Part two of a three-part article written by Randi G. Fine
Some who suffer adversity have had their lives negatively altered by an identifiable, pivotal event. Others gradually lose their foothold over a period of years. Though unaware that it was happening while it was happening, I experienced the latter.
My first eighteen years were tumultuous. An insecure childhood worsened by a series of unfortunate life altering events whittled away at my self-esteem. By the time my nineteenth year rolled around and I began living on my own I was functionally depressed yet emotionally numb, hardened to life yet highly vulnerable to its assaults. Though I was in a downward spiral I saw nothing unusual about the way I felt inside, how I was functioning, or the choices I was making. I knew no other way to feel or act.
I am not implying that I experienced no happiness during those years. There were many good, joyful things that happened in my life, but the exuberance was short lived. From my vantage point life was a place of suffering and hardship. That’s just how it was. And since I was naturally drawn to people with problems even worse than mine who had similar perspectives, it is no wonder I thought everyone saw things as I did.
At age nineteen I moved out of my parents’ house to leave behind the chaos there that I could no longer tolerate. Believing I was ready to take on life as an adult, I dropped out of college, found a job, and moved in with a roommate.
Living on my own and supporting myself provided a joyful freedom I had never before experienced. Unfortunately it did not stop the problems. Things only got worse for me and the problems became much more serious.
Many of the problems were the result of unwise decisions I had made, but one was not—the home invasion rape that nearly cost me my life. That was beyond my control. And then, as if I wasn’t far enough down, my “boyfriend” preyed on my vulnerability and swindled me out of all my money. I never saw him again. I do not claim to be a victim—I take full responsibility for allowing that to happen.
Still, after twenty-two years of living under an emotional “battering ram” it seemed as if adversity had won the fight. My spirit was weary and broken. All I had left was a glimmer of hope that a miracle would somehow save me. I envisioned a knight in shining armor coming, sweeping me off my feet, and taking me away from my life as I knew it.
Surprisingly that actually happened. A man miraculously came into my life, seemingly out of nowhere, and we fell deeply in love. My knight had everything I could have ever wanted; a great personality, stability, his own home, and a good job with a very promising future. Together we began the fairy tale romance I had dreamed of but never thought was possible. Sure that everything would be wonderful from that point on, I breathed a huge sigh of relief—the fight was finally over.
But the euphoria was short lived. It wasn’t long before the mask and armor came off and my true knight was revealed. It was not a pretty picture. The perfect love of my life had relapsed into a ravaging intravenous drug addiction.
For a long time I did not want to look at what was being shown to me. I was afraid to jeopardize the relationship that I had invested everything into; the relationship that I believed had saved my life. I could not survive without him; he was my love, my life, and my savior. Severely co-dependent that I was I truly believed I could fix him. I was determined to do whatever it took to create a happy ending—even if it took my last breath.
I stuck it out with him through a few ups and a lot of downs, through a heart wrenching maze of sobriety and relapses. During one extended period of sobriety we got married. Believing (probably fantasizing) that he had remained sober a planned pregnancy followed a year later.
The first trimester of my pregnancy was horrendous. I was incapacitated and too sick to worry about his comings and goings. Free from the close monitoring and the tight leash I kept him on, he relapsed into his worst addiction ever. That still did not deter me. I was even more determined to save my marriage and preserve the ideal family unit for my unborn child.
Seven months into my pregnancy I began attending Nar-Anon meetings. It was there that I first heard about turning my problems over to a “higher power.” I could not grasp that concept. I was the fixer and doer in my life. If I couldn’t do it than no one else could either—certainly not some unseen “higher power.” That is how someone with a co-dependency disorder thinks. I struggled for months to connect with an intangible source of strength outside of myself to hand my problems over to.
After the baby was born things got even more desperate. Staying with my husband meant risking life and limb, though in my state of mind I probably would have stuck it out if I only had me to worry about. But that was not the case. My six week old daughter was in imminent danger.
I could no longer fool myself. The dream of happily ever after had completely disintegrated. After he left for work one morning, I took my newborn baby and left with whatever belongings I could fit in my car. I did not have a nickel to my name or any way to make a living.
That was truly my emotional bottom, but like it or not staying there was not an option. More than anything I wanted my daughter’s life to be better than mine. That meant one thing—I had to somehow fix my life. I had to change.