This week I want to share something with you all that is so personal to me. My hope is that by sharing my story you will understand why I want to help others. My hope is also that one day you will be able to accept your story and grow from it. We all have one, here is mine.
This story was also published on the website: https://www.lovewhatmatters.com/no-no-no-i-was-emptying-the-pockets-in-his-jeans-to-wash-them-i-felt-something-small-cold-i-knew-what-it-was-immediately-how-could-he-single-mom-learns-of-partners-drug-addic/
I met the person that changed my life completely when I was just 25 years old. I was not living my best life at that point. I had been through some tough situations, tough relationships, had lost people close to me and was not the best person I could’ve been. It’s safe to say that at that point in my life, I was lost and searching for something or someone to complete me. That’s what I thought he did. The way he looked at me with his ice-blue eyes sent my heart to places I never knew they could go. He was caring, genuine, and wanted me the way I was. I had never met someone who cared about me the way he did. Every time I was around him, I couldn’t control the butterflies in my stomach. I didn’t accept this love right away but he fought for it and that meant so much to me. I began to let him love me and boy, did I love him back. There was no denying my infatuation for him.
We moved quickly and after being friends for a few weeks, we became a couple. He met my family very quickly. I thought I had met my person, the person I would spend the rest of my life with. I wasn’t perfect but he sure made me feel like I was. He moved into my home after just a few short months of dating and I loved it. He loved my dog just as much as I did. I did everything for him, from cooking and cleaning to helping him financially and helping him find job after job, even when he would lose them for some unexplained reason. I never questioned him. I believed every word he told me. I had no reason not to. All of the red flags about his past were never red flags to me. They were only flaws and they were flaws I was willing to accept to feel the love he provided. He made me feel whole, young, and amazing–and that is something I didn’t feel before him.
The next part of my story involves things I never realized until our relationship ended. I was so caught up in the idea of having something that I couldn’t see anything past that. I have always been a compassionate person. From my career to my family and friends, my compassion for people and things runs deep. When I love, I love hard. He was aware of this and aware of the things I had been through before him. After a while, things, including my compassionate personality, became flawed. He began changing me without me realizing it. I quit my government job because he didn’t like it, I never did my school work in front of him because he felt I wasn’t paying him enough attention, I stopped hanging out with friends I had known even before him, I deleted my social media–I gave my everything to him. To give a more literal example, he never even made his own plate of food during our relationship. I loved him. He was my addiction and I was so caught up in someone just wanting me, I didn’t realize I wasn’t who I should be.
Despite all of these things, I was willing to take any risk necessary to just be with him, even if that meant not having my own identity. From the outside looking in, we were perfect. From the inside looking out, we had problems. I didn’t think these problems were unfixable. I thought they were ‘normal’ couple problems that everyone goes through. I never claimed to be perfect. I’m sure there were things I could have done better, said or not said. I only thought I was perfect for him and him for me.
I never wanted to have kids or get married before him. The truth is, I never thought I was worthy enough to be married or be a mother. I had been told throughout my life that I wouldn’t make a good wife or a good mother. He changed all of that for me. I wanted to be married to him, in the worst way. I wanted to have his babies. I thought he was happy and wanted the same things. After all, he told me these things almost on a daily basis. He also told my family these things. I was in deep and I didn’t want to ever be without him. Again, he was my addiction.
On September 1, 2017, we found out we were pregnant. This day was the happiest day of my life but it was also the day that began the hardest journey I would ever have to face. Things in our relationship took a turn for the worst. I ignored all of the negatives because I was so happy I was having a baby with him. Somehow, I was blinded. Blinded to reality and what was going on around me. Somehow, I thought no matter what, it would work because we were having a baby together. There was no way he was going to just leave me to be a single mother, or so I thought.
In October of 2017, he began disappearing for days on end. He stopped answering his phone and he had no care at all about my pregnancy. I knew something was going on. I just told myself he was getting cold feet but he would be back to normal soon. Little did I know, I would get the shock of my life. I remember this day like it was yesterday. I was waiting for him to come home from work (his fourth job in 2 ½ years). I was cooking dinner and doing laundry. I was excited because he had actually answered my phone call and agreed he would come home for dinner. As I was emptying the pockets in his jeans in order to wash them, I felt something small and cold. I pulled it out and I knew what it was immediately. I don’t know how I knew what it was, but I knew. Or maybe I knew all along, I just didn’t want to face it. It was a glass container that was used to store drugs. ‘No!’ I screamed out loud. ‘No, no, no.’ I began crying quietly and sat down on the laundry room floor. ‘How could he?’ I thought. I didn’t want him to know. I just wanted the night to be normal. I was in so much denial. I cleaned my face and finished cooking dinner. I remember when he got home, I was so sick to my stomach. I had chills running all throughout my body. The thing is, he was a recovering addict. Or so I thought. I knew he used drugs in the past, years before he met me. But I also knew of all of the promises he made to me and pleads that he would never go back to that life. That he was happy and he never wanted to live that way again. I believed him.
