Here’s a Thanksgiving story that’ll make you want to hug your family: Years ago I invited my best friend to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner because, for various reasons, the rest of her family was unavailable. After hanging up the phone my father asked who I was speaking to. I told him who it was and that because she was alone on Thanksgiving, I invited her to our family’s house. My father then flipped-out on me and within his tirade said, “If you ever invite anyone over for another holiday meal I’ll fucking kill you.” I then called her back and uninvited her, telling her I wouldn’t be eating there as well. I left the house and my family of six – none of whom defended me – and went to the movies. To this day two of those siblings are still in-deep with my parents. Two of us escaped. Sometimes “the orphanage” is the better option. In the years since leaving both my parents and my similarly-mannered ex-husband, my Thanksgivings have been the most beautiful I have ever imagined. And I owe it all to me.
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.