Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Court Transcripts & Letters from Prison

I have not said much lately about my "qualifier" (a kinder word for the perpetrator I was married to).  Earlier this year, he violated the conditions of his probation and now sits in prison.  As a former volunteer behind bars, I had inside information on the kind of treatment child offenders receive when incarcerated.  After I learned of his foray into the dark world of child pornography, we had many "discussions" where I painted the consequence of his continued pursuit in vivid language.   He called me "paranoid" then but is now living in some pretty horrendous conditions, as I predicted.

Anyone who has been in a relationship with an addict has experienced the blame, projection, minimization, exaggeration and denial that is common to addiction, and particularly so when dealing with a narcissist.  (One therapist that I worked with asserts that she has yet to meet an addict who is not also a narcissist).  You would think that when you are caught with your hand in the proverbial cookie jar, there would be little recourse except to acknowledge your guilt and accept your punishment.  That is not what I am experiencing and after speaking with many women who have had the same misfortune of marrying a pedophile, I find that my experience is not unique.

As I did after my ex's first trial, I purchased the court transcripts from his most recent trial and received them a few months ago.  It has been enlightening and sobering to read once again the case against him, particularly the ways he "storied" his probation violation.  One paragraph in the transcript stood out to me and the words continue to reverberate in my head and are validated by past and current experiences with my qualifier.  Quoting  a clinical psychologist who treated my ex for nearly four years, the prosecutor said, "This defendant has an inordinately difficult time accepting responsibility for his behavior.  He constantly blames his [ex]wife for his offense . . . feeling that if she had been more supportive of him, he wouldn't have had to look at child pornography."  His probation officer testified about his violation in great detail (no children were directly harmed, thank God) and the prosecutor illustrated how the defendant's story about the violation changed, depending on who he was talking to.  Court transcripts are incredibly valuable, particularly when dealing with an addict/narcissist who uses a lot of gaslighting.  They are the stake in the ground that becomes unmovable and grounding when communication becomes murky and confusing.

Letters from prison have been arriving--letters that are deeply disturbing and hurtful, far more desperate than previous ones.  The latest, addressed to one of my children, includes 20 pages of hate and blame towards me.  The specifics do not merit inclusion here but once again, those court transcripts are the anchor in the swirl of blame-shifting, denial and deception.  As my friend, "Eve" discovered, the man I thought I married does not exist and never did.  He was an illusion and I was simply a prop in his elaborate scheme to hide his secret nature.  Eve and I had a conversation recently about the difficulty in removing those rose-colored glasses and accepting the truth about our former partners, a conversation I vividly remembered when reading those letters!

My ex made it clear in his letters that he does not like the fact that this blog exists and consequently I have questioned my motives in continuing to write about my experience.  While he thinks that my writing is all about him, it is really about my recovery from betrayal and trauma; he is central to my wounding but irrelevant to my recovery.  I regularly hear from women just like me who somehow discover this space on the internet and find hope in the knowledge that they are not alone.  There is risk and vulnerability in writing of such personal experiences but there is also freedom in speaking the truth rather than continuing to hide.

So the lessons I have learned from reading and re-reading court transcripts and letters from prison can be summarized by the following:
  • Denial, minimization, blame-shifting, projecting and deception are common among addicts and until they are abandoned, recovery becomes virtually impossible;
  • Gaslighting (using tactics to try to change an individual's perception of reality) is very confusing; those who experience it need frequent reality checks with trusted individuals or court transcripts;
  • Manipulation, exaggeration and distortion of facts can be very convincing and require vigilance in holding to what we know to be objective truth;
  • Perpetrators are incredibly skilled at creating and maintaining a near-perfect illusionary life, gathering props (i.e. spouse, children, academic credentials, etc.) to support the facade that hides their true nature and behavior;
  • When a narcissist is through with you, either by your choice or his, what seemed like love becomes rabid hatred.  We can't be surprised by this.
How about you?  Has your experience been similar or different to what I have described?   As always, I would love to hear from you. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Two Marriages, Two Islands, Two Traumas

I married my first husband when I was 21 years old and left with him two weeks after our wedding for an assignment in the Caribbean.  We set up housekeeping in a multi-colored cement block house, in a small village on the edge of a rain forest.  We had running water but no hot water, electricity, refrigerator or screens on our windows.  Our only mode of transportation was a small Honda 90 motorcycle.

