I dated a drug addict for a decade, and for a long while, I was more scared for his life than I was for my own. (I’d watched men ruin their lives via addiction from childhood forward. I was sick of feeling helpless.) When I became pregnant, unaware that he was again using, however, his infrequent physical abuse escalated in not only rate but severity. I later learned that it is not unusual for abusers to act out more violently when their partners are pregnant.
He threatened to kill my best friend, baby, and myself, if I had the police remove him from my house. It was then that I began plotting to leave, which I accomplished in April 2005.
Was it the drugs that made him an abuser? No. He was next generation in of a cycle of violence. He had severe unaddressed issues. But addiction certainly didn’t help matters.
In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I present the following guide to leaving your abuser. Abuse can happen to anyone. The stereotype of victims of violence is undereducated and dependent upon their abuser. But it isn’t always true. Read Crazy Love by Leslie Morgan Steiner, for instance. I was in my mid-thirties, a feminist who’d encouraged other women to leave such situations, and had a terminal degree and good career; I simply thought that I was strong enough to save someone from substance abuse (a road an alcoholic or drug user must take alone) – in the end, I could only save myself and my daughter.
The most dangerous time for a person who is being abused is when that individual decides to leave. I had a two-month old baby to consider and left as safely as possible. I want the same for others – to escape before becoming a statistic, a click bait horror story title. Please share this blog post. Thank you.
I use “he” in this guide because it is what I knew, but women abuse too.
- Remember when he threatened, “I’ll slice your eyeballs up like onions,” or that time when you were in your last trimester of pregnancy and he yelled, “I’ll punch you in the stomach. I don’t care about that baby!” In other words, remember to hate him — let it permeate you. Choose life—your own. Become obsessed with one thought: freedom—the freedom to never see him again. Hunger for it like your favorite meal. Let it turn your will power into a taut wire.
- Devote every millisecond that you are away from him toward your goal. Assess your priorities: What material possessions can’t you live without? Whatever they are, chances are he will never notice if those items go missing from your abode because he doesn’t know you, not really, doesn’t value who you are. He’s too wrapped up in himself. The photo albums, heirlooms, family recipes, words even, tucked away, that help to make up you – find a safe place to store them—a friend’s basement perhaps. Sneak them out one box at a time. Electronics, creature comforts, can be replaced. But plan for him to go “postal” when he learns you have escaped him.
- Call a domestic abuse shelter and make a reservation—a date, time for check in. You don’t want to stay with family or friends. You already know that he will become more dangerous the moment that he discovers you stepped out the door. Don’t let that fear paralyze you, though; it is most dangerous to stay. (It takes on average five times for an abused person to leave the abuser. If you aren’t already on your fifth attempt, cut to the chase and pretend that you are: help reduce that national number. Stop making excuses for him. Love yourself more than you love him!) Don’t expect the Hilton, the Hyatt, at the shelter. Expect covert parking and alarms, Get Smart door-after-door entry, without the funny. Expect dark circle women with fill-in-the-blank futures. But none of that matters because it’s your safest way out. You will find the support you need there.
- Form a plan, as safe and full proof as possible. A time when your absence will seem normal. Or a time when you know for certain that he will be away. I dropped my abuser off at work 45 minutes away from home and never picked him back up. Make certain that at least one other person you trust knows when you are leaving, just to be safe. (The baby, everything she needed, and I were checked into the shelter before he ever learned that I’d left.)
- All the while, Yes, sir and How high? him into a lullaby of complacency, so that he will arrogantly assume that he has at long last worn you down. His goal all along. What else could it possibly be—right?
- Before you go, get a separate phone plan if you share one as a couple. Make it pre-paid, if need be. Hide the phone, hide it well until you leave. Change your mailing address to a P.O. Box. Keep his address the same so there is a place to serve the Order of Protection and, if appropriate, the eviction notice. A free lawyer at the shelter will guide you through the legalities.
- Lastly, starting in the most remote recesses of your mental attic, working toward the sub-basement, search for the sense of self that you nearly sacrificed seemingly so long ago. You may think it has departed but a particle remains. When you locate it, carry it as you would a newborn, allowing the door to slam, unaided, behind you. Put the car in reverse and drive, feeling the acceleration vibrate from engine to pedal to your being, letting it fill you like adolescent summer yesteryears on a bicycle, like riding on a motorcycle at night, hair blowing in the wind.