Chapter 15: The Crumble
We made our new apartment a home, and Melody loved riding her bike on the back patio when it was snowy outside. She loved taking 8 steps and being able to make a snow angel. We tried really hard to learn how to be quiet in our basement apartment as it appeared a lot of sound carried… We got used to watching movies with subtitles so we didn’t have the TV too loud. I learned how to get my kids down for bed quickly and quietly. What I hadn’t learned- was how to keep a drunk man quiet. Many occasions I would get texts from my landlady telling me we needed to quiet our voices because her kids were trying to sleep. This usually meant I had to accept whatever awful thing Jake was saying to me and continue not standing up for myself. If I did, I would stir him up and he would get louder and slam doors. He would yell or speak curse words loudly and he didn’t care. He was inebriated.
Some people who have not dealt with a family member with a substance problem would easily ask why a person would stay in a relationship like this… Let me tell you what I think… It’s a sort of battered wife syndrome… with or without physical abuse… You fall in love with someone. This person is wonderful, responsible, loving, funny, adventurous and an amazing parent. You want to spend your whole life with this person… You commit to that. You have children with this person. Then one day…. something changes. That amazing person you are in love with… They disappear.
What you are left with is literally a monster. An unrecognizable monster who says things you
would never hear from sober loved one. Even their basic characteristics change….. As I write this and think back to this part of my life, I have chills. I feel cold heavy. This person distorts your way of thinking, your self image, your world image and everything you ever believed leaves when this demon walks into the room. You feel rage, enormous sadness, a weight pressing down on your heart, a dark sheet being pulled over your head…. You begin to change right along with that person. Your resolve is gone and you don’t fight back after a long enough time… When your loved one sobers up and realizes the damage they have done… They are that warm, kind person again and you change back to the person who feels happy and loved and you forgive… but you can't forget… you start to wonder if the things that were said are the true inner thoughts coming out with all their inhibitions down… Or are they lying while intoxicated… you just can't know… But you forgive and you go on… and you get angry when it happens again and again… It hurts worse when you are the only person they treat this way..
Jake was the life of any party…. He was always kind to everyone and funny! No one would have believed he was a monster to his wife. He treated his daughters like princesses, even when drunk. Other than his inability to stand up straight or drive in an emergency, I had no worries about him being with my kids when he was drunk… It was only me…. I was the only person he tortured with his emotional damage. That took its toll… I didn’t know how to talk to him about what he said to me when he was drunk or how to tell him how I felt without upsetting him, and yes… That’s another clear sign that I was damaged… I was more worried about how what I told him would make him feel, than I was with how what he said made me feel. So I used a tool I learned in therapy with a little twist… Every time he passed out or wasn’t home, I would write…
I wrote pages and pages retelling the events and telling myself on paper how I felt and what I wish would change, or what I wondered etc…. I had been doing this for a while and one time he was looking for something and found the notebook I had been using… He was really sad at what he read and how he made me feel… I used that day as an opportunity to leave my notes out strategically… Where it seemed like it would maybe be visible enough to catch his eye but not left out for him… He always found it… So then he would know… I wrote unfiltered and honest… I needed him to know… It never made a difference… But it made me feel better knowing that he knew.
One night he had been excessively drinking… He got so loud and was slamming doors and slapping walls as he walked and tried to stand up straight. I was begging him to quiet down…. I finally called his mother and I told her she would have to come get him… He was wasted and being AWFUL and I knew my landlady was going to freak out… she said she and her husband would be right there…… While I waited for them to come the slurs and the name calling continued…. I was sobbing… My phone rang and it was….. you guessed it… my landlady…
In a very angry tone she said to me “Alli! What is going on down there!? I have kids trying to sleep that are in my room crying at the language they are hearing… You guys better quiet down!” Sobbing and gasping for air I said “ I am so sorry! I’m so so sorry. I am trying to keep him quiet… He is really drunk and he is mad at me so he is yelling and slamming doors. I keep begging him to be quiet. I am so sorry!” Her tone changed… “Alli, are you ok? Do you need us to come down there?” “I’m okay. I called his parents, they are coming to get him.” “Do you want me to come stay with you until they get here? Is he hurting you?” “No, I will be fine.. He doesn’t hurt me… He just gets mean verbally and emotionally. I’m really sorry. I will try to keep him quiet….” “Okay, you call me if you need someone to be there with you.” “Thank you, I will. I am really sorry!” “You have nothing to be sorry for. Okay, I’m a call or text away. Talk to you tomorrow.” “Okay, thank you. Bye.” After what felt like hours, his parents arrived… He was confused when someone knocked on the door… I answered it and let his parents in… His mom immediately took his face in her hands and said “Jake! This is not you. What are you doing?” “What do you mean, mom? I’m fine” he said in a soft and kind tone.