I knew we had some problems that needed to be addressed so I suggested we go to couples counseling. From the few sessions he actually showed up to, he had somehow convinced the counselor it was a good idea to only come home a few days of the week because he needed his alone time. I went from being his everything to only being worthy enough for a few nights a week. That was good enough for me. I thought that was more than I deserved. I thought I had done something wrong.
What should have been that happiest months of my life turned out to be the darkest months of my life. I began finding more and more drug paraphernalia in our home. I never saw him sober anymore or barely saw him at all. I couldn’t understand what I did wrong or how I had chased him away so quickly. He disappeared for days, sometimes weeks at a time, and never answered the phone. Most of my time was spent thinking about where he was and what he was doing. I never slept anymore. I just stared out of the window or sat on the front porch until the wee hours of the morning, praying for him to just come home and be normal again. I cried every day whenever I was alone. I was always crying, whether I was home, in my car, in the bathroom at my job. I couldn’t stop crying. I felt like I was dying inside. I found myself writing him apology letters, not even knowing what I was apologizing for.
On the rare chance that he did answer the phone, he would only tell me what a horrible person I was and how I forced him to start doing drugs again because of the way I was. He began to tell me that the baby I was growing inside of my body wasn’t his. He accused me of carrying someone else’s child and pretending that it was his even though I had never stepped outside of our relationship. He called me every name in the book from ‘b*tch’ and ‘whore’ to ‘crazy’ and even ‘psychotic.’ I would think to myself, ‘How could I have hurt him so badly?’ and ‘How can I make it up to him?’ All the while, I had no idea what I did wrong. He would tell me he no longer wanted me and he no longer loved me. He even went as far as to say he just wanted to be friends with benefits, even though I would soon give birth to his child.
Occasionally, I was able to convince him to come home and talk to me. There was never any talking. He was downright mean. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, insecure, ridiculed, guilty, worthless and I was growing a human life in my body. I should have felt magical, empowered, beautiful, secure, and loved. I know that now but at the time I thought I deserved to feel those ways. I would have done anything on earth to fix him and fix us. I told him I would do anything. I remember a few occasions, I actually got on my knees and begged him to love me again, to love our baby. I would cry and he would laugh. Every time he walked out of the door, my heart broke into pieces. I never knew when or if I would see him again. He was never around for long periods of time anymore. He was always in a rush to leave, to get back to his drugs and whatever else he was doing, while I sat home alone with my dog, pregnant. I began to have dreams that he died, which would lead to me attempting to track him down for days at a time until I found him.
I found myself lying and covering up for him. I knew people could tell I had been crying all day from my red, puffy eyes. I knew I looked like I hadn’t slept in days because I hadn’t. I was exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally but I never once talked badly about him. My family would ask where he was and I would tell them he was at work when in reality, he didn’t even have a job. I would make up stories about how great we were doing and how he was so excited that we were having a baby girl when in reality, he wouldn’t even say our baby was his. My covering up lasted as long as I could let it. I knew the people who loved me deeply knew something wasn’t right but they were just waiting for me to tell them. I eventually told a few people and they became my soldiers, my support, and the reason I got through this.
I was so ashamed that I was going to be a single mother. But I was even robbed of thinking about this. All I thought about was him and what would be the next method of convincing him to go to rehab. I remember telling him over the phone that I wasn’t sure how to be a mom and I definitely couldn’t do this on my own. His response was, ‘I suggest you find some new friends that are single moms and ask them for help.’ He wasn’t even willing to change for our daughter. I don’t remember any occasion where I thought about what kind of mom I would be or how my baby would look or how much I would love her. 100 percent of my thinking was about him.
