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Second Chances, Are They Worth It?

by T

Eight years ago I left my abusive husband. He never hit me, but he got into drugs pretty bad. And it didn't help the problem he has had his entire life with his anger management issues. He can be a total sweetheart, but when his "volcano top" blew he could be the most evil person in the world. It is like a second person takes over, no matter what you say or do he won't calm down and his words are cruel. When he does calm down he will say he can't remember what he said, he will be very upset that he can't stop it.

No other choice for me, and with kids to think of, I got out. During those 8 years, he jumped into a life of even harder drugs and stayed filled with rage to a point I had no choice but to keep him away from the children. I just couldn't let them grow up in that. To make matters worse, our youngest child has not only autism, but the same problem with rage. Raising him I learned a lot about my husband. My son too has no memory of what he says or does during these fits and you can't calm him down. He was only a baby when I left his dad, so he has little to no memory of that.

Now come to my current situation. Seven months ago my husband and I started working things out. He has been off of drugs for a year now, found God, and has been awesome. I of course am very skeptical, not wanting to go back to that life again, so I keep him at a distance. He says he is totally aware of how he messed his life up and the harm he caused. I can see that he truly has guilt and a willingness to do things right. Especially since he sees how his son is during his sons times of rage.

I am a strong person, I will never allow myself to be treated like I was years ago. However, I have come to accept he does have a medical condition. His father as well has the same problem and he grew up in a very unstable home. To me there is still no excuse to hurt the people you care about so it leaves me at a crossroads.

The other night, he blew up again. After making a promise that he would never bring that back into my life. He was so very cruel and I even tried the techniques I use with my son to no avail. He now is very upset he did that of course and says he never means anything he says, and is ashamed that he lost it again after losing me for 8 years. He also made an appointment with the doctor his father goes to for his rage.

I do feel like the abused woman saying, "but I love him" even though I am someone that says no you won't treat me this way. I demand and deserve to be loved and respected. At the same time, I see that if he didn't have this problem, he is a wonderful person. I tell myself I won't give up on my son. Should I toss my husband to the side again and say, "Forget it" or realize he does have a medical problem like my son that we need to help him fix?

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello T, and thanks for telling your story here. It is clear that you are a smart, strong and healthy woman, who wants to do the right thing for yourself, your son, and your husband.

You mention that your husband has a medical problem. I have been in practice for 37 years, and I have never seen a single client whose anger was solely because of a medical problem. Each of us is responsible for our actions, regardless of what our medical condition may be.

It is great that your husband is off drugs, and that he has made a spiritual connection for himself with God. That is not enough, however. Your husband needs intensive counseling, to deal with the emotional issues from his past that underlie his rage. He also needs to be in a 12 Step recovery program for drug addiction, Narcotics Anonymous, to be specific.

For you and your son to be safe having him in your home, he would need at least a year of regular counseling sessions with a trained and qualified counselor, in which he deals with his family of origin issues, his emotional trauma, and his rage and anger. You (and he) can read about my approach to counseling here. By the way, I offer these services over the telephone, or in person.

You will not be safe with your husband in your home with you until he has done this type of work and made significant progress in his emotional healing.

If I were talking to him right now, I would recommend that he practice the journaling techniques on this page, which will help him to understand and heal his anger.

So, T, in answer to your question, I suggest you separate from your husband until he has shown a significant period (minimum of one year) of addiction recovery in a 12 Step program and emotional healing with a professional counselor, before even thinking about living with him again.

I know this is hard. But, as I think you know, you are in a battered wife syndrome yourself, even though as you say he has never hit you. Your focus at this time needs to be on your own healing, and your son's.

Leave your husband's healing and recovery up to him. I'm sure he's a good man, but that doesn't change anything. Good people do bad things all of the time, and they are totally responsible.

I wish you all the best, as you make the decisions you need to make to create a safe home for yourself and your child.

Dr. DeFoore

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