Let my hair down

I started dating my husband during my senior year in college.  It was an amazing time for me.  I was full of confidence and the world was mine.  I had already received a job offer from a Big Six Accounting firm, slated to start the following fall, so my last semester was merely a formality.  I had time to breathe and enjoy life, which was a nice break from studying and working several part-time jobs.

He was fun, and there hadn’t been much fun in my life for a bit of time, since I was focused on school and my goals.  He was the antithesis of that – carefree and fun-loving.  A breath of fresh air.

We went dancing at bars and gambled at casinos and took trips to the Hill Country to hunt.  He was funny and people were drawn to him, so we were always surrounded by people.  It was a new, social world and I enjoyed letting loose, drinking, and having a good time.  It seemed to be fate that we met at a time that I could appreciate this different world.  I thought that he was the yin to my yang.  The perfect balance.  I taught him how to set goals and he taught me how to let go.

By the time I left for my new job in the city, he was ready to set career goals and follow my path.  We left his life behind in pursuit of my goal-oriented life.  And it was great.

For a while.

My job demanded an incredible number of hours.  He became restless.  He started spending weekends in our hometown, partying with his old friends.  It didn’t bother me because he was still working hard on his career goals during the week, and I was busy anyway.  In fact, it wasn’t until we had kids that I felt the disconnect between our values.

After our first son was born, we relocated back to our hometown near family.  We weren’t back in town long before I realized that we had made a mistake.  He was back into his old life and old patterns.  What had been temporary fun to me was a lifestyle for him.

Over the years, I found that if I had one drank, he would have six.  I stopped drinking, as if I could somehow control his behavior by controlling mine.  I became ultra-conservative and responsible to make up for his lack of responsibility.  I lost my ability to have a good time.  He reminded me constantly that I wasn’t “fun” and boy, did I know it.  I was not having fun at all.  I was always the designated driver.  I was always the one begging to go home before closing time because I was always the one responsible for getting up with the 3-year-old at 6am on weekends.  I always had to keep my wits about me.  It was never my turn to let my hair down and blow off steam.

I joked that my husband would “bring a cooler to a funeral.”  Seriously, the cooler went EVERYWHERE.  To the lake. To the golf course.  To the deer lease.  To trick-or-treat.  I lectured him that you do not have to consume alcohol to have a good time.  I was living proof.  (ha)

I still believe that you do not need alcohol to have a good time, BUT I think that my views about alcohol have skewed a bit far in the other direction.  Like to the point that I am now completely paranoid about drinking.  I find excuses not to drink or to avoid places where others are drinking.  Not because their behavior bothers me or because I think that they are doing anything wrong.  Quite the opposite.  I envy them and their ability to relax and have fun.

I just can’t relax.

Over the past few years (or many), I have grown accustomed to being on high alert.  I’m always ready to handle whatever crisis might arise.  I’m always waiting for a phone call from the kids to pick them up.  If I have a glass of wine and feel relaxed, I am not on high alert.  I am not in total control of anything and everything.  That scares me, and because of that, I’m becoming more and more anti-social.

Recently, however, when the boys took their father out for dinner, I went to dinner with a friend and I actually allowed myself to order a glass of wine.  (You cannot imagine the internal pep talk that took.)  Although I usually prefer the sweetness of a frozen drink or fruity martini, my friend found a sweet wine for me to try and I liked it.  I liked the taste and the relaxed aura it provided.  I reminded myself (in my head) over and over again that I was in control and that I had not done anything wrong.  It was one drink and I could still handle any crisis.  I battled the fear and forced myself to appreciate the opportunity to relax.

Later, we found the wine at a local store and I bought a bottle.  I told myself that one night, when the boys were busy with friends, I would once again relax.  I bought the first season of “The Good Wife” on DVD and planned to lounge on the couch with a nice glass of wine and a great show.  It sounded like the perfect plan, and I was excited this past weekend when the opportunity for it arose.

Until the time came.  Then I thought of all of the scenarios that could happen that would be disastrous if that glass of wine “went to my head” and I wasn’t in total control.  What if my oldest son decided not to spend the night out and needed me to come and get him?  What if the boy spending the night with my youngest son got sick in the middle of the night and needed me to take him home?  I could not put a child in the car with me after drinking a glass of wine.  That would be irresponsible.

