Victim vs. Survivor

I’ve written about it countless times… The bad “relationship” for lack of better words, I was in. Although the tone of my writings have changed from “What he did to me,” to “How the experience changed and shaped me.”

Before I met him, I was the most trusting person you would ever meet. You could tell me the sky was green and I would’ve believed you. Naive? Yes. Stupid? Maybe. But it was who I was. Today I tend to be very skeptical of people and their intentions, to say the least. No I don’t have “trust issues,” I’m just more cautious now, and I believe that people have to earn your trust and respect. Sometimes it makes me sad that I’m not the naive, innocent girl, I was before. It’s an innocence you usually only see in a child, but it’s also a dangerous innocence.

And after the countless, “I’m sorry, I can’t make it’s” or the “I promise I’ll get help for my drinking” lies. After the temper tantrums, yelling, and throwing things when I tried to to speak to him about how I felt I needed to be treated. The lies about what he was doing. The rage and anger that put my life in dangerous situations. After all that, you realize you have to protect your own heart and well being sometimes, and not everyone should be trusted.

Part of me would love to say that what I put myself through no longer bothers me. But when I remember what I accepted, I would be lying if I said it didn’t. The other day, I happened upon an article about an alcoholic with narcissistic tendencies and the author mentioned something about their significant other hovering over them when they were cleaning, and telling them how to do it correctly. When I read that, it touched a part of me I do not allow myself to feel very often anymore, because it still is very painful for me, and I suddenly found myself with tears running down my face. It honestly seems like such a small thing, when I think of all the other things I put myself through. However, it still upsets me deeply that I put up with, and accepted, that someone thought I couldn’t even dust or do the dishes correctly. And when I did try to talk to him, or just walked away from the situation, he would tell me he was done with me, then would come back with apologies days later, and I would take him back yet again.

I’m a smart woman. I was in the top of my class in high school, I graduated college summa cum laude with a bachelors degree in management, yet for some reason I put up with someone telling me I couldn’t even clean correctly. I still to this day have to wonder why I ever thought that was normal… Or at the very least, believed that I deserved that. And the more I allowed it, the more he knew he could get away with it.

A year or so ago, one of my male friends, whom I’m not even that close with, saw a string of texts between him and I, and said “Andrea you do realize this is emotional abuse don’t you? Cut him out.”

Note to self: Listen to your guy friends, if even they are telling you he’s not good for you.

But of course I didn’t listen. And I can honestly say now, that I have nobody to blame but myself for staying wrapped up in that mess, especially for as long as I did.

People who knew both of us, and both sides to the story, don’t necessarily agree with me or like it when I say that. They feel like I’m letting him off the hook yet again. I want to be clear though, that is not at all what I’m doing when I say that, and I do realize he had faults. I’m not condoning them or acting as if those faults weren’t there.

It’s not okay with me, and it never will be okay with me, that his alcohol and weed was more important to him than I was. Yes, he was manipulative. Sure, he was a liar. Did he use me for my money, compassion, forgiveness, and to stoke his fragile self esteem? Absolutely. I’m not eliminating the fact that those things were true.

But the truth is, I have horrible faults as well. Many. We all do. And I truly believe we are all doing the best we can, with the cards we were dealt. To blame him does nothing for me. To dwell on his faults, or anyone else’s, is a disservice only to myself.

It finally came down to this for me; Are his faults reasons to blame him, for me staying? They could be for some people. They would be if I played the victim card.

For a long time I did. And then I realized the card I was playing was the card he played the entire time I knew him. . . The “victim card,” the “blame game”. The thing I probably disliked him most for. The reason I lost all respect for him. I was, and am, very aware that blaming others makes you unable to take responsibility for your own actions. And without responsibility for your actions you won’t grow as an individual, and that is not who I want to be.

When I left town it was because I needed to get away from him, but the distance didn’t help, and I continued to let him control me and my happiness. But, there was a point, when I had finally had enough, and I knew I deserved what everyone else was telling me I deserved. Fortunately, moving back gave me an opportunity that many are either not given, or are unable to handle. The chance to face him. To look him in the eyes. The chance to say no, this is not how you are going to treat me. This is not okay. Something that could have happened sooner, had I stuck up for myself sooner.

That was, and still is, one of the most cathartic feelings I have ever felt. It was painful at the time, and I would’ve welcomed the opportunity for it to be a one time thing and to never have to see him again. That’s not how things happen though, and for reasons I’m not going to go into, I had to face him almost daily. That simple fact, the fact that I knew I was doing something not a lot of women could, or even would attempt to do, made me feel so strong, after feeling weak for so long.

When I finally accepted responsibility for how I was being treated, and realized that I had the power to not allow him to treat me like that, is when the happiness started to slowly flood back into my life. A little at first, then suddenly it was everywhere I looked. That was about the time he was removed from my life, and I believe it was because the lessons God was showing me were complete.

One of the lessons I learned through it all, I was actually taught at a very young age, and that was this; When you point a finger there are three pointing back at you. I must’ve forgot that lesson for a while. I relearned it though, and today I choose to focus on my shortcomings, and choose not to blame someone else for my misfortunes. My goal in life is to be the best version of myself as possible. Focusing on someone else’s behavior, and not my own, isn’t going to help my journey. And my journey, although it’s been difficult, has made me stronger.

God obviously had a plan, and knew I needed to hit rock bottom to feel a sense of worth. I’m so glad I didn’t call it quits when I wanted to. That night at the lake when I was in my car wanting to end it all but didn’t, I always chalked it up to “you were to weak even to do that”.  Now I realize it was the opposite, and I was strong for not taking that option, and facing my trials head on.

Today i can say with 100% honesty, that I am so glad I am still here today, because everyday I find something new to live for. The best part is, on my bad days I remember where I was, and realize my bad days aren’t even that bad. And that makes every day a good day.

So yes, I have changed. Sometimes I don’t even recognize the person I was a year ago. I am not as trusting. Not as naive. Not as innocent. But I learned those things are important for self-preservation. Will I always be more cautious? Absolutely. But the fear of the past will not stop me from opening up to the right people. It will not stop me from loving. From forgiving. From living every day to it’s fullest.

Why?

Because I am not a victim. Not now. Not then. Not even when I thought I was.

Anyone can play a victim. Not everyone chooses to be a survivor. And today, and from here on forward, I choose to be a survivor.

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