The cycle of abuse and trauma
When it comes to the recovery process following an abusive relationship, I advise my clients, first and foremost, it’s far from pretty! The recovery process is ugly and dark; however, there is a light and end of the tunnel. A world at your fingertips waiting for you to heal and recreate your life.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
I never imagined I would be “that girl,” the woman living a lie. The same man who loved me was the man who tormented me emotionally. Domestic abuse exists in all social classes; it’s not a poor, ethnic issue. I was a suburban, middle-class, stay-at-home mother, the room mom — a regular Suzy Homemaker as far as outsiders could tell. What nobody knew was my husband at the time was a high-functioning alcoholic who, over the years, tore apart every ounce of my self-worth.
I thought this was “normal”
It didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t a one-two punch to the face. It was subtle, to the point I wasn’t even aware of what he was doing — but a feeling began to overtake me; the vibe was slowly destroying me. He was a good guy to everyone, down-to-earth, super-smart, and talented with carpentry. He loved a project; it kept him busy — it helped keep his mind occupied and focused. He would come home from work and pop the cap off a bottle, and I truly thought nothing of it. Isn’t it normal for men to kick a few back after a hard day’s work? I was a stay-at-home mother to our son. I, like most women, spent the days cleaning, playing, planning, and cooking. When I look back on our relationship, I now recognize that the comments about my weight or the crappy meal I prepared were subtle words of abuse that used to break me down.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
He would plant a kiss on my forehead every morning on his way out the door. Come 3:30 p.m.; he’d roll into the driveway, work boots pounding up the backstairs, and have his first cold one in hand by 3:40 p.m. His daily routine was comprised of two very different people. There was the hard-working, fun-loving man I married, and then there was the rage-filled person 7-8 beers in. His personality would flip like a switch. “How’s your day?” “What’s for dinner?” chitchat would morph into whipping his cold plate of food in the sink with “How the hell am I supposed to eat this garbage?” I felt like I was living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; I never knew who I would encounter anymore. Over time, I could tell when he was stepping into his Hyde character. His posture would change, his jaw would clench, he would pace. He spent most of his evenings in the garage and would come in around 9 p.m. when the household turned in for the night. He would rummage through the fridge looking for his dinner; I could hear muttering from the kitchen. “My dinner isn’t warm,” “How the hell am I supposed to eat this?” with the clinking sound of his dish hitting the sink. He would storm through the house on the phone, ordering dinner from some local restaurant. Most of the time, I bit my tongue and ignored him; other times, I would dig right in, like a coyote lunging at its prey.
The cycle of abuse
He set the foundation for the rest of our marriage. Alcohol fueled the home with angry outbursts. Over the 11-year marriage, he destroyed my self-esteem and told me I would fall on my face if I ever left him. He controlled our finances. My name was not on any of the vehicles; at one point, he attempted to take my name off our mortgage. I had no chance of getting out. Finally, my very close friends and family were aware of our situation. I was attending Al-Anon meetings and had a therapist. My husband made it very difficult to gain anything financially. I saved my allowance, and when I worked part-time, I used my earnings to pay for child care and gas. I was literally at the end of my rope and grasped onto the only thing I had left: prayer.
“The plan”-long road to recovery
Prayer was my escape. I had to detach myself emotionally from him to work on myself. I read every self-help book out there and listened to every YouTube self-empowerment video I could find. It took some years before I even made my exit strategy, eventually leaving him. I learned your abuser would come back strong and attempt to rope you back in. He tried every trick in the book, but I stuck to my guns once I committed to leaving. When he recognized his failed attempts, his rage grew wild, threatening my well-being and safety. As a transformational coach and reiki practitioner, I am vocal about my clients’ struggles; we walk away in pieces, never really whole again.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel
The years I spent regaining my self-confidence opened my eyes to my own resilience and strength. It prepared me for the next chapter in my life, and even though I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I had my faith to rely on during the uncertain times ahead. If you walk away with one thing from this article, it’s the resiliency of women. We all have the capability to reclaim our personal power, confidence, and strength to reimagine and create the life we are meant to live. It takes time and the will to want change.