Ironically, I work in the entertainment industry.  I know the state laws regarding alcohol consumption.  I know what to look for and what to look for as signs of intoxication.  I know that studies have shown that your body can process approximately one drink per hour.  And therefore, I know that my fear of drinking ONE glass of wine is a bit irrational.

On the other hand, I’ve seen the effects of alcohol abuse on a person and it scares me.  It scares me to the point that I won’t allow myself to even enjoy alcohol responsibly, let alone abuse it.  After years of living with a risk-taker, I won’t allow myself to take the slightest risk.

And I no longer seem to know how to let my hair down.

David Letterman

I recently watched Oprah Winfrey’s interview of David Letterman.  I’ve never been a big fan of Letterman because I didn’t like the way that he made fun of his guests.  It made me uncomfortable even in the safety of my living room.

Well, many things have happened to me since I was young and naive.  I’m old and jaded now and I have more of an appreciation for the man.  Plus, he looks like my dad.  With his sarcastic tone and family resemblance, I would swear that we are somehow related.

What really drew me into the interview was the fact that she was going to ask him about his affairs.  Oh how the jaded love to see a cheater in the hot seat!

I’m not going to lie.  I was so impressed by Dave’s responses that I might have t-shirts printed with “Dave for President” on them.  Did you see the interview?  Can I get an “AMEN” here?

He owned his mistakes.  He is not letting himself off the hook.  He is seeing a counselor and working every day, in big ways and small, as he describes it, to earn back the trust of his wife.  He is apologetic and remorseful and, most importantly, dedicated to atonement.  He wants to be the good person that he thought that he was.

Sure, there is always that voice in my head that says, “Well, he never should have done it,” but how can you argue with someone who is working hard to understand why he behaved that way?  Someone that is living in the true knowledge of pain of their actions?

I never got that.  In fact, I might have KILLED for that level of apologetic behavior.  It’s safe to say that if I had, I would still be married.

My ex felt justified in his affair.  It was my fault because we didn’t have sex enough.  He felt justified in staying out all night in bars.  It was my fault because I didn’t clean the house and decorate enough.  He felt justified in hitting me.  It was my fault because I was confrontational.

I thought that there was remorse and atonement when I discovered the gambling in January 2000.  He said that he was “so relieved” that I knew and that he didn’t have to live a lie anymore.  He promised to spend every day of the rest of his life making it up to me.  He would see a counselor.  He was going to get a second job to help dig us out of the financial mess and whatever measures I had to take to protect us financially, he would live with them.  I mean, he said ALL of the right things to a woman with two babies that had never experienced trauma and wanted to rewind and pretend it never happened.

It did, though.  His promises?  Those did not so much happen.

He did quit gambling.  He did allow me to restrict all of his access to cash…for a short time.  He did deal with my grief and continue to apologize…for a short time.  He never once applied for a second job.  He never once attempted to come up with a solution to the mess.  I was left to figure out how to get the repo’d car back and pay the credit card bills and the bank loans and buy the groceries.

We attended ONE counseling session together.  The therapist told us that she needed to see us separately.  She worried that I was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress and he had traits of an addictive personality that he needed to deal with.  (Clearly the understatement of the DECADE.)  I’ve gone back to that same therapist off and on for years.  He scheduled one appointment that he never attended.

Those few months in 2000 were the only that I saw remorse from him.  That was the only time that he ever seemed to understand the effect of his actions and the pain that he had caused.  I remember seeing pain in his eyes those few months.  And yet, it wasn’t enough to propel him to do the right thing. He wasn’t ready to accept that he had an “addictive personality.”

I know that year was a shift for me.  I never saw the world the same again.  Not only was there the possibility of pain, but it could come at the hands of the person that you trusted with your life.  I never felt safe again.

I wonder now if that year was also a shift for him.  He couldn’t handle the blame.  He couldn’t handle the shift I felt.  He started to blame me.  By taking away his access to cash, I was suddenly emasculating him.  By feeling pain, I was crucifying him.  By having my guard up, I was shunning him.

