It’s funny, I never thought I would become addicted to anything. Not a substance, I had no real desire for hard drugs, alcohol was meh, and cigarettes I could pick up and quit as I wanted. I never stopped to think that you could become addicted to another person. Not until I began therapy a few years back. My counselor used to tell me, people that are abused as a child are more likely to be in abusive relationships. It’s such a simple thought and yet I had never considered it before. I had never stopped to consider that my idea of what is normal might be disfigured compared to other people’s view on a normal relationship. For some reason I had never put two and two together, so when she plopped a packet in my lap and told me to count how many lined up with my life I was a little confused.

I looked at the papers on my lap and saw that it was articles on verbal abuse. As I flipped to the page she told me to count the things that line up. So I started reading the 2 page list of scenarios and things to look out for that they do. I counted. Then I lost count. I read the pages and when she asked me how many, I said all of them. I had experienced every single scenario, comment, and risk associated with it. I remember feeling as though someone had punched me in the gut because it meant I wasn’t crazy. It meant there was a reason behind why I was struggling the way I was. I had accepted a norm that was not normal. I began to think of another way, another life that didn’t involve abuse and I couldn’t see one.

I saw all the warnings. I saw all the flags. I saw it all. Yet, I still chose to stay. There was a name suddenly for people like him. Narcissistic. I had all the information laid out in front of me, I finally knew what was happening and yet I stayed. I made the conscious choice to stay in a situation in which I was not happy with. I wanted a life away from him, free to do what it is I wanted to do. I wanted a life where I wasn’t belittled for just being myself. Where I didn’t fear the rage from the person I am supposed to feel safe with. I wanted all of that and yet, I stayed.

People always ask me why I stayed with him so long and went back to him so many times. They can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that I stayed and even went back to him on several occasions. They say things like “If he really was that bad why did you keep going back to him?” The truth is the answer is not a simple one. If it was a simple one the task of leaving would have been simple and already done for good. So no, the answer is not a simple one to give and not one many will truly be able to grasp unless placed in the scenario through our eyes.

My counselor told me that it can become an addiction. In this case she was referring to the good and bad cycle. It never starts out bad, that’s how they trap you. They have all the right words to say. Everyone likes them, says their so charming. They lull you in to a state of pure trust. Then they strike once they know they have you. It always starts out as something small. A comment usually, or sometimes a question. “Who are you putting makeup on for?” They usually drop it the first go around, they give a little fight, but wont show their real fangs until the big one. Each time they lash out and strike they follow it up with the most insane praise.

I found that the longer I stayed the fewer and farther between the good times got. Soon it was nothing but bad times. My counselor told me that I became addicted to the good days and ignored the bad. The good days are what saw me through the bad ones because I was always being reminded of all the good things he did for me. He became all I had because he made himself all I had. There was never time to be with anyone else. All time was his or it was no ones. Unless he was starting to wander again. Never could stay in those lines very well and often veered away from me to others. In those times I would be able to visit with friends but only if he knew where I was and who I was with. If I tried questioning him on where he was or who was there it was suddenly a fight and I was being a crazy bitch. If I denied him the knowledge of who I was with suddenly I was a cheater and he would start a fight over that too. Suddenly you grow accustomed to this and this is what the normal has become for you. So you don’t ask who is there and you are the first to bring up who is with you. All because you do not want to start a fight, but this is not the way it should have ever been.

My counselor warned me that those good days would one day disappear and I would no longer have them to get me through the bad. I never was good at listening to people back then. I’ve always done things my own way, which was usually the hard way. I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was when I was handed a letter from my husband as he told me to read it. Then took it from me to read it to me. In the letter he told me how he wanted a divorce. In a letter. He couldn’t even look at me as he read the stupid letter out loud to me. It was a breaking point for me. For the second time in our marriage he was telling me that he didn’t love me and never did. Things spiraled from there quickly.

An old friend had gotten in contact with me who just so happened to be a guy. He texted me something as a joke at the same time my husband went to use my phone. I’ve always had guy friends, until I got married. He wouldn’t let me talk to them, not without fighting about it. So I let all my friends go just to get him not to fight with me. I will never forget what happened when he read that text. His explosion was the one I was warned about and suddenly I was at a loss. I tried repeatedly to tell him the context to the text he read. I reached for my phone to try and show him the previous texts but that only made him more enraged. First he threw the mail across the room so hard it slapped into the wall and knocked my wind chimes off. I didn’t know you could throw mail that hard 20 feet away. He immediately started to scream at me. He was up on his feet screaming at me that I’m a whore, a slut, a cheating whore, and that I’m just a piece of trash. He kept trying to get me to admit to something I had not done. The more I denied it, the more I tried to give the context the more mad he became. He screamed that he should beat my mother fucking ass for being a slut. It was at that point something inside of me clicked and I started to agree with him. The more I agreed with him and fed him lies the more he calmed down. So I fed those lies to him and gave him the story he wanted to hear. Suddenly he was calm. He walked over to my keys and took my house key off my ring. He told me I was no longer allowed to leave the house while he is gone. “You’re no longer allowed to come and go as you please.”

