‘The intensity of our fights made me think he loved me. We’d break up, get back together. I was addicted to chaos. When he returned from Iraq, he said, ‘Bad news. You’re both going to jail.’

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“I met my ex-husband when I was 17 years old through a mutual friend. At this stage in my life, I did a lot of partying which included lots of drinking, smoking, and dabbling in some other drugs as well. For as long as I can remember, I always enjoyed escaping reality. Things were never that bad if you’re always running from them, right?

We partied a LOT, it’s what we enjoyed doing together. When we would get in fights, he would say things like, ‘Shut the f*** up, b****’… ‘F*** you’…and the name calling would go on and on. I would argue back, call him names back, insult him and criticize him. My mentality for a long time was, ‘If you’re going to hurt me, I’m going to hurt you ten times worse.’ I think at this point in our relationship, I was addicted to the chaos. We would break up after these awful fights, then get back together. For some reason, the intensity of fights like that would feel passionate, and somehow I would think, ‘He has to love me a lot to get so intense like that.’

I had graduated with my licensed practical nurse diploma, and he was working a dead end job at a gas station. At some point he started some college courses but decided he didn’t want to go through with it. I knew what I wanted to do with my life, and I was frustrated to be with someone who didn’t. One day, he brought it up to me, ‘Would you stand by me if I joined the Army?’ I told him, ‘Absolutely!’ I finally felt like he had direction and what better than him serving our country? Sure, our partying and fighting was continuing, but surely, the good will overshadow the bad at some point, right?

He had gone away to basic training and after he was gone for a few weeks, I had a realization. I thought, ‘Our relationship is awful, my life is so peaceful now that he is gone, why am I waiting for him to come back?’ I wrote him a ‘Dear John’ letter telling him that I wasn’t going to wait for him anymore, and I moved on, and so did he. After all, we broke up and got back together all the time, it wasn’t that abnormal for us.

A few months after he had finished basic training was in AIT, we reconnected. He professed his love for me over and over, said he had changed, that he wanted to marry me, and that he would do ANYTHING to make me happy. He had a way with words before, but this was new. I thought that he finally had matured and that maybe we could finally be a happy couple without all of the drama.

He explained to me that he was getting stationed in Savannah, Georgia and that we should get married so I could move with him. In case you aren’t familiar with this, if a soldier is a lower rank than a Sergeant, then the Army will not give you housing allowance to live off of the base, unless you are married. So here is where I thought, ‘He’s changed, he’s grown up, I have my nursing license, he wants to serve our country, and he’s probably going to get deployed to war, how could I say no?’

He got stationed in Georgia, and we quickly planned out a wedding, because we knew he was going to get deployed soon. We were married for about nine months before he was deployed to Iraq for a year.

During the deployment, I experienced so many emotions I had never had to deal with before. Also, to remind you, I always ran from my emotions, so I was definitely ill equipped to deal with these even stronger ones. I constantly was on edge, thinking every time I talked to him would be the last time, I would hear his voice or see his face. He was a truck driver, so he would go on a mission for a week or two at a time, and I would go that long without talking to him and not knowing if he was dead or alive.

I had my wisdom teeth taken out four months into the deployment, and they prescribed me Vicodin. I remember thinking I was taking more than I should be, but I didn’t really realize it or care enough to, I wanted to be numb. This went on for a few months, then I realized what I was doing, so I sought some help. I went to a doctor and asked for something for anxiety, depression, insomnia, whatever. He gave me all these different prescriptions over a few month’s time, but nothing could make me numb enough. About a month before he was to come home from the deployment, I realized that I was a wreck and that I didn’t want him to come home to a messed up wife such as myself, so I quit taking everything.

Shortly after he returned from Iraq, there was another hurricane of emotions that I was not prepared for. He was mentally still in Iraq, and I was frustrated he wasn’t present, and I was probably being too needy. I was mad that after all this time apart, he didn’t seem to be as excited as I was to finally be back together. I started buying and using some pain pills again, and this time, he joined me as he had before, but this was a whole new venture. This was the beginning of the end.

