Anniversary, part one

No, not the anniversary of our wedding, first date, or first meeting. Not even the anniversary of Mike’s death. There were no flowers, or fancy night out, or even a cake. It was a bittersweet day, a different kind of anniversary – it was the date marking Mike’s removal from my home.

I’ve alluded to it in past posts, but Mike was not amenable to our separation. I had to get a court order to have him removed from the house. If it were up to him, I’m sure he would have still been laying on my couch in the basement. But I couldn’t do that to the kids – or myself – anymore.

I discovered his drinking problem in May 2010. I was on maternity leave and Mike had been unemployed for about six months. It was then that I discovered he was spending his days laying on the couch in the basement, not moving, not talking, not watching TV (or helping around the house or paying bills or doing anything else productive). He was basically not functioning at all. Then, I caught him trying to hide a bottle when I came downstairs. Suddenly, the random (daily) charges at gas stations and Walgreens made sense. There was something behind the cloudy, unfocused, narrow eyes that he had been sporting for while. The falls down stairs, passing out in a bar, and five trips to the ER over the course of 12 months – there was probably more to those too. Everything pointed in one direction – drinking.

I confronted him and he denied everything. Then he promised to stop. And broke the promise. And promised again. He was kicked out of an outpatient rehab program for showing up drunk. AA made him think he didn’t have a problem (“THOSE people have problems,” he told me after attending a meeting.) On and on for more than a year. The lies, the hiding, the denial, the continued drinking.

When my job was eliminated, I told Mike that I knew he never stopped drinking and lying about it. He admitted it. And I told him that until we figured things out, until one of us was employed again, there was to be no drinking, no lies. I told him that I couldn’t handle it, that my heart couldn’t take any more.

He held me, kissed my head, and said, “I couldn’t do that to you. I love you. I understand.” He agreed no drinking until everything in our lives was back in place. He even showed me all his hiding places and threw away the half empty bottles.

His promise lasted a few weeks.

We had a fight – over something stupid. I left him alone in the basement and about four hours later, he came upstairs, smelling (reeking) of booze.

“You’ve been drinking,” I said.

“Yep, and I’m done lying about it. That’s your problem, right? The lying?” he responded.

I took off my wedding ring and kicked him out of our bedroom for the night. (Which was actually not a big deal since we hadn’t slept in the same room in months.) I cried for about 30 minutes, then stopped. There were no more tears that night. I knew what had to be done – I had prepared myself for it.

The next day, I drove to the library and sat in the parking lot. I pulled out a tattered notebook and flipped to the last page. Divorce attorneys. I had been doing research for months, just in case I needed it, and had it narrowed to three potential lawyers. I called the first one and explained my situation. He advised me to go to the courthouse and get an order of protection which would get Mike out of the house. The attorney walked me through the process, telling me where to go when I get to the courthouse.  “They’ll help you,” he said. “This is your first step.”

As I talked to the other two attorneys, I kept thinking about the order of protection. It seemed like a pretty extreme thing to do, but I knew that Mike wouldn’t leave on his own, and frankly, I was done.

When I got home that afternoon, I asked Mike to leave. At this point, he had been on a binge for more than 24 hours – no food or drink (other than drinking whatever liquor he was hiding). He called me a “fucking bitch” and said it was his house. Then, he passed out again.

I slapped him awake. (Really, he was PASSED OUT and I couldn’t wake him without doing something physical.) I wanted a confrontation. “You really need to leave,” I told him. “You can’t do this here anymore. Our kids! Me! It’s not right and it’s not fair.”

More names. He put a pillow over his face, removing it only to spout out more nasty names and tell me to get out of the basement. Then, something caught my eye by the stairs – Ethan had snuck into the basement and was watching us from around the corner. I saw the pain and confusion in his little eyes, and I knew that it was time to end this – for real.

I didn’t talk to Mike the next day, other than to tell him I calling his parents because he wasn’t eating or drinking anything. That announcement was met with more name calling. The next day, his parents arrived and stayed in the basement with him for the next several days.

 — TO BE CONTINUED. coming up: I go to court, the ambulance arrives, Mike leaves (not willingly)–

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