Are you scared of leaving the one you love? Have you thought about it, but the idea almost paralyzes you with fear, so you immediately stop thinking about it?
There’s just no possible way that you will ever leave.
What if you’re one of the members of our community who is in the middle of leaving, you’re planning your separation or your divorce, or maybe you’ve already filed for divorce, and you’re in the process of working out the details?
When I chose to leave my husband who suffers from addiction and substance use disorder, I was absolutely terrified. I go a lot more into detail about that in the Love Over Addiction program.
But I don’t think there is any one of us in our community who has left and said, “Oh, no, it was a piece of cake. I wasn’t scared at all.”
Leaving the ones we love draws out courage.
All of us are filled with enough courage to make the huge changes that we need to make in our lives.
It’s just a matter of whether or not we are ready to step out in faith and call upon that courage that is living deep within us.
And I did. I chose to trust that somehow, someway I would figure it out as I went along. I didn’t have the entire plan mapped out in front of me, but I had enough of a plan to know that I had an option to leave.
One of the things I did not figure out or have covered was money. I was a stay-at-home mom; I had not worked for seven years.
When I was working, I was doing very well. I was very successful and got promoted very quickly, but as soon as I had kids, I realized that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom with them.
I left my career and enjoyed staying home for a period of time. And the idea of going back to work at that point in my life did not sound appealing. Not because I was lazy, not because I didn’t have ambition or dreams.
I wanted to be there for my kids since they were already used to it, and I thought the transition was going to be very rocky. Also, I did not want to put them in daycare.
I knew that I needed to go, but I didn’t know if I would have the finances to be able to continue as a stay-at-home mom.
When I was preparing for the divorce, I had a therapist whom I loved named Carol. She was kind of my lifeline.
And there were certain times during the divorce when I would be in her office three times a week because trying to leave somebody who does not want to be left is incredibly difficult.
So I relied on her strength often. I would walk into her office feeling very beaten down, feeling very discouraged, and I would hear her encouragement. It was everything that I needed to leave her office ready to face the challenges waiting for me outside of that door.
And that is what I try to be to you: your Carol. I try to fill you up and remind you how wonderful, beautiful, and strong you are. I try to help remind you that you are completely equipped to take on this disease. You are not a victim, and you are not powerless.
So one of these afternoons I walked into Carol’s office, and we were at the point in the divorce where we were discussing money.
There are basically two main topics when you get divorced. If you have children, you deal with the children. That’s one big topic.
The other topic is money. And I’m going to make a generalized statement. I understand there are exceptions to the rules, but from what I have found and research has told me, most men care only about the money. That’s their hot button. They want to give you as little as possible because addiction is expensive.
Addiction needs money in order to survive.
I was going into Carol’s office, and we were at the point where the visitation with the children had been agreed upon but was waiting to be finalized until the money situation was worked out.
So I remember driving up to her lodge, walking in the door, and thinking, “I’m going to have to share with her that my husband does not want to pay me what I think he should.”
I remember sitting on her comfy couch, and she was looking at me and listening without judgment because she was wonderful like that.
And as soon as I was done, she told me about a story when she got divorced and how she made the mistake of settling for pennies because she just wanted the divorce done and over with.
I remember thinking, “Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel. I’ll give away almost anything just get me out of this situation because I don’t want any more conflict. I feel guilty that I’m the one who’s choosing to leave, so I should give him everything that he asked for.” This is what I told her and what I told myself.
I thought because she had done that, she would understand why I wanted to do that, and she would tell me it was okay and I was right. And because this was such a difficult, toxic time in my life, I should take whatever he’s willing to give me and run.
Instead, she told me exactly what I did not want to hear.
Carol told me that I deserved more, and my kids deserved more.
If I settled for less, I would regret it, and this was part of my growth.
I needed to learn to ask for what I needed and deserved.
I was so scared. And I went through all the reasons why and how she could be wrong or why my situation was different from hers.
On my way down the mountain from Carol’s office and back to reality, my ex-husband called and said, “How much are you going to ask for? How much are you thinking you’re going to get? Because I’m not willing to pay you more than this. And don’t even think you can get away with that because it’s not happening.”
I hadn’t come to the conclusion. I was still in the processing phase. And I was still trying to work through this and come out with a solid answer that felt right to me.
So what do we do when we’re confronted with something that makes us feel uncomfortable, that we’re not ready to handle, that we need some more space and time to think about?
We create a boundary, and we create distance.
So I told him that I needed some time to think about it. I heard what he was saying, I understood where he was coming from, and I was not prepared to have this conversation yet. I was very dignified, I was very polite about it, and I hung up the phone because I didn’t have to talk about it right then and there.
Why did I think that I was on his time schedule? I wasn’t, and I had to create my own time schedule. I didn’t have to let him boss me around, bully me, or push me into making a verbal commitment that I wasn’t ready to make.
So if you’re going through your divorce process and you still haven’t come to some conclusions about the outcome or what you’re comfortable with, take your time.
Do not be bullied or pressured.
You do not need to answer the phone.
Out of habit, I think we answer immediately or respond to a text message or an email because we’re trying to be polite, and we’re thoughtful people. But we reserve the right to take a timeout. Don’t respond. Give yourself some space.
As I was driving back down the mountain from my appointment with Carol I said, “I just need a time out.” And I took one. I took weeks to figure out what I was comfortable with.
And here’s another thing: I went to my lawyer, and I said, “I think I’m going to ask for child support.”
I had a spreadsheet with all of our bills and all the kids’ expenses. It was all mapped out. They ask you to do that when you’re getting a separation and a divorce.
But even if you’re not ready to leave, it’s still something good to have.
So I had this spreadsheet, and I had a number in mind. My lawyer looked at me, and he’s like, “No. That is way too little. You’re going to last a month or two. There’s no way you can feed your kids on that amount, so let’s come up with another number.”
At that point, I was ready to trust an expert who had my best interest in mind. This lawyer worked with thousands of women in the same situation, and he knew better than I did, so I trusted him.
Did I feel good about the number he gave? No, I didn’t. I felt scared to death. I thought, “Who the heck am I to ask for that? I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. What kind of real contributions have I made?” That was my sick thinking.
I am now straightened out, and I understand that I made a ton of contributions.
I was worth every single penny and so were my children.
But at the time, you’re sick, and you have that addiction voice in your head that’s trying to convince you that you are less than.
At that point in my life, the addiction voice in my head was still pretty strong. That was the dominant voice speaking to me. But I decided not to trust the voice. I decided to trust the man sitting across from me—the expert.
Part of this whole deal of loving and leaving somebody with addiction is asking for what you need, not taking the easy way out. I’m not guaranteeing that you’re going to get it, but you have to understand that you are deserving, and you have to stand up for yourself.
This is part of your growth.
This is a tool that I promise you will use over and over and over again in many more relationships and circumstances.
If you have children, it’s a tool that your children need to learn. You need to model for them what strength looks like. Ignore the addiction voice in your head that is belittling you. Trust the experts around you.
If you are looking for more helpful tips, join one of our programs. We are ready to encourage you, to embrace you, to love on you, and to become the sisterhood you need in your life.