It was February 15, 2007 when I met him. He was the greatest thing to happen to me after ending a 4 year somewhat abusive (emotional abuse) relationship with my son’s father. This new man I had in my life seemed to be absolutely perfect. He catered to my needs, listened, supported, became a father figure for my son as his real father was absent for the majority of his life. During the first year of our relationship, he cheated on me approximately six times (from what I had found out anyway), which I clung onto and threw in his face during fights every now and then. That there should have been the first red flag and I should not have allowed him back into my life after the first time but because he was charming, manipulative and better (or so I thought) than the relationship with my son’s father, I took him back each time.

We rarely got into arguments, perhaps once/month for years. We went through a lot of significant life events together including having our own daughter to share in 2010. I went to school and graduated in 2012 and began my career immediately. We had remained a strong team during that time as I was a student and he had various jobs working in the northern Alberta oilfield, it was unsteady and we struggled a lot, including not having the means to wash laundry. But we managed to make that life work for us. We knew once I began working that life would get easier. And it did. For a while.

Fast forward to 2016. The year my brother got cancer and needed 2 separate rounds of chemotherapy, four brain surgeries and radiology to make him cancer free a year later. I had been working at a stressful career, recently had a work related death and my husband had started becoming distant. I did not know during this time, that he was struggling with his own mental health issues (depression) but he felt he didn’t want to add to my current stress with his depression so he bottled it up and I did not know he was unhappy in any way. We both began using cocaine consistently and together. We went from being recreational users, to addicts.

My husband got into a work related accident and had a pinched sciatic nerve and was in a lot of pain. A lot of which I had become annoyed with because of his constant whining and groaning about his pain. This sounds very inconsiderate of me; and it was but I did not realize the extent of his injury, pain because as I mentioned before, I was waist deep in my own stress including my own depression that was getting worsened by the drug use.

My husband received surgery to fix the pinched nerve which ended up resulting in a failed back surgery. Shortly thereafter, he was deemed permanently disabled and received WCB monthly that was half of what he had been making so we began struggling to make payments for brand new vehicles we both financed. I also financially supported my brother and travelled 5 hours every week to and from to see him as there had been a couple times we could have lost him but because of the great doctors at the University of Alberta Hospital and their greatly skilled doctors and surgeons, he is cancer free today and doing well.
My husband’s depression got worse and he also developed anxiety because he was unable to work. To him, he was unable to provide for his family, “to be a man and work”, had less, and was unable to perform everyday tasks to care for his family and himself. He was home a lot, sitting there to think and dwell and make up scenarios in his head which he convinced himself to believe was actually true.

We had been together 8 years at this time, engaged, had a baby, helped me to raise my son and we had been through a lot of hard times together. We began fighting regularly, calling each other names which progressively got worse. He started off with calling me a b*tch. Sometimes when he was really trying to make a point, we called me a c*nt and I hated that. When he called me that, I would cry in my bedroom. He always came to say he was sorry and that he would try harder not to be mean to me. He had always had some anger issues – blowing up over minor issues which included swearing, sometimes breaking small objects or pushing a chair over. These anger issues began to worsen to the point where he would throw things in my direction while calling me down. Our kids would be sleeping at this time but domestic abuse affects children, even while they are sleeping.

2017 was our ten year anniversary. I think I stuck it out being unhappy with him because I didn’t want to start over with someone new. I was proud that I was with someone for ten years. That’s a huge commitment and accomplishment! But I knew deep down that this wasn’t the life I wanted forever and I began telling him that. We still abused drugs and alcohol at this time, worse than before. We were using daily now and gotten pretty far deep into debt (in my name) and were having regular fights. I had become angry, hostile, depressed, sad, anxious, and had regular panic attacks. I was on leave from my job and struggled to get out of bed every day. I slept a lot and was absent from my children as that was how my body reacted to the stress. Sleep. It was where I didn’t feel the pain, didn’t feel the stress, didn’t feel so f*cking crazy. And that’s what I thought I was. Crazy.

