My story began 13 years ago with a man who was the love of my life. We were young, in love and life was perfect. We were building our American Dream – a house with a white picket fence, a dog and 2.5 kids.
Fast forward several years and he was working all the time, building a business from the ground up; I was focused on raising our daughter, building my own career and climbing the corporate ladder. Things weren’t right between us. He wasn’t home much, if at all, and I felt as though the burden of raising a family fell squarely on my shoulders.
Then the financial issues started.
My husband was working 80-90 hour weeks…but the bills weren’t getting paid. Where was the money? There always seemed to be a fairly logical explanation.
Now, I also felt the burden of providing for our family, alone. Someone had to pay all the bills. Eventually I had enough and needed some time apart. Needless to say, he took it incredibly hard. After a series of suicidal threats, a broken window and a call to the police, I had him admitted to a psych ward to get some help. That’s when I was told the most shocking news of my entire life: he was a meth addict. Wait….what?!? Hold please while I pick my jaw up off the floor. It can’t be true. This was something that OTHER people did, not him. This wasn’t part of our story. It just simply wasn’t possible.
To say I was in shock was an understatement. But then…the more I thought about it, the more things made sense. Hindsight is always 20/20. The signs were there, I was just clueless. I didn’t know what to look for. Lots of people have said to me, “How can you live with someone and be married to someone and not know?” Trust me, it’s easy. So easy it’s scary. And he was a master at hiding it. He entered treatment and eventually his addiction became my reality. And little did I know, this whole series of events, which at the time felt like the worst and most trying time of my life, was foreshadowing to something far, far worse.
He eventually finished a treatment program and seemed to be on the right path. But then the downward spiral started again. This time, I knew what to look for and suspected he was using again. The next few months were filled with suicide attempts, jealousy, delusions, paranoia. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to somehow shelter our daughter and myself from his destructive actions. So I filed for divorce. I felt as though I was setting him free. He didn’t have to wonder anymore if we’d get back together. I didn’t want that to be his focus. He needed to get himself together and not worry about us.
Two days after serving him with divorce papers came the beginning of the end. I often refer to it as “The Incident” for lack of a better term. It was a beautiful Saturday in May…absolutely gorgeous. I was with our daughter at the local farmers market when the texts and phone calls started, threatening suicide. Something seemed more “off” than usual about it. More real, more serious.
I received a text from him that said “do you know what it’s like to put a shotgun in your mouth and pull the trigger and have nothing happen?”
After trying for several hours to talk him off a ledge, I received a text from him that said “do you know what it’s like to put a shotgun in your mouth and pull the trigger and have nothing happen? I’m literally crazy right now. Take me home babe.” I knew at that point that I could no longer control the situation by myself and called 911.
After many failed attempts to locate him, I was advised I could not stay at home until he was found and committed to a psych ward. So, with the help of the authorities, my daughter and I had 2 minutes to collect some bare necessities and we left. Throughout that night, he called and texted me so much that my phone died. The police did not take him in as I had requested as there was a miscommunication. Little did I know, he was still out in the world, unmedicated and unsupervised.
The next morning I went home to quickly shower, change and grab a few things. I needed to figure out my next move. When my phone finally charged enough to turn on, I started reading the texts. I was blown away by the craziness of it all. There was something “different” about this time. Something far more sinister than ever before. It took my breath away. Just as I realized he had been watching the house all night, there was pounding on the door.
I knew it was him. I knew he had a key. Based on the texts I had read, I was certain he was there to harm me. I desperately tried calling 911, screaming “my husband is going to kill me!” I could hear the operator but she couldn’t hear me. It was straight out of a nightmare (I found out later that the microphone on my phone had gone bad). In a last ditch effort, I started calling my neighbors and hanging up, knowing they would wake up and come check on me if I called enough times.
He opened the door with his key and came inside.
In front of me was a monster; it wasn’t my husband. He was incredibly high and looked like he had been up for days. I tried to talk calmly to him and he said “I’ll show you bitch!” and ran to his car. I took that opportunity to run out of the house and across the lawn where my neighbors were outside waiting. What happened next happened within seconds but in my mind, it’s all slow motion.
As my back was to him, I heard the sound. A huge, deafening blast – a shotgun blast. I stopped in my tracks. I was sure I was shot. I waited for the pain to find out where exactly. It is true that your life flashes in front of your eyes, but the only thing I saw was my life with my daughter. She’s all that matters to me. Eventually I realized I wasn’t shot but I couldn’t turn around. I couldn’t bear to see what I thought was behind me. My neighbor knew the thoughts in my head at that exact moment and looked for me. He was fine and climbing in his car to make a getaway.
We called 911 and a high speed chase ensued. He almost killed 3 people out riding their bikes on that beautiful Sunday morning. Eventually he was caught and charged with 8 felonies.
The next several months are a blur. He was in jail but still harbored a lot of hate against me, resulting in worries he would make bail. I was constantly on the run from him, hiding in hotel rooms, at friend’s houses, etc. I was a victim of domestic violence, so I tried to take advantage of the resources available to me. I had terrible anxiety, couldn’t sleep, jumped at every car door that slammed. I had to navigate the justice system but did so with the help of an amazing District Attorney and friends and family. Nine months after the incident, he took a plea deal and a suspended sentence. That was almost 2 years ago now.
Two and a half years after “the incident,” both he and I are in a better place. He’s been sober since that day and is working on finding his niche in life.
Meth destroyed my family. It altered what I thought was my reality. It stole the person I loved. My life will always be divided into the “before” and the “after.” But I never wanted to be thought of as a “victim” and I didn’t want that day to define me for the rest of my life.
I want my story to be about the “after” – about how I persevered and rose above the circumstances and made the best out of a terrible situation. I want my story to be about how I made a happy, healthy, safe life for my daughter. I want her to grow up and remember me as her hero, as someone who fought for us and fought for her. I want my story to be about the wisdom, strength and courage it took to keep on keepin’ on with a smile on my face even when on the inside, my world was falling apart. For her.
Two and a half years after “the incident,” both he and I are in a better place. He’s been sober since that day and is working on finding his niche in life. We are divorced now. I have met someone amazing and we are expecting a son next month.
It took me a long time to forgive him and trust him enough to lift the restraining order. Will I ever trust him 100%? No, probably not. Any trust we did have was lost that day. But I do trust him more now than I probably ever have.
Most importantly, he is dedicated to being a good father to our daughter and playing an active part in her life. We co-parent together amazingly well, given everything that has happened. She is worth finding a new normal and moving on. And really, that’s what I want my story to be about – her.