Rock Bottom – Chapter 19

In late 2012, things were going from bad to worse. I had survived the accident and recovery, but everything else seemed to be going wrong. I had left a job that I had held for over a decade, and was struggling in the new one. I wasn’t in good physical health from all the stress, and my marriage was falling apart.

Ever since I had come home from the hospital, my wife and I were struggling. We argued about little things and disagreed on most of the big things. We fought about decisions on money, priorities and even the kids.

I had originally sought out a therapist to help me get to the bottom of my stress eating, but now, the agenda changed dramatically. Instead of just talking about why I wanted to eat too much, we talked about how to survive what was going on at home. My therapist said, “What you’re going through would kill a lesser mortal.” It wasn’t much, but it helped.

It was pretty clear that my wife was angry about my decision to get a motorcycle and the risk that I took by riding one. That’s a legitimate fear to have, and I tried to give those feelings the respect they deserved. 8 years post the accident, however, there was nothing I could do that would erase the accident, and I could only apologize for what had happened in the past, and try to be better going forward. 

That didn’t seem to be good enough. My wife became more angry and accusatory, and started demanding that I leave the house. I refused, because I was very involved in both kids’ lives, with one child in Scouting, and the other very involved in art and creative endeavors. I spent pretty much all my non-work time doing things with the kids.

I also refused to leave the house, because at the time, I didn’t want a divorce. I knew that things weren’t good, but was willing to try and work through the difficulty, or at least come to some sort of detente to give the kids some semblance of stability. Getting a divorce would mean immediately spending a lot less time with the kids, and from the reaction I was getting, I expected it to be zero.

Every night I came home from work, I’d help with dinner, spend time with the kids, then go downstairs. By this time, we had moved into separate bedrooms, and I tried to spend as little time together as possible, because my presence seemed to agitate my wife to the point where it just seemed to add to the children’s stress.

When I’d go downstairs, I’d get on the computer or read, and then my wife would come downstairs wanting to ‘talk’. I’d sit down and say, “OK, what would you like to talk about?” She would get angry, and start telling me to move out of the house. I refused, which made her more angry. 

After two or three of these ‘discussions’, they deteriorated into a series of my wife demanding that I move out, and me refusing. I said that if she wanted to divorce, I’d try to work through it, but I wasn’t leaving the children. She could leave any time she wanted, but I was staying in place.

My refusal to leave led to my wife screaming at me nightly to get out of the house. I tried to stay calm and not react, but the stress was getting to me, too. To keep the situation from getting any worse, I started leaving the room whenever the discussion became less than civil. On the advice of my attorney, I also started recording any interaction with my wife.

That may sound harsh, but the intent wasn’t to ‘catch’ her saying something wrong, but more to protect my ability to stay in the home with the kids. If an accusation came out that I was committing or threatening violence, I wanted to have a record to support my side of the argument. 

I was also concerned about the potential for false allegations. I didn’t expect that my wife would do something like that, but I had seen enough reports in the news and online of spousal disagreements that went horribly wrong when one spouse was accused of wrongdoing. Even if they were completely innocent, the end result was that the man would be forcibly removed from the home, and prevented from seeing the children. 

My job also had a security clearance, and any report of domestic issues could affect my ability to keep the clearance. As a former military police officer, competitive pistol shooter and concealed carry permit holder, I thought that background might be used against me. Without telling my wife, I had my gun safe removed from the house, to make sure that if any accusation came up of me waving a gun around, that it could easily be disproven.

The very next day, when I came home from work, I found an envelope stuck in the door frame.  It was a letter from Child Protective Services, informing me that I was under investigation, and asking me to sit down for an interview. I read through the letter – I was being accused of harming the children.

I immediately contacted my attorney, who suggested that we handle the interview in her office. She assured me that she would manage the questions, and make sure that I could stay put in the house. The interview went better than expected, and after the children were interviewed as well, I was cleared of any suspicion of wrongdoing. The CPS staff couldn’t tell me anything specific, but between my attorney and their response, they had seen this happen enough times to tell generally what the reality was compared to what they were being told. My attorney told me to stay put, and keep taking care of the kids.

So, I kept doing just that. What I wasn’t doing, however, was taking care of myself. The stress of working towards a divorce, my job and the day-to-day living in the situation, led to me continuing to stress-eat and gain weight.

One day, I got on the scale, and it read:

250.5 lbs. At 5’9″, that put me at 35% body fat, and a Body Mass Index of 37. I was officially ‘obese.’

Something had to change.

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