For as long as I can remember, my concept of love was tainted. Love was presented to me as something that was given with conditions and impossible expectations. After years of confusion, I began to replace love with codependency. The grips of codependency brought me to my knees long before I indulged in any mood/mind altering substance. Before I ever picked up a drink/drug, my addictive nature preyed upon validation and approval. Maybe traumas and the environment of my childhood propelled my incessant need to please, or maybe I was always a glutton for punishment. At the root of almost every human heart is the desire to love and to be loved. I was no exception, in fact, I clung to validation for survival. From an early age, I never learned how to validate myself. Perhaps it was the lack of emotional safety I experienced or maybe it was the fundamental inability to deal with life on life’s terms. Either way, I was spiraling, out of control, with no safety net in sight.
My first experience with domestic violence started at a very young age. My stepmother was bipolar and untreated. Her angry outbursts were unpredictable and seemingly unprovoked. I could misplace a dish in the dishwasher and war was raging. I vividly remember my father having to step in between her attacks, on too many occasions. In all honesty, the emotional abuse I endured was far worse than any mark or bruise left behind. During the most impressionable adolescent years of my life, I was constantly reminded “you just need to be the adult, you know how she is.” I wore the “adult child” title like a badge of honor. I was reminded that she was not my biological mother and she did not sign up to raise me. As you can imagine, this caused an ungodly amount of confusion and ravished my self-esteem. I became the unwanted stepdaughter and I wasted years of my life attempting to fit into the ever-changing box she wanted me to fit in. I lived in complete and utter turmoil, always feeling that I was less than and I acted as if.
Fast forward to the day my first abuser, my stepmom passed away unexpectedly. I was absolutely wrecked and the only viable solution: oblivion. I crossed over the threshold and my drug addiction had me by the throat. I walked through hell and back, dancing with opiates along the way, and completely delusional. I found solace in chaos. Opiate detox was my reprieve, perhaps I was a glutton for punishment. This became the theme years to come until the fear of change was far less agonizing than the pain I was experiencing.
As time progressed, I realized I was in a relationship with the male version of my stepmother. The abuse progressed, as it always does, from pushing me, to blows to the body, to eventually breaking my ribs. Want to hear the insanity of abuse? I still didn’t leave, I actually lied to my family and all of my coworkers. I told everyone I fell on my daughter’s toy. We moved into a new place and per usual, the ups and downs ebbed and flowed like the sweet but piercingly cold mountain stream. The abuse continued and the severity of the total demoralization was incomprehensible. I couldn’t separate delusion from reality, just like when I was actively using drugs/alcohol. So here I was, a year and a half sober and living in mirroring insanity.
It is not uncommon for domestic violence and addiction to coexist. In fact, both are so widely stigmatized and I was no exception to falling prey to both vices. I felt worthy of abuse and the oblivion brought on by my addiction. I continued to rest in self-propelled chaos. Afraid to expose my fatal flaws, I found relief in isolation. Eventually, the pain overcame the fear to change.
For the first time in my life, I pulled myself up off the floor and I met fear face to face. I valiantly walked through the fire, but not without the help of the people who loved me the most. I told everyone the truth about what had been going on and I swore to myself that I would never go back. I believe the phrase “don’t let your past come back to haunt you” was coined from situations like this one. The truth is, unhealed trauma resurfaces and from my experience I kept seeking out what I was familiar with: abusive chaos. The life I live today is so liberating. Breaking a grueling generational curse, I make decisions today that harvest the future I want for myself and my kids. I continue to seek out therapy for my PTSD, addiction, and trauma. I am constantly surrounding myself with women that have my best interest at heart. I am almost 3 years sober today. I have walked through the fire with dignity and grace. If you are a victim of domestic violence, don’t give up. Don’t stop reaching out to the people that love you. Anonymously reach out to the resources on this site. Visit your local battered women’s shelter. Never give up, you are beautiful.