Wednesday, July 29, 2009

When I Saw the Light

The red light was blinking in the far distance through the clouds in the night sky. I could see the light was coming from a radio tower across the freeway. The wind was blowing, and I stood there hearing my children cry in the house, and at that second I had an epiphany. I said to myself, "I don't want this anymore." My parents did not raise me like this, and at that moment I could hear my mother's voice saying in Spanish "no seas pendeja, sigue tu felicidad" which translates into "don't be a dumbass, follow your happiness." My mother only speaks to me in those terms when it comes to making a statement. By that time, I was 25, unhappy and in a dysfunctional marriage. I had four children, one of which was still in training pants and two in diapers. Why so many kids? (It's a long story that involved different birth controls, being fertile, and my body being sensitive to certain medications.)

I kept thinking, "I don't know how my life ended this way." The voice in my head kept telling me, "It doesn't have to be this way, you still have a chance." How do I have a chance? The statistics were all against me, pregnant teen at 17, getting divorced would mean being a single parent, a minority, a woman, with no college education. I hated my life and remembered clearly my husband's words, "No one is going to want you! You're ugly, fat, and have a bunch of kids!" Tony was very manipulative in convincing me that I was no good and lucky to be with him. Somehow, everything seemed to be my fault, and he used that as an excuse to be unfaithful. He would go missing for days and come home when he had no more money, expecting me to bail him out financially, and then he was off again when payday came around. That's pretty much how our marriage ran.

My mind in a frenzy, I was brought back to a late night when I was pregnant with my second child. I remember suddenly losing my breath. I opened my eyes to see my husband choking me in a drunken rage, saying how much he hated me. I broke away and locked myself in the bathroom to wait out his tantrum long enough for him to pass out in bed. "Where were the police?" you ask. Oh yes, the police; I called them when I could get away, and by the time they appeared, his personality would change. One time they even threatened to arrest me, as there was nothing wrong from their perspective and I needed to calm down. He was such a great actor! I would have given him the Academy Award, almost like the man from Sleeping with the Enemy with Julia Roberts. Tony's demeanor would change in an instant; I can attest the man can say his ABC's backwards if the situation called for it.

My mind again fast-forwarded, and I saw myself coming back to our apartment from a weekend at my parent's home. He would disappear on payday, and in order to feed my children I would visit my parents to get food after using up what I was given at the local food pantry. I looked in my closet to change clothes, and I found that most of my clothes had been sliced with a knife. There was a note attached from his current girlfriend, informing me to stear clear of him. I thought, "Does this stupid girl not understand that he keeps coming home after a couple of days with her?" "If I had my way, I would put a big red ribbon around his neck and personally deliver him to whoever wants him." My problem at that time is that he kept coming back. God forgive me, but I spent many nights praying he would lose his way or go to jail. He did go to jail, but he would always get out eventually. I felt like I was being punished for something I did.

"Why didn't you leave?" you ask. I did, several times, and many times I was forced back from friends' and relatives' homes. If I refused to go with Tony willingly, he would knock down doors or break windows until I would finally agree, just to stop all the chaos and embarassment. Many times I think being Catholic or Hispanic convinced me that I had to go through the best and worst moments to gain my rewards as a good wife. At one time, I even thought I had to change the way I looked or what I was doing in order to make him pay attention to me. In the end, I was physically and emotionally abused. Every one of these ideas was clearly stupid. Love should not hurt! Love should always be reciprocated and be mutual. Communication is key and respecting each other is a given. Yes, obviously there will be misunderstandings and arguments but talking through things will always bring forth amicable solutions.

Again my mind went back to the blinking light and I said, "This is it! I'm clearly going to walk out of this house with my children or leave in a bodybag." Tony had just left an hour before, after finding my stash of money and taking $100.00 for a drinking binge. That was all the money I had left for the month! Before he walked out the door, I had told him "Walk out and don't count on me to help you ever again." He turned around and laughed and said, "F*** You, Margie, you'll always be there."

The next morning arrived, and I heard a knock on the door. It was my mother-n-law. As I opened the door, the sunlight shone through blinding me, and I heard her say, "They caught him drinking and driving again. He called me and asked me to get you to get him out." I thought I was dreaming, but immediately regained my thoughts and answered, "I'm sorry, I can't do this anymore. You're going to have to do it from now on; I'm leaving." She left probably thinking that I may be upset for the moment but eventually would turn around and take him out. But she was wrong! That was the re-birth of my life. I pushed my furniture out to the curb, along with everything that reminded me of my marriage. I took my kids to my parents' house and whatever I could fit in my Ford Taurus and left. I filed for divorce and a restraining order, which involved confrontations and hiding out on my part. It took several years, but eventually Tony got the message to steer clear and that I no longer wanted to be with him. He eventually found several poor souls to wipe his feet on and manipulate, and he kept away from me.

My rebirth has taken a lot of work that still continues today. There are many more things that were left unmentioned, and this small glimpse into the abuse I endured is the tip of the iceberg. I'm happy now; my kids are with me; my ex has been in jail many, many times and I have not seen him anymore after our divorce; I have never been on drugs or on welfare and I refused foodstamps; and I now have my Bachelors degree. To this day, I have never received child support, and don't plan on asking for it. I think I've done well, regardless.

My advice to a woman in an abusive relationship would be: leave, don't look back, and don't be afraid. Confide in friends, family or your community; they are your rock. Make sure you get an attorney that is willing to listen to you and who won't sell you out with your child support or custody. Get a restrainig order if necessary, and ask a lot of questions. Don't be timid; that's what kept us in our abusive relationship in the first place. It's time to speak up, not shut up.

My life is still a roller coaster with moments of hair pulling and problem solving at home, but as long as I still see the light, there is still hope for a better tomorrow.


  1. It doesn't matter when you saw the light, or after how much time passed, it was that you saw it, period. It's not an easy road, but it is a road FAR better than that which you were steadly treading. Keep it up! :)

  2. Reading this has brought so many emotions. Anger, sorrow, relief. I remember being around for some of those drunken nights. Wishing I was a man so I could beat the $h*t out of him.

    You have done great things with your life. You are a SURVIVOR!! Keep looking forward.

    I love you Ceester!!!

  3. Wow, I continue to be amazed by your strength.