Friday, November 21, 2014

Life... Love... Loss... and the Run.

I'm a creature of habit. I crave routine and while I enjoy spontaneity, I am always eager to get back to my comfort zone. When I started running five years ago, it was a last ditch effort to try and lose weight and find myself. Somewhere along the way it became a constant in my life that I could always escape in and find solace, even when things were going to shit.

A year and a half ago I started dating someone who seemed like a dream guy. Like most people in new relationships do, he started out sweet and thoughtful and he made me feel like the luckiest girl to have him in my life. Our relationship moved quickly and within a short time, he was living with me and my son. It took a couple of months before the true colors started to come out. It started with a stupid, explosive argument in Wendover, which was the first time I saw who he really was. He didn't hit me, but he may as well have, with his biting words and belittling comments. Over time, I started noticing that it didn't matter how I phrased things or what I said, he usually had a sarcastic, hurtful and snide remark about whatever it was I had to say. I learned to bite my tongue - which went completely against my normally outspoken, blunt nature. It was, however, better than yet another argument.

One of the things that I initially really enjoyed about him was how much fun we would have with a glass or two of wine. While at first it didn't seem like a big deal, within six months I was noticing how much he would really drink. It was foreign to me. As a marathon runner, I am focused on training and rarely drink, certainly not to excess. There were many nights when I would go to bed and he would stay up and drink. Quite often he would come into the bedroom in the middle of the night to talk to me, waking me even though I would have an early morning long run planned. Those were the good nights. The bad ones, he'd drunkenly come charging into the bedroom to scream at me about a variety of grievances. Maybe I left some dishes in the sink or messed up the kitchen after he'd cleaned it. It always varied but it inevitably left me frustrated and hurt by his cruel, painful words. The next morning I would usually find 2-3 empty wine bottles or an empty case of beer. I tried really hard to be understanding. I gave him every benefit of the doubt. I'd rationalize his behavior with any number of excuses that I could come up with. The truth of the matter is that he was an alcoholic, and an angry one at that.

The thing I could always rely on was my running. Some days I would cry for part of it, other times I would find myself venting to my running friends, though I never really divulged just how truly unhappy I was. That was a secret I shared with only the road.

Then one day he hit me. It was in the middle of another one of his rages, this time he was on the verge of getting to the point where I knew he wouldn't remember anything. I lay in bed, trying to ignore the awful things he was saying to me. Finally I snapped back at him and he reached out and hit me on my thigh out of anger. I was shocked. He fucking hit me. I'd never been hit by a man before and I was always that girl who said any man who hit me would sorely regret it. Yet, here I was, in the thick of it and I had no idea what to do.

In the months that followed we tried counseling, which helped validate my feelings about his drinking and the verbal/emotional and now physical abuse, but it didn't really leave me feeling like we were getting anywhere productive. In training for my two fall marathons, I contemplated my dilemma over the hundreds of miles that I put in. I came to realize that I no longer loved the man who was slowly but surely breaking me. I realized that I knew what I needed to do, it's just the doing of it that is the difficult part. Several days after my seventh marathon, I sat him down and told him that it was over. It was hard, but the weight that I felt lifted following the conversation was relieving. The next month proved to be nearly as difficult as the initial conversation, as dividing up the things you collectively accumulate over 18 months is arduous. He was not easy to talk to before the breakup and it definitely got worse after. It got to the point where his tone in conversations and text messages made me afraid he might act out in anger at me or my son. I hated that I was afraid of him. I decided to take back control of the situation. Luckily, I have an amazingly supportive family and group of friends who have helped me. From my dad helping me change the locks on the house to my brother sending his police officer friends over randomly to check on me, I slowly started to feel safe again. After consulting with a police officer friend, I decided to file charges on him for hitting me and sought a protective order to keep him away from me and my son.

It may have taken me longer than it should have to come to my decision, but I do not regret the relationship if only for the lessons it taught me. I am stronger than I realized and I can carry on. It's okay to ask for help and it's okay to stumble so long as you get up to keep running. It is not the mistakes we make that define who we are; it is how we recover from those mistakes. I'm finding my way back to myself, to my comfort zone... and it feels amazing.

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