As I stood in the Huffington Post newsroom on Wednesday, watching Rob Ford admit on live television to smoking crack cocaine, I didn't think about all his lies, I didn't think about what an embarrassment he is, I didn't think about the fact he needs some serious help. Nope, those thoughts came later. What I thought about then and there was Ford's wife, Renata.
Until about 10 years ago, I would have wondered "how on earth does a woman stay with a man like that?" I would have thought of her as weak for not leaving him -- a man who's been in numerous public "drunken stupors," a man who was charged with assault after police were called to their home, a man who confesses to smoking crack. No woman should stand for that, right? She should kick him to the curb or take her kids and run, right?
But I know better than that now. I was married to an alcoholic for 12 years, and I didn't leave.
Living with an alcoholic is draining. It slowly chipped away at me until I was a pile of rubble. By the end of it, I was an emotional mess and wasn't sure what I thought or who I was.
Alcoholics are fantastic at the bait and switch and trying to get a straight answer from my ex was like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. If he came home two hours late with no explanation, and I dared to ask where he was or why he didn't answer his mobile, I never got a straight answer. Somehow, he would manage to turn it back on me: "Why don't you trust me? I thought we were on the same team here."
After he walked out (yup, he left me), I finally went through all his bank statements only to discover he was spending $1,000 to $1,500 at the Beer store and LCBO every month for about a year. When I confronted him, he sneered: "I don't have a problem, I just like to have a good time."
And the fact that he'd taken out a line of credit without my knowledge, racked up his credit cards and had put us nearly $40,000 in debt? He told me that he'd put more than that amount into the renovations he'd made to the house. There was no point in arguing with him. Nothing. Was ever. His fault.
During our marriage, he had slowly isolated me from many people. He had me convinced his family hated me and his friends could barely tolerate me. I didn't really have anyone to talk to or listen to. Where would I even start in explaining the whole mess anyway? All I could hear were his words: "You don't know how good you have it. You are so lucky to have me for a husband."
Before he left, he'd come home at least three times a week unable to walk straight or form a complete sentence. When I'd ask him if he was drinking, he'd flat out deny it, saying he was just tired and stressed. I honestly thought I was going insane. I would start to watch other people carefully when they said they were tired, hoping they'd act like he did to prove he wasn't lying.
Was I stupid to believe him? To not trust my gut that something was horribly, horribly wrong? Sure, if you take out all the emotion, abuse, fear, isolation and loneliness, you could say I was beyond stupid. But I think of it more as willful ignorance -- I simply didn't want to see it.
We were married young. I had just turned 20 the month before we tied the knot. We were nearing our 12th anniversary when he suddenly left on an April afternoon in 2007, stating he no longer loved me and would never return. Leading up to that, I didn't want my marriage to fall apart. I had too much time invested in it and in him. I had made a commitment and, most importantly, I couldn't imagine being a single parent (our daughter was only 20 months old).
After hearing that I was the problem all along for so many years, I truly believed it. Besides, I was lucky to have him as a husband, wasn't I?
So when I stood there, listening to Ford tell the mob of reporters, "I wasn't lying. You didn't ask the correct questions. No, I'm not an addict and no I do not do drugs"... it was like listening to my ex deny, deny, deny being drunk or having a problem of any kind.
It's infuriating to listen to. Just imagine living with it every day.
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