He re-enlisted when he was in Iraq, so we were sent to Ft. Carson, Colorado next. By this time, we both knew we had a problem with opiates, but we figured once we moved, our problem wouldn’t follow us. Turns out, wherever you go, your problems follow you!

Our addiction continued to escalate over the course of the next two years or so. Our fighting continued to worsen as well. One night, it finally reached its breaking point. We were arguing and he was yelling at me, telling me, ‘If we ever have kids, you’re going to be the worst mom ever!!’ He knew this was a button of mine, and he pushed it, and I lost it. He was standing at the top of the stairs, and I was at the bottom. When he yelled that, I threw an almost empty plastic water bottle that was in my hand, directly at him. It hit him somewhere in the throat, and as soon as it hit him, I saw his eyes change and I knew I was in trouble.

He ran down the steps after me and I tried to run from him. It was a bi-level house and there was no exit from the basement where we were, so I had nowhere to go. He came from behind me and pushed me into the wall, bruising my arm, pushed me into the back of our couch, bruising my abdomen and lower ribs, then grabbed my arms and held me down on the couch and was screaming in my face about how I threw the water bottle at him. I was crying and was hysterical and never fought back because l thought he was going to kill me. I had my cell phone in my pocket, and at some point, while he was on me, I was able to feel the 9 number and knew if I held it down it called 911. After a few seconds, I was able to put the phone to my ear and once he realized I was on the phone, he backed off.

I was able to exit the house and wait for the police at the corner of our street. He came out and was telling me that it was all my fault and that he was going to get kicked out of the Army. The police took what seemed like forever to show up, and by the time they did, things had calmed down. I told the police not to arrest him after explaining what had happened. The officer went to talk to the other officer and came back to me and said, ‘I’m sorry, but I have bad news.’ I started crying, ‘You have to take him to jail?!’ The officer said, ‘No, ma’am, you’re both going to jail.’ My jaw dropped; I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. ‘But I called for help…he’s not even hurt…’. The officer told me that my husband had told them that it hurt him when I threw the water bottle at him, and even though he didn’t have a mark, because I hurt him and I initiated the domestic violence, I was getting arrested as well. When they took my witness statement, they refused to take pictures of red marks all over my arms and some spots had already formed dark bruises, they said someone would take pictures later. They never did.

When we went to court, my charge was assault and battery, and his charge was harassment. My charge was greater than his. My charge was like I beat him up, and his charge was as if he had just made some harassing phone calls to me. I did not understand any of this, ultimately it was because I started it. We had some public defender who advised us to not press charges on each other, so all charges were dropped. I will never forget walking out of that courthouse that day, looking at my husband, and he had the biggest smile on his face. I was literally disgusted with him. What was he so happy about?

All through this, I’m thinking, ‘He just got back from Iraq, he probably has PTSD, I am the one who started the fight,’ and I thought if he would get some mental health help, everything would be fine. I was completely ignoring my own addiction issues and putting all of the blame on him. He did go to the VA for some help, and he said he was told that he was a wuss by some of the Vietnam vets there, and that he, ‘Didn’t know what real war is,’ by them. He also said he was put in group therapy with a bunch of privates who had never been deployed and that he didn’t feel comfortable talking about his PTSD with them. When he saw a counselor one on one, they immediately diagnosed him with PTSD and prescribed him some medication that he never wanted to take and never did. He promised over and over that he would never touch me again, and I believed him. I was going to stand by him, just like I promised, just like I had vowed before God.

A few months later, he ended up getting another Than Honorable Discharge after failing a drug test. He was immediately demoted to an E-1, the rank was ripped off his chest, and he was moved to another company to be transitioned out of the Army. He would come home crying because of how badly he was treated by the soldiers after that. They called him a ‘s***bag soldier’ because of his failed drug test and made him feel like he was nothing.

Six months later, after we had returned to our hometown of Cincinnati, I was getting really fed up with the way things were going. I was working full time and he refused to try to get a job anywhere. We were both still in the throws of our addiction and I wanted to stop but didn’t know how.

