Recently, I decided to lend my voice to the efforts to curb domestic violence. The choice to tell my TRUTH, not my “story” (as though you or I lived fiction) in a public forum versus merely in conversation with friends or as a cause on social media makes this post an especially difficult one to write. In spite of my experience being 25 years ago, there are still scars – physical, emotional and mental – that linger and rear up from time to time. Mostly, though, I am grateful for each breath that I take because I know what gasping for breath – figuratively and literally – feels like. Here is my truth:
It’s just drunk talk
That’s what I told myself the 1st time he slammed me against the wall. We were newly dating and friends were joking around with me when he yanked me by the arm and asserted that I was HIS, prized and he would not be sharing me. To a girl who was abandoned at 8 months old and physically, emotionally and sexually abused throughout childhood, I wanted to be special. So it was drunk talk. He really loved me.
It was drunk talk 6 months later
that convinced me that he would take care of me when I was laid off from the only job I had held in my young career. I cashed out my 401K, packed up my belongings and began a 14 hour trek to Oklahoma to live in the country and be free. To be a “housewife” while merely playing house.
It was drunk talk that convinced me
that I was fat, ugly, good for nothing and that no one else would want me. It was drunk talk when he beat me before raping me. But he loved me and I surely must have done something wrong to have angered him and deserved it. Beatings meant that maybe there would be some sexual attention, even if it was without consent. Otherwise, I was “Scarlet O’Hara without the benefit of rouge or the fancy dress.”
It was just drunk talk
when he began to talk about being able to kill me and no one would know because we lived in the country and our nearest neighbor was 5 miles away and well, in the country you can burn your trash.
It was just drunk talk
until the drunk talk spoke to me in my dreams. Until I began seeing my lifeless body. For a month I saw that image like a crime scene photo seared into my psyche. It woke me up from believing it was just drunk talk to fear for my life. I began planning to leave, somehow.
A short time later, my abuser went into Oklahoma City to look for work. He left me behind in Guthrie with 5 individual packets of oatmeal and nothing else. He said he would be gone overnight but was gone for 10 days. I had no money, no transportation, no phone and knew no one but my abuser. I began planning my escape.
The old truck rattled and pulled up behind me. “Where the hell are you going?” “Anywhere”. The truck lurched at me. I ran back to the house and barricaded the bathroom door with a dresser. He barreled into the house and kicked at the door. A butcher knife landed in the door inches from my eyes. He pushed and pushed, but I pushed back. It got quiet and I slipped out of the bathroom, hoping that he had passed out. No such luck. The blow landed hard on my jaw and I knew that it was broken. I ran into the storm cellar and waited, pulling a tire iron close. Finally, the house grew dark and I heard him snoring. As I passed his body, I picked up the shotgun and put it to his temple. I thought “I could kill YOU and no one would know but you’re not worth it and my story won’t end this way.”
Walking in the darkness 5 miles to a neighbors was just the beginning of a long road to a healthy me. Rebuilding my life meant spending 6 months in a battered women’s shelter in a state where I knew no one, swallowing my pride and asking friends for help so I could get a bus ticket back to NE, it also meant asking friends for a place to stay while I looked for work and got on my feet. It meant a lot of learning through the WCA so that I wouldn’t enter the same situation again. It meant knowing the red flags and learning that I had passed off every one of them as “drunk talk”.
It meant learning how not to stop cold every time a green Chevy with white cab passes me on the street. He is not coming for me, certainly not after 25 years. It has meant living with PTSD and panic attacks, being easily startled and learning to be vulnerable in order to be strong.
I have learned independence, what a healthy relationship looks like, inner strength, self-worth, boundaries and much more from drunk talk. Above all, believe drunk talk when it turns threatening. Alcohol loosens the tongue as much as it loosens the mind. . Believe anything your abuser tells you when drunk. Knowing that it is not just drunk talk could save your life.