update: I will soon add to this post as installments, and dedicate a separate section of my blog to my Journey out of Domestic Violence and Codependency. *note* trigger warning*
Part 1 .
Danny was bad. Seriously. But he was not bad looking. He sent me an 8 x10, taken at the state penitentiary around 1987. He looked fine in all white, his hair dark, eyes light. Standing posed in the South Carolina sun, just right to show off his biceps and tattoos. Mom even said how handsome he was, looking remarkably like an actor on Dallas. She watched that show, faithfully. I stared into that image…frequently.
I’d only been out of jail for a few weeks, feeling squirrelly, ready for some action. The dude, Eddie and I hooked up the day after I got home to my parents house, and I remember thinking ,”He’ll do for now.”. The future looked wide open, but my addiction came home from jail with me. I dutifully went to AA for months, not drinking but smoking some weed now and then. Much more ‘now’, than ‘then’.
I never forgot Danny, tho’. As that year passed I dutifully worked as a correspondence link for Danny’s girl, Sandy, and him. The State Prison system didn’t allow letters to move from one institution to another, I said I’d be their “go between”. But as her feelings for Danny cooled, mine warmed, and not wanting to break his heart I tried to fill the void with cheerful words about my life. Thinking back I gotta laugh…break his heart? Anyway, Eddie seemed to not care, I explained the set up, neglecting to mention that Sandy had moved on and married some other dude.
Life and the pursuit of a geographical cure to my cocaine addiction led me across country late in 1988. Skipping on our rent in the wee hours of a Monday morning in late September, we piled into my 1970 Mustang Fastback. I had lost my license at some point that year so one drunken weekend I decided to buy red spray paint and paint the hot rod without any prep work. Runs, drips and overspray on the windows turned the nice looking sport car into an attention grabbing mess. So, after pawning some stolen electronics I put her “in the wind”, leaving family, jobs and all common sense behind.
I lost the car in Fort Deposit, Alabama, to a “nice” state trooper who pulled up minutes after the car broke down. He determined that I had no money for repair, so rather than be taken to jail I chose the other option he offered… the car being impounded and Eddie and I being given a lift…to the impound lot.
Only taking what we could carry, plus my Boxer dog, Spice, and calico cat, Binky Boots Bouncer Callahan (neice of “Dirty” Harry Callahan), we trecked a few paces away from the impound lot and rested. I was sick now, jonesing and hungover and sorely missing my car in the rapidly cooling air. Night was coming and we were all hungry, Eddie found some change in his pocket and crossed over the Interstate to scrounge us some food at a truck stop. He came back with a can of tuna, which we split 4 ways.
“Hmmmmm…this ain’t gonna be no joyride…” I mused.
“We’ll make it…” He grinned sheepishly, not exuding much confidence. In turn, I did not feel any , either. The concrete underpass we were using as shelter didn’t block much wind. It got down to 42 F. that night, my feet hurt so bad in the cold that Eddie sat on them. I cried.
Our trip across country was successful in one respect: we made it to the west coast and put a foot in the Pacific Ocean. There are so many other stories I have to tell you about the 18 months we lived in Arizona. I won’t tell them now.
I started with Danny, I will end with him. Thank God I will only end with him in this blog post, not in this life. He passed away in 2018, married to another. I can’t understand why I still think of him as “mine”. After you read this, maybe you can tell me.
What came first, Bipolar Disorder, Sexual Assault, Codependency, Addiction, PTSD? I am not going to answer that question, thats for the Scientists. When I write these installments about my life experiences I do not want you, gentle reader, to think this is me romanticizing the life I lived. It is by the skin of my teeth that I survived, most people do not. I grew up with my head full of movies, books and television telling little girls that the “Bad” guys were the sexy ones, that a smack was “what a girl needed” and that sexual assault and rape were justified and designed to “keep a woman in her place”. The whole “walking three steps behind” was an idea embraced by the people I was surrounded by, and degrading talk towards the women I loved and looked up to was the norm. I don’t think I am alone in saying that my family was raised with the idea of the man ruling with an iron fist, the woman being a servant rather than an equal. The harder the father was, the more “manly” a daughter may think a partner should be.
Whether or not mental illness caused me to fall into this mindset easier and deeper than my peers , I do not know. I do know that of my girlfriends growing up, many of us had violent boyfriends, but almost none ever talked about it. When a friend would sport a black eye it was either ignored, or looked at as some kind of badge of honor.
I was unfortunate in that I wanted my Peers approval more than anything else. I so lacked love and confidence that I would do anything, literally anything for their acceptance. This held true in all my “romantic” relationships as well.
Was my Ex (who I call Danny, not his real name) the only abusive person in my life? No, indeed. He was by far the most accomplished at this form of torment and, by the grace of God, the last abuser I ever dealt with. I am grateful to him for this: Being the catalyst for my transformation to a life free from drugs, alcohol, violence, crime, and abuse.
Over the past 20 years since I was his wife, I learned to understand codependency. I made the decision to join a group of fellow survivors and guided by a counselor we we taught about the cycle of abuse and how to break free. If you are in a similar situation I urge you to seek community help, society has come a million miles from the days of suffering in silence and hiding your bruises. We have many miles to go, at least we have wonderful assets and years of reforms to help reduce the of domestic abuse today.
I am including a trigger warning in these posts, and I am using caution for my own health also…if it gets to hard to talk about I will stop. I still have flashbacks, I guess I always will. But I can detach myself more now than I used to, now that my abuser is deceased.
So why talk about my past at all? I still need to. I don’t hate the person I used to be anymore, but I did. Oh, boy, did I ever. I loathed myself for the things I had done for him, and for the things he had done to me. I felt I had to cut this part of myself off, completely and most firmly, and bury her somewhere where all this hate would leave me alone. But that does not work, I found. Hate buried grew, festered and eventually began poisoning my life in sobriety. It effected my ability to care about myself in the present. The way I perceived myself suffered and my confidence did also. One day a few years ago, a very astute and kind counselor had me do something profound. He pulled an empty chair up beside mine and asked me to visualize the “past” me sitting there. He had me describe how I felt about her, what I saw. I described a horrible person deserving death, without showing a hint of mercy. Then he asked me to see how sorry she was for the things she had done, how abused she was, how truly sick and crushed. Man, it just hit me like a ton of bricks. He asked me if I would forgive someone else who had gone thru what past me had gone thru…thats when the tears came. Torrents of them, and a realization I could live free from that awful burden of hate I had been carrying. Whew… I even feel it now, still! And I have to remind myself at times to keep having that self love, self forgiveness for mistakes. I used to have an old Deep Purple album entitled, “Who do we think we are?”; I relate this to the thought that is my Creator can forgive me, them who do I think I am if I can’t!
That’s where I am today, friend. Just me. But I love my life today, even broke and wearing an old sweatshirt and sneakers… Even in my little home with my little scruffy dog! We both have the same haircut these days!
I hope you enjoy my writing and art. If you do, feel free to follow ! talk to you soon!