Broken Fairytales and Lessons Learned

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Broken Fairytales and Lessons Learned

I live my life with a few sayings that may be trite but they get me through each day. 1. Never have regrets, just lessons learned. 2. It could always be better but it could always be worse, so be happy with what you have/where you are. 3. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

It would be very easy to regret my marriage, but instead I appreciate it for the lessons it taught me and the children it blessed me with. 

The story of my marriage and ultimate divorce doesn’t start with the day I met my ex-husband. No, we need to go back a few years earlier. The summer before I turned 22 I fell in love and I fell in love hard. That relationship didn’t work out and I was devastated. After a few years of disastrous dates and fruitless crushes, I found myself 25 years old and (ridiculously) nervous terrified that I was going to wind up alone. All my life when other children and young adults responded with “doctor,” “lawyer,” “teacher” to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I quickly replied “a wife and a mom, and the best wife and mom a person can be!”

So in my silly quarter-life crisis I turned to to try to solve the problem of my singlehood. After a couple less than desirable matches, I met a respectful southern gentleman in the military, who was stationed not far from where I lived. We went on a few dates, I was not completely sold on him but his company was better than being alone (this sounds terrible I know) and he treated me well. As young adults in our mid-twenties we were irresponsible and selfish, we drank A LOT, and we had fun.

After about 9 months of dating (and a few too many cocktails) I had a suspicion I may have been pregnant. We got engaged by default after he told me “you know if you’re pregnant you have to marry me right?” and I turned out to in fact be pregnant. I didn’t have insurance and he had good insurance, so we made the announcement that we were getting married and having a baby. It was a happy time, my parents threw us a beautiful wedding, and I was getting everything I wanted. In retrospect, the forewarning “be careful what you wish for” is especially pertinent in this situation. 

Two months after our wedding, when I was 5 months pregnant, he injured his back on duty. He quickly went from a hard-working and attentive husband and father-to-be to a suffering and selfish patient and victim. When our son was born 6 months after we got married, he was there for it and quickly left because he was in pain from his back. The next day I saw him for less than an hour because he had a special diet he was on (and apparently needed to be home for) and he wasn’t comfortable in the hospital chairs.

When the baby and I went home from the hospital, due to his injury he was unable to help with any of the duties of taking care of the baby – he couldn’t hold him, feed him, bend to change a diaper. Six weeks later, my husband had his first back surgery. He recovered quickly from the surgery but required a second surgery about 6 or 7 months later. This was a much more extensive surgery that kept him in the hospital for about a week and the recovery at home stretched for years.

Around the time my son was a year old, my husband was doing better and I wanted to have a brother or sister for my son and wanted them to be close in age, so we started trying to have another baby. My husband filled me with promises that he was better and that he would more than make up for what he couldn’t do when our first was an infant. I wound up getting pregnant on the first try. 

At some point between the first and second surgery, my husband became addicted to pain medication. To those who don’t think that prescription abuse is the same as drug abuse, most pain medications are synthetic heroin. Let that sink in a minute, SYNTHETIC HEROIN! That’s kind of a big deal. Due to my history working for a doctor who prescribed narcotics like they were candy, I saw so many lives ruined due to addiction, and that was one thing I never wanted to deal with in my personal life. It’s the reason I wasn’t working at that office anymore, it was too sad to see and I couldn’t morally be a part of it. Yet here I was, 26 years young, a one year old son, another on the way, and married to a drug addict.

Drug addiction changes you, it changes how you interact with other people, it becomes your priority, you become selfish. Being the spouse of a drug addict is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. A couple of examples from around the time my second was born: When I was 7-8 months pregnant (with a 19-20 month old at home too), my husband went out-of-state to see a doctor in his home state and stay with his mom for a few days. The doctor down there wouldn’t help him, and most importantly to him wouldn’t prescribe him any medication. He wound up staying down there for over 2 weeks because he was going through withdrawals. I wound up in the emergency room due to anxiety and exhaustion. He didn’t come back until he found another doctor down there to get drugs from. He was too sick to even care what I was going through back home. When my second son was not even 3 months old he had to have surgery because he was born with a club foot. My husband decided it was more important that he move down to Florida before us than to stay for the surgery.