He left shortly after and came back later that night. I was packing my things. He was calm again. Sullen. He was suddenly remorseful for how he acted. It didn’t work this time because something in my brain had finally snapped into place. I was no longer driving and instead a primal instinct inside of me was doing the driving. Emotions were no longer a thing I had capacity for, only survival. So when he asked if I would work things out it was like watching someone else answer him with no. The moment I said no he exploded again. His favorite thing to do when he was severely angry with me was to put his face 3 inches from mine and yell as loud as he could at me. Intimidation without touch. I knew I had no money. I knew I had no real place to go, but I also knew that we were over. I knew I had to leave or I would lose in a very big way.

The next day while he was working I gathered all my things and I left. My mother brought her car and we packed as much as we could into the vehicles then I left. I never thought about what that choice would cause me. I only knew it was time. I knew that my happiness in the future was worth the mess I had created in my life. I was suddenly homeless, no job, no money, just a car (thankfully!) and a few good friends. I slept on floors, couches, random beds, and my car. The thing is I was happier that way. More so than when I was married. Well not at first, at first I was a drunken mess. I severed ties with people though and dropped the alcohol. I started hiking again. I was still technically homeless, but I was happy.

I stayed for so many reasons but ultimately it had become an addiction. I gave up my friends for him. I was never without him even when away from him. I couldn’t stay away longer than 40 hours before that conditioning kicked back in and I found myself back where I was. There was a fear of not being with him. Not that I would be alone but that suddenly he wouldn’t be there and my life had become all about him. The thought of suddenly having that big of a change seemed like too big of a task to accomplish. I wanted all these things in my life that he never wanted but I never thought I could have them. I didn’t realize that I was standing in my own way. It was when the fear of staying overcame the fear of leaving that I left. I saw what my life would be like if I stayed and I left.

It took me 13 years to break the cycle I let him create. He was constantly walking in and out of my life because I allowed it to continue. We would stop talking for months to a year when suddenly he would appear again. Messaging me about how he misses me. He’s sorry. It was more than that though. He knew what to say to put me back on the hook. He knew how to pry that door back open because I had always left it cracked. After the divorce it was friendship he said he wanted. Made a good case for how he had changed. The thing is I had too.

I had experienced so much in the time after our divorce. More importantly I was trying to heal myself from before our divorce. The more I worked on myself and sealed these holes inside of me the more I saw his flaws. The more I saw his words and actions go different ways. I sewed my wounds up one by one. I mended my relationship with my mother and found that it had been the root of all my anger. I finally severed ties with the toxic people in my life. All that was left was him. This connection I had created. This made up fantasy I had in my head was just that; a fantasy. He could never be what I wanted, what made me happy and I finally saw it. I severed the connection. I broke whatever screwed up ties held us in place for so long. This time I stuck by it and cemented that door closed.

I cannot begin to describe the weight that lifts from your shoulders when you sever ties from toxic people. I can tell you that it is worth it. I kept so many things about my marriage to myself for years and though this is a fraction of what happened it is my final seal. If you made it through my story and are still reading this there are some things I want you to know. I want you to know that if you are in a relationship that is unhealthy ending it will not end the world. Your world will shift and perhaps it will be rough for you as it was for me. However, it is worth it. They say all things worth something will not be easy. Your life is worth fighting for. You deserve the life that makes you happy. Do not let someone belittle you everyday and put down your ideas. It should be that they are your biggest supporter. The one who listens to your crazy ideas and cheers them on. The thing I see clearly these days are people settling into relationships that have no real depth. They become complacent in how they are treated because it is all they have known or all they see.

I used to fear his wrath even when we wouldn’t speak. I covered up his actions towards me years after our divorce. I lessened them because they were always made to be my fault. It had to of been my fault because I’m crazy and I knew nothing of gas-lighting at the time. I was brainwashed before he found me, so bending that to suit him was no trouble. It took years to reprogram my brain, but once I started he could no longer touch me. Don’t make excuses for them anymore. Don’t live your life in fear of them starting a fight with you. Live the life you want because you only have so many years here. It’s not always the things we do in life that we regret. Sometimes it’s the things we don’t do that we end up regretting even more. Leave because you are worth more than you think and you deserve the happiness you seek. Heal those things inside of you and grow stronger. They cannot control you any longer if you are complete in all you are. You deserve that person who will be your best friend in life. They made you believed that you do not deserve more. Don’t listen to them. You deserve so much more than you are receiving. All you have to do is step out of your own way. You already know deep down what you need.