Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

Bare Naked Part II … My Road to Recovery

The following is second in a three-part series where one man goes bare naked. He exposes himself while chronicling his journey from loving husband to violent abuser, his road to recovery, and his key insights for shining light in the dark places where family violence lurks.

He is astonishingly frank and refreshingly honest. It takes guts and we appreciate his willingness to share his story in the hope that someone somewhere may benefit.

There are many brave men and women working to end family violence. At Shout, we really do believe life is too short to be quiet, and we’re adding our voices to the cry for humanity.

If you are a survivor, an abuser, an enabler who doesn’t know how to speak up, or you’re simply someone who cares enough to listen, please read on.

If you missed the first article, take a minute to read My Journey into Violence.


My Road to Recovery

My first step to recovery was difficult. I had to really admit to myself, in both my head and my heart, that I was an abuser, a violent person.

I joined Men Stopping Violence’s (MSV) working group on a weekly basis. The group’s leader helped us to develop a better understanding of violent behavior, how we each functioned violently within our families, and helped to open our eyes to the fact that violence/abuse is always a decision, not a random act.

“We just don’t lose it” the group leader told me. The idea of “losing it” was one of my most-used justifications. I believed my wife would purposefully say things she knew were hurtful or that she would “push my buttons” and then I’d lose it.

MSV helped me to see that there’s no such thing as losing it. In the moment, seconds even, leading up to an abusive conflict, there were signals that I was about to go over the edge, and it was my responsibility to learn how to stop myself. It was my choice to respond with abuse, or not.

The group asked me to develop an action plan to stop the escalation of anger and abuse. It was critical that I identify my own physical and emotional cues, and that once I knew what they were, I had to learn to stop myself-to make a different choice before I became violent.

I learned how to identify the physical cues that manifested just before I was at the point of becoming violent and retaliatory. It started with an intense feeling of oppression, then my stomach contracted, I’d start gritting my teeth, my voice would get louder and then BANG-I’d start with the aggressive finger pointing. I’d scream and curse. By the
time I allowed myself to get to the BANG, I was lost.

I shared the plan with my wife and asked for her support.

It was really tough. Instead of gaining control of myself,
I felt like I had lost control of everything. The group was quick to remind me that if I wanted to earn my family’s respect and to respect myself, I had to work the plan.

We had to report to the group each week and openly admit if we’d fallen off the wagon and what types of abuse we’d committed. We supported and counseled each other, along with our facilitator, and offered insights on how to deal with different issues.

As a group, we took no nonsense from each other. Minimizing and justifying didn’t pass scrutiny, “Either you did it or you didn’t,” they’d say if I tried to wiggle. Over the years I had become a master at justifying and minimizing the abuse. MSV turned me inside out.

With time, I became more sociable, made new friends and even started playing guitar again. I joined a cycling club; I ran almost every day and I become a fitness fanatic. I did everything I could think of to become physically and mentally healthy. I wanted to be better for myself and for my family.

It was a great time in many ways, but the underlying issues in my marriage remained unsolved. We struggled, even without the abuse. We were battered emotionally, and we had done untold damage to our relationship. We didn’t trust each other.

Ironically, as my personal life continued to disintegrate, I was having tremendous success at work. A substantial promotion required that I begin traveling internationally and all of a sudden I was gone for weeks at a time. I missed my family, my children, but as the time went by I traveled more and more just to avoid coming home, until one day in April 1995.

We were at a restaurant with my wife’s family and the bickering started. I couldn’t do it anymore. Even though our bickering didn’t turn violent, I just couldn’t take the constant reality of being at odds with each other. I got up, left the restaurant alone and went home. At the time American Online was all the rage. I signed on, entered a chat room and there she was: keira3. Hello, would you like to chat?

Soon we discovered an array of commonalities. We became friends and confidants. She had just left an abusive marriage and we were both in search of an understanding ear. She knew I was married, and we never expected our online friendship to develop into anything more than it was-a support system.

Within a few months my heart betrayed my head. I didn’t know this woman from the computer, but she became my escape into sanity. I was scared. What did it all mean? As absurd as it sounds, she became my best friend. I sought every opportunity to speak with her, but I wanted my marriage to work and I didn’t want my children to have a divorced family.

I realized the online relationship had to stop. I called my friend and told her I could no longer speak with her. When I hung up, I had an immediate hole in my heart.

In the mean time, my wife and I traveled to my home country for a visit. It was a disaster. I wanted her to see how my friends from decades ago still liked me. I wanted her to see that I was a nice guy, that I had been a nice guy when I was younger. She had other ideas. For as much as I wanted to confirm for her that I had not always been a violent person, she wanted to validate her feelings that I was horrible and that I must have always been horrible. She didn’t find any such proof, but our disparate goals were obvious and painful for both of us.

That trip sealed the fate of our marriage. I came back to the USA, encouraged Keira3 to meet personally and I committed the ultimate betrayal. That in fact is my life’s biggest regret. I wish I had had the courage and strength to end my marriage before beginning another relationship. I am really sorry.

My wife and I divorced. I was offered an incredible job in Europe, and I invited Keira3 to come with me. It was the best decision of my life, and it marked a new beginning for all of us.

I told her at the time: no marriage and no children, and I can’t even promise you for how long we’ll stay together, lets just see what happens. She felt the same way, and given our pasts, we agreed that we either committed to a relationship free from violence, or there was no possibility of a future.

A life of abuse was over for me.

“Men will stop assaulting women when men decide it is unacceptable and act accordingly … Saying and doing something to challenge him feels hard, but it is what a friend would do.” —Men Stopping Violence

That was 13 years ago. We are happily married and have a wonderful child together. I can say with pride that we survived a complex stepfamily environment and created the foundation for positive relationships with my four older children. They are the best judges of the man I am.

So, am I cured as an abuser or a violent person?

Not on your life! Like an alcoholic, I will always remain an abuser. With the tools that MSV helped me to develop and a supportive family environment, I continue to be free from abuse and I’ve not slipped in my recovery in 13 years. It’s not always easy and it’s a part of me that I have to remain diligent about, but I do it. I do it for myself, for my wife and for my children.

I have a different perspective today than I did all those years ago. Of course I get angry sometimes. I can feel myself begin to grit my teeth and my stomach starting to contract, but I choose each day not to be an abuser. I choose to walk away and come back later. I love my family and regardless of what anyone else may say or do, I choose not to be violent.

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