Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Mask

I remember the first time he hit me. I was so surprised….. not that he hit me, but at what it did to my face. It didn’t even seem like he hit me that hard, but in the mirror the next morning I was shattered. Eye swollen closed, a red and purple weeping nose, numbness throughout. He looked at me and said “but I didn’t even use my fist……….”

I wasn’t surprised because there had been signs before; a push, a shove, a twisted arm. It hadn’t particularly scared me. I knew he would eventually hit me. I just wondered when…and how…..and where. It never occurred to me to wonder why.

I knew the reason why. When we drank and used speed he got violent. It was part of the life and for a long long time I accepted it. I was not only an addict but also an addict’s wife. I had dual addictions …. to drugs and to him. There is such a significant correlation between substance abuse and domestic violence that drug and alcohol counselors are now trained in protocols for the treatment of both issues.

The first time he hit me was obviously not the last. The battering lasted on and off for years depending on the cycle of our disease. I do not want to write this from the viewpoint of a victim. I was not a victim. I was a willing participant. I knew where drugs would take us and I went there willingly over and over again. Cunning, Baffling and Powerful.

Living in active addiction is so shameful. There were so many many secrets. I didn’t want to grow up to be a drug addict and a battered wife, so I pretended not to be. I lived two lives shrouded in secrecy and shame. I isolated from family and friends and hid my reality. I put on a mask.

I left him when the fear finally overwhelmed me. I wasn’t afraid of him any longer. I was afraid of myself. I had begun to think of ways to hurt him. I was near my bottom with my using (still more than a year before I would eventually get sober). I knew I had to leave.

The gift of sobriety has helped me let go of some of the painful memories. I guess what remains is forgiveness and understanding for others who walk a similar path.

Today we have made our amends. He lives far far away and we are distant friends with bittersweet memories of a passionate love and a passionate hate. It seems like so many years ago, when drugs ruined our lives, I ravaged his soul and he shook my bones.