To say it’s been a tough year would be an understatement and an insult to the outcome that was achieved through faith and perseverance.
I have been extremely blessed to be born of two amazing parents who both wanted me and strive every day (still) to afford me the opportunities that I have. Sometimes I think I don’t deserve them, but then I’m reminded that what they have done and still do for me is exactly the kind of upbringing that every parent should try and provide for their children. It’s everything I model my own beliefs after in regards to my two kids.
To better understand why our year has ended the way it has, you must first allow me to share how we got here. For eleven years of my life, I was in an unhealthy relationship that turned abusive. I was married to this person for seven of those years. As much as I want to regret meeting this person altogether, if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have the two greatest blessings in my life. Unfortunately, I can’t even regret having stayed so long in this relationship, because had I left sooner, I may not have met the man who saved us. So, I chalk up those previous years in hell to the fact that it made me the person I am today. It taught me a lot about what I deserve, and most importantly, what my kids deserve.
When you’re dealing with abuse in a relationship, it’s easy to look from the outside and have an opinion. Many people told me, “I would have never stayed so long,” or “how could you not see the writing on the wall?” I wasn’t blind to the manipulation tactics, the control, or the damage this person was doing to my self-worth. No, I could see it all very clearly. But I am what some term as an empath. I am very sensitive to other people’s emotions, and I soak up those emotions like a sponge. I do everything I can to comfort someone in distress, because their pain is almost visceral. But there becomes an issue when an empath crosses paths with a narcissist. A narcissist seems to guard their feelings so well, it’s almost as if they have none. And to an empathetic person, this can be alarming. It becomes more of a reason to try and help the narcissist because they think that they’ll be able to “cure” them. But no matter how hard the empath tries; the narcissist uses manipulation to gain more control over the empath. It sets forth a viscous cycle of attempted healing and false accomplishments. It sets the tone for a very dangerous sequence of events.
It was never something I considered, to just walk away, leaving the path of destruction in its wake. I had to persevere because for some reason, I couldn’t believe that there was at least some part of this person that wasn’t good. What’s scary is that, the people that knew him, I mean, really knew him; knew that something wasn’t right. But his acquaintances and good time friends thought he was just an all-around good guy. He was willing to do a favor for anyone, and as long as the gracious proclamations of his kindness kept flooding his head, the easier it was for him to keep up the act. That’s another thing that narcissists do. They showboat and parade around, luring people in with their charm because who would suspect anything sinister of someone who could befriend anyone and everyone? Behind closed doors, though, the man wasn’t recognizable; almost a monster of sorts. Humiliating outbursts, stabs at insecurities, drugs, alcohol, adultery, physical confrontation- he was terrifying. But still, it wasn’t ever enough for me to turn my back because there came a lot of self-doubt with it all. Was I just imagining all of this? I know I’m sensitive, so was I just too weak to handle it? He had me right where he wanted me; the subservient housewife with no identity of her own. He took every opportunity I had at a future, away from me at that moment of time. I was stuck and I had two children to think about.
It was Thanksgiving, in 2015 at my grandparents’ house. He’d equipped himself with a thermos full of vodka for the festivities, and our kids were 3 and 4 at the time. He was well into finishing off that thermos when my 4-year-old son had a meltdown. It all happened so fast, like a tragic blur of imagery, almost like you’d expect when your life passes before your eyes. I was Face Timing a friend with my daughter in my lap, my mom ran to me distraught asking me to check on my son, I ran into the bedroom down the hall to see- my son with his clothes off, beaten and red, with a drunken, belt wielding man standing over him. Immediately, I ran over to my son, who was passed out from the lashing, lashing out my own angry words at the hollow looking man in front of me. “How could you do this?” I asked. He then became angry with me, because how dare I tell him how to discipline his children. I was already terrified of him, so for me to speak out against him was foreign, and there were sure to be repercussions. When we got home, I hid his guns because I didn’t want to imagine the wrath this person would inflict on someone who “turned against him.”
It was one thing for the abuse to occur with me, but when it came to my children, that was the last straw. With not a dime in my name, I filed for divorce. Presented evidence to the court of the beating that took place on Thanksgiving. Still, he managed to get joint custody. Now seeing as how horrific that evidence was, it terrified me to think that in order for the law to take the abuse seriously, there would have to be even worse evidence presented. I had to sit by as my kids talked about the abuse they were still suffering during visits with him. I had to hear of them talk about how he drank beer while driving. I had to hear about them not getting fed because he would pass out, drunk. I was helpless. What could I do to prevent this monster from stripping them of all of their innocence? When I met my, now husband, I was on a quick path to self-destruction. Still tormented from the trauma that my kids and I had endured at the hands of this crazed lunatic. But my husband provided a safe haven for us in our world full of turmoil. He kept pushing me to find my inner strength and fight. And so, I did. And every day I became a little bit stronger. So much so, that I was totally unrecognizable to the abuser. I don’t think he knew what to make of it, so instead, he made up his own convoluted truths to make sense of his delusional world.
He eventually met his match when he married the demon to glorify his underworld of hell he was putting us through. She poured gasoline on the fire, trying to match the damage he was already causing. She refused to give my son his prescription medication during visits. She spanked my kids until they peed their pants. She locked herself in her room while my kids were left to their own devices. She passed out on the couch and refused my children food. She abused drugs and alcohol in the presence of the innocent. She belittled me on any occasion she could about just what she thought of my parenting. But I was no longer the complacent woman that my ex assumed I still was. I was ready for the fight, and I would protect my children at all costs!
I got an ex parte restraining order out on my ex. It is important to note that an “ex parte” order is only possible if the evidence presented is compelling enough to warrant IMMEDIATE and EMERGENT rendering. He was to have no contact with the children. These orders normally last a maximum of 20 days, but it continued for 6 months as he kept delaying the hearing date. Whether he was trying to pass a drug test, or he didn’t take it seriously, I’m not sure. But it was the only thing I was taking seriously at the time, because all of my efforts were being put into protecting my children. Meanwhile, he and his wife continued to spew slanderous remarks, talk openly about their use of drugs, and telling untruths about me and the situation to anyone who would listen. My ex even went so far as to stop paying child support. I know he was trying to punish me, but he was ultimately damaging his reputation with the court even more. The day finally came for our hearing, and HE decided to VOLUNTARILY sign away his rights. HE decided he didn’t want to be a parent anymore, because if he couldn’t parent on his terms, then it wasn’t worth it to him.
But it was honestly the best gift he could have ever given to us. My kids are happy they don’t have to see him again, and they know they don’t have to live in fear anymore. We can live our lives in peace, because no matter what the devil has to say about us now, it doesn’t matter.
So, for anyone reading, I’m sure you’re wondering why I am even telling you all of this. On an author website for that matter. Well, for the past 6 months during all of these proceedings, I’ve sat by and kept quiet while my ex and his wife made a mockery of my writing and books online. They proceeded to post fake reviews, some of which were taken down, but yet inevitably, still, destroying my ratings. And I want everyone to know, that what they’ve done has not hindered my desire to write in the least. I will never give up, just because someone else tells me I need to. This may be the last that you’ll see of “Erika Daughtrey” as the author, but not the last anyone will see of ME as the author.