We were toxic together

My story like so many of yours is typical but at the same time not at all. I read your stories and relate to them in a very intimate way: I have lived them.

Before I tell you my story of abuse, I have to give a glimpse into the past of two people, my husband (Kenny) and myself, because both of our pasts play an enormous roll in our marriage.

I grew up with no father. I was a result of a one night stand. I grew up on welfare, living in section 8 apartments. I grew up watching other children living in a “happy family” with a father figure. I grew up with an Uncle who “liked” me in ways that grown men should never “like” a little girl. My mom also often left me at her friend’s house that had six kids, three of which forced me to act out sexual acts with them.

When I was 14, my family moved two hours away. In some aspects, things got better, in other aspects, they were worse. We no longer lived off the government and the sexual abuse stayed two hours behind, but we were poor as dirt. We moved to a trailer in the country that should have been condemned. As soon as I turned 16, I got a job so I could at least buy my own clothes, and be away from my dysfunctional family. At 17 I met my husband-to-be.

My husband (Kenny) had a very different childhood than I had. He had both of his parents in his life, along with two step parents. But it was not good. His father was an alcoholic who was very abusive to women. Before my mother-in-law got out of her marriage she was a victim of his abuse. When she finally decided to leave him, she had my sister-in-law and Kenny, both toddlers. He held a gun to the children’s heads and threatened to kill them both if she left. Long story short, she did eventually get out only to marry another alcoholic. He was not physically abusive to her, but there was mental abuse, and Kenny got the brunt of it.

Kenny’s dad remarried too. They partied, took him to keg parties, and got him drunk at six years old and made him sleep in the bath tub so that he didn’t puke where they would have to clean it up (when he was an older baby, his father also put beer in his bottle for Kenny to drink) this went on all through his childhood. Kenny grew up watching his dad cheat on and beat every woman he was with. He did not want to be like his dad.

We dated for 3 months before we got married, I was 18, and he was 22. We both wanted something better than we had, and thought we could offer that to one another. But, little to our knowledge, alcohol had already claimed Kenny, and, in its own twisted way, it claimed me too.

The first time Kenny hit me was about a month before we got married. We were fighting over who knows what and he just smacked me across the face. I was stunned, shocked, and beside myself. He was sorry, apologetic, and would never do that to me again, because, of course, he loved me more than life itself. He claimed he would not be his father. I believed him and I forgave him. I trusted him. I loved him.

We were married in December. I got pregnant right away and had our son the following September. Things were pretty calm during that period. We fought of course, but overall it was pretty good. Things got worse after our son was born. Kenny wanted to party with his drinking buddies. I thought he should be home with me and our son. So to compensate, he would get drunk at home.

Kenny always had a beer in his hand; Kenny always denied he had a problem. I was just a nag and a bitch. The fights got worse, and the physical abuse did to. There were times he would hit me in the face, pin me to the wall by the throat, chase me through the house, and remove parts from the car so I couldn’t leave when things got real bad. Kenny was always plastered when this would happen, he was always sorry and apologetic and he would cry and beg me to forgive him, make me promises.

I forgave him, and I wanted to believe him. I mean, I did love him, and now we had a son.

When my son was nine months old, I was diagnosed with bone cancer in my femur bone. I had experimental surgery: they removed a section of my bone and replaced it with a cadaver bone. I was bed-bound. I relied on others to do everything for me, even get me on and off the toilet and bathe me.

Kenny was amazing. He went to work while his step mom and my mom took shifts with me and our son during the day. At night, Kenny came home and cooked dinner cleaned the house, bathed me, and the baby, along with anything else that needed to be done. Kenny still drank beer every night, but he did not hit me, until one night several months in. My younger sister had stayed the night, and we all went to bed (Kenny passed out). He had a fan on. I was sick a lot because the surgery took a lot out of me. I couldn’t get out of bed myself to turn it off, so I tried to wake Kenny.

He suddenly jumped on top of me and was punching me in the face and upper body. My sister heard me screaming so she called the cops, and Kenny was arrested. I was scared. I couldn’t take care of myself or our son. I called the police station I cried, begged and pleaded with them to let him go. They did, there were no charges pressed, and he has no record of any abuse. Ever.

Years went by and we had two other children. The alcoholism got worse; our fights got worse. I hit him back; I would not cower in a corner anymore. We beat each other; he beat me more.