I had hit rock bottom. In March of 2018, just 2 months before I was expected to give birth, I found myself sitting in my car in the hospital parking lot after a maternity ward tour that he walked out on. I’m not sure how long I was there but I know it was a few hours. I sat there crying, my tears falling on my unborn baby that was going to be here soon. I was sitting there, contemplating checking myself into the psychiatric ward. I was convinced that I was crazy. I couldn’t decipher reality versus non-reality. I couldn’t understand why this had happened or how my happy life turned into the worst life. I just kept crying and apologizing to my baby girl who was going to be named ‘Johanna’ after his grandmother. This is something that I had done quite often. I was holding on so tightly to my baby bump and looking at it as my body shook in hysterics. I was telling her not to worry, that I would fix her dad before she got here. I was telling her that I was so sorry that I chased him away before she got the opportunity to feel love from a two-parent household. I was so ashamed to be bringing an innocent life into such a horrible situation. At that moment, I felt like a horrible person. At that moment, I felt no control over myself. I had been living outside of my body for months and even though I could feel her kicking inside me, I wasn’t myself. I wasn’t embracing this love the way I should have been.
My baby was small. I knew that it could possibly be because I was overwhelmingly stressed. I would sit at the kitchen table and force myself to eat in hopes that I wouldn’t throw it up. I was disgusted with myself and could barely get through an hour of the day let along the entire day. I went to doctors’ visits all the time and even went to get an MRI on her brain to make sure everything was okay. She was okay, thank God! I did all of this without him, all the while feeling so guilty. He would tell me that I was causing myself stress by not leaving him alone and I was causing my baby to be small.
After this and months of contemplation, I finally told my dad and step-mom the entire truth. I needed their support and there was no doubt in my mind they would be there for me. I was ashamed and embarrassed. After all, they loved him just as much as I did. I didn’t want them to think badly about him, just in case he did change and we got back together. After so many conversations with my dad, the answer was always the same, ‘Work on your relationship with God.’ I also opened up to one of best friends, who listened to me cry every single day and suggested that I begin trying meditation. There was never a time where she didn’t answer the phone. I confided in two of my close cousins and slowly but surely, people began finding out the truth. I felt nothing but love and support, no judgment, which had been my biggest fear. Again, I thought all of this was my fault.
On the day of my daughter’s birth, I wanted him to be there. Deep inside, I hoped that the moment he saw her, he would change. I read so many stories about this actually happening, and I hoped it would happen for me. He was there during my entire labor, only he was asleep. This is what he did every time he was around me: sleep. I was sure that he was withdrawing from drugs. I remember midway through my pregnancy, he soaked my bed in his sweat and slept for almost 48 hours straight. After those two days, he got up and left without saying a word. Hurt can’t even define the way I felt that day. Even though he wasn’t awake, I still wanted him there. His presence–whether he was silent, high, mean, or asleep–made me feel like everything would be okay. I needed him there. I wanted him there, in any form. I wanted my family.
I didn’t realize it at the time but he should’ve been holding my hand and telling me everything was going to be okay while I was in labor. Somehow, I was able to keep myself calm during my labor. I had my mom, my sister, and my niece there to keep me company for a little bit. It felt as though I had nothing to worry about. I think this came from my prayers to God and the fact that I had decided I needed to begin reaching out to God for help. After my water broke, he was awake and ‘ready.’ It seemed as though everything was fine and we were acting like a normal couple. I was so tricked. We began joking around with the nurses and ‘having fun.’ Strange choice of words when you’re about to deliver a baby but I was so calm and I was so ready.
On May 11, 2018, my life changed. At 11:25 a.m., the nurse told me it was time to start pushing. He was holding my left leg and the nurse was holding my right. At 11:45 a.m., my beautiful baby girl was born into my life. I couldn’t believe the feelings I was feeling. There were emotions that I didn’t even know existed and didn’t even believe could be there anymore. I felt love again but in a completely different way. She looked me in the eyes and it was though she had already forgiven me for everything I was apologizing to her about during my pregnancy. At that exact moment, I knew she needed me and I needed her so much more.
30 minutes after Johanna was born, he left. He held her for three minutes and then he left. I would later find out that the only reason he came to the birth was so that he could see if she was his or not–this is what he said to me. Well, he got his answer because she looked like his twin immediately. There was never a doubt for me because I never cheated on him. I just couldn’t convince him of this. He did come back that same night that she was born. To be quite honest, this was the first time I didn’t want him around me. I remember he sat down in the hospital room chair and began complaining that he had a backache from having to sleep on a bench in the delivery room. I knew what he wanted. He wanted a pass to leave. I had just pushed a 6-pound 8-ounce baby out of my body and he had a backache. Of course, his backache trumped the fact that my insides had just reorganized themselves to get this baby out. I got up to go to the bathroom and while I struggled to get there, he never once asked if I needed his help. After coming back out of the bathroom, I assured him that he could go. This was the first time in months I felt empowered. This was the first time in months I actually wanted him gone. I wanted to bond with Johanna by myself.