It’s hard being a single mom while being married to the father of the children. That statement doesn’t sound like it makes much sense but that was effectively my life. 

Right after my second son was born; my husband was medically discharged from the military and took a job with his father down in Florida. I lived my whole life in the same area and my entire family was still in the area, so moving away with a 2-year-old, a newborn, and a selfish, addict husband left me miserable. I tried to make the best of it but I was so completely alone. I have a huge, supportive, close family and I found myself in a place where I knew no one. I’ve never been more alone in my life. We didn’t have much money and with two small children, daycare would’ve cost more than I could make. I was home all day with the kids, then my husband would come home after work and do his own thing.

Also important to note, my husband and his family are from the Deep South. That means: My role as wife was to unconditionally support my husband, tend to every need of the children, keep the house clean, do all the chores and shopping, provide home-cooked meals, and cater to my husband on demand. His role as husband was to go to work and make the money. Everything we owned or leased or rented or paid for was in his name. He was mean and disrespectful when he wasn’t just completely ignoring the kids and me. I was trapped and thousands of miles away from my family or anyone I knew. I was so sad and lonely and depressed.

Funny thing about being so miserable, you come to terms with the fact that this is your life, it won’t ever get any better, you may as well get used to it. When you’re constantly put down and disrespected and controlled, you even start to believe that you don’t deserve anything better, that it’s your fault that your situation is the way that it is. 

After about a year and a half, we moved to a different part of Florida. My cousin and her family were close by and it made it a little easier for me – and I’m sure easier for my amazing sister, who in that first year and a half made many trips down to Florida to keep us company. It was nice to have someone local to talk to and hang out with, I didn’t feel quite as isolated anymore, I started to feel a little more like myself again.

One day after a particularly bad week, one that started with going to the car dealership to get myself a new SUV but resulted in my husband getting a new (used) car to commute in and me getting nothing (I know this sounds so trivial but it’s an important piece of this story because (a.) it is a good example of the selfishness and disappointment that I lived with on a daily basis and (b.) it’s interesting how after years of so many horrible occurrences, how something relatively insignificant can push you past your breaking point), I arrived at my cousin’s house with 2 kids in tow, crying hysterically. “I don’t know what I did to deserve this! This is not fair! I never wanted my life to be like this. I just can’t do it anymore.”

I decided to leave. I’d borrow what I had to but I had to have a better life for my children and myself. I’d rather he ignored my kids from across the country than from the next room of the house.

Less than a week later, my husband got in a horrible car accident. He was left with crushed feet that he couldn’t put any weight on. He was wheelchair bound indefinitely. After a few weeks in the hospital he came home. The master bedroom was converted into a hospital suite. He had a hospital bed and ramps were added to the entrances to our home. Not only did I have a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, I now had an invalid husband with a bedside commode, medication that needed to be administered, and no one else but myself to provide the 24 hour nursing and custodial care that he required.

I hated him before the accident but I am not heartless, there was no way I could leave him like that. After a few months with no income, and with our savings and the generosity of family and strangers depleted, we could no longer live on our own. My mom was the only one to volunteer for us to move in with her.

At the end of November 2011, we flew home with whatever clothes we could pack in two suitcases each and whatever we could stuff into our small SUV (which my father and brother then drove up for us.) We sold or donated almost everything we owned before moving, we had practically nothing left but nowhere to put it if we did. We were only back home for a couple of weeks when his medication “ran out.” My family physician came to the house and wrote him prescriptions and we paid out-of-pocket with all of the money we had left. We waited for him to become established as a patient with the local VA but that was delayed, due to his drug abuse he wouldn’t be able to pass the mandatory testing needed to become a patient and be treated. 

On New Year’s Day 2012, my mother and I took the boys to a movie. When we got home, my husband informed me that his father was going to fly up to get him and then drive him back to Florida in our only vehicle. His medications were due again, we had no money to pay for them out-of-pocket, and he wasn’t into the local VA system yet. The only way he could get his drugs was to go back to Florida where he was already established in the VA system there. He needed “his” vehicle so that his family could take him back and forth to appointments without putting the miles and wear and tear on their cars. I’d have to figure out what to do for a car with my two kids on my own.

