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Ivette survived an abusive marriage
"It took me three years to leave my ex-husband, but after turning 30, I decided I had finally had enough."
Ivette, a friend I’ve known for a decade, got married and quickly discovered her husband was a drug addict and an abuser. She shares her story of years of fear, pain, survival, and ultimately, healing and happiness.
Ivette in Santa Cruz, November 2019
“From the ashes,
and I stitched the pieces
of my soul
– Najwa Zebian
He comes home. His eyes go toward the window. He’s paranoid. Fuck—he’s high on meth again.
“Are you high?” I ask.
“Shut the fuck up, no,” he responds without looking at me, still peering out the window. I can’t believe I let this man back in my life, again. I know he won’t sleep for the next five to seven days, keeping me up, getting angrier and more violent as each day passes.
And then, I wake up. I’m dripping in sweat. I’m alone in my room with my dog sleeping next to me. I feel so grateful that it was only a nightmare that I let out a cry of happiness.
Ten months ago, I was living my worst nightmare. My story is filled with broken pieces, terrible choices and ugly truths. It’s also filled with a major comeback and lessons learned that have made me into the strong woman I am today.
On October 17, 2019, my marriage was legally terminated. The divorce trial judge granted my ex-husband alimony, a lump sum and my entire retirement account, but I’m now officially divorced and a survivor of domestic violence.
I was married for eight-and-a-half years, and my ex was high on drugs, primarily methamphetamine, for the majority of that time. For those who have never witnessed anyone high on meth, it’s not pretty. The person you know and love is no longer there; a dark, heartless soul takes over the body. The abuse started months into our marriage. It began as emotional abuse, then, as the years went by, it escalated to physical. I normalized the abuse and made excuses for him, blaming it on his childhood trauma and even feeling sorry for him, afraid that he’d end up homeless if I left him (which eventually happened).
From the outside, it seemed like I had my shit together. I was a successful working woman. My Instagram showed me living my best life. Yet I was covering up black eyes with makeup and blaming a busted lip on my dog or some other lie on a continuous basis.
Growing up I imagined having a husband who loved me, was there for me, someone who I would share life with and start a family with—you know, normal things. Instead, I had someone who said unspeakable things to me, someone who supposedly loved me so much yet would go missing, get high, come back, treat me like shit and get violent. I wasn’t sleeping at home because my ex would get high and stay endlessly awake, keeping me up for four to five days straight. Sometimes I’d be scared of what he’d do to me, so I’d run out of the house barefoot in pajamas with my dog and sleep in my car in a nearby neighborhood. I didn’t ask my friends for help because I was ashamed that my life had come to this.
It took me three years to leave my ex-husband, but after turning 30, I decided I had finally had enough. One day he punched me so hard that he gave me two black eyes and a bloody nose. I planned my escape and, seven months later, I took the dog and the furniture, moved out of our home, and filed for divorce.
Looking back, I feel so sorry for who I used to be. How did I ever think that was okay? How did I not have enough self-respect to leave sooner? The longer I stayed, the more miserable and depressed I became. I wanted to heal so that this would never happen to me again.
After I left, I began to read books and articles on abuse. I wanted to know why I allowed a decade of abuse to happen to me. (If you’ve never been in an abusive relationship and wonder why people don’t just leave, here’s an informative read.) In July of this year, I started going to therapy. I learned that the reason I chose someone toxic to marry was because it was familiar to me; I had learned what “love” looked like from my emotionally abusive, alcoholic father, and I had never healed from my daddy issues.
The greatest lesson I learned this year was that I need to heal and learn to be happy on my own before I start dating. This summer, I jumped back into a new toxic relationship, and swiftly got my heart broken again. When I was broken up with, I wasn’t just grieving this last relationship—I was grieving my life that I had never stepped back to reflect on; the nine years I spent in an abusive relationship; the abuse I suffered as a child from my own father, the man who was supposed to protect me.
It’s time for me to focus on self-love. I’ve been going to therapy once a week, working on healing from my childhood traumas, journaling, meditating, going to Zumba, reading books on healing and doing exercises to heal my inner child, as well as learning to love myself more and more each day.
At the end of this decade full of turmoil, I don’t regret what happened to me. I have so much to be grateful for: my family and friends for helping me get through one of the most difficult times of my life; the job I worked my ass off for; my apartment next to the beach that I only ever used to dream of; and my adorable dog that ran to me whenever she heard me crying, licking away my tears.
Today, in this very moment, I am happy. I’m calm. I haven’t felt like this in such a long time, and it’s not because of some guy; it’s because of me. When I look back on 2019, I don’t think of it as a year of suffering, but rather a year of so much growth. I now feel as though I am soaring. I am no longer a victim, but a survivor.
More about the author: Ivette works at a nonprofit organization and lives in Long Beach, California. Ivette is a Guatemalan native and moved to the US as a young child. She loves everything art and music, plays the piano and runs a nail art instagram (@modnails).
National Domestic Violence Hotline (online chat available 24/7): 1-800-799-7233
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