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What's a "normal" life?

Hi everyone,

I'm 9 months out of a 7-year relationship with my boyfriend. We met in high school and were just friends. He tried to start a relationship with me when we were 17, but I told him I didn't want anything serious. I had run away from home when I was 16 to escape my stepdad's physical and emotional abuse (or what he--my stepdad--called "discipline"). I still have scars on my back from that last night when he "disciplined" me with the buckle end of his belt so badly that it tore my skin off. Because I had been caught drinking. Once I was able to lift myself off of the floor and shower off the blood, I packed my few belongings and called a friend to come and get me. I didn't report my stepdad because my little sister was still there and I didn't want to risk making things worse for her.

I stayed with different friends for about the next year while I finished high school and then I got a job. During the week, life was relatively normal, but on the weekends, I took my fake ID and went out to bars and got wasted. That was how I spent the next 12 years. Maintaining this facade of normalcy Monday through Friday and then drinking myself half to death Friday and Saturday nights, going home with random strangers, sometimes waking up to an empty bed and not even remembering what the guys looked like. At 19 I got pregnant, stopped the drinking, and at 20, gave birth to a baby girl who I gave up for adoption. You would think that would have knocked some sense into me, but a few months after her birth, I was back at it again. I can't even begin to guess how many men I gave myself to. I carry so much shame over that. What kind of a person lives that way? And why?

At 29, my boyfriend who had moved away a few years earlier, moved back and we started a relationship. For two years, everything was wonderful. It was like a fantasy. All those years I had kept my heart locked away and I'd finally let someone in and I thought I'd finally found out what I'd been missing. After a while, he started talking about marriage and kids and I told him I wasn't ready. Yes, I knew at 31 that my clock was ticking but I didn't care. What did I know about raising a kid? I knew I had no business being anyone's mother. I couldn't even deal with my own screwed up childhood. So things started getting tense. We'd argue over the marriage/kids thing, over moving (he wanted to move back near his parents, and I didn't), money and our jobs. He wasn't the blatant control-freak, stereotypical abuser. He wasn't jealous, he didn't try to keep me from my friends or anything like that. But when arguments escalated and I, being so strong-willed, refused to back down, he'd strike out. At first it was a shove and him stomping off, and then him grabbing my arms and pushing me against the wall, and then a slap, and later a backhand. But I always hit him back every time. And then he'd get more violent and I'd fight back as long and as hard as I could, but I am 5'4 and about 110 lbs and he is six feet and almost 200 lbs, so he did more damage and it always got to the point where I was just too tired to keep going. He'd admit he had a temper, but he always pointed out that I hit him too, so I was just as bad. Nevermind that I never hit him first. He hit me and I defended myself. I'm sure if I had not defended myself, I wouldn't have gotten hurt nearly as bad as I did, but after my childhood, I just don't have it in me to just lie down and take it. I left him a half a dozen times, but each time, he'd call or come after me and promise that things would change. He'd enroll in anger management classes and make a point to tell me about each session. And I'd start missing him and our good times--they couldn't have all been bad you know, or we wouldn't have gotten together or pursued the relationship to begin with--and I'd finally agree to give it another try.

The final straw was when he traded in my pickup and brought me home an almost-new full size, which he'd paid for with the money I was saving to visit my grandparents overseas. They were (and are) the only meaningful parental figures I've ever had, and are in their 90's and not in the best of health. I had been saving up the money for a year and finally had enough to go, and he spent it on a truck and acted like he'd done it out of the goodness of his heart. When I wasn't appreciative of his "kind gesture", he told me I was an ungrateful b*tch and that nothing he did was good enough, that I didn't appreciate him, etc. When I told him it was BS, he backhanded me. I punched him back and it escalated from there. At one point he took off his belt and started swinging it at me. It hit me across the back and arms a couple of times before I got away. He'd hit me with his belt once before, saying he was just playing around, but it didn't feel that way to me, and I had told him if he ever did it again, I was gone. He knew about my childhood and that belts scared me, so obviously that was what he was after. So after that last incident I grabbed the few things I could and drove 1600 miles away. That was in November of last year. I had a couple of encounters with him in the couple of months after I left where he assaulted me and was arrested and later spent some time in jail. I'm back in my hometown now, and he's off 1600 miles away on a year's probation. He's tried to contact me a couple of times, but it seems to be winding down now, thank goodness. I've cut my ties with my mom and stepdad, who have been in an abusive relationship for 27 years now and with no sign of my mom getting it together and leaving. I'm afraid she's been permanently brainwashed unfortunately. I'm working for my stepbrother now, volunteering at a ranch, and attending AA and just trying to figure out what to do next. People keep telling me that I'm finally free and I can finally have a normal life. What is that, anyway? I'm 37 now and I still don't know.
colorado73 colorado73 36-40, F 1 Response Aug 27, 2012

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Good luck! I wish you the best of luck with whatever path you choose to take.