I met David on an online dating site in November, fresh out of a 28-day stay in rehab. I was jobless, homeless, and depressed. I had not taken a drink since signing over custody of my daughter and entering rehab. Despite this bout of abstinence, not one other thing about me had changed.
By January we were living together. February found me committed to a mental hospital after attempting suicide. David proposed while I was still in the hospital. This may seem like obvious insanity to any “normal” person, but for me, it was a way out. It was my way of regaining custody of my daughter and consequently regaining my will to live.
We married in August, three days before my 33rd birthday. I do remember reality forcing its way through my denial once or twice before the wedding. “You don’t love him, Raegan. You don’t even LIKE him. How are you gonna be able to live like this?” Booze shut the voices up and allowed me to recite hollow vows; vows I believed were necessary to get what I thought I needed.
By December, David had cheated on me, and I could not have cared less. His touch had begun to make me cringe, and his infidelity was a welcome excuse to avoid it.
The first time he became violent, he missed. We were in the hallway of our tiny apartment on campus, and (by some miracle) I was able to duck. The landlord charged us a good bit for the fist-sized hole David left in the sheetrock, but my face remained intact. But the miracles were few and far between. Over the next year, I would suffer broken ribs, chest contusions, bruises, and scrapes. Sometimes I fought back. Sometimes I had no fight left. But I stayed. I stayed because without him I’d be homeless again, and I’d have no money to fund the custody battle I was preparing.
After the first incident, I was getting my ass beaten on a weekly basis. The only thing holding me together (and hostage) was the fantasy of a perfect future. Obsessed and delusional, I could not see the truth. Regaining custody would mean robbing my daughter of her safe home and exposing her to abuse. I prided myself on one year of sobriety, unaware that I was still very mentally ill.
I’ll never forget the night reality crept in. Admitting the truth was agonizing, but necessary if I wanted to become the mother my child deserves. Through hot tears and wrenching sobs, I composed an email to Julie at Sober Mommies. I did not mention the abuse (this was still my little secret).
I finally understood that I was in no shape to be the primary custodian for my daughter.
The next morning, after dropping the lawsuit, I returned home and fell apart. I grieved the loss of my fantasy harder than I have ever grieved any reality in my life. If I had not had the support of Sober Mommies through this, I could not have done it. I still remember Julie’s words of wisdom: “How wonderful is it to know you don’t have to fight anymore? There is freedom in surrender.”
I also had my rescue dog, Rufus. He was my rock. My friend. My therapist. My soft place in a hard world. He was the only one who knew the truth about my home life. He loved me through every bit of it. He’s also the reason I am a free woman today. I simply didn’t have it in me to leave for myself. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t have it in me to do it for Rufus.
I came home unannounced one day and heard Rufus screaming in pain as I pulled in the driveway. I flung open the door and saw David beating him. Whatever strength I’d been lacking before found me. I got Rufus to safety by making myself the target. I didn’t care at that point. I’d had ENOUGH.
“You don’t have to fight anymore. There is freedom in surrender.”
Julie’s words rang through my head again. I knew what I had to do. I didn’t fight back. I surrendered—for my freedom.
David threw me in the bedroom and restrained me from leaving. He shoved me, kicked me. Even spit on me. I managed to twist his arm enough allowed me to maneuver past him and run through the door. In a matter of seconds, I was in my car, with my dog, calling the police. I had David arrested for battery and false imprisonment. That was the last time I ever saw him.
It all happened so quickly. I’d had no time to plan. I had NO IDEA what I was going to do. I was working a part-time job for little pay, and completely financially dependent. I was safe, physically, but in so much trouble otherwise.
As luck would have it, I walked into work the next morning and was offered a full-time position, and a house to live in. Within two days I had completely moved into my new life. The police put me in touch with Safe Haven, an AMAZING organization for victims of domestic violence. Safe Haven was invaluable to me—they even helped board Rufus temporarily while I got my proverbial shit together.
I’ve spent the last four years building my OWN life. I didn’t think I had it in me. But others believed I did.
As I started to believe in myself, the world just kind of opened up for me. I still struggle (believe me, I do), but it’s amazing what I can do now that I know that I am worthy and capable.
I don’t have to have an unhealthy dependence upon ANYONE to live the life I deserve and to be the mother my child needs. I have learned (in perhaps the hardest of ways) to depend on the right people, for the right things. I have learned that I am one of those people.