When I separated from my spouse, I was physically removed from the toxicity and instantly felt free. I was off the drug of keeping the focus on my spouse while trying to change and bend him to my will. But I was still hooked on the marriage and shackled to my spouse mentally and emotionally. Bad habits are hard to break, and I was afraid to let go. It’s been several months since the divorce, I’m doing well and want to build upon my progress post-divorce.

Divorce feels final; no more lingering emotional strings attached.  I accept the reality that I am divorced and independent. I acknowledge that I am responsible for caring for myself; nobody is obligated to cure my loneliness, pay my bills, or make me happy except me. I take responsibility for my past bad choices and poor decisions, and for allowing others to run over me. I am grateful for the opportunity to gain experience in how to navigate my life and manage my behavior in a way that protects me from unhealthy relationships, negative atmospheres, and shady behavior heaped on me by others.

Maintaining self-esteem, self-respect, self-worth, and self-love takes practice. I purchased a few books that helped me to focus on my goals, learn how to care for myself, make better decisions and find my voice. I am utilizing techniques to overcome people pleasing, feeling like a victim, and my unhealthy need to assume responsibility for those who can take care of themselves. I can’t control other people’s unpredictable behavior, but I can keep my boundaries to insulate myself. I have plenty of time after work to put some structure into what I have learned about self-care. Instead of fumbling through loose scraps of scribbled notes, cut-out articles, sticky notes, photocopies of library book excerpts, and printed Google definitions, I decided to organize the information gathered over the years, in labeled folders. I grabbed my store-bought books, reviewed the highlighted areas and notations in the margins, and bookmarked them. Then I pulled and paperclipped the stray notes tucked in the pages that described the horrors of my dysfunction in real-time.

It took a couple of days and lots of tears to organize my books and compile my folders: acceptance, let go & let God, get healthy mind, body and soul, admit my wrongs, and communicate better. Whenever I stumble, I know exactly where to find the step or steps I need to help me overcome. It’s not easy because family and friends prefer the old me, who tried to do it all and please everyone. Well, that doesn’t work anymore, I’m phasing out my old behavior and replacing it with new, improved, and appropriate behavior that lines up with my needs and desires.

I want to cultivate a positive and healthy lifestyle that’s portable and uncompromising when I am with others who don’t particularly appreciate my boundaries. That means focusing on myself, not in a selfish way, but as a non-negotiable necessity for my well-being. I have worth and am determined to stand my ground.

There’s no going back to the way it was, but that doesn’t mean I won’t have setbacks. And that’s the purpose of my manual, to whip it out for guidance and accountability. Post-divorce, my ex-spouse and I are still friendly, and I have a general love for him. All is forgiven and prayerfully, someday soon, all is forgotten. I suffered years of abuse and recognize that it may take years to recover fully. I know it’s a cliché, but my journey is not a race, it’s a marathon as I move forward, toward healing, one step at a time.