I should probably give some background so you can see how far a fall from grace it really was, how a nice girl like me ended up in a life like that.
I was adopted by my parents at 5 months old. I had foster parents for those first 5 months, and a completely different name. My beginning was rough- but I don’t remember it obviously. I suppose it could be said that early lack of bonding and abandonment might have been a factor in later life, but I dont necessarily buy that.
When I was 2 my parents had a biological daughter. They divorced when I was 5, and we moved to a very suburban town about 30 miles from Hartford, CT. Our father didn’t disappear after the divorce- he remained very active and present in our lives until his death in 1994. It was a fairly normal and uneventful childhood-there were a lot of kids in our neighborhood, we never went without anything, and it was relatively happy. Our mother was a nurse and worked full-time so we were the original Latch-Key kids, but it wasn’t a detriment. When I was 6 my Mom began a relationship with the man who would eventually become my stepfather, who always treated my sister and I as his own, and remains married to my Mom to this day, together 40 years. Trust me, we butted heads as a teen but he and my Mom have always remained a constant. My father was a very damaged man-he did his best, but his best was often scary. He was a heavy, heavy drinker my whole life, and when drunk would get very angry, almost furious, and lash out at my sister and I on our weekends with him. He wasn’t a happy man, very anxious, probably clinically depressed, but he loved his daughters. Trying to get sober was never an option or even discussed. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in August 1994 and died within 4 weeks. I was 22, my sister was 20. Neither of us was equipped or ready for all of that, but our mother and stepfather were enormously supportive. For a divorced father though, he came to school functions, called during the week, and had us over every weekend, making sure that wherever he lived we had a bedroom. But, as I mentioned, he was deeply unhappy and we knew it.
I was an average student overall and absolutely did not fulfill my potential. I excelled in English, History- anything not math-related. I was in the first Talented and Gifted program (TAG) in our school district and always tested in the 99th percentile in standardized testing. My school performance spoke differently- I was bored, unmotivated, and my grades showed it. My sister was on the other end of the spectrum, she was “learning disabled” and often in remedial classes, but I think that was an inaccurate and crappy label. The expectations were vastly different for us and as a kid I resented that.
I was offered college after high school graduation but turned it down, I was so glad to be out of the confines of school no WAY was I going back-a decision I regret to this day. It was reckless, immature, and short- sighted but so was I at 17. When I was 15 years old we had moved to a larger home in a wealthier part of town but despite that I jumped at the chance to be on my own, and with a little string pulling from my stepfather I got hired at Aetna in Hartford at 18 and immediately moved out on my own.
Various roommates, apartments, and moves later I found myself in one of my first serious relationships, and it’s one that would stay with me until my late 30s on some level. I was on the verge of 20 ( I had dated him at 17 on and off but it was way more serious for me than for him- we went our separate ways and reconnected a year later).
My experience with drugs and alcohol was very minimal up to this point. I drank a handful of times in high school as smoked weed once or twice, but for the most part was terrified of drugs. My mother was a nurse specializing in addiction and recovery so the horror stories and warnings were so seared into my psyche, no way was I going to partake. Terrified.
My 20s were busy- broke up with M, started dating and living with T. 2 years into that relationship I got pregnant and at 6 months pregnant got married. I was 23. Too young. But we got married because that’s what you do when you’re having a baby, we thought. Our daughter was born in 1995, our son in 1997 (they are 17 months apart) and we separated when our son was 4 weeks old, divorced when he was 6 months, and T packed up and moved to the west coast. I had started dating L while separated from T, and it was not a good relationship. At all.
L was 8 years older than me with a checkered past and 2 children. He swooped in at a time that I was vulnerable- alone with 2 children under the age of 2- and sort of took over. He was helpful, great with the kids, attentive- but horribly jealous and possessive, and emotionally abusive. Those parts crept in slowly. I was 26. My divorce was final in November 1997, and the pressure to marry began almost immediately. I was working for American Airlines at this point (had been for 3 years) and had flight bennies galore, I succumbed to the marriage pressure in February 1998. We got married in Las Vegas, and on the flight into Vegas, the plane hit an air pocket, dropping 1500 feet- and I knew in that moment it was a sign-DONT DO IT. But of course I ignored it. The fact that throughout the entire 10 minute ceremony all I kept thinking was ” I can always just get divorced again” is pretty telling.