If you ask him what happened to our marriage, he will tell you that I never got over the gambling that year.  And therefore, every awful thing he did in the eight years after that was justified.

So I say, Bravo, David Letterman!  I stand behind my theory that we are human and we all make mistakes, but it’s not those mistakes that define us.  It’s what we do to make up for them.


Christmas Let-Down



I don’t mind admitting to you that after Christmas, I struggled with a little bit of depression.  I have a ton of reasons for it.

  1. I had surgery, and therefore, was restricted from certain activities.  I think I’m smarter than doctors and tried to do things, but my nose reminded me that my career is in numbers.  Follow the doctors orders or feel the wrath of pain.
  2. I was taking medication from the surgery that made me sleep a lot.  Or if I was awake, I wasn’t really aware of it.
  3. I couldn’t breathe through my nose.  I felt like crap and wanted to do nothing, which was lucky for me because in accordance with #1, I was pretty much only allowed to do nothing.
  4. I felt some Christmas let-down.  Not that I was disappointed in Christmas, but once the excitement was over and the high went away, there was a bit of a low.
  5. Christmas was weird with the kids going to their dad’s.  That hasn’t happened since 2008.
  6. Things about The Ex came to light and it opened some wounds.

Since no one really wants to hear about my blocked sinus passages, I will expand more on #6.

A friend of mine is a nurse and mentioned that she recently cared for the father of my ex’s current girlfriend.  She didn’t realize it until my ex called her for advice on care when the father left the hospital.  This is no big deal, right?

I wish. For me, it was a stab to the heart.  Because WHO IS THIS GUY?????

I know that the past MANY years have been pretty bad, but there are a few years that stand out in my mind, like 2004-2005.  In 2004, we sold our house to pay off the last of the gambling debt and moved in with my mother.  Living there wasn’t bad, but the humiliation of the reason sucked.  It was also the year that my parents divorced after 40 years of marriage, and I was the self-appointed CPA on the case, so essentially, I divorced my father.  At the end of 2004, we had a joyous moment with the birth of my nephew, but it was quickly masked when my sister was whisked away for a biopsy and diagnosed with cancer.  She begin treatments right after the new year.

All of these awful things were a mere preview of some of the worst few months of my life in 2005.

It started in March.  On Tuesday, my sister went to MD Andersen for chemotherapy.  It was becoming a routine by this time.  She would drop the baby off early in the morning and Mom and I would tag team taking care of him until she felt better on Friday or Saturday.  But our routine was disrupted in March.

On Wednesday, I went home for lunch to check on things because my mom had complained of a headache the night before.  The maid was at the house, but instead of cleaning, she was taking care of my nephew.  She didn’t really speak English, but she clearly said the words “mom” and “hospital.”  I took one look at my mother and knew that she was right.  So there I went to the hospital with mom and baby in tow.  When we got there, she was asked a series of questions that she was unable to answer.  She just looked at me.  Nurses were hovering around her and acting with extreme haste.  They kept asking how she had arrived and were surprised when I said that she had walked into the emergency room.  She was physically declining and my anxieties were steadily rising.  They discovered that her pulse-ox was only 72 and there was some concern that she was having a heart attack.

After a few hours (and several calls to coordinate rides for my children from school), the doctors finally decided that she was being admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.  There was a mixture of relief and fear.  My mother was sick.  My mother was staying at the hospital.  It’s just pneumonia, but something isn’t right.

I called my husband to tell him.  I started to break down.  He interrupted and excitedly said, “Hang on, Babe, it’s my pick!”  I stood there on the sidewalk of the hospital next to an ambulance with a baby on my hip in stunned silence.  The woman who helped raise our children while we worked was ill, but it was insignificant compared to his Fantasy Baseball Draft Pick.  I hung up the phone.  I was on my own.

The next day our youngest son had a scheduled tonsillectomy.  As I sat with him in recovery, I recruited friends to check on my mom at the hospital.  My husband never volunteered.  In fact, he had to leave to get to work, and he left the next day for a “business trip” at the beach.  (Which I now know to be code for “meeting his girlfriend.”)  I was left to care for my mother, my nephew, our son, and every other aspect of our life alone.

