Learning From the Past

It is coming up to the 10th anniversary of my marriage ending. He walked out on me on Valentine’s Day 2003, the day after I fell down the stairs and broke my foot. In the days leading up to his departure, I had absolutely no idea that my life was about to turn itself inside out, throwing me and all of my hopes and dreams for the future into utter disarray before dumping me in some awful no man’s land where I would live out the next few years.

The actual act of him leaving plays out in my mind now, ten years on, as though it were a scene in a sub average 1970’s sitcom; me lying in the bed, plaster cast encasing my right leg up to the knee, him on his knees on the excessively deep-pile carpet, cramming his clothes into a suitcase before forcing the zip roughly in order to seal it shut; bewilderment on my face, dogged determination on his.

The following weeks and months meandered through bad to terrible to agonising pain, depression and alcohol featuring prominently on the bleak landscape of my mental state. He stopped paying me money; I threatened to sell the family car. He moved in with a girlfriend and then criticised me for inviting a date back to the marital home, in which he no longer lived. We fell into a childcare arrangement that would stick for the following decade, one which meant that he never came into the house to collect or drop off our daughter, but instead hung around at the bottom of the drive, engine running and an impatient look upon his face.

I felt as though I were carrying a neon sign around my person, one that flashed brightly the news to all who passed me that I was newly divorced, I couldn’t keep my man, I was unwanted, a failure at life. The school playground was suddenly filled with laughing and joking married types, little nuclear families who embodied success and normality, and so I hung further and further back, desperately trying to fade into invisibility as I waited for my little girl to run out of the doors, some bright paper creation clasped in her hand that she had made that day.

When I look back now with ten years additional life experience, the writing was emblazoned upon the wall that alcohol was about to become my best friend. With a complete disregard for my health and mental wellbeing, I hit the wine with a vicious desire to self-harm. Living through the emotional pain without anaesthetising it with alcohol was simply not an option. Wine crept in quietly through a back door that had been left slightly ajar, and proceeded to fill my whole existence with its far-reaching effects, becoming the unwanted visitor who outstayed its welcome and thrived on my continual downfall.

Ten years have brought with them immeasurable amounts of wisdom and self-awareness. If I could change anything, it would not be that my marriage had continued but that I had understood back then that drinking alcohol was only putting off the inevitable. As the wine flowed freely, the pain was not being washed away; rather it was redirected into a reservoir where it became concentrated and tainted, resting patiently for me to open the flood gates and let it free.

When I stopped drinking, the biggest mountain that I faced was tackling the previously ignored emotions that I had bottled up in the years following my divorce. I knew they were there, lurking in the depths of my consciousness and I dreaded the day when they would begin to trickle forth, forcing me to wet my toes in the painful aftermath of the hurt, betrayal, self-doubt and anger that were borne out of my marriage breakdown.

It’s true that time heals, and when I regard my twenty-seven-year-old self floundering amidst a sea of alcohol and a refusal to acknowledge her feelings, I wish that I could whisper with complete assurance into her ear; ‘it will all work out ok in the end.’ I shouldn’t have drunk as much as I did, but in all honesty, I had no other way of coping at that time, and ultimately I came to the right conclusions. It did all work out ok in the end, and the frayed edges got tidied up, the creases ironed out.

I learnt an awful lot from my divorce, and not a day passes by when I am not truly grateful for my partner and my two daughters. When you lose the future that was yours, all mapped out in your head, organised and within your grasp, and you are faced with the task of building another one from scratch, it becomes impossible to live without gratitude for even the smallest thing.

The flurry of our lives spin along and carry us as though we were caught up in a whirlwind. When everything that you know disappears in an instant, you develop the ability to appreciate it fully, in the finest of detail, when it finally comes back to you.

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