He also let me know that due to the circumstances, he was leaving on January 3rd. 36 hours after my husband told me he was leaving us for medical reasons, he was gone.

We kept up the pretense that the separation was only temporary and strictly due to his medical necessities. I wound up leasing a new car a couple of weeks later but right before I went to pick it up I received a call that it wasn’t insured. When I called the insurance company, they let me know that my husband had called them and told them that we were separated and my car could not be insured on his policy. He then closed our joint bank account.

We never had a conversation or discussion about our marriage ending; he just took the steps to ensure that it was over. He came back to visit the kids 10 months later, for a long weekend that thanks to Hurricane Sandy became 6 days instead, and that’s the last time any of us have seen him.

He attempted to call the kids about every two weeks after that; they weren’t interested in talking to him. Now about once a month he sends me a text to see if the boys want to talk to him. If they don’t, he just tries again the next month.

Both of my kids were in the hospital for different things at different times in the past year or two, I was the one there with them while my family helped with my other son. He was nowhere to be found or heard from. He was a terrible, uninvolved dad when he lived with his kids; it’s not surprising he’s even worse from afar. This story is not all-inclusive of every detail of the nightmare it was to live with him, rather a glimpse of the lowlights of what life was like. 

In the three years since he rolled out of our lives, our lives have become wonderful! I’m not exactly sure where I want to be but I’m getting there, slowly but surely. It could always be better but it could always be worse (and I know just how bad it can be!) so I am just so purely grateful for where I am right now.

We are back with my huge, supportive, loving, close family and they have been so amazing to my kids and to me. My kids don’t have a dad but they have aunts and uncles and grandpas and grandmas who love them so much and are excited to see them and spend time with them and show them just how loved they are! I have enough money saved now to hopefully provide them with a house of our own soon but couldn’t be more appreciative of my mom for letting us turn her world upside down these last three years.

It took a long time but I have my own life now too. I’m not just a mom anymore; I have hobbies and amazing, wonderful friends that I love! I would have never made it through any of this without my family and good friends.

My life was so difficult while I was married that anything that comes my way now I know I am strong enough to deal with. At least once a day I whisper to myself, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I may have all the responsibilities and burdens of raising two boys on my own, but I also have all the joys too. I get to know that everything they have and everything that is good in them is from me.

I still believe in love stories and fairytale endings, I still believe that I will one day have that. The beauty of the Hell I’ve been through is that when I finally do get my fairytale love story it will be my first. In my early thirties, divorced with two kids, I thought that all my firsts were behind me. With a little bit of perspective and a whole lot of optimism I now know that is not the case.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me, each day gets better, even if all that’s happened is that I’m one day closer to my happily ever after. 

About the Author

Not winning any swimsuit competitions or “Mother of the Year” awards, Christie Griffin is happy and so are her kids. That’s gotta mean she’s doing something right. Right?!
Connect with Christie on Twitter and her Blog.


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1 thought on “Broken Fairytales and Lessons Learned”

  1. Hi Christie – my heart goes out to you and your kids for what you’ve been through. You never intended to be a single mom, and yet that was what was handed to you. I understand – I have been a single mom for 30 years, even though I was married for the first 19 of those years. My husband wasn’t injured, just angry, abusive and selfish. He cashed out our son’s education savings because he said it was a waste of money. He used the money to buy himself golf clubs and other toys. He told me he didn’t “babysit or do housework”. That was my job. It went downhill from there. After 19 years of abuse and irresponsibility, when I said I was done with him (he added infidelity to his repertoire), he had our middle son help him pack his bags, then walked out the door without a backward glance or a goodbye. That really hurt my son for years. But we survived. I’m the one my sons count on and respect. I’ve always been there for them. Your boys are growing up in a loving extended family, knowing they can count on you, which is awesome. You’re young, smart, resourceful and a good writer as well. You’ll do great things. Thank you for sharing your story. God bless.


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