The next few months would be the same as they were during my pregnancy. He was hardly around and if he was, it would only be for short increments at a time. I was still giving him chance after chance to be involved in his daughter’s life, even forcing him to be around her. I would tell him about every doctor’s appointment. The week she was born, she needed to go to the pediatrician every other day for weight checks since she was on the smaller side. I begged him to please come with me. I told him I was sore and that it was hard for me to carry her car seat. He looked at me, rolled over in my bed, and went back to sleep. His sleep was way more important than us. I told him about every activity we did and every milestone she hit. He was never very interested in hearing about it and it broke my heart. Only now it was different. My heart wasn’t just breaking for myself, it was breaking for my daughter. My heart even broke for my dog, who had lost someone she loved so dearly. Thank God she gained a baby sister.
I asked him and even wanted him to help me make decisions for her, including daycare, doctor things, and religious choices. He wanted no part of it. If he felt for a second that I made the wrong decision for her, he would happily throw it in my face that I was the one who made the choice for her and I needed to figure it out.
I thought of every possible outcome of what could happen to her in her life. I had to be strong for her because I was her only voice. I was still healing on my own but I had the most wonderful distraction on the planet. I was still broken and I was terrified that she would be broken too. I told him that one day and he responded by saying, ‘You were broken before I met you, who cares?’ He was horrible to me and even said horrible things to my newborn baby. The less he was around, the easier my decisions came. I knew I needed to do things on my own time, no matter what others were telling me I should do. I never once told him he couldn’t see her. I wanted him to change, to just wake up and be there for us. But this wouldn’t happen. I gave myself timelines to do things. I researched the ages when babies could recognize and feel disappointed. I researched the age of understanding what was going on and did everything I could to protect her physically. I took care of her without him around and I had such an amazing support system that helped make that possible.
When Johanna was 3 months old, I began going to church regularly. I used to sit in the chairs against the wall, not even in the pew. I didn’t even feel worthy enough for God. Over the next several months, I could feel myself changing dramatically. I was going to church every week and going to class at church every Monday. I meditated daily and always had my baby close by me. I would talk to her constantly, mainly making promises that I was dedicated to giving her the best life possible. I was and still am dedicated to giving her happiness and to teaching how to be loved. I can honestly, with 100 percent certainty, tell you today that I know what love feels like now. I owe that to my dad, who told me to go to church and talk to God. I owe it to my stepmother who is literally my co-parent and loves my daughter as if she were her own. I owe that to my family and my friends, who told me they loved me and Johanna no matter what. I owe that to the deacon at my parish, who taught me how to love God and how to let God love me. I owe that to my support system, who have genuinely been there for me through all of this. I owe my dog, who was there for me every day and let me lay on her just to cry. But most importantly I did this for myself and for my Johanna Rose.
I can’t let her feel disappointed the way that I did. I also can’t predict the future but I am dedicated to figuring it out one step at a time. She is almost 2 years old now and although the future terrifies me, those thoughts are getting better. I write her letters explaining none of this is her fault, that she comes from a place of love, and that her dad does love her. I write her letters explaining addiction and the effects it has on people. I also write her letters explaining I loved her dad so much and that I will always love him for giving me my greatest blessing.
As I sit here writing this, I want you to know I am grateful for the lessons God has taught me in all of this. The greatest lesson I learned is that you cannot search outside of yourself to find completeness, happiness, or love. You can only find people and things to share these feelings with. While I tried for so long to fix someone else, I neglected to care about myself. I let myself hit rock bottom while I was growing a human inside of my body. I forgive him for all of the terrible things he caused, the terrible ways he made me feel, and even for the thoughts I have now. I love him and I pray every single day that he will also find happiness. I forgive myself for allowing him to have so much control over my life. I forgive myself for taking my attention away from my unborn baby and giving it all to him.
Today, I work a full-time job and take care of my daughter full-time. My dog and my daughter are best friends. I still have trouble calling myself a ‘single mother.’ In fact, the term makes me cringe sometimes. I am still embarrassed that I have a child with someone I no longer know. There is no greater love than the love I feel from her and I strive to take things one day at a time. I have an amazing support system and although he is not a part of that support system, I am okay with that. My story is just one story but I want you to know that when you are feeling like you aren’t strong enough, you are. When you’re feeling like you are worthless, you are worthy. When you are feeling empty, you are full. When you are feeling like you have hit rock bottom, get up and climb to the top because it feels oh so good.