I have told the story before, but what I realize now is that I wasn’t telling my story.
I was writing from a place of residual anger and the need for some kind of cathartic release.
I was so consumed by my circumstances that I lost my voice, my perspective. After some space and some healing, I have found those things again. Now it is time to tell my story.
I met my husband when I was 40. I blame Disney and Hallmark for the enormous expectations that I carried into my marriage. I understand that nothing is rainbows and sunshine all of the time, but I did expect happy. I did expect much different than the reality. You see I didn’t leave any space for severe stress or extreme changes in circumstances. I didn’t leave any space for job loss, a global pandemic, and struggles with substance abuse.
My parents have been married for over 40 years, and they were always purposeful about shielding my sister and I from arguments and fights. Perhaps that is why my expectations were so high; I never saw the bad parts. My sister and brother-in-law have an amazing marriage as well. That is what I wanted, that is what I expected from Day One. And that is not reality.
After we moved in together, I became Susie homemaker. I was trying new recipes, enjoying grocery shopping (which never happens!), I was hanging pictures on walls, doing laundry, and generally just enjoying having someone to care for.
I expected him to do the same, instantly transform into a Hallmark version of himself. The bottom line is I expected him to change and be more like me.
Over the course of two years, everything disintegrated. I drank copious amounts of wine for a couple of months and then I would stop for a couple of months. I was reading all the “quit lit” I could get my hands on, I was listening to podcasts, writing, meditating, praying, doing yoga, taking classes, and attending online meetings. I was learning and growing and I was mad that he didn’t share my enthusiasm.
I made terrible, unsafe decisions during my drinking times. Then always the next day, the remorse and shame would flood over me and I would spend the whole day diving headfirst into everything that would help me. I did everything to the extreme. Want a glass of wine? Drink six glasses. Want to feel better? Take a bubble bath, get a massage, and a pedicure, and a facial. Want to learn? Take two classes and spend every second reading and listening to those who have walked this path before me.
During this battle within myself to put down the wine and grow, I became hyper-focused on alcohol. Not only as it related to me, but everyone else as well. I started to really pay attention to the drinking habits of my friends. I was extra sensitive and tuned in to advertisements and the constant presence of alcohol on television. How could all those characters drink the way the do and go about their next day full of pep, like nothing was wrong?
All of my senses were heightened around alcohol and seeing it in my home began to trigger my anger and anxiety. I never knew what kind of evening I was going to have because of alcohol. I never knew what would happen around dinner time because of alcohol.
Anxiety and fear and anger became my constant companions. For two years I lived in a state of fight, flight, or freeze; my reaction driven by the actions of others. Adrenal fatigue and exhaustion crept in slowly but became heavier as time passed. I was worn down. I became a hermit, alone with the TV at night and just going through the motions at work every day. I was broken. I felt alone. I felt defeated.
The final straw in my marriage, after many long talks and a few ultimatums, came during a quick vacation to the beach.
I consumed enough vodka by the pool to black out. I don’t remember security walking me to the room, or my husband being embarrassed. What I do remember, as if it were a slow-motion movie scene, was looking at an empty bottle of vodka and an empty bottle of whisky and flying into a rage. Two years of anger unleashed in that moment and I became a violent, fury-filled version of myself. I lashed out physically, which I have never done in my life. I wanted to hurt. I wanted to inflict the kind of pain I had been feeling for years.
The next day, as the weight of all that happened settle on me like bricks, I realized I had lost myself. I no longer recognized my own spirit. I had become consumed by this anger and angst. I did not like myself, who I had become in this marriage was not true to my soul. It was not who God created me to be. I cried. I sat in stillness and prayed. And on the plane home, alone, I knew what I had to do. Two days later I packed what I could, grabbed the three pets, and I left. That was three months ago.
Now I am ready for my life to begin again. I’m ready for my own place. I’m ready to take a happy vacation.
I am exhausted, but I’m feeling more and more free every day.
I am a nurse. A healer. An empath. A caretaker. A fixer. Some would say a natural witch. I have great instincts that serve me well, when I listen to them.
I lost myself in this marriage. There is nothing wrong with being a caregiver. But so many times, that instinct to save and help overwhelms us, it wipes out our boundaries, and we become a dimmed version of who we were meant to be. I am now trying to reclaim me. Who am I? Other than nurse, sister, daughter… who am I? Why was I put on this earth? What are my hobbies? What makes me happy? What do I like to do in my free time? I have to reclaim my self.
I have been doing a lot of reading, more meditating, trying to write more. I have spent time outside with my dog (when it’s not 100+ degrees and I don’t get eaten alive by mosquitos). I have been reading about crystals and healing modalities that are outside my norm because I am curious, and have always been curious, about things outside my comfort zone.
I’m emerging from my hermit cocoon and seeing my girlfriends more often, having lunches and brunches with cute clothes and awesome food and delicious mocktails. I burn candles constantly depending on my emotions in the moment and I’ve rediscovered my love of essential oils and am taking an online class to deepen my knowledge.
I cry when I need to and I sing loudly in the car and I dance in the house when I have to move to get it all out. I am mentally designing my new place in a glam French country style: cozy and warm and inviting with soft corners and colors and feminine touches but a little bling.
I’m dreaming about Christmas when I will finally be able to buy the MINI Cooper I’ve always wanted.
When everything breaks, when your world shatters over time or in one defining moment, you’re left standing in a mess you cannot comprehend. The overwhelm is real. The ache in your heart and body and soul is real. But underneath the confusion and the ache is something even more real: survival. The instinct to move away from danger, to save yourself, to be authentic in your spirit is stronger than anything I’ve ever experienced. It was a deep calling in me. My voice. God’s voice. Survival instinct took over and nothing else mattered, so I left and saved myself.
My family says I stayed much longer than they thought I would. But love is hard to turn your back on, until it isn’t. I want anyone reading this to know that you are worth saving. You are worth a life of safety and beauty and wonder and happiness.
For women in particular, that is difficult because we tend to be the ones to hold the family together. But at what cost? Go when you need to go. Prioritize your happiness, your life, and everything else will fall beautifully into place. I believe that wholeheartedly.
I am waiting for my next chapter. I am looking forward to the future with clear eyes and an open heart. There is so much I want to do and experience and now I can make those things happen. We all deserve that. We deserve happy.
So when everything breaks, grieve for it, and then stand up and put everything back together in a way that honors who you were put on this earth to be, and the life you are meant to live.
Love and light, friends