If we crossed paths one rainy afternoon in a café tucked discretely away around the corner from the throngs of people streaming down the city block in hurried expectation of somewhere they have to be, you would never guess. I would be tucked away in an intimate, dimly lit corner of the café occupying the only perfectly worn arm-chair, legs crossed upon the seat with my notebook resting at an odd angle on my lap to adapt to the funny way my head tilts to the left as I type. My latte would be inches from the reach of my right arm sitting precariously close to Japanese reference books draped across the table like limp, damp leaves after a fall rain, pages gently dancing in protest of passersby coming too close. I would be in deep thought, pounding away feverishly on the keyboard, each finger-fall echoing in your ear like an old-fashioned typewriter. You may even stop and look intently at me in curiosity of my urgent, unwavering concentration for just a brief moment before going on about your way. But you would never know.
You would never know the dark memories and flashbacks that pound around in my head, furiously kicking up a storm and threatening my peace of mind. You would never guess that my eyes would have looked upon such evil, and against my will stored images forever burned inside. Things I cannot escape and things I cannot unlearn. People I cannot unknow. For a girl like me is not one to be found strolling and rambling in the underbelly. My very presence speaks volumes to this fact in the way I brush my hair from my eyes with deliberate attention to the fluid movement of my hand passing over my forehead, the way I hold my head up and walk as though I were weightless, floating by like a butterfly gliding with purpose and patience. My actions would never betray me and let you know that I had been crushed under the weight of a mountain, for I carry myself with pride. I act and speak with dignity. I love with grace and sincerity. So much so, that you would never know.
You couldn’t imagine me in a moment of desperation, as you now see my movements unassuming and gentle in their nature. The way I carefully close a book as though the pages were aging, cracked vellum threatening to crumble if I became too forceful. The way I slowly look up at a woman who nudges me with her purse as she struggles to calm her agitated child, and I smile, nodding gracefully to let her know she committed no offense.
Come sit on the stool beside me, then, and listen to my story before you go on about your way, and keep my words with you in the back of your mind to remind yourself the next time you see a girl like me, it’s best not to make assumptions. For the outer facets of me have been polished and handled with care, so gracefully hiding the faults, frailties, and imperfections that glare underneath. This is the story of a girl dragged into the dark alley against her will. The story of a girl who ducked into the right doorway at just the right time and barely escaped the abyss. But not without scarring beneath the smooth, composed exterior, not without doubt. For this is a tale of a girl who was forced to stand at the edge of darkness, the life in the streets you know so little about, and be an unwilling spectator to the most unnerving, chaotic, selfish nature of a man bent on being the center of it all. These are words of a heart broken and damaged by a man wedded to drugs that somehow came full circle and made her way back into the sun.
I recommend that life for no one. Living with an abuser who is also an active addict is about as absent of and far away from all goodness you could ever hope to get. As with things that befall us unexpectedly, we somehow find ourselves on this course, being bumped and battered about like a hurricane driven sea. I was brought there by lies strung together one after another, woven together with steel cable, and once I learned the truth, he already had me trapped. In the beginning, I did not know either of these facts, and separating the two for you will be daunting. They are both written upon him as with indelible ink. They both feed off and exert influence over each other but neither causes the other to be so.
Abusers are dangerous creatures without having active addiction weighing them down. But don’t allow yourself the luxury of falling for the myth that their addiction to alcohol or drugs is what causes abusive behavior. Abusive behavior is something that is chosen, not caused. While drug use may exacerbate frequency or severity of acts of abusive events, the abuse does not occur because of their influence. They simply cause a loss of control, and in these moments, the abuser can become angrier quicker, resulting in an increase in brutality. As a matter of convenience, a simple act of justification so they can be without consequence, abusers will use their addiction as an excuse for their behavior.