By this time, my husband called me down pretty much all day everyday. Stupid, dumb, ugly, fat, b*tch, c*nt, wh*re, junkie, slob, useless, worthless, f*cked up, crazy, addict and accused me of choosing drugs over my children. He told them regularly that I was a bad parent and that he should take my daughter away and send my son to his real dad because I did not deserve them. He was convinced that I was cheating on him even though he was with me when we went anywhere, I was home all the time because he had gotten so controlling at this point that I didn’t have any friends except for my “best friend” who was also an addict and just enabled and helped routine of self destruction.

My husband went as far to plant men’s clothing in the house to accuse me of cheating and demanded I tell him who I was sleeping with, although I swore and promised I would never do that to him. He made me believe that I was the things that he called me and I was suicidal a lot of the time. I used drugs and alcohol to cope because I had lost all of my coping skills, only a couple of people knew how bad our relationship had gotten but I refused to leave him. I convinced myself that he would eventually change, and go back to the way he was and we would have the love we once had. I believed this even after he started hitting me, pushing me around and throwing me down to the ground. He would spit in my face, hold me down, put all of his weight on my head and scream at the top of his lungs that he hated me so much. The cops were called to our home once and I called the cops on him once when I barricaded myself in my bedroom, hiding from him because he threatened to kill me and was throwing his body against the door to try and get in. He fled once he knew he RCMP were coming. Now I was no angel either. He knew exactly what to say to make me lose my mind and there were times when I attacked him out of anger. I hit him back, pushed him back in defense but there were times where I started the physical abuse. I want to acknowledge my part in the violence. I know it was not all of his fault however; I know that neither of us deserved what we gave each other, and we could have chosen to handle things differently but we did not.

I did not know or acknowledge how much our violence had affected our children or how much they knew regarding our drug use. Our kids were unhappy and I did try to explain the damage we were doing to them but he never acknowledged his part in it. He blamed me for the issues, the reason why he was angry, if I had just shut my mouth and listened, he wouldn’t have gotten so angry. If I hadn’t been “druggie”, he wouldn’t need to stop his truck payments so we could have a good Christmas. He liked to throw that one in my face a lot but little did I know, he was using up a lot of our money as well – on meth.
At the end of July 2017; I left my husband after our last physical fight in which I gave him a black eye and gashed open his eye. The fight started because he began saying that he wanted to sleep with other women (out of anger) and I lost my mind and couldn’t control myself. I had keys in my hand in which I attempted to stab him with. I regret this action the most but I had no control over my anger anymore and had been broken down to the point of not caring. I was so lost and believed that I was legitimately crazy. I was an alcoholic and drug addict I had continuously found evidence of his meth use and he continuously denied it. I feared that if our relationship continued that one of us would kill each other. During this last fight, he bit down on my right ring finger, drawing blood. I screamed out in pain. He had tried to bite my finger off! I do not remember much after our fight but when I woke up the next day and he had gone to work (just started a job for the first time in 3 years), I packed up my daughter and left him. My son had gone to his bio father’s home for the summer and was refusing to come home because of my husband and the abuse I received that he witnessed but he was also criticized and humiliated by my husband. My son no longer loved him, no longer wanted anything to do with him and my husband didn’t care. He actually blamed my son and me saying if I didn’t favor him or baby him that my son wouldn’t be as sensitive, would behave better, listen better and would do what he’d told. I did not favor my son over my daughter. I defended my son. I did not need to defend my daughter because she was not treated that way because she is biologically his.

I did not talk to my husband for 4 days after we left. He was angry but he did not come looking for us. I did leave the actual town for our safety. He sent me hundreds of nasty text messages and voicemails calling me down; making sure I knew our problems were my fault and never acknowledged the psychological damage he had contributed in to myself and my children. I couch surfed with my daughter who was 7 at the time. I was very open with her as she knew exactly what was happening at home, she would stand there screaming at my husband to stop. Stop the yelling. Stop the fighting. Stop hitting mom. My heart still breaks and I still feel regret when I think about those moments.

I attended detox and began my sober journey. My husband cared my our daughter during this time but when I called to check up on her, he told me he was expecting me to sign myself out and go to some more cocaine. I did not leave detox. I was unable to get into the treatment program right away so I never ended up attending treatment. I signed papers giving my son’s biological father custody. This was the hardest thing I had to do but this is what my son wanted, what was best for him and his safety. I returned back to my home, which my husband had vacated by this time in agreement with our landlord that I continue to live there if he moved out. I returned to my empty home. It was a mess. There were so many bad memories and I planned to kill myself. It was almost like a calming feeling knowing I had a plan and that this chaotic mess of a life I had created could come to an end. I had begun using again and was mentally unstable. My husband refused to return my daughter and because we did not have a custody agreement, he did not have to return her.