But now he is helping HER. Ouch.

And more than that, he is replacing his children with her children.  On Saturday, our oldest son had his first soccer scrimmages for the high school freshman soccer team.  He was beyond excited and proud, as was I.  My mother and I drove to the big city to see the games and sat in the rain cheering.  My mother with her lung disease that faces pneumonia annually.  Yet there was no sign of his dad.  Later that night, our youngest son met some friends at the Indoor Soccer fields to play around.  It turned out that HER son was there.  At the end of the night, The Ex showed up at the facility to pick up her son.  Not his.  I pulled up behind HER car and The Ex was sitting in the passenger seat, hollering out the window at our son to see how his brother’s soccer games went.

On the way home, my son opened up that he felt “abandoned.”  Gulp.  He said that he felt like his dad was doing all of these things to impress her and that meant doing stuff for her kids and forgetting about them.  As you can imagine, I fantasized about putting a bar of soap into an old sock and beating my ex with it.

He went on to say that he thinks that his dad moved in with the girlfriend because they never went to his townhouse those two days of Christmas.  And my son’s x-box was in the girlfriend’s bedroom.  Hello, OCD.  I can’t say that I missed you, but I can tell that you are settling in for a few days.

Needless to say, I haven’t quite been the same since this conversation on Saturday.  I may, or may not have casually driven by his townhouse to discover that their basketball goal was missing and a mysterious silver truck was in the driveway where he normal parks his black truck.  His lawn chairs were no longer on the front porch.  I might have then perused the County website to see if there were any warrants or eviction papers served, and discovered that there was another filing for a Misdemeanor B:  Theft by Check.

None of this should matter to me.  He is no longer my problem.  These things no longer directly affect me.

Oh, but they indirectly affect me because they directly affect my kids.  It explains why he didn’t ask to spend more time with them on Christmas.  He was spending Christmas with his new family and he didn’t want the kids to know that he lost another residence.  It explains why he is giving up the legal fight for more time with his kids.  (Well that and the failure to pay his attorney.)  It reminds me that loaning him money to “feed our kids”  on Christmas was just a ploy.  His girlfriend and his aunt fed them, so I’m sure that they money went to something for his new family.  Or a hot check.  It reminds me that he is narcissistic and is doing what he needs to do, just as my son described, to secure a place with this new woman, even if it means leaving behind his own flesh and blood.

More than that, though, it hurts.  My kids hurt and that’s a heartbreak for me, even though it’s not my heart being stomped on.  I realize, though, that I am still traveling along the path of grief and recovery, stopping to visit the Garden of Sadness and dipping into the Well of Anger.  Sure, I had surgery and meds and holiday blues to accompany me and nudge me a bit over the holidays,  but the true nature of my Christmas let-down is this ongoing grief.  I haven’t quite conquered it, but I’m working on it.

This about sums it up…the marriage, that is.

I thought that I would share an excerpt (revised to omit names, exact dates, and locations) from the Custody Worksheet that I have been working on.  Below is one question (and answer) out of the many, many questions of the 28 page document.  This question was difficult for me, as many of them were.  I chose to share this one because it doesn’t deal with the specifics of my children.  It mostly deals with me.  In the document, I tried to only list dates and facts.  Below I have expanded it a bit to include some of my thoughts.

How do you sum up a 13 year marriage?  How can you possibly list all of the craziness that went on…finding him peeing in a closet or passed out in the yard…his verbal attacks…his lies about money and drinking and women…his broken promises?

Write a history of your relationship with your ex-spouse up through the present date.  Begin with your dating relationship.  Emphasize any and all important events or episodes.

Our courtship was a whirlwind. We started dating in December 1993, in our early twenties.  Within two years, we moved to the big city together, got engaged, then married in August 1995.

Five months after we were married, I received notices from our bank about checks returned for insufficient funds.  My husband had received a cashier’s check from a Bookie for gambling winnings, which he cashed.  The cashier’s check stated it was void if it was an amount over $300, which it was.  Therefore, the bank withdrew the funds from our checking account.  My husband stated that he had made a mistake and he would never gamble again.  I believed him.