One day, I was trying to leave for work, and he was mad about something, I don’t even remember what. He kept asking me the same question, over and over, and I remember thinking that I didn’t know what to say to get him to stop, because I didn’t even know what he was talking about. He wouldn’t let me leave for work, he stood in front of the door, and I got mad and threw my phone against the wall, in the opposite direction of him. I went and sat down on the couch because apparently, he wasn’t going to let me leave.

He kept screaming at me and started to get in my face. When I tried to get away from him, he started pushing me around. He eventually ended up holding me down on our bed, and I started screaming for help. He then shoved his hand into my mouth as he was yelling at me in my face. Once I couldn’t make any more noise, he got off of me and looked like he was in shock. I said I had to go to work and left without any issues. When I got to work, I couldn’t keep it together. I was crying and I had red hand marks on my wrists and my arms and Alex kept calling my work because he wanted me to come outside so he could apologize to me. My supervisor called the police on him. When he texted me and told me an officer was outside with him, I went out there and told the officer there was no problem and everything was fine, and she left. I was embarrassed because I was at work, and I just wanted the whole situation to be over with. That entire 12 hours of my shift, I thought about what I was going to do. I was done. I knew things had to change.

I couldn’t even look at him anymore. Over the next few months, I kept telling him I wanted to go to rehab, that I couldn’t do it anymore. I told him to get a job because I was going to leave to go to rehab, he didn’t believe me. One day, I texted my mother and told her what was going on and that I need help. I’m blessed enough to have parents that quickly jumped on the opportunity and got me help.

After a few weeks of being in rehab, I decided that if he wasn’t going to get help then I would have to divorce him, because I knew I would end up back in the same position. He kept telling me, over and over, that I was the problem, not him. He insisted he didn’t need help and he was not going to get help, and as a matter of fact, now that I was gone, he was better off. I told him that I was going to file for divorce then. He fought with me on and off about it but didn’t seem to care too much other than that.

I was in sober living for a while after rehab, and he had told me he had graduated from pain pills to heroin. I remember being scared for him, but at the same time it was reassurance that I made the right decision by not going back to him.

I filed for divorce when I was financially able to and I paid for the divorce. It cost me around $1200, but well worth it!

A few years after our divorce, his new girlfriend and mother of his child contacted me and said he had choked her and that the police were called, and that CPS was now involved. She asked if I would write a letter about my history with him, and I did, because if I could do anything to help her and her child, why shouldn’t I? I never heard back from her after that, so we can all assume she went back to him. I would never wish that upon anybody, but when she told me he physically abused her as well, it was truly the reassurance that I needed that it WASN’T all my fault. For such a long time, I thought it was me, I thought it was our relationship. It was relief, but at the same time, it wasn’t.

I’ve now been clean and sober for over six years, got remarried to the man of my dreams, and we have three children together. It’s amazing how dysfunction can become so normal that you don’t realize it is dysfunction anymore. My husband now would never even fathom calling me a name, much less hurt me.

As weird as it is to say this, I am grateful that I went through my first marriage, because I did have a lot of straightening up to do, and if I never went through all of that, I would have never been appreciative of the man I am married to today.

I hope that someone out there reading this realizes that they do deserve better. That there IS happiness out there, true happiness. I hope someone realizes being called names or being abused is NOT normal and it is NOT ‘passion.’

Also, that there is a way to get out of your addiction, and recovery IS possible, you just have to want it bad enough.”

[If you need help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org to live chat with someone 24/7. Help is out there and you are not alone.]

Read more empowering stories of women overcoming their abusive relationships:

‘He pushed his way in. ‘Sit on the couch!,’ he demanded. He told me he was going to stay all night. I begged him to leave. Then he came up with an idea: ‘I’ll leave if you have sex with me.’

‘He claimed he was going to leave his mark on me for my next boyfriend. I had a scar wrapping from cheek to cheek, now known as the ‘girl that had her lip bitten off.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by R.W. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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