As I reflect on what led me to this point in life, I can’t help but feel grateful for every breath I take — and for the people who helped me save myself.
I also cannot help feeling infuriated and sad all at the same time when I witness someone abusing their spouse or partner.
People have brushes with death every day, but my life almost became nothing but a memory on numerous occasions during the year prior to coming to northern Nevada (more occasions than I have room to write about).
It began in 2009 when I reconnected with an ex-boyfriend (mistake number one) who at one time had been addicted to drugs, but claimed to have been clean for 10 years. I needed a place to stay for a few days, and he let me stay at his apartment.
That few days with the ex led to us dating again and eventually moving into a house together.
The first time I saw him using meth, I should have run in the other direction, but didn’t. I had never used drugs in my life, but had been around people who did more than I care to admit and felt I could handle it. I also had this terrible delusion that I could “fix” his problem.
In 2006-07, I worked for a time as a life coach at a rehabilitation center/ranch for teenage boys near Tombstone, Ariz. There I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the disease of addiction, and how to effectively deal with people who were struggling with a drug problem.
I also learned you cannot help someone who is not willing to help themselves. Period.
So there I was in 2009, going against everything I knew about people on drugs, dating someone who alternated in one- or two-week periods between being on cocaine or methamphetamines and being sober and somewhat normal.
My life became a nightmare. I felt scared … and trapped. And my will to live disappeared as the mental, and eventually physical, abuse escalated. I wasn’t suicidal, just indifferent about living.
The first time he physically abused me came without warning and he almost killed me.
He choked me repeatedly until the cartilage in my neck was torn and then threw me across the garage, where my fall was broken by an aquarium … which I broke with my body when I landed on it. Lying nearly lifeless on the garage floor with no truck keys or cell phone, then subsequently sleeping in a bathtub where I figured he wouldn’t find me, it finally became apparent that I had to get out or I was going to die.
But still I felt stuck. Though I never could understand why women stayed with men that abused them, it finally made sense. Leaving the security of your home and starting over with absolutely nothing is a terrifying thought. And you know that trying to leave puts you in grave danger.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, women who leave their batterers are at a 75 percent greater risk of severe injury or death than those who stay.
These men don’t let go easily and getting out takes careful planning while trying to keep yourself safe.
After being severely injured, I stayed for a few months while plotting my escape. I weighed all the options and started slowly moving my essential belongings to one side of the garage in order to load them quickly in the truck when the time was right.
Finally I called my brother in Reno and told him everything that had occurred. He told me to come stay with him and his wife right away.
“But I won’t have a job,” I said, and in the dismal economy … it was going to be hard to find one.
“I don’t care,” my brother said. “Come stay with us until you figure it out.”
So I did.
It’s been a tough year. Restoring one’s sanity after being abused to such a severe degree is not easy. Putting your life back together when you lose absolutely everything is hard.
I see women (and men) who are in similar situations all the time. They don’t know where to turn or, for one reason or another, are too afraid to leave.
I’m not fishing for sympathy by writing about this. In fact, that is the last thing I want. What I’m here to say is if you are in a situation where you’re being abused, you can get out. There are people out there just waiting to help you. A good place to start is by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline from a phone that is not being monitored, 1-800-799-SAFE.
A little more than one year ago, my parents were prepared to bury me. Instead, I get the chance to live at least another day.
Jessica Carner is a reporter at the Sparks Tribune. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.