We were both 30 when we met in 1988. By 1994, we were married, had a two year old son and bought our first home together. Things seemed to be going well. We had our daughter the following year, and that same year my ex husband received his first DUI. His DUI marked the beginning of the decline in our marriage. For the next 10 years, I discovered myself struggling to find happiness and to find myself. I knew that it was my duty to remain strong so that my children did not have to deal with an absent and alcoholic father.

Throughout my entire marriage I always felt like it was one sided–financially and emotionally– and at times I felt like a single parent. I had to carry the entire family unit on my back, yet there was no one there to support me. I was under a tremendous amount of stress, and my physical and emotional health were tested. I experienced pains and aches that were caused by my autoimmune disease which I was unaware of at the time, and the stress of my marriage exacerbated my symptoms.

We struggled. My husband would have a job, and then he would stop working . Most of the bills were paid by me, but it was very difficult to support an entire household on my income alone. For years I wasn’t able to buy anything for myself, including the things that I needed. Everything that I earned from work went to the bills and towards my children because they always came first.

Through bankruptcies, to having to call the police on my husband, to leaving in the middle of the night to go over my mother’s house to escape my his belligerence, I just became increasingly tired. I cried, and I prayed for guidance. My ex husband wasn’t an awful man, but when he drank, he became this other person. A person that I did not wish to know or have to subject my children to.

There were days when I wanted to just walk away, but something kept me from going. I wanted my marriage to work, but then I realized that whatever we had couldn’t be salvaged. I realized this moment when our whole family took a trip to visit a family friend to celebrate the holidays. Anytime my husband hung around his friends, he would drink. This particular night he drank, and he drank some more. I remember an argument had sparked between him and another man over a card game, so I knew it was time for us to leave. With so much commotion happening, he ended up leaving but not without a fight. Words were exchanged, fists were thrown and he left our two children and myself stranded in another city and hundreds of miles away from our home. I had no money, but we were able to make it back home safely thankfully. The funny thing is that he never spoke about the incident when we returned as if it never occurred. It was then that I knew that it was time to leave. It was 2003 when I decided that I wanted a divorce. At the time I couldn’t afford to have one, but I managed to find the money to begin the process. In 2005 we were separated and in 2006 my divorce became finalized.

In my heart, I felt free from the constraints of marriage, but part of me was hurt. Almost 18 years of my life were wasted on a marriage that seemed to be doomed from the beginning. I was blessed with beautiful children in my marriage, but I still carried a sense of anger with me even after the divorce.

Now that it has been 12 years since my divorce, I’ve found peace. I am in a place in my life where I am financially stable, my children are adults now and healthy and I am content. It has taken years, but I am here. Once I was able to let go of my marriage and let go of the feelings I harbored, I was able to find that sense of freedom.