeling of being a battered woman. I stayed for five years, but I was not sober at the time, and would not be until many years later. Thanks for sharing this today Mary, and God Bless you!

Scott W said...

This is one of those 'oh, my!' what can happen next stories. More will be revealed.

AnyEdge said...

I am trembling reading this. It is horrifying, but uplifting at the same time because we know that you survived and are here today.

I find myself wanting to kill this man and his rotten brats with my bare hands. Your courage is astounding.

AnyEdge said...

Another thought: I think the basic characteristic of the batterer is one of utter immaturity.

Like a child who throws a tantrum, a batterer does what he does, not usually I think from the joy of hurting a woman, but from a total inability to process his anger like a man, instead of like a child.

I've always thought of someone who hits a woman as a coward, and he is, but he's also a baby. A mewling infant whose only way to express frustration is to lash out with fists. It's pathetic.

People who can't manage their emotions like adults need to be kept in places where they are free to ask like spoiled children. Like Jail.

Mary Christine said...

Oh please don't let this inspire hatred. I don't hate him. He was doing the best he could with what he had, just as I was. It just wasn't very good.

AnyEdge said...

Ok MC, I'll try. I tend to think batterers belong in the same rung of hell that those who hurt children do.

It is hard not to judge, and judge harshly. I'm humbled by your acceptance. I am working on that, but you've got something like 25 years of sobriety on me (I'm 479 days.).

I guess part of what made me so angry about it is that your ex was in the program. It's so hard for me to accept that someone in the program would succumb to such immaturity. Was he working on that defect? Was he trying to do better? (Not that it makes much difference with regard to the consequences he should endure.)

Because for me, this program isn't just about not drinking, it's about leading a right life. I struggle, but that the point: I struggle and work and fight and always always try to be a better man. When people in the program who should be examples don't do that it makes me sad and angry.

I know I need to let that go and work just on me. But it's hard.

Cat said...

"I came to understand why they stay. It is impossible to understand until you have experienced it, you can speculate if you would care to, it is easy to, but believe me when I tell you that it is so much more complex than you could ever imagine if you have not had the experience."

This pulled at my heart strings because I know why you stayed as long as you did... I am grateful that you got out, that you wrote this - your truth and that I have been guided here to read it.

Syd said...

Mary, I'm sorry that you had to go through this. It has always seemed so unacceptable that people will decide one day to just lash out, with words or fists at those that they profess to love. I think that I know why you stayed. I too have stayed for many years in a marriage that was hurtful. But those years are past and best kept only as a reminder and not as an ax to grind. Thanks for sharing this amazing story of your life in recovery.

Steve E. said...

AnyEdge wrote something like we're OK so long as we're in the program...WTF, I would not NEED a program if I was not sick--we are all (well,most of us?) sick people, we just don't drink.

Of course, it is possible, even likely, to get BETTER--not WELL! in this wonderful AA fellowship.

Agree with AnyEdge...I have great difficulty "not hating" woman-beaters, and children abusers, and there are just too many of these breeders around.

Mary Christine said...

Gee whiz. I sure didn't intend to rile up everyone. I work at a place where there are abused children... and know most of them will grow up to abuse. Does that make me hate them? No. Not now. Not then. Not ever. That is not what we are called to do.

wendy said...

thanks for this post Mary. it touched me in a weird place. Fortunately I don't know much about physical abuse, but I know plenty about mental abuse and how damaging that can be. I also understand today that if I keep going back to those same people/places for the love and support that I deserve that I will continue to be hurt. I've noticed that people that haven't experienced that type of relationship have a difficult time understanding why I can't just walk away. I'm learning now to do that but it is frightening to try something new and stand up for myself. It is amazing how much hate and anger has been removed from me as a result of good sponsorship and a thorough working of the 12 steps, but most of all grace.

I stuck around in my first few months of sobriety because they told me it would get better, despite the fact that life continues to happen around me, it does get better. For that I am grateful.

After this whole long comment, I'm not sure anything is relevant. But thanks again for sharing your year-by-year story.

Tall Karen said...

Wow! Today was my first day to visit your blog (blogging newcomer). By the Grace of God I will celebrate 5 years of sobriety on Sunday. It has been a week of reflection for me, and you have reminded me of so many things. I want to go back and read your story from the beginning...for today, I'm going to go and read my own journals from year #1.

God has blessed us with AA and sobriety. Thank you for sharing your story of recovery.


Pam said...

Oh girl I am reliving this with you. It always seems like someone else when I'm looking back. Do you find that too?

Ed G. said...

Mary - thank you...
As a survivor of abuse, I can so relate...
Thanx to the grace of God, the wonderful program of AA, expert sponsorship and lots of work and time, I don't hate and I find my experience can be useful.
Blessings and aloha...