Our oldest son was born in 1997 and we quickly relocated back to our small town near our family.  Our youngest son was born the following year.  During my pregnancy with our youngest son, we helped my mother-in-law move and leave her husband.  By the time we arrived home, her husband had discovered the move and left a message on our answering machine.  He told me that my marriage was not perfect and that my husband had a gambling problem and borrowed $7,000 from his aunt, along with borrowing money from his mother and father.  He further referenced a night that they were visiting us in the city when I was pregnant.  They went to a bar with my husband’s friend and sister.  Since I was pregnant, I stayed home with my mother-in-law.   His message said that they ended the night early because his friend caught my husband kissing his sister.  Both my husband and mother-in-law denied these allegations and stated that it was just the ramblings of an angry man.  I believed them.

Late in my pregnancy with our youngest son, my husband played softball weekly with co-workers.  After the games, the team often went to a bar to drink.  My husband often did not return home until after the bar closed.  One night when I could not reach him by cellphone, I called my mother to come to the house to sit with our oldest son, who was asleep, and I waddled into the bar to tell my husband that it was time to come home.  He was drunk and refused.  I told him that he could either come home now or give me his house key.  He gave me his house key.  I forgave him. 

During the year after our second son was born, there were many strange occurrences with money.  I found a bank loan payment receipt.  When I confronted my husband about the receipt, he told me that he co-signed on a loan for his father to help them out.  I was furious.  We had two babies and we were not in the position to help out our family members.  I blamed his father.

When we purchased our house in 1999, I was told that we could get the loan, but only if my husband’s name was not anywhere on the loan.  I was naive and did not look for the letter that referenced my husband’s credit.  I simply brushed it off, thinking that it was probably from debts that he had in college.  I trusted him.

In 2000, I discovered that my husband, in fact, did have a gambling problem.  [See post about the gambling discovery here.]  A bank called me regarding late payments on two loans.  I was unaware of the loans.  His mother told me the truth about his gambling troubles and upon questioning others, I learned that my husband had depleted our savings account and accumulated significant debts.  We separated only briefly.  I changed the bank accounts and restricted his access to cash, while we tried to pay off the debts.  The debt was difficult to handle, and the truck that he re-financed without my knowledge was re-possessed.  His mother paid off the loan to get the truck back.  I thought that we could handle it.  He would handle it.

My husband stopped gambling to my knowledge, but the drinking continued. I remember having plans to eat pizza and watch movies with my sister and her husband, but my husband didn’t come home.  My sister was worried, and I will never forget the look on her face when I told her that “sometimes he doesn’t come home.”

One night when he came home late, he was aggressive and blocking my path.  I threatened to call the police.  He dared me to hit him.  He dared me to call the police.  I dialed 911, but I hung up the phone.  Two female officers responded to the call anyway.  They encouraged my husband to sleep on the couch and leave me alone.  He threatened to leave the house, but they advised against it, since he was drinking.

Another night, when the boys were still babies, they both had colds and trouble sleeping.  My husband was not home to help as he was at a bar, so I put them in their car seats and drove them around town to put them to sleep.  When I returned home, my husband home – drunk and incoherent.  He was in our bedroom on his hands and knees on the floor of our bedroom.  He was naked and peeing in my shoes.  [See my post about this fun night here.]  I was becoming angry and disappointed in him.

In December 2002, we attended a neighborhood Christmas party.  I left the party early with the boys, but my husband remained.  The next day, I took our youngest son (then 4) to the hospital for a ruptured Baker’s Cyst on the back of his knee.  My husband did not go.  He slept all day.  Later I learned that he had left the party the night before with a friend, but when they ran out of alcohol, they returned to the home where the party was located.  All of the guests had gone. They opened the garage door with the car opener in the homeowner’s car, and entered the home in search of leftover alcohol.  The police were called, but my husband and his friend left prior to their arrival.  I was embarrassed by him.