I've written elsewhere about the trauma that I experienced while on this gorgeous island paradise, when my husband introduced me to a young girl and insisted that she become a regular part of our lives.  I didn't know it at the time, but he was grooming her for an eventual molestation.  I didn't learn of the molestation until three years later when he confessed it to me.  I experienced the "relationship" with his young friend as an incredible trauma that I was completely confused by--nothing indicated that he was a predator, my gut was just screaming that this little girl was a threat to my marriage.  She wasn't, but he definitely was; in fact our marriage ended before it really began.  I just didn't know that for over three decades.

I met and married my current husband four years after my world and marriage exploded with my ex-husband's arrest.  During the first year of our marriage, an idyllic time of adjusting to one another and blending our families came to a rather abrupt end during the month of December.  December tends to be a trigger-month for me; my first marriage began and was pronounced dead and I gave birth to my firstborn during the last month of the year.  Our final family gathering also occurred during this month, so it can be a challenging time for me.  For a variety of reasons my current husband and I entered some treacherous waters during our first December together.

We were vacationing on the beautiful island of Hawaii when our individual triggers collided in a frightening and bewildering fashion.  I think it is fair to say that we both were confused, hurt and lost; it seems that even paradise can turn ugly, depending on our perceptions and circumstances.  I ended up leaving my new husband and returning to the mainland early.  Eventually with the help of some gifted therapists and a lot of grit and determination (i.e. hard work), we gained a better understanding of what happened; the whys are still revealing themselves as we continue to grow individually and as a couple.  But the experience was traumatic during a month that has a history of trauma and loss for me.

Recently we revisited some of the "whys" of that island trauma and I found myself fighting hard to
not mix up the names of the two islands.  What I've learned about trauma and loss is that if left unresolved, new losses or traumas bring the old ones along for company.  So it appears that I may have some additional work to do around that first trauma on an island paradise with my ex-husband, especially as we near my "trigger" month of December.  Recovery work, I am learning, is rarely completely done in one season of life; each new growth spurt or deepening relationship can reveal new levels of healing that is necessary.

I am re-reading an excellent work by an incest survivor turned advocate.  Marilyn Van Debur's biography "Miss America by Day: Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayals and Unconditional Love" chronicles her molestation at the hands of her powerful father and more importantly, her recovery.  It is a stark reminder of the indelible imprint that childhood sexual molestation makes on an individual and the work that is required if recovery is to occur.  As the former wife of a pedophile, it is both a grim refresher of the seriousness of the crimes my ex-husband committed but also of the secondary victimization that occurs for the non-offending family members of the perpetrator.  Everyone in a perpetrator's sphere of influence is impacted by their behavior; no one remains untouched.

Before we move into December with all of its celebrations and potential landmines, we will pause to give thanks.  We give thanks for the good and for the challenging times and remember that forgiveness is a gift that we give ourselves; it opens the door to deeper healing, connection and freedom.  I was mesmerized by this poem that came across my desk today:

"At the year's turn,
in the days between, 
we step away
from what we know
into the spaces 
we cannot name.
Slowly the edges
begin to yield,
the hard places
the gate to forgiveness
and gratitude
-- unknown

And another by a favorite artist/poet:

"she closed her eyes
and thought of her year.
it couldn't just be
the good she was
thankful for
it had to be the all...
the fullness, the depths,
the journey.
the dance of life.
for these she gave thanks."

May we all move into those spaces we cannot name--traumas, memories, losses and betrayal--and as we do the work of recovery, watch them soften and give thanks for the gifts we find in our woundings--the depth fullness and journey.  Have a wonderful week of feasting, giving thanks and dancing to the music of life!