I’m not against marriage. I’m against alcoholics destroying my life. So I left my husband. My mother had much too much influence over me in the past, convincing me to marry an unstable person. And I actually did it! Sadly, once I married him, I finally had her approval. But the price was enormous, so I eventually left him. You can bet your life I’ll make it my own decision next time. Thankfully she’s out of my life now, but I’ll never forget the disturbing lessons she taught me. Toxic people are ever worth keeping, even if they’re a parent.
The Pre-Thanksgiving Alcoholic
I can smell an alcoholic from a mile away. Unfortunately – in this case – there’s one right next to me on my commuter train home.
Alcoholics think that no one knows they’re alcoholics. I know this guy’s an alcoholic. There’s a way alcoholics process alcohol – the smell of it hovers near their skin with a stale, sweet, fermenting, rotting essence. It permeates the area like old tobacco does after seeping into walls for years.
Whenever an alcoholic sits next to me, my skin crawls. My senses go on high alert because my ex-husband was an alcoholic.
I was home making stuffed mushrooms on Thanksgiving Eve, 2006, when my husband [at the time] came home after drinking all day. He was so inebriated it was like a stranger had entered the apartment. It was a violating feeling, having my husband’s body – with a stranger’s personality – enter my home, and the worst part about it is that I couldn’t do anything about it like I could if it really was a stranger. When he harassed me or dumped an entire container of spice into my recipe, all I could do was gently plead for him to stop, hoping by some miracle something I said would snap him out of it.
Nothing ever did.
There were times when he’d come home at 3am after being unreachable all day. One night I used my laptop as a shield as I ran through the apartment with my husband throwing things at me. Another night I shut myself in the closet, but he opened it, smashed it closed, opened it and smashed it again – all the while screaming, “What did I do wrong!? What did I do wrong?!”
I was terrified. He was a hunter and although still new at the sport, he had knives, bows and a rifle. There were times while I waited for him to come home at night that I considered sleeping on the floor beside the bed just so I wasn’t vulnerable when sleeping.
Those times made me realize that I had to make a choice: I could fall into the dramatic cinematic B.S. that a lot of women fall into and potentially have people pitying me for the rest of my life like a piece of worthless trash, or i could do something about it.
Neither of my parents were alcoholics, but they were both physically abusive and emotionally abandoned me. And no one had ever saved me from them. So I thought about my baby boy, “I have to save his life like no one saved mine.” I had to save his life like no one saved mine.
My ex-husband still tries to get me into fights even to this day. But it’s completely different now because I have my own safe haven. My home is an oasis because it’s just my son and me who live there. I no longer have to peep around the door when I come home at night to see if my ex is drunk, passed out or dead. I know my son is safe and happy in our home. And my stuffed mushrooms on Thanksgiving are perfect.
I hate alcoholics. I’m sorry, I do. And I hate when they sit next to me on my commuter train home.
But I love myself for being brave enough to save myself and my son. Its made all the difference.
How My Mother Made Me Desperate
We often wonder why some girls are desperate and needy. You would think it’s an inherent need, but sometimes it comes from the folks who are supposed to protect them the most. Case in point:
“We’re going to marry you off to the old widower down the road,” my parents would joke, adding, “Except, we’ll have to throw in some chickens as well” – a clear sign that they didn’t think I was worth anything; they had to “sweeten the pot” with a farm animal. So essentially I was worth less than a farm animal.
This was just one of the many not-so-subtle ways that my parents expressed their view of my value. I had to be married to be worth something, and that no one would want me as I was. I wasn’t good enough.
Eventually all my sisters “found someone,” and I was “left.” I dated here and there, but as nothing panned out, my mother would ask in horrified voice if I was a lesbian, and would introduce me as “the last one left.” Imagine how I felt when – in social circles – she would say, “Oh, and here’s my daughter, Kate. She’s the last one left.”
The last one left? It indicated that I was – in her eyes – the last one of her daughters to do the right thing: obtain the golden ticket and get married. So to my mother, all my other achievements – Deans List, MVP, Captain, Who’s Who of Junior Colleges – twice, Editor In Chief of the college newspaper and Student of the Year – all paled in comparison to being someone’s wife. It was another statement that pissed me off – but being a dutiful daughter, I let it slide. Why? Because my other sisters had issues with my mother! My mother also very artfully manipulated me by saying, “It doesn’t matter what we do to you, Kate, you’ll always come back to us. You’re the good one.” She was a master manipulator.
So those statements, along with dozens of other similar messages, created a need for me to find a husband – even before carrying out my own dreams. But ironically I didn’t radiate desperateness. I wasn’t a slut. I wasn’t “with” every guy I met, and I didn’t want every guy to marry me. I actually had some discrimination. Some.
Sadly, when my dysfunctional mother introduced me to her friend’s equally dysfunctional son, I went for it – hook line and sinker – because of a few things: 1.) I was tired of waiting for a quality guy that I actually wanted to spend the rest of my life with 2.) I was completely intimidated by quality guys 3.) It was a preordained match made by my dysfunctional mother 4.) I was taught my entire life to think that my parents had all the correct answers, and wasn’t ever allowed to question them. So if this guy was my perfect match, I wasn’t about to question it.
Thankfully, the story gets better.
A foundation of years of therapy enabled me to eventually leave my alcoholic husband in a somewhat “Sleeping With the Enemy” style. I call it “The Evacuation.” After my husband left for a long weekend with the boys, I gathered friends at my home to pack my things. Did I tell my mother? No way in hell – I was a clam in the months leading to the evacuation. Twice prior she had convinced me to stay with the alcoholic, so I knew that it was a turning point in my life – she wouldn’t be making any more decisions for me, and I didn’t tell her anything about the evacuation. Needless to say, when I did inform her of the move, she was shocked and tried to convince me to return to him.
I feel like 1 Year of Single is my final phase of the evacuation. Since leaving my ex-husband, I’ve had to completely sever ties with my mother – and I want to rip the control completely out of her hands by not dating for one year. I want to do it on my own terms. And I want to take everything back from the Mother who made me desperate.