“Jacob…. I want you to look at your wife right now. Does she look okay? You did that. YOU made her cry with the horrible things you are saying to her. I didn’t raise you this way. You are gonna come home with us tonight.” “Mom, I’m fine. I don’t need to go anywhere. Why are you even here?” “You are NOT fine… THIS is not fine. You are drunk!” “I’m not mom, I promise.” “You smell drunk, you are acting drunk, and your wife is in tears. When she called I heard the things you were saying to her. My heart is broken that you would ever speak to her like that. Get your shoes and your coat. Let’s go.”
“Mom….” “Come on.” “okay…..? Bye dear.” He kisses my forehead like he is an endearing spouse. This made my blood boil slightly....
As his dad walked him out, his mom walked over to me and hugged me tightly. I broke down more and buried myself in her hug. “I am so sorry, Alli. You deserve better than this and this is not how we raised him. Call us ANY time. We will all help him. Try to get some sleep now okay?” I thanked her, shut and locked the door and texted my landlady to let her know they had picked him up and apologized profusely again…
Jake didn’t like that I called his parents…. He was slightly mad at me for days…. He kept his drinking semi in control… When I say in control, I don’t mean he didn’t drink… I mean he drank enough to numb or dull whatever it is that he felt he needed to and he would zone out with TV or go to bed. I didn’t want this life… I was tired of it. I needed him to get sober. A few days after Jake’s loud episode, our landlord approached him on his way in from work…. He told him at the end of the month we would need to move out… They had realized having tenants wasn’t for them… I knew this meant they didn’t want a loud drunk as a tenant… and who could blame them? Certainly not me… We had been there 4 or 5 months… Barely found a home for all of our things… now it was time to pack it all up again and find a new place….. This didn’t help our fighting, but we were able to keep it civil.
One day I had this idea it was time to see where our problems were, where we wanted to be and what was in our way to get there… I told him I had a sitter for the girls and I wanted to do a little experiment with him… When I got back from dropping the girls at my moms, I came back and he had been sipping on something… Well that kind of defeated the purpose right? Annoyed, I decided to proceed anyway.. He wasn’t drunk… We could still do this… I gave him a notebook, and I had one for myself… We sat on opposite ends of the couch and faced one another… I asked him 3 questions and we both wrote down our answers without talking… I asked him what he felt the biggest problem in our marriage was, what he felt was the cause, what he thought would solve it.
My answers were “ We are not unified and have lost our connection, alcohol, working on his sobriety and me working on the things that trigger him to drink. “
His answers were “No connection, not in love anymore, splitting up.”…………………………..
GUT CHECK! What?!?! He wanted to split up? That wasn’t even on my radar of possibilities… He didn’t love me? Well… I guess that made sense and anyone could have guessed that with the way he had been treating me the past months and years… It was the reality I felt deep in the back corners of my mind and heart. It was the fear I had felt since Shauna....I took a deep breath and I said very calmly “ Okay… Well… I guess this is the best time for this… We will just look for two different places to live. The girls and I will move in with my mom and dad until I get a job and can afford a place. We can work out visitation and switching weeks…. um… I guess we need to tell Melody… Let’s wait until we have a plan in place of where we are going, but since this is YOUR decision… You need to tell her. “ He agreed with everything I said and I left to go get my girls… My mom was surprised to see me so soon… I said to her…. “ Well…. It takes time to work through issues but it doesn’t take long to split up… SO….?” I shrugged and it started to hit me… My mom and dad were both shocked and said "Wait what? You decided to split?” “No… HE decided he was done and there was nothing to work out, so.... Can we move in with you until I can afford a place for me and the girls?” “Of course hun, I am so sorry….. I can't believe he is leaving…. You have given him so much… I’m angry for you.” “Thanks, but it’s not helpful to be angry... so just knowing I have somewhere to take the girls is helpful… Thanks guys…” I smiled big, put my big girl pants on and went to get my girls from the toy room. I took them home and knew I needed to feign everything was okay until we spoke to Melody… She was the only one who could understand… Sai was only 6 months old.. It wouldn’t make a difference for her too much… My life was changing… My marriage was crumbling. Everything I had known and everything I was for the past 8 years was halting and changing directions with a part of my staying in place. I had no idea how to proceed… How would our talk with Melody go? Would she be okay? Could she handle being a child of divorce and living with me instead of her other half? Would I have to let her live with him and get visits? I had no idea how to move forward…. Would I be able to?
There is nothing so painful as going in to fix something and learning you can't fix it… I’m here to tell you that you can't fix everything and that’s okay. You can rise from your trauma renewed like a Phoenix. Why? Because, Mama, YOU are worth it! Let’s rise together! Until Next Chapter…. Be strong, be resilient…. Be a Phoenix Mama!