By nature, active addicts do things to others that are abusive, but this is driven by the drug. (Here, I am speaking not of physical and sexual abuse, for these are choices they make, and they are not caused by drug use.) You cannot tell an addict to act reasonably. You cannot tell an addict in the throes of addiction that they are being selfish. These things they can only learn on their own once they have hit bottom. Have you ever lived with an addict? Not one who is seeking help, not one who you see suffering as a result of the things they do and earnestly want change. Not one who has somehow managed to overcome their battle to use and be able to live clean. Not one who, once they have clean time behind them, fight a small-scale war each day to keep that time intact. I am speaking of one so far gone that they no longer care how what they do affects those in the lives just as long as they get to do what they want. I am speaking of abusive intent dangerously woven with entitlement.
Welcome to the world of “I’m a do me.” Population one. In this world, it is okay to steal money from their partner, family, or friends, so they can go on a binge. It’s okay if it puts a person into severe financial hardship and causes things like four evictions, having water and electric, phone service, etc., shut off. And when they go to their support groups, they will laugh about how they took their girlfriend’s debit card out of her purse and overdrew her account $1000 in the hole, not once but twice. They will roar with delight how she was too afraid of him to call the police and all the bank was willing to offer was to advise her to be more careful next time. Because the female tellers adore the mask of kindness he wears before them. Others will laugh with them as they, too, remember instances of how they stole money and even boldly, brazenly offered to try to help them find it. As we have internal meltdowns about rent, electric, water, heat, and food. They laugh behind our backs, in this world of “I’m a do me.”
In this world of “I’m a do me,” they will spend more time out of the house with the 13 steppers, preferring the company of heroin addicts and garbage heads while exposing themselves to disease over the one at home who feels like she has been looked upon as garbage. They run the streets with them, chasing rock, scheming against each other, using each other for money, and then dumping each other the second they have lost their use. Once they are deemed worthless. If they are able to later acquire resources to be exploited solely for the purpose of acquiring drugs, things like a vehicle, a dealer who sells for a reasonable amount, someone who gets a monthly check, or a woman who is willing to sell herself for drugs, then they are gods. For only if you have these things in this world are you deemed of any value.
Hidden in shadows are the things that they do to each other in their pursuit of chasing the memory of their first high. Things that aren’t spoken of but deemed acceptable as long as they got their way. Men and women willing to exploit and use anyone they have to in order to get their heart’s desire. Things that are unkind, cruel, and that expose another to risk of illness and death. Things that break the laws and flaunt it with pride under everyone’s nose. What kind of things, you ask? I can only speak from my experiences with my ex. Here are just a few.
- They steal money from you. My ex would beat me to get it or if I was asleep, he would help himself to my cards in my wallet. When I changed the PIN numbers when he was out of the house, he would come home for the sole purpose of beating on me until I gave in. Also did this to get money from my 401K. He also ran off with my paycheck every week, and sometimes he used it to flip to get more money.
- They sell your belongings. At first this happened when I was at work or asleep, but eventually he would forcefully take things from me. He would sell my digital camera, webcam, DVDs, game consoles, clothing, shoes… anything the dealer deems to be useful to them.
- They sell food stamps. That’s right, he wouldn’t let us go to the store to get food with them, but he’d ride his dealer in there like he was prince and fill his house with food.
- They bring other addicts into your home to use with them. Against your will. They lock you in the bedroom, even going so far to prohibit use of the bathroom. Hours and hours on end.
- They bring dealers into your home and help bring them clientele to sell to. Said dealers then like to stash their supply in your home so they don’t get caught with it. And they never ask.
- They use your kitchen to cook. And I don’t mean food.
- They allow female addicts to call the house all hours of the day and night. And you aren’t allowed to protest. If you intercept a call, you are punished and become a joke to his friends.
- They ruin your property. Pens, pencils, hangers, chopsticks go missing? Don’t expect them back! (and really would you want them?) They are now makeshift pushers for their stems.
- They leave drug residue everywhere. As soon as you are done cleaning it up, they are back for more.
- They manipulate other addicts for use of their money. That’s right, when they smoke up what you have and what they obtained by giving a dealer a lick (that’s not innuendo, that’s really what they call it), they plot against the unfortunate soul who has announced the day they get their checks.
