Over the course of months since I refused to take a field breath test on June 20, 2014, my life sometimes felt surreal.
I experienced shame and guilt for the publicity that would touch my dad's company, among other things.
As time passed, I found myself relieved for the way things transpired. I no longer had any secrets or any reason to hide anything I did or had done. In fact, my journey is potentially inspirational to people who find themselves as lost and broken as I was, and who find themselves the victims of people expected to love them.
I'm done being silent about what was done to me. I intend to finish my story for my own closure and in celebration of my victory over depression, anxiety, and alcohol. There is great freedom and healing in transparency and truth, and I deserve both freedom and healing.
I intend to tell the truth. Of course, there is much I don't know. I was lied to and misdirected. I was drinking to numb myself to what was happening in my life. I was broken and hurting.
The journey to tell the truth carries it's own pain. Revisiting the past is not easy, and it's definitely not a path lined with primroses. I made mistakes and I paid for them. And yet trying to leave the past behind without making a full accounting, without making it make sense in my mind is not an option for me. I spent years writing about my faith and about my marriage. I need to finish the story.
My marriage ended for me in January 2013.
Joe and I went to San Francisco to celebrate our anniversary. We'd been to some great places to celebrate our anniversary starting the year Joe decided he wanted to vacation with just me instead of our usual crowd of co-vacationers. We went to Hawaii in 2011 for our 20th, Spain in 2012, San Francisco in 2013, and Walt Disney World in 2014.
During our trip to San Francisco, Joe was excited about the seedier side of night life. On the night after our anniversary, he took me to a bar with a Scooby Doo theme. It was not a place for kids. The floor was plastered with centerfolds shellacked to the wood, and the videos playing at the tables were like no Scooby Doo episodes that played in my youth. We had a couple drinks there and then walked up the hill to the next bar.
I went to the bathroom and came back to a plastic cup filled to the brim with Chardonnay, my drink of choice at the time. The bartender was fun and he and Joe hit it off. Their conversation had the appearance of more of a flirtation than a conversation between patron and bartender, but maybe that's just the bar scene at it's best. After another trip to the bathroom, I came back to another full plastic cup. Joe urged me to finish it fast so we could go across the street.
The place across the street was alcohol free. It was a sex club of some sort. People could wander through or participate at will. There were some rules; men couldn't randomly touch women, for example. We went into all the rooms to see what was happening. Eventually we had sex in a public room with people watching from all sides. There was another couple there and Joe wanted me to touch the other woman. It seemed like nothing was real that night. Afterward, we made our way back across the street, I suppose so Joe could tell his new friend his story. I drank another plastic cup full of Chardonnay.
The next morning I woke early. I never suffered hangovers. I stood looking out at the streets of San Fran wondering how that young bride I'd been ended up having sex in a disgusting place like where we'd been.
When Joe woke up, he came over to the window and gave me one of the sweetest hugs he'd ever given me in all our years together. With his chin resting on my head, he squeezed me tight, and told me words I'd longed to hear, "You are the Best. Wife. Ever."
In that moment every feeling of hope and love I'd ever had for my husband died. I went in the bathroom and cried.
After everything I'd done to be a good friend, wife, mother, daughter, sister, whatever, getting the best compliment of my life depended on shady sex in a shady place with shady people watching. I'd earned the best praise of my marriage for something I never wanted my boys or my friends to know.
I grieved for my marriage in the weeks and months after we returned to Minnesota. I talked to my therapist about it at length. She was relieved that my marriage FINALLY came up. I'd been going to see her for nearly a decade, and I'd never talked about my marriage. When she talked about her own observations about things I'd said and done up until that point, she was so spot on it was scary.
Her advice was sound though. "Joe will never understand you; you are at different places in your evolutionary development."
"What do I do?"
"Love him anyways."
And so I tried. And when there were fails, I turned to my solid and true friend, Chardonnay. And then I tried again. And again, and again, and again.
I valued my marriage, I valued my children's family, and I valued the community of friends we had. It all mattered.
The one thing that should have also mattered and the one thing I forgot about was me. And that is a truth that probably hurts the most. I couldn't even answer the question, "Who are you?"