There were many instances of late night drinking and coming home after the bars closed, sometimes passing out in his truck in the driveway.  We sold our house and moved in with my mother in April 2004 to cover what was remaining of the gambling debt and start rebuilding savings.  Once we moved, the overnight drinking escalated and he no longer returned home when the bars closed, claiming that he went out for breakfast with friends.  More of his time was unaccounted for.  I started to withdraw from him.

On a weekday morning in April 2005, when it was time to take our boys to school, I was still unable to locate my husband after a night of drinking.  I contacted his family and friends.  They contacted the police station and hospitals.  Finally, I received a call from his friend that said that he finally answered his phone and that he was safe, although he never admitted where he was.  He blamed our living arrangements.  I was becoming desperate to figure out how to make him happy and I no longer knew myself.

In July 2005, we purchased a new house.  The drinking binges did not diminish.  He spent many nights drinking in bars, claiming that it was necessary for his job at a Beer Distributor.  [See my post about figuring out that he was an alcoholic here.]  By this time, I felt helpless.  I never felt like I was good enough and I hated myself.

In September 2005, two days before the evacuation for Hurricane Rita, my husband once again stayed out in a bar until 2:00am.  When he came home, he was drunk and we argued. It became physical.  He restrained me on the bed.  He was straddling my abdomen, holding my arms against the bed at my triceps.  His face was centimeters from my face.  I was panicked and bit his nose in an attempt to get him off of me.  He punched me with his fist above my right temple in my hairline.  It immediately caused a knot the size of a half of a golf ball.  My head throbbed.  He sat outside the bathroom door so that I could not leave the house to seek medical treatment.  He claimed that it was my fault for biting him.  Within 24 hours, the swelling caused a black eye and the bruises on my left arm became noticeable.  The city called for an evacuation from the hurricane and I left with the kids.  He remained.  I promised myself that it was over and I would be strong, but facing the devastation of that storm alone was too much for me.  I was weak.

In October 2006, we again briefly separated because of the drinking.  I couldn’t take it any more.  He went to stay with his friend, but after a while, I believed that he wanted to change.  He returned home the week before Thanksgiving, but the drinking and periods of unaccountable time did not diminish.  He started traveling “for work,” although he often could not account for his hotel or location.  He added a password to his cell phone and he only used his work email account.  I nearly drove myself crazy trying to decipher between the lies and truth and right and wrong.

By February 2007, I fully suspected that he was having an affair.  I suggested that we take a trip for the Valentine’s Day weekend.  He refused and said that he had to go out-of-town for work.  Again, he did not know what hotel he would be staying at, and I was unable to reach him on his cell phone.  I was heartbroken and I knew that the writing was on the wall.  I was frightened and I blamed myself.

In March 2007, he bought an expensive truck, stating that he needed it for work purposes and for safety on the road.  I was perplexed by the extravagant purchase that I had to sign for, since our marriage seemed to be falling apart.  I thought that it, by chance, meant that he was in it forever and these were merely just bumps in the road. Then he took $1,000 out of our bank account to install a custom sound system.  Two weeks later a check also cleared the bank for another $1,000 paid to a company to install the system.  Two amounts withdrawn for one purpose.  Duplicate.  My husband was unable to explain the original cash withdrawal. He fumbled around about where the money went.  I suspected that he was gambling again.

In May 2007, I was on a field trip with my oldest son’s class.   His friend’s ex-wife (the man he stayed with during our separation) was also on the trip with their daughter.  She asked if my husband had told me about scaring her girls.  She explained that my husband had gone to his friend’s house and did not know that the girls were there.  They called her to come over.  When she got there, my husband was at the house with a blonde woman named ____ that drove a _______.  I confronted my husband, but he said that the girl was there to meet his friend for a date and he was only there to get clothes for his friend and let her in.  [I later discovered that this was the girl that he was having an affair with and moved in with after the marriage ended.]

In June 2007, I asked my husband if there was any hope for our marriage.  He had become increasingly angry and secretive and mean.  He said that we had two choices:  pretend and stick it out for the kids or get a divorce.  I didn’t want to be with someone who had to pretend to love me so I filed for divorce.  I immediately panicked and refused to have him served with papers.  I changed my mind and wanted to make it work.  I decided not to tell him.  Pretend that it didn’t happen.

