Going into that prison sentence, I told myself that I was strong enough to withstand this test of time. After all, I had my hands full with a newborn baby and a full-time job as a supervisor at a retail chain. He tried to pressure me into applying for public housing assistance, claiming he would need somewhere to set up a physical address with his probation officer once he was released. Yet at the same time, he would warn me that I needed to be ready to take our son back to Texas with him, his father and his brother who would be making the long drive to pick him up the day he was released.
I put his future release in the furthest corner of my mind because three years was a lifetime away. Instead, I worked hard, I partied harder. I made money, I blew money. I slept too much and cried too little. There was a new sense of freedom that I didn’t understand, yet welcomed with open arms. I took care of myself, indulged myself, I was healthy and happier than I had felt in a long time, despite my chain smoking and binge drinking.
I owned so many nice things, well things that were nice to me- brand name clothes and shoes, expensive watches, a wide variety of creative sterling silver jewelry. I still wasn’t writing and I hadn’t picked up a book in ages. I was too busy living.
I should have been sending him money, money so he could eat better, money to help ease his suffering. Instead, I was busy waiting in long lines every weekend outside of ocean-side nightclubs. I was busy buying long-neck Coronas and Kamikaze shots. I was busy losing myself in places that made me not feel so lost.
I kept trying to convince myself that I didn’t need him, that I could live a happy life without him. After all, how could we ever be happy and financially stable once he got out of prison? I was no expert but I was pretty sure that he would never make it to a corporate level with a felony criminal record. That would put the financial burden solely on me. Besides, I already had a job. A job that I loved. I had a life that I loved.
A while into our relationship I had decided that it had been our love for alcohol that had bound us together. He drank obsessively to forget the pain he claimed he felt at having lost a child, and by lost I don’t mean the child died. I drank to fill that constant longing I felt. Longing for something, anything, other than the life I had. A lot of the guys I dated in highschool couldn’t understand my need for drinking. They couldn’t understand why I preferred Budweiser over something fruity. They didn’t understand why I couldn’t drink in moderation and they didn’t appreciate that if I was ever made to choose between them and alcohol, they would lose every time.
But he wasn’t this way. Once he was out of prison there were so many weekend mornings, afternoons and nights we would drink side by side. It eventually escalated to drinking on the weekdays after work and after things got bad, I would drink before my night shifts at work just so I could numb the pain and survive for just one more night.
I drank to forget about the screaming pain of a fractured arm. I drank to forget the explosion of excruciating hurt that reverberated throughout my chest after having beem punched. I drank to dull the dizziness of a concussion, probably not the best idea, but at that point, I didn’t care. I drank to forget about about the feeling of his fingers around my throat, trying to squeeze the life out of me time and time again. I drank to keep myself from going completely mad over an incident that I’ve only ever spoken aloud about twice since it happened almost four years ago.
It all carried on for the seven or eight years that I lived with him, right up until the day I left him. That was four years ago and I haven’t had a single drink since. Some days it’s hard, most days it isn’t. I’ve found other ways to cope. I’ve found other ways to do everything. I think for a long while I blamed myself for it all. I told myself it might have been different if I would’ve never stopped writing to him when he had been in prison.