I've been dreading this day for weeks. Seriously. I knew that it was going to be rough, but I wasn't sure how rough - and now it's starting.
One year ago today, February 2, 2011 - is the day that my ex-husband (Daniel's father) passed away. It was the day that my entire world turned upside down and inside out. We had been separated for 20 months when our divorce became final, and divorced for 20 days when he died.
For the relatively short time that we were married, I tried to help him fight the alcoholism. I tried to make him "see the light". I tried to get him to stop drinking. When he first moved in with us and we would have a "few drinks" before bedtime, I would even go so far as to drink way more than I needed or wanted to, with the assumption that if *I* was drinking the booze, he wasn't - and that would somehow help him. If I found a bottle hidden somewhere, I would dump it down the drain. I kicked him out of the house numerous times, threatened him with divorce, called the police when I feared for our safety, forced him to go to rehab - none of it worked.
Sometimes it worked for short periods of time, but he always fell back into the same patterns - until I had finally had enough. I didn't feel that the kids and I were safe anymore. So I made him leave one final time. That was by far one of the hardest things that I have ever done in my life, but I knew that there was nothing that I could do to help him. He had to help himself.
He moved back east with his family, and we stayed here. We tried to talk things out on the phone, but it never worked. He was usually intoxicated and I would lose my temper and hang up on him. All I wanted him to do was to get sober. I loved him. When he was sober, he was a wonderful person; but all it took was one drink and the ugly part of him would come out. He was a man possessed by a demon, and there was no controlling that demonic presence. I tried.
In the meantime, because I was not working, the bills were not getting paid. His child support was not getting paid. He wasn't working because he didn't have his drivers license as the result of a DUI arrest when he was still here. He was getting unemployment, but he refused to pay the child support after the first few months.
The last conversation that I ever had with him will haunt me for the rest of my life. It was in September or October of 2010. We had been separated for nearly a year and a half by then. I still remember it so clearly - we were in the old house, and the kids were in bed so I had gone out on the porch while we were talking - or trying to talk. The subject of the child support came up, and he informed me that he had no intentions of paying it. He refused to pay what was court-ordered to support Daniel. I had had enough. I suggested to him that he relinquish his parental rights to Daniel. By doing so, he wouldn't be responsible for any more child support payments and he could go on with his life and try to repair the relationship that he had with his older son, and allow Daniel to grow up not having to wonder if his father cared about him. I told him flat out that at this point, Daniel didn't remember him, didn't ask about him, and he would be better off with no father at all instead of having a drunk one who might waltz in and out of his life once or twice a year and pretend to be a father. I wasn't saying these things to be mean - to me it was, and still is, the truth. I wanted Jeff to be free from the responsibility, the obligation, and to focus on healing himself without the additional pressure of financially supporting a child who didn't choose to have a drunk as a father.
His last words to me during that conversation were "over my dead body". Those were the last words that I ever heard him say. A few months later, he was dead.
That conversation haunts me to this day. I know in my head that I didn't cause his death. But I can't help but wonder if I could have done things differently. Maybe if I had given him one more chance, he would have gotten sober. Maybe if I hadn't kicked him out, things would have turned out differently. What if....?
Not a day goes by that I don't think about him and wonder what I could have done differently. In my head, I know that I did the right thing, but that conversation replays in my head time and time again, and I struggle with it daily. There are times that the guilt is unbearable, but I know that no matter what anyone says or thinks - I did the right thing. I had to protect myself and protect my kids. I had our best interests in mind when I made him leave. I couldn't take the risk of someone getting hurt again - including him.
So now, a year later...I look back at what happened and I continue to wonder what I could have done differently. I deal with the guilt as best I can. While I wish that things had turned out differently, I know in my heart that he is at peace. The demons are gone. Each day does get a bit easier but there will always be a part of me that blames myself. I know that I did the right thing - I just wish that there had been a different outcome.
To his family: I'm sorry. I'm sorry that things turned out the way that they did. This is not what I wanted. I never wanted to take him away from you. I never wanted you to go through this kind of pain and heartache. I never wanted to take him away from his older son, and that in particular is something for which I will never forgive myself.
But at the same time, I also want his family to understand that I will not feel guilty for moving on with my life. I am doing my best to raise my kids in a way that will make everyone proud. Daniel is an amazing little boy who is smart and funny and athletic, and he is happy. You were given the opportunity to be a part of Daniel's life, and you chose not to take advantage of it. You have refused to provide information that I needed that would qualify him for benefits that would help him. And those are things that to me, are unforgivable.
A year later, and I am stronger than I ever thought that I would be. I am happy. I have found a wonderful man who treats me and the kids the way that we deserve to be treated - and I will not apologize for that. My little family has gone through a lot of stress, heartache, and pain to get to where we are today, and I am proud of where we are. We have plans for the future, and we are doing what we need to do to make those plans a reality.
I will never forget Jeff. But I have forgiven myself for what happened.
Rest in Peace, Jeff.