By April Fuentes
When I first met him I thought he was my own prince charming. I couldn’t have known the hurt in store for me. He seemed different than my ex-husband. He was polite, listened to what I had to say and opened car doors for me. My daughter and I thought he was a gentleman.
He lived in Chicago and we traveled back and forth to see each other. I didn’t pay attention to his drinking; I thought he could stop any time he wanted. I’ve seen the effects of alcohol poisoning and didn’t consider him an alcoholic.
He moved to Lorain and we started living together. The negative criticism about anything I did started small. No matter what I did right, there was always something small that I did wrong in his eyes. The house would be clean except for the bed and he would focus on the bed. I would cook and he would focus on how he didn’t like what it was. Eventually the comments started about my family. He said they were no good for me or they were using me. If I did go see them I would get non-stop phone calls from him. Every time I did something he didn’t like I would get the silent treatment, sometimes for days at a time.
His jealousy began to show. He became furious, yelling at me because he learned one of his coworkers was an ex-boyfriend of mine from 15 years ago. He grew angry if I ever spoke to any man. I was not allowed to even talk to a man in a video store about a movie for fear of what my boyfriend would say. Staying silent, keeping to myself was easier on me than hearing how I was a “whore” or they thought I was easy. He had his own rules for himself. He was allowed to do whatever he wanted, from hanging out with friends to talking to other women.
By our 2008 wedding, we had been together for four years. I had reservations about the wedding because his drinking was getting worse. He was not interested in anything to do with the wedding, not even setting the date. I thought that as long as I kept doing what he wanted, it would get better. I felt like I was in an invisible cage. Not once did I question any of this being abuse. I thought it was the alcohol talking even when he told me he hated me, I was a slob or I was lucky to have him.
I became pregnant with our daughter and he started changing for the worse. He started drinking more, lying, hiding his phone and going out with friends and staying out until 4 a.m. I went to the hospital because I started having pre-term contractions, my blood pressure was high and I almost lost my daughter. I was put on bed rest and went to stay with my parents. He came every once in a while to visit but pretty much forgot about us.
Once, after our daughter was born and I moved back, he was going to work a couple of hours earlier than needed. I found out he had been cheating. I left him and moved back to my parents. Once again the empty promises started and I moved back.
We started counseling and someone suggested I start attending al-anon meetings, which are for families of alcoholics. The meetings gave me permission to put myself first. I heard “to get what you’ve always gotten do what you’ve always done.” I decided I wanted to be different. I let go of his problems and focused on myself. I signed up for classes at Lorain County Community College.
He blamed me for his drinking and all of the problems. He stopped finding me attractive because I lost weight. I found out he was still cheating. I never dreamed he would go to work and never come home. I felt like he dropped kicked me to the floor. I had $5, two children to take care of and no way to support them. I was starting college in two months. My kids and I moved in with my parents while he moved back home. He kicked me out of his life.
During this period I had no one to help me except my parents. I was an emotional wreck, crying and worrying all the time. He would put money in the bank but had little contact with us. He stopped with any kind of support because I did something he did not like. I contacted agencies for diapers and formula for our daughter. My daughter told me she was tired of seeing me sad and crying.
I had a choice to make. I could worry about why he left or start healing myself. Instead of listening to sad songs I started listening to songs about empowering myself. I slowly started getting back up. I started classes and heard about Woman’s Link and contacted them wondering what assistance they could give me. I found out about budgeting and websites that were useful to me. It felt like the cage door had opened and I started to step out. I did activities that I was not allowed to do before. I started enjoying life.
A year later he started coming around with empty promises once again. I watched and waited and started to slide back into the woman I hated. I thought of the life I had, one that did not include him. Did I want to be that miserable woman again?
The minute I stood up to him he changed back into the man I knew, only this time it was worse. He would call me non-stop all night long with threats and insults. After a difficult night of this, my nine-year-old started getting sick at school. I explained what was going on and the psychologist recommended I contact Genesis House. With mixed feelings of shame, frustration, fear and anger I walked into my first meeting. I started understanding that I had been emotionally, mentally, financially, sexually, physically abused by a man who said he loved me.
I finally got up the courage to file for divorce and contacted Legal Aid. Throughout the divorce proceedings his behavior had worsened. He would call or text 200 times a day, drive by my house, my school. He was even to the point that he was yelling at me in front of our 2 year-old. I dropped a class at St. Joe’s because I was afraid he would show up there.
I have heard negative comments from people even asking me if I regret having our daughter. I cut out the negative people and surrounded my small family with people who encourage us. I sing and dance with my kids and enjoy doing what we want. I have the freedom to say no when something does not work for me. I have less patience for people who complain about their life and do nothing to change it.
I no longer worry about what anyone says or thinks because as long as I know the truth that’s all that matters. On the weekend my children are gone, I take time for me. I do activities I enjoy like facials, massages, visiting friends or I might do nothing at all except read a book while watching a movie.
Because of the abuse, I have feelings of fear and anxiety. I am always on guard waiting for the next mental hit to happen. I am more aware of my surroundings. I am also less judgmental of people but I don’t believe everything I hear.
My divorce is final and I have come to understand that I did not deserve any of that. I was not responsible for his drinking, cheating or abuse. I focus on the choice I made. I could have stayed down when life hit me, instead I choose to get up and start moving. For so long I put someone else first, now I am putting myself first.
I am still attending classes and I have the freedom to enjoy life and go after what I want. I may not be where I want to be yet but I am better than where I used to be.