When I opened Facebook the other morning a memory popped up from the first year of my daughter’s life, 7 years ago. I am sitting on the ugly, hard floral couch in the living room of the apartment my ex and I shared. My 9-month-old daughter lies sleeping on my chest and my face is carefully cropped out of the picture. My sunken, tired eyes and sallow skin are artfully disguised by the camera angle. I’ll never forget the exhaustion I felt during that time.
As my eyes take in the picture, my mind is drawn back to the scene. The perfect smell of her delicate skin. The warmth of her milky breath on my chest as she snores gently. Her sweet features relaxed as she melts into my body. At that moment, she is the only thing keeping me going. My life is a shambles. I didn’t know it then but my fraught relationship is weeks away from ending and soon my life will take a turn down its most dangerous path to date.
In the weeks between that picture and the day I fled with my infant daughter, I was caught in an endless cycle of self-doubt, shame, guilt, and second-guessing.
One day I would wake up certain that today was the day I would start a new life. But by lunchtime, I had convinced myself that I was being dramatic and things weren’t so bad. In reality, I was isolated from my family on the other side of the country from where I grew up. It had been many years since I had lived with them, and in that time I had become fiercely independent. They were in the dark about just how bad things were with my home life.
One of the things that helped with the loneliness was daily walks with my daughter. I would bundle her up in her stroller and we would head out for as long as the weather and her feeding/nap schedule would allow. I often found myself drawn to the large, welcoming grocery store across the street, especially on the colder days. She and I would wander the aisles perusing all the organic goodies and treats, fresh fruits and veggies, fragrant herbs and spices, and decadent desserts that I wished we could afford. Sweet and savory aromas wafted from the cute café that looked out on the parking lot. I loved browsing in the flower shop, especially when the tulips were in season.
Across the hall from the flower shop was a small wine store. From the first time my daughter and I poked our heads in, the women who worked there made us feel like family. It wasn’t long before we were swapping stories about horrible husbands and men who didn’t deserve us. These women understood me! It was here that I first learned that wine was my reward for all the suffering I was going through in my personal life. I deserved my wine!
Whenever I could save or scrape together a few dollars from my meager government child tax money I would treat myself to a bottle of wine. At first, it was here and there, but over time I found myself thinking about the wine more often, and earlier in the day. From the beginning, I hid my alcohol from my boyfriend, I knew he wouldn’t be happy if he discovered that I was using our money for my own purposes. And so my bottles lived in the cupboard above the stove in our rundown apartment. I would drink when he wasn’t home, or I would sneak sips when he was in the shower or playing video games.
It never crossed my mind to think that my secretive behavior was unhealthy. All I knew was when I drank the liquid courage I stopped caring about what anyone thought of me. I stopped being scared of him. I stopped walking on eggshells. I didn’t feel supported enough to admit to everyone that I had failed to find a healthy and stable relationship. And so I put on a brave face and drank my pain away behind closed doors.
The first nine months of my daughter’s life brought equal parts joy and sorrow. I loved being a mom with every fiber in my soul, I knew deep down that my daughter had chosen me to be her guide here on Earth. She brought out a strong protective part of me that I didn’t realize was there. Being her mother also made space for my playful, creative side. I loved seeing the world through her eyes. But I wasn’t able to fully immerse myself in the pleasure of being her Mom because I felt worthless in my relationship. I was degraded, belittled, intimidated, and treated poorly on a daily basis. I had almost left him several times before but I felt like I had nowhere to turn.
The cognitive dissonance was debilitating.
When I held my daughter in my arms and rocked her to sleep I was able to forget all my troubles for a few minutes. But it was fleeting, most of the time I was walking on eggshells around my ex. I never knew what would set him off; our relationship was a ticking time bomb just waiting to be ignited. The spark finally came in the form of an epic fight in front of our daughter one evening not long after that picture was taken. From there, things moved quickly. A few days later my mom arrived to help me pack up some belongings and leave, it didn’t matter where we went as long as it was far away from that toxic environment.
With no savings, no job, and bad credit my options for housing were very limited. Even though I hoped and prayed for the day to come when I could finally leave him, I wasn’t prepared in the slightest for the harsh reality of my situation. So I turned to the only place that could possibly hold the solution to my problems…the internet.
TO BE CONTINUED>>>
About the Author:
Kezia Calvert is a published author, teacher, speaker, wife, mother, recovering people pleaser and perfectionist, and woman in recovery. Kezia graduated from the University of Reading, in the U.K., with an undergrad in English Literature. She later completed a post-graduate certificate in Human Resources Management, and numerous cognitive behavioral therapy coaching certificates. Kezia was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, but has also lived in the U.K., Kelowna, B.C., and Toronto, Ontario. Kezia now resides in sunny Pennsylvania with her husband James, 8 year-old daughter, Harper, and senior cat Cleo. In 2022 Kezia founded her business, Kezia Calvert Creative where she facilitates self-discovery writing workshops for men and women across the globe. Kezia is currently writing her memoir, as well as a work of fiction. Kezia loves connecting with people in the sobriety community, so please feel free to reach out!
You can find Kezia on Instagram@thesoberelephantchronicles Instagram Link where she offers daily sobriety support, motivation, and inspiration. She has been sober since November 1st, 2020.
Website: keziacalvertcreative.com Check out her site here
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