In July 2007, I decided that I was still committed to making the marriage work and making him happy.  I asked him if we could try to re-kindle what we had.  We agreed to go on a date.  I said that we could rent a hotel room or do anything fun that he wanted.  He chose to go to a casino.  He spent the night drinking and playing Black-Jack while I watched, and he withdrew money from the atm machine, spending the money that I had been saving to replace our front door.

Later that week, his friend saw the divorce filing on our County website, and my husband confronted me about it.  He was angry and could not believe that I would do such a thing, especially without telling him.  He moved out to live with his friend again in September 2007.  I pleaded to try to reconcile.  He spent Christmas with us at our house and he attended the boys’ baseball games, but he did not exercise any visitation with the boys.  He said it was because of his living conditions.  I thought that he just needed time to cool off.  He would come home, just like those other times.  In reality, he was spending his time with HER.

In February 2008, his affair became public knowledge. [See my post about the affair discovery here.]  He took her to his company convention soon after that.  Finally, this was the point that I realized that I was getting a divorce…only 8 months after I filed.  I was devastated and I became ill.  [See my post about the Divorce Diet here.]

In March 2008, he rented an apartment and spent large sums of our community funds to supposedly set up the apartment. His father called to ask if my husband had given me my portion of the funds from a timber sale at the lake house.  He said that he had regrettably written the check only to my husband instead of to the both of us.  I had no.  That same week, a check cleared the bank that was written to his grandmother.  When I asked her about it, she said that he was repaying a loan that she had given him.  She said that she was holding another check until a particular date to cash it.  I asked her not to cash the check as it was from our joint account and there would not be sufficient funds.  The sum of the amounts spent in March-April 2008 to set up his new life in an apartment were in excess of $10,000.  I opened a separate account to keep our funds separate and protect myself from his spending.

In April 2008, he started exercising visitation with the boys, even though, at times, I had to loan him money to be able to feed them over the weekend.  He did not pay child support as we did not have a temporary orders in place.  We met with an attorney to work out the details of the divorce, which was set for August 2008.  His biggest dispute was child support, offering to give up time with his kids if I would agree to reduce the child support.  Two weeks prior to our court date, he retained separate council to represent him in the divorce.  The divorce was finalized in August, which was 14 months, much drama, and significant sums of money later.  [See my post about the day of the divorce here.]

Well, I guess this just about sums it all up…the marriage, that is.  Er, the death of it.

Chasing the White Rabbit of Acceptance

I was brushing my teeth this morning and I realized that I have finally come to an acceptance about my divorce.  It seems like an odd statement, since I have been divorced for FOUR YEARS.  I’m not saying that I reached the point of acceptance at that moment in time, mid-brushstroke.  I just realized that sometime over the past year, I got there.

If you have been through any sort of trauma or loss, you are probably familiar with the Five Stages of Grief.  There are probably a million websites and books describing them, and I can tell you that at different periods of my life, I have read as many of them as I could.

The thing about these stages is that you don’t always go through them in a methodical manner.  Oh, how I wanted to.  Sadness – check!  Anger – check!  Bring on acceptance!  The truth is that you can go in and out of the stages and revisit them.  And acceptance just seems like the elusive white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.  You chase it and chase it.  You catch glimpses of it.  You have a good day and you think, FINALLY I am all better, only to collapse the next day.  No rabbit.

I was in Denial and Bargaining WAY before the divorce came to be.  If I cleaned the house, he would stay home and not go out to drink.  Sure he was out until 4am, but that didn’t mean that he was having an affair.  Sure, I filed for divorce, but it was never really going to happen.

I remember being catapulted into Grief, and not just the prelude.  It was a Sunday evening.  I was in my kitchen cooking dinner.  My best friend called.  (She was also the wife of my husband’s best friend.)  She said, “You know that question that you always ask me, and I say that I don’t know?  Well, ask me again.”

I stood silent for a moment.  At first I was bewildered, but then I knew.  You see, I had suspected an affair for quite some time.  I joked that he was seeing a young twenty-something because what grown happily married man suddenly shaves off his chest hair?  I asked my friend if she knew anything.  She did not.  She said that her loyalty to her husband and his friendship kept her from telling me directly if she knew something, but that she would never lie to me if I asked.

