I lost myself trying to find balance in the imbalanced, peace in the chaos, love in the hate, togetherness in the separate, truth in the lies, and holy in the unholy. My plate was full: taking care of my job, taking care of the house, taking care of the kids, and taking a lot of crap from my spouse, who continued to use, abuse and embarrass me.

We wouldn’t even be getting along, and he’d ask for my help with his job. I helped, and he acted grateful for 15 minutes before reverting to being nasty and hateful. He was using me again and again, and I let him again and again, every time, hoping it would help us turn a corner in our relationship. Addicts hate needing help and asking for help. He gets mad at himself for needing my help and then resents me for helping. It’s the same way when my spouse gets sick. I take off work, run to the drugstore, clean up his mess, and nurse him back to health. My spouse thinks sickness is a weakness. And as soon as he gets better, he kicks me to the curb–mad at me because he got sick.

My spouse does not have a credit/debit card or checkbook. The bank was closed, and he needed me to write a check because he wanted a giant Tv for his man cave bedroom, which used to be our living room. We went to Walmart. The outing was about him, and I thought he would behave. I was grateful we were doing something together. Unprovoked, my spouse verbally abused me in front of customers. Shocked, I walked away; he followed me, getting louder. Customers looked at him in horror and me with pity.  Holding back the tears, I gave myself a headache; I would rather my head explode than let him see me cry. I wrote the check, he got his Tv, and we said nothing on the way home. I kept still sitting beside my abuser, trapped in his car, feeling like a wounded animal. I wanted to jump out of the car. Not to die but to run away and lick my wounds.

My dad embarrassed my mother in public, in front of friends and family, but not as severely as my spouse. Sometimes for fun and sometimes intentionally, but it was still was embarrassing.  At a public event, my dad got loud with my mother. I elbowed my dad and observed my mother. She sat silent and erect, eyes straight ahead, lips fixed, hands clasped in her lap, and feet crossed at the ankles with the most dignified look on her face I have ever seen. My mother’s response was rehearsed and skilled: a defense mechanism.

Trapped in the car, a tear trickled down my face when I realized I had responded like my mother. Head to toe, I modeled the same rehearsed act my mother deployed decades earlier. And in the future, my quiet responses stopped the abuse temporarily. But when the abuse started again, I gave as good as I got…