I loved him, but I also hated him. Most of the time I hated him more than I loved him. I felt weak. I hated myself for staying; I hated myself for raising my children in it. I knew we were going to ruin them. We were teaching them to be abusers, and to be abused. I was teaching them that it was okay by staying. I was scared that I would not be able to support them. I was scared that no one would want me, after all I was all used up, and I had three kids. No one would want a ready-made family. I did not want to be alone.

This is not what I signed up for. For ten years I lived like this.

Two days before our tenth anniversary, Kenny had a mental breakdown. There were many things that lead up to this, but he hit his breaking point. He tried to kill himself with alcohol, pills, and then a gun. 911 was called and the swat team showed up. Kenny was taken to the hospital, he had to drink charcoal, and then he detoxed while under suicide watch.

After three days he was transferred to the mental ward. Kenny has no recollection how he got there, he just woke up and was in the mental ward. He was scared, he realized he almost died, and had no memory of trying to kill himself. While he was there he underwent therapy for alcohol, and drugs. He finally, after ten years of me telling him, realized he was an alcoholic, that he had turned into his father.

He had several weeks to think about his life, what he did to himself and his family. He also came to terms with the fact that I was done; it took ten years, but I was finally done. I was no longer scared. I was no longer going to make excuses and allow my kids to see and hear this abuse. I was no longer going to teach my kids that this was okay by my actions, or inactions.

I let him come back with conditions. He was to NEVER, under any circumstances, to drink again, and he was NEVER, under any circumstances, going to raise his hand to me again. I don’t know why he believed me, but he did, and he changed.

We will be married for 19 years this December. Ten of those years were terrible in too many ways to count. Nine of those years have been wonderful. I’m not saying that we do not ever argue, because we do, but in a different way; I would call it disagreeing more than arguing.

His ninth anniversary for sobriety is December 28, 2013. This is also the anniversary of the end of the abuse in our marriage. We are best friends; we talk about everything including the abuse. He knows I still struggle with not knowing if I did what was right for the kids. I know it was wrong to have stayed for many reasons, but I also know I have an amazing marriage now and the kids not only see it but they live it.

We both talk to them about our past relationship, and try to use it as a teaching tool for them. My kids are amazing people, so far I do not see the damage in them, but I worry that it is there. Since he quit drinking, we had one more daughter. Kenny looks at the relationship he has with her and realizes that he chose the alcohol over the relationships he could have had with the other kids at a young age. He is very saddened by this.

I relate to so many of your stories out there, they are the same, mine just ended differently. If you are in a relationship like mine was, I say to you do not stay, get out, stand up for yourself and your kids, tell anyone-everyone that you can that you are being hurt. Most will not end happy; as Melanie tells me, I am fortunate. I am only 1% of the abuse statistic.

About the Author (this one is different. Jennifer isn’t a WordPress user – I know, shocking – but wanted to share her story and is ok with having her identity as a part of her story.)

Jennifer StevensonI am a wife, a mother, and a photographer. The tapestry of my family was shredded by alcoholism and abuse. I sewed it back together. It has holes, but it hangs as a reminder of its own making.

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25 comments

  1. Wonderful, sad, beautiful story. Reminds us that real life isn’t fairy tales, but once in a while there are happy endings.

    Thank you both for sharing it here!

  2. jennifer · · Reply

    Thanks, I just hope that others in this situation leave and do not stay hoping for a “happy ending”, I was very lucky. Nine years later I am still in shock over the way things changed.

  3. Wonderful that your story had a happy ending. I think the main difference in your story and so many others is that your huband had an addiction problem and not a mental disorder such as narcisstic personality disorder. Hence, you were able to have a happy ending whereas women involved with men with NPD will never have a happy ending until they get away and heal and start their lives over.

    1. jennifer · · Reply

      I agree that is the main difference. I was lucky that the abuse was tied directly to the addiction and it went away when the addiction went away (although it took a long time to find any kind of normal). That being said I know many people that had or were with someone with an addiction problem where abuse is involved and they also will never have a happy ending. Addiction is hard if not close to impossible for most people to come out on the other side of.

    2. jennifer · · Reply

      I wanted to add these couple of links on here for people to see how alcoholics are narcissists at least until recovered (If that ever happens) and in addition how it is a mental illness verses a physical illness. Point being alcohol is a mental illness, and very much narcissism. That is what my kids and myself lived with. In the end it does not matter what is the cause of the violence is, but that violence is unacceptable.

      http://www.addictioninfo.org/articles/3713/1/Narcissism-In-A-Bottle-The-Self-Centeredness-Of-Addiction/Page1.html

      http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Are_all_alcoholics_narcissists

      http://www.bettyfordcenter.org/treatment/doctors-office/why-is-alcoholism-classified-as-a-mental-illness.php

      1. Great links, these quotes stood out for me from the articles, “Alcoholism is often co-diagnosed with NPD. However, not all alcoholics are narcissists (though some may have narcissistic traits).” “Addiction creates a kind of narcissism.” and “alcohol combines the elements of both mental illness and physical disease. ”

        So glad you had a happy ending to your story.

