Blain Nelson's Abuse Pages
My Story
Al-Anon Mail-list Introduction

Last April 15 (1994) I came home from work (I work evenings) to find the lights turned off, including the outside light. I initially attributed that to an oversight on the part of my wife, and joked in my head that this, along with the locked door, was my wife's way of telling me that she didn't want me there. I joked this way when either of these happened before. When I opened the door I found that there was no sign of anybody here. I looked around and sure enough, there was nobody here. I figured that maybe she was over at her mom's house -- it was not unusual for her to take the kids and go there and end up staying fairly late, but this was a bit late for even that. I called her mom's house and her brother told me that they weren't there and he didn't know where they were. This struck me as quite strange. As I walked around the house I noticed some things missing -- some of the pictures off the wall, some boxes of tapes -- and I realize that the missing things are all things that she considered to be "her" things. I had always looked at what we had as being "our" things -- particularly anything that I got -- but she had always through the eight years we had been married (anniversary March 20) looked at things that she got as hers and things that I got as mine.

After a while it sunk in that she had left me. I panicked. I started calling anybody who might know where she was or what was going on. Nobody knew. Finally, after annoying a friend's father with a request to go look in his room and have him call me, I got confirmation that she had in fact left.

I did some semi-stupid things: driving out to a friend's house unannounced at midnight, being angry at everybody who saw this coming for not telling me, others. Then I finally collapsed and blessedly didn't have nightmares. Over the next six days I managed to get a couple of messages through to my wife but heard nothing from her -- I got second-hand messages through her mother, but right then I was paranoid enough that those were suspect. Other than trying to find where she was and hoping that she would give me a chance to get her to come back, I was a wreck. I watched a lot of TV because it occupied my mind without requiring me to think much. I didn't eat very much -- mostly pizza -- and I watched a lot of basketball -- "Sonics Therapy" I called it. Some friends came over and spent time with me, which helped a lot.

My wife, my marriage, my kids and my family were the most important things in my life. I was only valid as a human being in relation to them. Taking them away -- no warning, no explanation -- was devastating. I hurt more than I had ever hurt before. I was desperate to get her back with me. I would do anything -- I would change, I would give up anything. Without her, nothing else mattered, so I put everything else in my life on the table.

After six days of silence from her I decided that I had to get out of my house, so I walked out the door unannounced (my mother had been staying with me during this time) barefoot and walked around the block. This was my first step in letting go -- I was no longer going to put my entire life on hold waiting for some scrap of information from her. I returned to my house kinda cold and having discovered a plantar wart I hadn't known existed. Later that afternoon the phone rang and it was her. She was willing to meet me at Target (where I work) so I could see the kids. I fell apart, but I put myself together as best I could and went to see them.

Somewhere in this time-range I began praying. I had not prayed over anything more significant than food for a long time, and I had known that daily prayers were an important thing. I had always been able to come up with a million excuses of why I didn't pray, but, since I had everything else in my life on the table, I decided to do something that would make me better. So I started praying. My prayers were not always nice. I had one prayer that I still remember where I buried my head in my pillow and mentally screamed at God that I wanted my family back over and over. Somewhere in here came the day that I realized that I couldn't make it on my own. I remembered the promise that God would take my burden if I would turn it over to him and follow, so I did just that. I told God that I couldn't take this burden any more, that he knew what I needed to do better than I did, and that I would turn that and the rest of my life over to him without reservation. If he told me what to do, I would do it from now on.

After this, as I had my sporadic contacts with my wife and kids -- I was not able to contact her directly through this time -- I found that my response to virtually everything she did was to hurt. I thought about that sappy little poem about "If you love something, let it go," and I decided that I would follow its direction -- you can tell I was desperate when I began getting my personal advice from a slogan found on foggy-looking posters on teen-age girls' walls. I found that what I had to do with her at this point was to let her go. This was a difficult process -- I had spent eight years intertwining our lives as much as I could, and to turn that around and let go was a major course change -- but as I let go I found that I hurt less.

I had thought that if I let go of everything with my wife all at once, the pain would stop and I would be done. I was thinking that if I could just do the Right Thing(tm), then I could fix the problem Once and For All. I learned that this was not true. I found that after I had let go of her completely that I still had more letting go to do, and that the things I had to do were things that would take constant attention -- I would never be done.

One of the most helpful things I did was to make contact with Dr. Laura Schlessinger. I had seen her on a show on cable and was very impressed with her cut-the-crap approach, so I bought her book even though it focused on women and I wasn't a woman. I read Men are from Mars and learned how to look at communication differently. And I decided to call Dr. Laura and see how I could help my wife get better. So I spent an hour on Long Distance (plus a half hour dialing) in the middle of the day to Los Angeles and finally got through to her. If you've ever listened to Dr. Laura you will know that there are some calls where she will pat you on the back and tell you that you're doing good and give you a big hug. And then there are the calls where she will grab you by the throat and kick you in the butt. I had hoped my call would be one of the former. I was wrong. When I told her that I thought my wife was in a battered women's shelter (she was, I verified later) she skipped to the question of was I abusive. I was at this point concerned that my wife could get into trouble for being in this resource for battered women because I hadn't hit her. She didn't want to hear that, and I didn't want to say that I was abusive because I didn't think I was, and she got mad. She told me that I was in denial, that I should get into a support group for battering men, and that I would never get my family together until I learned to control my anger, and then she cut off my mike and the call was over.

I was pissed off. I called her a bitch as I hung the phone up. I had spent all this time trying to get to her to talk about my wife and all she wanted to do was beat up on me. But something she had said echoed on something my wife had said, and so I grabbed the phone book and looked for and found a recovery program for abusive men. After a week of getting my money together I scheduled an intake evaluation and two days after that I went to my first meeting. And two to three weeks later I began to see that I had in fact been emotionally, mentally, and verbally abusive to my wife. I began to address my own issues and to do some more letting go of my wife and her stuff. Suddenly -- far too quickly -- I found myself coming to the end of my weekly meetings in this recovery program, and I felt like I was going to be cut-loose. I began looking for something else to do, and somebody suggested I find a twelve-step group.

I was resistant, but by now I had learned that my first response is sometimes based more in denial than it is in reality, so I talked with someone at school who had experience with drug and alcohol recovery, and he suggested that I attend an Al-anon meeting and see if I fit there. I was planning to try to find an Al-anon meeting in the next week, and found myself at one -- unexpectedly -- through visiting an acquaintance I had some responsibility for through church as she was at an inpatient alcohol treatment program. In that very first meeting, our topic was detachment, and I knew right then that I was home. That was in September or October (1994), and I've only had one week since then without a meeting. The program has been very helpful to me in addressing my own need to control her behavior, to establish boundaries that help keep me safe and sane, and to keep turning my life and will over to God. And I found myself finding a great deal of meaning in all those trite little sayings like the Serenity Prayer and the slogans. Suddenly they didn't seem to be so obvious and dumb anymore.

I found that I couldn't give my kids a perfect set of parents. I couldn't even change who their parents were. And I can't fix their other parent to make her any better than she is. All I can do is to work with the parent that I am and try to be the best parent and person that I can be, and pray a lot for them. I'm not comfortable with the environment they are being raised in, but that is one of the things that I can't change.

I'm still not done with this. I'm finding that I still have a little piece of letting go of my wife that I have to do, and that's scary. I no longer have to have her in my life to be a whole me in the way that I did, but I still have some fear of her -- of losing her (I haven't got much left to lose). I'm glad to find this list.

Blain



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