So I asked again.

And my world crumbled.

It’s not like I didn’t know deep down, but that’s completely different from knowing.  You can no longer pretend that you don’t know.  There is no way to shove that genie back in the bottle.

I spent about a week in bed.  I’m not even kidding.  Sure, I got the kids to school and to their programs, but I was merely going through the motions.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  When I did eat, it was as if my body rejected the food and I became physically ill.  I cried so many tears that I thought it would be impossible to cry any more.  Tears are an endless supply, I’m afraid.

Eventually I became numb enough to return to work.  Although being numb meant that concentrating was next to impossible, and there was still spontaneous crying.  In addition to the humiliation of an affair, I got to be a walking water fountain.  Very professional.

It’s funny how you can be so miserable in a marriage.  You can know that it’s over emotionally and should be over legally.  But suddenly, when you are faced with infidelity and impending loss, you can’t remember those bad things.  Your mind transports you back 10 years, and all you can remember are the good times.  The times before alcohol and gambling were known factors in your life.

All I could think about was the birth of our children and the tragedy of raising them without a father.  I didn’t think about how mean and abusive he was.  I thought about how funny he was.  I didn’t think about how detached and angry he was.  I thought about how well he knew me and how once he was my best friend.  I could only focus on what it could have been, not what it was. I just wasn’t ready to give up and lose it.

This launched me into Denial and Bargaining again.  We had an unbreakable bond, after all.  We knew each other better than anyone.  We were best friends and soul mates, and this was just a…blip.  We could recover from this.  I had to be better.  I had to show him what I was worth.  I was going to be better.

I started exercising like a fiend.  I lost 40 pounds.  (On the day that we divorced, I was the same size as the day we got married.  There is some poetic justice in that.)  I started decorating the house and working on projects.  I removed all of the light fixtures in the house and painted them.  I painted furniture.  I painted walls.  Boy, wasn’t he going to love my new decorating and cleaning skills when he came home?

[Although my motivations that year were pathetic at best, I do remember that year as triumphant.  I was woman and I was roaring.  I proved so much to myself, and hopefully, to my boys.  I could do anything.]

Of course, none of it worked.  As much as I told myself that he would wake up from this madness and come home in the end, he didn’t.  He drug it out while creating his new life, and eventually I had to face the fact that it was done.  I became angry and I set the court date and when the date came, it was over.

I’m not very good with Anger.  Well, I shouldn’t say that.  After years in an alcoholic marriage, I’m actually excellent at suppressing anger.    Feeling it and expressing it, now that’ a different story.  When I feel anger or express it, I am immediately overwhelmed with remorse and guilt, and then Sadness rears its ugly head. Therefore, I spent quite a bit of time with Sadness over the past few years.

There were so many times that I just wanted to press the Fast Forward button and be over it.  I was tired of feeling sad and angry and sad again.  I was tired of feeling anything.  I just wanted a new normal, and please don’t let this pain be it.

Last spring when The Ex had lost the girlfriend, his place to live, and all of his money (again), he wanted to come home.  After a few weeks in the whirlwind, I noticed that he had borrowed large sums of money from me, lost his job, and oh yeah, he drinks.  Reality slapped me in the face. I was just a pawn.  I hit real anger.  It stuck.  I was motivated to cut him out of my life.  I was motivated to take the steps necessary to make my life better.  (Filing for child support is a great example of my steps toward taking back control of my life.)

I guess taking back control of my life also changed the course of the chase for the white rabbit of acceptance.

Although Anger was my motivator, I didn’t feel angry all of the time.  There were periods that I didn’t feel anything.  I might still get angry when he does stupid things.  I might still get sad when I feel overwhelmed and miss the dream.  It just doesn’t control all of my life anymore.  It isn’t all that I have.  It doesn’t exist every day in my day-to-day life.  Now these emotions simply make appearances the way that Acceptance used to.

And so there I was brushing my teeth, minding my own business, when I finally saw that the white rabbit was in the room with me.