        1. jennifer · · Reply

          “Mental and emotional symptoms of alcoholism exist long before the grave physical complications of the disease appear.” and “Cirrhosis of the liver, chronic brain deterioration, and other grave organic consequences occur as a result of long-term heavy drinking, but the core of the disease is the cluster of behavioral symptoms that constitute the mental disorder called alcoholism. Consequently, the treatment of alcoholism targets the mind rather than any physical system. So alcoholism and all other substance abuse disorders are mental disorders, with a high physical complication rate.”
          And as far as the “Addiction creates a kind of narcissism” is concerned; is it not the same if you are living it at the time whether or not it can go away when the addiction is under control. Trust me I could give some past accounts of my marriage that are just as bad as some of the women blog about on here.
          I do not disagree in the fact that individuals involved with other individuals with NPD will never have a happy ending until they get away and heal and start their lives over. But I know it is the same for the people involved with addicts that will not admit they have a problem, or can’t overcome their addiction. I just do not want the situation down played because he was not a true narcissist, because at the time he was.
          I was writing about domestic violence not narcissism, and domestic violence is a terrible thing to live with in any way shape or form.
          Thank you for caring enough to respond though 🙂

          1. Hi Jennifer, it seems I upset you not my intent. My origianl point was that because alcholism is an addiction that there is a treatment for you were able to have a happy ending. Thus far the consensous on NPD is that there is no treatement, hence the only way to have a happy ending when involved with someone with NPD is to just get out of the relationship. I never implied or meant you think that your abuse was any less or worse, only that thankfully you had a way in which you were able to have a happy marriage because there is treatement for alcohism. I get that not all alcohloics find a way out of the illness be it mental or physical but there is no way out for NPD. I would have for any woman in an abusive relationship with a pathological narcissist to think or start hoping that she might be able to have a happy marriage eventually when most likely that is not the case. We can only heal ourselves from the trauma and not the narc.

            1. jennifer · · Reply

              Don’t worry I’m not upset, I just wanted the knowledge to be out there that any abuse is bad. It is good to have these discussion sometimes. I was hesitant to say much at first because I do not want anyone to think I am a bad sport. I just wanted to make sure the water was clear and we were understanding each other. All is good and thank you for your input!

              1. I agree all abuse is bad, even abuse to animals. We live in a world where it is so easy to abuse and get away with it. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world full of love and compassion.

                1. jennifer · · Reply

                  It would be nice indeed! Have a great one…

  4. I took me eight years before I was completely done. I’m sorry that you went through that, but I’m glad you made it out the other side. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. jennifer · · Reply

      Thanks for reading it! I’m glad you are on the other side too!

  5. Miracles do happen, and I am glad you were alive to witness one in your marriage. It sounds like both you and your husband are healthy, and your children are too. Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. jennifer · · Reply

      We are all well, thank God! But for me healthy may be a stretch as I feel like I’m crazy most days LOL 😉 Thanks for reading it!

  6. Sorry that you went through that but thrilled to read about your happy ending. It’s refreshing. 🙂

    1. jennifer · · Reply

      Thanks!

  7. Jennifer – wow, what a story. It didn’t have the ending I thought it would but I am glad it turned out the way it has for you. It sounds like you worked hard to get your relationship back together and I’m glad you are in a happy and loving place now.

    1. jennifer · · Reply

      It didn’t have the ending I thought it would either. I was at the point of finally realizing that no matter how much I begged and pleaded he was never going to change. Then he had his break down. At the time it felt that It couldn’t get any worse, but in hind sight his mental break down was the best thing that could have happened to all of us.

  8. Congratulations I am glad you are at a happy and loving place. You have done a lot of work to build a stronger and better relationship I am happy for you both

    1. jennifer · · Reply

      Thank you!

  9. Kenny is a very lucky man, your ending is few and far between.

  10. I really like that, despite your story ending differently, you’re realistic to the fact that this is not the norm. I’m VERY happy that your husband has found sobriety, and you have found peace.

  11. What an incredible, powerful, and empowering story!

  12. […] does not end. It is estimated that only 1% of abusers are able to recognize their behavior and work towards bettering themselves. Abuse doesn’t go […]

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