Exactly 3 years ago yesterday, I made the single most difficult yet best decision of my life: to end my marriage of almost 16 years.
In the decade-plus that I lived with my ex-husband’s alcohol abuse, I kept waiting for him to hit rock bottom. Every time I thought he must finally be there, he would just keep on going and nothing would change. It was confusing. Doesn’t every addict hit rock bottom eventually?
Maybe I was the one who had to hit rock bottom.
I underestimated my control in our situation. My role. Maybe he didn’t have to hit rock bottom at all.
That day he came home and started yelling like a lunatic and flinging accusations…that was it for me.
I had finally hit rock bottom.
I had taken all the abuse I could take.
I won’t get into the details of the real lows of that day because that’s another story and a sad, horrible one at that. Today’s story is one of triumph. Sometimes it takes an overwhelming breakdown to have an undeniable breakthrough.
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” ~ JK Rowling
I don’t think falling to the depths is actually a bad thing now. Hitting rock bottom meant there was nowhere to go but up.
And that’s what I’ve done, step by (sometimes difficult) step.
In the beginning, when we first moved out, I felt lighter than I have ever felt before. I honestly hadn’t even fully realized the depths I had plunged into and the heaviness I had been buried under, but my mom said she noticed it as I unrolled my new mattress and set it up my new bed (even if it was frameless on the floor in the beginning) and it made her feel both happy for me and sad she hadn’t noticed before.
I didn’t really feel it until the next morning. I remember walking out of my bedroom and into the family room and just feeling…new. Free. Uninhibited. Not scared or worried. There was no sense of doom in the pit of my stomach anymore. I actually smiled. I started singing in the shower.
Thank You, Next!
Is it stupid to bring a pop song into my deep thoughts? Maybe. But Ariana has some wisdom here many of us never realize in the bitterness of divorce.
My favorite part? That we both met someone else, and my someone is named Amy. (Yes, I mean me!)
She taught me love. I have more love for myself than ever before. Not narcissistic love, but the kind of self-love that helps me say “no” to taking on too more than I can handle. (With the exception of my kids…I have a hard time saying no to them because I wish I could give them the world!)
I’ve learned that I cannot do everything and that it’s, OK to be honest with others and myself about that. I miss teaching drama, I miss participating in our community theatre, and I miss being an active part of my wellness coaching group. Heck, I miss having a clean house. But I have learned there is strength and love in saying no and taking care of my own mental and emotional well-being.
She taught me patience (as did he). And boy, did I need more of it after we separated than I ever did while I was married! I thought the struggles were over once we had a signed agreement and moved out. I was wrong. I have been pushed, manipulated, and mentally and emotionally challenged more than ever.
Because of that, though, I’ve learned more about what’s important to focus on and what to ignore.
I’ve learned how to handle pain and move through it.
Even more importantly, I’ve learned how to set healthy and firm boundaries that respect my well-being. And yeah, that is amazing!
She helped me let go of all of the disempowering behavior I had let take over my life. I am no longer a puppet being controlled and put into the same role over and over again. I know where my line in the sand is now. I have deal breakers for future relationships. I no longer allow toxic people into my bubble. That all takes an immense amount of strength and self-control and is learned, not innate.
I have learned how to take control of my own life; I am no longer a victim of circumstance. If I want things to change then I have to take the steps to make that happen. I have complete responsibility for where I am and the ability to make a plan to improve my situation. It’s very empowering (and sometimes scary) to acknowledge and accept this.
I can honestly at this point extend a true thank you to my ex for all I have learned since I met him, both good and bad. It has shaped me into the person I am today and given me the three most important people in my life. Would it have been great to have realized all this about ten years sooner than I did? Hell to the yes! But that’s not how my story was written, and I honestly don’t think I would have grown in the same way if I had. This kind of self-reflection can be difficult, but if you’re honest with yourself, I think you will come to similar conclusions.
If you don’t, then remember: rock bottom did not break me, and it doesn’t have to break you either. Use it as a foundation and stepping stones create the life you deserve.