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Below is an Interactive Board sampler. A fuller listing is found in the "Stories" menu above.

4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

3/23 Interactive Board: He's Changing... I'm Not...

3/1 Interactive Board: D/s Lifestyle

1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

12/12 Interactive Board: What if He Could Have Changed?

10/23 Interactive Board: Quandary Revisited

8/24 Interactive Board: Quandary! What's Going On?

7/20: Dr. Irene on cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

5/1 Interactive Board: I feel Dead - Towards Him

4/26 Interactive Board: Why is This So Hard?

4/19 Interactive Board: I Lost My Love...

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

I Can See Clearly Now

 My Story:  Your ALT-Text here I Can See Clearly Now

August 4, 2005

I Can See Clearly Now....

I am three months out of an abusive relationship. Certainly, there were good times (when we were dating, he bowled me over with his declarations of love, devotion, dreams for the future, et al). But once we moved in together, to a large house in need of major renovations and far, far away from our families and friends, those declarations of love turned into fits of rage so intense I sank into a depressive state I had never before experienced.

"It takes two to tango," as my mother used to say, and in this case it's certainly true. As soon as I drove the 200 miles north to the town I used to live in, I realized my former partner and I both had problems, and I knew what mine was: alcohol. Randy, a very talented artist, was addicted to pain killers. Add the stresses involved with a number of major life changes, and the you've got the formula for the relationship equivalent of a Molotov cocktail. And that's, indeed, what it was.

The day after I arrived "back home," I called Alcoholics Anonymous and asked for help. Now, people who know me well also know I have the capacity to put up with a great deal. I raised two children by myself while building a career in the fashion industry. I overlooked other people's faults as I magnified my own. I told everyone it would be alright--but only when I worked at whatever problem was at hand without asking for assistance. How did I do it? I put myself to sleep each night with a bottle of wine. After a while, it became two bottles of wine. When I left that job to live with my boyfriend, Randy, in the country, it was the realization of a dream...or so I thought. But soon that dream was to become a nightmare. You name the clinical manifestations of an abusive partner/relationship, and they were all there: isolation, financial control, verbal, emotional and physical abuse; threats to harm my cat, throw out my clothes, call my family and tell them I'm a (fill in any nasty thing here). It was a text book case.

I knew I needed a clear head to deal with Randy and my family as well as my
own feelings of rejection, guilt, anger and remorse. AA gave me the tools to
stop drinking and start seeing--really seeing--for the first time in decades. The nice thing about a 12-Step program is the fact that you get to hand your burdens over to a higher power. Whoever that might be. Now, this might seem to be a simple thing, but for someone who was used to steering her own boat for so long, this was a major one. Once I realized that I was no longer responsible for the universe (abused women and men: does this sound familiar?), I felt as though a ton of bricks had been lifted from my shoulders. And believe me, those bricks needed to go if I was going to heal.

Now I'm no expert, but I do know that alcohol and/or drug abuse by women who are in destructive relationships is not uncommon. So it was for me. The more nervous I was around Randy, always tip-toeing around him on subjects I knew would incur his wrath or walking on eggshells when I knew he was in an ill mood, the more I craved a drink. Why? To relieve the stress I was feeling. What it did, however, was exacerbate what was already a fairly miserable situation. It didn't allow me to think clearly. Instead, it clouded my vision and turned my rage (which I didn't dare let out except on extremely rare occasions) inward. If depression is anger turned upon one's self, then this could explain the reason why I was sleeping 18 hours a day (two bottles of chilled chardonnay notwithstanding).

We were together 24/7 -- something I'm not used to as I worked in the City 16-hours a day for most of my adult life. Randy wanted me to work with him on the house although my name was not on the deed. When I tried to do my freelance work--which paid quite well--he would fly into rages and accuse me of working only to support my kids (my 25 year old and my 19 year old lived together in an apartment, although I paid the rent). I couldn't understand this, because the math doesn't work: If you can hire a helper at $10 an hour and I can earn $75 an hour freelancing in a mansion with a cow pasture, why wouldn't you choose the former? I did help when I wasn't on deadline, but it was never enough. Soon, he was listening to my phone conversations and accusing me of "doing nothing" all day (not true: schmoozing is a big part of my job assignment). He would press me for help when I was on the phone with my employer. He would sulk if I didn't help, then give me the silent treatment and, when pressed for the reasons for his mood, he would explode in a rage that usually found me at the receiving end of his foot or fist. If I had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night and it woke him up, it was pandemonium (I have been punched for "doing this" to him). If my daughter called and needed consoling, his fury would erupt for hours afterwards.