As I sat down to write my goodbye letters to my children, my phone dinged because I received a text message. I decided to read it before I started my letters. I wanted to pour my heart out in these letters to my children and wanted no distractions. The text message was from my son, age 13. It said, “I miss you mom and I love you.” I fell to my knees. I felt like my heart literally broke into pieces, I couldn’t breathe, I felt like I was dying and I was scared. This was the moment I realized that I couldn’t kill myself. I did not want my children to experience the pain of finding out that their mother was dead and had killed herself in our family home. I was admitted into the hospital to ensure my safety and well being.
It was a long and hard start of my journey to stay away from my husband and to ignore his desperate cries for me to take him back. But my son and daughter meant more to me than he did and I needed to prove to my son that I was not choosing my husband over him. One day, my husband stopped calling. I found out he was on dating sites and eventually found he had a new girlfriend who he introduced to my daughter without mine or her knowledge that he had moved on so quickly. I begged for him back that day and he said no. I am thankful that he did not because I believe we would be still repeating the cycle. I knew I did not want him back but I panicked and felt I did not ever want him to be with anyone else, so I begged for him back. I vowed never to do that again, which I haven’t.

I still have severe anxiety. After I had returned home, my mind played tricks on me – I thought I could hear him coming down the stairs and could hear him calling my name. I was still convinced I was the crazy one. After a lot of therapy, self reflection and searching for attention through dating sites and random men, moving away, isolation, creating a brand new life for myself with no money and living with family, feeling like a burden; my depression has become stabilized on medication. I have gained custody of my daughter and am saving for my own place. Over our first Christmas as a single mother, I actually felt relieved and happy. There was no screaming or my husband and I arguing over who ruined Christmas more. It was Christmas that I finally realized after a few months of feeling so depressed, regretful, and angry; I felt ok and I felt that things were actually going to be ok. My son visited over the holidays in which I reassured him that I was not returning to my husband and that he would never have to have anything to do with him ever again, nor would he need to see him. I apologized for my part in the violence that my children witnessed and I’ve gotten them both into counseling.

I recently came out on Facebook to my friends and family the truth of our past. The abuse, the violence, the damage and the aftermath. I had to block and file a restraining order from my husband who has now left me alone and the only contact the judge has ordered is through text and drop off/pick up for our daughter. I have received a ton of support and have never been put down or blamed for my part or actions in the relationship. My ex husband still does not take responsibility acknowledge his actions which I have come to terms with. I’ve done a lot of healing and know that I have more healing to do but I feel okay with myself now. I am now an advocate for people fleeing abusive relationships, try to help the abused, talk with my children to help them validate what happened to us and that it is now our past and we do not need to be defined by our pasts or what has been done to us. I no longer hear my ex husbands voice in my head calling me names. I do still have some triggers and insecurities but I have come a long long way from where I was which also makes me realize that my relationship had been over long before I finally left. It is difficult some days to figure out how to do tasks on my own, I realize how dependant I was on him but I am proud of the small accomplishments I have made. My son is planning to move back with me once the school year is done.

I wanted to share my story because I thought I could never live without my ex husband. I thought we would be together forever. Sometimes I am still angry that things beyond my control happened and affected us to the point of needing to change our lives completely. I feel I am a survivor. I lived in survival mode for years. I survived emotional and physical abuse. I felt that what I went through was my version of hell but I recognize that some have it worse than what I did and I pray for them to get to safety, like I was fortunate enough to do. Some will never have the chance to leave and I feel lucky and grateful that I survived. I hope the abused know, there is always a choice to leave. It is scary as hell but I feel the best now than I have in my whole life and I know this is only the beginning. Life can get better and you don’t need to rely on another person for happiness. Facing your issues alone and sober is scary but its not impossible. there will be a lot of tears and pain and sometimes you just want to run back so the pain goes away but remain strong. There is help out there, don’t be afraid to ask. You are not alone. You can and will survive too.

Thank you for the opportunity to share