Before we got married, L had gotten injured at work- he fractured his scapula and dislocated his shoulder. Along with that injury came copious amounts of Vicodin. Again- I drank occasionally but that was IT. L had a far edgier past- prior cocaine habit, pills, etc. Cocaine scared the absolute shit out of me and it was a deal breaker for me if he used, so it wasn’t an issue. But pain pills, I mean, a dr gave them to you so that’s ok. When the kids were asleep we’d pop a few Vicodin and good times.
Fertile myrtle that I am, I discovered I was pregnant in April 1998, and had a son later that year. The first year things were “okay”. I was never over the moon happy. I was a social smoker but when I was pregnant I stopped smoking, I wouldn’t even consume caffeine or anything remotely questionable. I was fanatical about what I put into my body while pregnant.
As time went on, it showed that L was jealous, controlling, prone to tantrums, possessive- he was admittedly jealous of the attention I paid to the children, he felt he should get his needs met first. When our son was 6 months old I was desperately unhappy, L loved to involve the children in our arguments, picked fights at every family function, would try to engage my parents into taking sides- it was a nightmare. I was working 2 jobs but still wasn’t making enough to support 3 kids on my own. I felt trapped and miserable. Then, I discovered I was pregnant again. L was thrilled, because it insured that I wasn’t going anywhere.
Our son was born in 2000, marriage was floundering and having agonal breaths. I had started suffering from massive headaches in 2001, my doctor prescribed several different medications: Percocet (made the headaches worse) Darvocet (taken off the market later but worked til it didn’t) klonopin (knocked me OUT, not feasible with kids) and finally, Fioricet with codeine, which I took for 8 years. I followed up with neurology and was told that I basically just had to deal with them. They were debilitating, but with the medication I could function and not only function but had tons of energy. Win win, right?
I finally, FINALLY, convinced L to agree to a trial separation and he went to stay with his parents in Massachusetts. I said what I had to in order to get him to go- I’m not proud of it but I was desperate. I filed for divorce the next day and he was LIVID- but I could breathe again, and I was better off a single mother with 4 kids 5 and under than living in a constant state of frenzied stress, arguments, and explosive temper.
I had always kept in contact with M, the first real boyfriend? He had lived in various places around the country but we always stayed friends. In the months after L moved out we rekindled our relationship. It wasn’t a good scene-I regret the rekindling because it ruined the friendship, but we gained an amazing human being in our son. It was stupid 20-something shenanigans,he told me he’d broken up with his girlfriend but he actually hadn’t, (like I needed this drama after the ex husband filled my days with it). But in the grand scheme, big deal.
And to add shit icing to the crap cake, I found out I was pregnant again. Single mom of 4, not divorced yet, less than optimal situation to say the least.During all of this-I didn’t drink, wasn’t using drugs besides prescriptions as directed (during my pregnancy the codeine wasn’t prescribed). But it was one of the most painful, confusing, and sad times if my life. The baby didn’t ask to be here and deserved happiness around him, not dread and anger at his existence. Fortunately that didn’t last long.
That’s a lot, I know-but there is a point to all of this. I was a normal suburban mom with a minivan. Some drama, a few red flags, but average. Nothing different or special. Definitely not someone that would be in prison 5 years later. All of this leads to something, I promise, and I hope I haven’t bored you all. Yes, I’ve got 5 kids with 3 fathers. 2 were husbands, and one was a back and forth relationship spanning 20 years. I wasn’t picking up randoms in the bar and shacking up in the trailer. I don’t regret my children or the circumstances in which they came to be. And I’m not ashamed.
To be continued….
Talk soon, Lovelies