I can hear his harsh words in my ears as I transcribe them to paper: "Why
didn't you write creatively instead of doing that awful commercial stuff? I'd have more respect for you." (Answer: To support myself and keep a roof over my family's head, unlike you who lived with their parents for 40+ years.) "You're starting to look your age." (I am my age. No one's complained about my looks until you, dear.) "I gave you a house and look what you've done with it! Nothing!" (Except move you, pay your bills, buy your drugs, do your laundry, cook your dinner and clean your house while earning money freelancing -- as I watched you lay on your bed reading books because "I made you too depressed to work." That was a good one, Randy.) And now: "Why wouldn't you give yourself to me? You've ruined me! I feel betrayed!" (Et tu, Brute.) "I want $5,000 from you. I want something from this relationship." (How about the 8 ounces of blood that still remain in my body? Would you like that, too? Or how about my liver, which probably resembles a small end table right now. You could use it in the library.) I could go on and on but I won't, because that would be like quicksand and won't help me (see, I can be selfish when I want to be! Yay!).

Believe me, this was no way to live. But when I was in IT (IT being the
relationship), it looked pretty normal to me. And that, perhaps, was the sickest part of this very, very sick relationship. What's worse than trying to argue with a narcissist? Trying to argue with a narcissist when you're loaded and he's down to his last 6 Percoset. And boy, could he argue! If he had channeled his abilities into a law degree, I have no doubt he'd be sitting on the Supreme Court today! I, on the other hand, am a pleasant team player: I literally get stomach pains from disagreements. Randy had worn me out. But I had helped.

Love? Certainly, I did love Randy at one time. But after much reflection on
the past 18 months, I also realize that he is a narcissist and Randy never change (if he does, I'll be the first one to applaud). From what I've read from Dr. Irene's wonderful site (Aw shucks! Thanks!), many extraordinary artists, musicians and writers have this personality disorder. They are also extremely charming (in the beginning), beguiling and attractive (all true) until they feel "they have you. " He certainly had me.

In hindsight, I also realize that I never set any boundaries in our relationship. The first time he ranted, I ranted back (big mistake, as this was the first time he kicked me). So I kept my mouth shut to avoid arguments (although they continued) and pickled myself. I drank and slept for escape and never complained. When tears came to my eyes because he gave me a small check for my birthday from his business account (birthdays were very important to him), he proceeded to smash my late mother's bone china to bits with a hammer, throw my daughters' photographs out into the garden, and rip my oldest child's art portfolio--which I kept in a box in my office--into shreds. "What did you give me for MY birthday?!" he screamed at me (I was just starting to freelance and had little money, though I did sign over to him a truck I had bought for us months earlier, drew him a card, and carefully wrapped some CDs and silly trinkets for his amusement). "GET OUT OF HERE!" I did. It was the best thing that EVER HAPPENED TO ME! Happy birthday to me!

Sure, I burned some freelance bridges, am down to my last few thousand dollars (I Randy omit the part about selling my house and funneling most of that money into his project), sleep by myself, and endured criticisms that would make any healthy woman want to hire a body guard. But now I have something better: Myself. And a path to sobriety that has allowed me to see clearly for the first time in years.

I'm off to a meeting shortly, so I have to run. But this is good running. If your vision is being clouded by any substance, or you have been in more than one abusive relationship, find support either through a 12-step program, a women's support group, or a private therapist. I can't tell you how much support and friendship I've received from total strangers which, in turn, have helped me to find myself. People there, total strangers, love me for ME. Not for whatever narcissistic supply I can provide.

It's now 9 a.m. EST. At 4 a.m., Randy called to tell me if I didn't give him $5,000 (a small price to pay, he said, for ruining his life) he would throw anything I left in his basement (I couldn't fit everything into my station wagon) to the curb. Well, there go the Armani suits, but who cares? At least I've got myself.


Love, kisses, and above all, PEACE TO ALL OF US!


Dear Sunny. Thank you for sharing your story. Good luck to you. I wish you continued success, and may God bless! Dr. Irene