What do you do when you know a decision that you are going to make is going to be controversial? For me it is about the decision to go back with a woman who put me in jail and nearly cost me everything.
The simple answer is, I admit I had it coming. Both of my previous wives tried hard to get me to realize that I have a problem. I’m controlling and abusive as well as being an all round asshole. I refused to believe any such thing about myself. Who would want to believe themselves a monster? With alcoholics it is often said that drunks will not change till they hit rock bottom. Well abusers have a lot in common with alcoholics. A lot of times before an abuser can see the truth and finally decide they do need help, they have to do the same and hit rock bottom. For me it ended up being jail. Sounds glum but, that’s where the healing started.
I would like to say that while I’m jail I had some major epiphany about life, the universe, and everything. I did not even get 42. What I had a a very unpleasant experience and a heart attack. While this by itself did not make me into a changed man, it did make me start looking at how short and precious life is. I read, walked, worked and did a lot of thinking. After 6 weeks of my 30 day sentence my home plan was finally approved and I was released. But my sentence had more to it.
I was ordered to Domestic violence classes. NOVIS is a group therapy class that tries to help people see things from a different point of view. Needless to say most people in the program are simply waiting out the required 26 weeks. Everyone including me start out resentful of being forced to be there. “I’m not one of these monsters!”. As the weeks go on though you can’t help but notice some of the words the teacher Jesse says and if that doesn’t get your attention then the reactions and interactions of the group will. At first you find yourself horrified at some of the examples of abuse that are discussed and more horrified at some of the non-understanding reactions from guys in the group to the simulated situations.
In one video we saw a couple at home. The woman is getting ready to go out on a once a month ladies night out. The man having just got home from his daily man meeting at the local bar. The man decides he doesn’t like the idea of her going anywhere tonight. He started with gentle probes and suggestions. Moves to irritated smart remarks. Then on to “I’m the man and you do what I say woman”. When she still refuses to comply the situation starts turning violent and he ends up beating the woman down as she tries desperately to escape. I felt sick at the display despite it only being a simulated fight in an educational video. Then from the back of the group someone yells, “The bitch had it coming!”
I don’t know how to describe the feeling but some how this declaration hits a nerve in me and makes me start to pay more attention and to start thinking. Soon we come across some less disturbing examples that end up disturbing me worse than what I had seen before. It was a couple at a convenience store. The woman offers to run in and get some stuff for the both of them. While waiting in line at the register a stranger in front of the woman casually turns and starts an innocent conversation of small talk that everyone has experienced while waiting in a long line at the store. Talking about the weather, recent events around town, general group grumbling about the slow service, and etc. After what the man in the car considers to be much too long for the errand to have required, the woman finally comes out and gets back in the car. The man is clearly irritated and soon starts interrogating the woman about why she took so long and who the hell was that man she was talking to. Things degrade into an argument, and fight that admittedly this time is not nearly as violent but the woman does end up injured. At the end of the video I am absolutely horrified to realize…. The man in the video…. That was me…
I don’t mean that literally it was a candid video of something I did. It was an educational video performed by actors. But the character of the man… It was as if he was modeled after me! Oh my god… I am one of these monsters… That night after class I cry for hours in self loathing. I make a decision, I will not be that man again! I start really paying attention in class. I take notes, I answer questions, I volunteer to read aloud, I participate in discussions, and most importantly I decide to have an open mind and start to really examine my soul and my actions. More and more I find examples of things that I had done. Things that I thought were reasonable, justified, provoked, explainable…. But they weren’t. We discussed these things and were shown how these things were indeed all abusive behavior, be it physical or emotional, and came up with better ways as a group. I realize that not only were my final actions unacceptable but many of the steps along the way leading to those points were full of things I did wrong steadily making the situation worse. Eventually it dawns on me, how much force does a 300lb gorilla need to defend himself against a much smaller and much weaker female? The answer is, the dumb ape was never really in any danger. He only convinced himself and everyone around him that self defense was necessary. OMG… How many times had I done this? In almost every relationship I had ever had. I ended up throwing up in disgust with myself. Both of my wives, my fiancé my kids… What have I done!?!? I become that much more determined that I am not going to be that person again. I am going to try to help my kids over come the damage I’ve done to them. I’m going to apologize to all my victims. I’m going to try to make amends.
I was originally going to add more to this post and edit it to make it sound like I half way knew how to write but I was told it sounded good and after rereading it myself I decided I liked the raw unfinished feel and felt like where I stopped writing actually felt like it was properly ended. So here it is.