- They sell female addicts for drugs. Yes. They either take them to the truck-stop and “let” (AKA bully and coerce) them do some work, or they bring dealers along willing to forfeit a little rock without getting some cash, and they expose their wife and children at home to whatever disease the woman has unfortunately been infected with. And they don’t care. In fact, they view those women as property and currency, bartering and exchanging them with no regard to their safety, well-being, and value as human beings.
- They sell prescription drugs for money to get rock.
- They let dealers use the car to re-up.
- They let addicts use the car even though they don’t have a license.
- They drive dealers and addicts around day and night even though they don’t have a license and the car is uninsured.
- They do drugs in the car.
- They swallow drugs when being arrested to avoid possession charges. How do they get it up and out again? I will never use mustard again.
- They have to “make a quick stop” that ends up with you both walking around outside the car in the freezing cold late at night in an unsafe area, because the police see them do something suspicious.
- They have to “make a quick stop” that ends up with you sitting in the car for hours, because they are using inside.
- They bring you into a house and then tell you they are going to smoke. Ever been in a house full of people getting high? I will never go into a stranger’s house again. As someone who has never used, it was one of the most unsettling things I’ve ever witnessed.
- They watch tons of porn while high and act like you don’t exist. Then when they come down, they trash talk you and educate you on how disgusting you are and why they are “forced” to watch it.
- They cheat with active female addicts and run around with those who are HIV and Hepatitis C positive.
- They will sell drugs to their brother. I mean family. I have seen parents buy for and use with their kids. Mothers buy for daughters and sons. Sons sell to their mothers and siblings. Men getting their girlfriends hooked on rock.
- They try to get you to bring them to buy drugs. Sometimes they are brazen enough to ask you to. They punish you for non-compliance.
- They drag you out of the house in the middle of the night because they want to use and don’t think they can leave you alone in the house.
- They use drugs at other people’s houses in front of their kids. And no one objects.
- They begin to use other drugs or drink. My ex started to drink when he was using.
- They smoke in the house. I still have flashbacks and can smell that sickly sweet yet singed vapor smell.
- They make torches out of empty insulin vials, rubbing alcohol, and paper, because the lighters died and they are desperate. And they use the stove burner to light it.
- They disappear from the house, don’t take your calls or answer texts for hours at a time. Which turns into days. Eventually their phone is off and when they do return home, you are punished for burning up the battery.
- They turn on each other and become informants and work for drug agencies. Sometimes the ATF doing weapons sales. Sometimes multiple agencies at a time.
- You learn through uncomfortable conversations and veiled threats that they know too much about how bullets damage flesh to not have experience. That they have access to firearms and hide them without you being aware of their presence.
My experiences with the man who abused me are a volatile mix of drugs and violence. Separating the two are truly impossible, because they are both main elements of who he is. He used further physical violence as a threat and punishment for not allowing him to have his way. I have very few things left from my life before, but a while back, when going through a box, I found a trigger waiting to happen. Below is my souvenir from the dark side of life with him. When I feel anxious, I flip them over and again in my fingers as if I rub them long enough, they would disappear taking the memories with them. The intact bullets were not among my things my parents retrieved from the apartment. The casings are gone on these, three of the heavy metal objects out of the handful of bullets he shoved in my face, threatening me with a gun he claimed was not in the apartment.
But that’s a story for another time. In another life, long before becoming ensnared by my ex, I was blissfully ignorant of all things that occur just on the outer fringes of darkness. In another life, I could not have imagined these things would be reality or that I would be forced as an unwilling spectator to watch them unfold from the sidelines. The descent into darkness is painful, and I was helpless to protect myself or safeguard the innocence I had. Some people have a dark abyss walled by crumbling dry rot where their heart should be. Some people kill everything they touch.
And here I sit before you, laptop in tow, books spread around me like a carpet of leaves appreciating my return to the light. Would you have guessed that I was one of those girls? Those girls who stared into the heart of darkness and somehow managed to survive?