The Other Side of Abuse

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I remember that night with a clarity I wish would fade.  It was 12:30 AM and I was locked behind the safety of the bathroom door, in an old, cigarette smoke filled house.  The door had light blue paint that was peeling off in one corner, and the bath mat on the floor was tattered in one corner.  The ceiling was nicotine stained and the faucet dripped.  It always dripped, no matter what you did, it dripped.

I wasn’t in there to use the toilet.  I wasn’t even there to fix my hair.  Though I flushed the toilet, just for effect, it really wasn’t why I was there.  I was in there to hide.

I could hear him on the other side of the door.  The sound of his voice slurred by the multiple bottles and cans of beer he’d consumed in the past few hours.  The rage in his tone, the reason I’d said I had to pee in the first place. 

He was angry, and nobody could miss who he was angry at…me.

We’d been out that night at a local pub.  There was live music and it had been packed.  We’d gone out for dinner with a group of his construction friends and then to the pub for the show. 

I’d driven.  I always drove.  That’s what you do when you’re the girl who never drank, you drove.  So I drove.

It had started out to be a fun night.  Most of his friends were good guys.  A few even had some pretty great girlfriends, the others didn’t have girlfriends but they were friendly enough, I didn’t mind hanging out with them.  They didn’t mind hanging out with me either, I was just his girl, and I knew how to talk hockey and the difference between a skill saw and a reciprocating saw.  I was also a good “girl gauge” giving the “go for it” or the “get out of it” signal as they checked out the women in the room.

That’s what I was doing when it all began to unravel.  His one buddy, a guy who’d become my friend.  A guy who’d warned me that was the one who needed help many times, leaned over and asked about a girl.  It was loud that night, so he couldn’t hear me say go for it.  I tried to say it louder but still he couldn’t hear, so I stood up on my tip toes, leaned in and said, “Go for it!  She seems great”.

He saw me and his blood began to boil.  

Not more than 5 minutes later it was announced we HAD to go.  It was time to go and that was that. I knew better than to argue, so I grabbed my purse, said goodbye and we headed for the car.  

The minute the doors were shut and the engine running, the shouting began. 

I was a “whore”, a “nasty, dirty b***”, “fat, ugly”, worthless”, a “cheater”, a “useless piece of…*, the ranting went on as I drove, silent, knowing better than to try to defend myself.

We reached his home (his mother’s home actually he just rented a room in the tiny old house) and it continued.  We walked through the door and still he raged.  Drunk beyond words, he stumbled in and slammed things around.  His shouts got louder that night, more aggressive, more cutting and with each word I got smaller, less confident and ready to admit defeat.

Needing a break from the sound, and a place to feel safe, if even only for a moment I went to the washroom.  That’s where the nightmares always start, from that moment in the bathroom.

I knew I couldn’t take too long or he’d try to come in.  I knew he was listening so after a few minutes I flushed the toilet and turned the knob on that drippy faucet.  And then, I wasn’t sure what I would do.  

I wasn’t sure where I would go, how I’d have the courage to open that door.  I never knew what would happen when he was like that, and I wasn’t sure I had the strength that night to face it yet again.

Then I heard a different voice.  Not the voice of his mother mind you, she was home.  She was always home but she just left me when he was like this.  I don’t know why she did, but she did and I knew I was on my own.

No, the voice I heard was another male.  His brother, and it was close, really close to where I was. 

Cautiously, I opened the door and I saw the back of a short, stalky man standing in my way.  

He’d happened to need something (in the middle of the night) from his Mom’s house and he’d come home.  He’d heard the raging from outside, and when he came, realized I was locked in the bathroom.  He put himself between us that night, standing his ground telling his big brother that he was drunk and to sleep it off.  Refusing to move until his brother, my boyfriend had moved to his room and slammed his door.

Then he turned to me.  Looked at my tear filled eyes (I didn’t cry there.  I couldn’t cry there.  If I did, he’d know.  He’d know he’d won and while I was broken, damaged & defeated, I refused to let him see he’d won.  I was too stubborn for that.) and asked quietly, “Are you Ok?”

All I could do was nod.  I didn’t have words and to this day I can’t remember if I thanked him.  But in those quiet moments, he grabbed my backpack, and my purse, walked me to the door and asked if I had the strength to drive the 25 minutes back to my own home.

I did.  I got in my car, opened the windows and then as I drove, I cried.  Hot, broken, pain filled tears poured down my face as I drove.

Even though I knew he was wrong.  I knew I had done nothing wrong, his words stung and somewhere, deep inside I’d gotten so used to hearing them, I was starting to believe them.  

That was 11 years ago about now.  That girl was broken, damaged and convinced she deserved all that she got.  Certain that she wasn’t worth anything more and nobody else would want her, could ever love her. 

When life gets tense like it is right now, that nightmare starts to creep back to haunt me.  Though I no longer try to physically run away in my sleep like I did the first few years we were married. I still wake up in a cold sweat, desperate to get away, barricaded in that bathroom, terrified of the pain that would come when the door opened.  Shaking, overwhelmed and panicked.

Then I see him.  Corey, my husband, the man who is the polar opposite of that boyfriend and my heart rate begins to slow.  The shaking begins to subside and as I take a few deep breaths, and curl myself into his warm back the fear begins to ease.

There aren’t words for how grateful I am for the husband I have.  How safe I feel in his arms.  How secure I am in his love.  How I cherish his quiet voice, tender ways and peace making heart.  Even now, all these years later, not a day goes by where I take for granted the man who rescued this broken girl and for the love he pours over me.

That girl back then had nothing, her insides felt dead and she truly believed she wasn’t worth anything.  Her self-esteem didn’t exist, and confident wasn’t a word anyone would have used to describe her.

That girl has changed so much over the last 11 years.  I have changed in the last 11 years and that change has come at the great mercy of a God who loves me and a man He gave me, who’s love has healed my hurt.

I believe with my whole heart that God allowed (not caused) that to happen to me for a greater purpose.  He allowed me to live in abuse for 2 years, to face pain, to choose to stay when I should have left – to bring me to this place, to where I am now.

Here, where I am now is a place of gratitude.  Abundant, unending gratitude for the man I am married to.  If I hadn’t lived the other life, I’d have taken him for granted, I know I would of because I wouldn’t have know how bad it could be.

When those dreams come though, I remember deeply how bad it can be.  It takes me a minute to remember, I’m not there any more.

 I am here, now.  On the other side of abuse and I am eternally grateful for the light & love that has come after dark nights of pain.