Today marked a very important anniversary for me. It is almost a birthday of sorts. Two years ago today, I took my life back and reclaimed it for myself.
It started out as a typical day, for the most part. I don't remember anything in particular about the day itself. My husband had been laid off about a month and a half before this and so he had just been pretty much hanging around the house and was drinking anytime he had the chance. I left to go pick up the 3 older kids after school, and I believe that we stopped at the grocery store on the way home, so we were a bit later than he expected us to be.
When I pulled into the driveway, I saw him in the garden. He had his back to us at first, but I could tell just by his posture that he had been drinking. He turned to look at us, and one look at his face confirmed it.
The next thing that I saw was the knife.
There, on his belt, was a sheath with a very large (to me) knife in it. I don't know a lot about types of knives, but I would say that it was similar to a buck knife with a blade that was about 8" long. I was immediately terrified, and tried desperately not to show it. Sarah saw it next, and in her 9-year old innocence asked me why he had it. I told her that I didn't know, and to just go into the house with the other kids.
We all made our way inside. The kids ran, he staggered, and I tried to walk as normally as I could with my knees knocking and my heart pounding. Once we got into the house, he became extremely agitated. The kids were wound up, which was never a good thing to be around him when he was intoxicated. He started yelling at them and at me. I tried to convince him to go back outside and calm down - all I wanted him to do was walk out the back door, give me a few minutes to get the kids to relax, and then he could come back in - but he refused to do so. Sarah started to get really scared and asked him to snap the knife sheath closed - it was hanging open and she was afraid that the knife was going to fall out and hurt someone.
Instead of him snapping the sheath shut, he pulled the knife out and started waving it around his head like a lunatic. The kids panicked and I looked at Sarah and yelled at her to call her father (Ex1) to come and get them - at that point, I knew that there was no turning back. He kept waving the knife around - never directly at anyone, but as agitated as he was it would have only taken a slight wrong move to seriously injure himself, the kids, or me. I kept telling him to put the knife away, and he refused. I told him to go outside and calm down, and he refused. At one point he walked toward the back door and I used that to my advantage - he was not a large guy at all (I outweighed him by about 20 pounds) and I used my body weight and every ounce of strength that I had to push him out of the back door of the house. I slammed the door shut and locked it, then ran to the front door and did the same.
Within minutes, the police were there - thankfully, Ex1 had called them as soon as he got Sarah's call. They questioned my husband, they questioned me, and as much as they wanted to, there wasn't enough to arrest him. I told them everything exactly as it happened - that he never made a direct threat or pointed the knife at anyone, but that I was still terrified that something could have happened. Keep in mind that this was not the first time that they had been called to our house - there had been several instances of violence when he was in a drunken rage, so the officers were familiar with the situation.
I told them that I understood that they couldn't arrest him - that time - but that I just wanted him to leave the house. With the house being in both of our names, they couldn't legally force either one of us to leave, but they did talk to him and strongly encouraged him to disappear for at least the night. The last I saw of him that night was his back as he rode his bike down the street. I found out later that he went to our pastor's house to talk to her, as she called me later and asked if I would pack some clothes and things for him and put it out on the porch so that she could get it for him.
Before the officers left, one of them looked at me and said, "How much longer are you going to put up with this?" He wasn't saying it to be nasty - the tone of his voice showed that he understood the position that I was in at that point. He had been to our house on numerous occasions so he saw the pattern that I had chosen to ignore up until that moment. I looked at him and said, "I'm done." And I meant it.
I was done. I was done with the lies, the drinking, the verbal abuse, the physical abuse, the threats, the name calling...everything. I was done with it. He never spent another night in our house again.
The past two years have been a rollercoaster. For the longest time, I stuck my head in the sand and ignored everything that was falling apart around me. I was in a deep depression, but very few people saw it or understood the depths of it. I look back now and I wonder how I made it through those times, because they were by far the darkest times of my life. There were times that I really questioned whether or not I could go on - but my kids kept me going.
When I was finally able to file for the divorce, it was a feeling of relief. I feel horrible saying that now, but it really was. I needed to take that next step in the reclaiming of my life. I celebrated when it was final, because I could finally feel the control coming back to me. When he died 20 days later, I went through every emotion in the book.
I still struggle. Life isn't easy - at all. But now, 2 years after I made the decision to take my life back, I truly feel that I am in control of what happens to me. This is MY life - and I can do what I want to do with it. I don't have to answer to him or anyone else. I can and will do what needs to be done to take care of myself and my kids.
I spent the day at my friends' house, working in the garden. My friend took the boys with him while he ran errands, so I had close to 5 hours of quality time to myself - I planted seeds and enjoyed the feel of the sun on my face and the wind on on my skin and just reflected on everything that has happened over the past two years. For the first time in a very long time, I can honestly say that I'm happy with where I am.
I took the kids out for supper tonight - mainly because I'm too tired and sunburned to cook - and caught this shot on the way home...