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Getting an Abuser Into Rehab

It was New Year’s Eve.

The forecast hadn't ruled out snow.

I live in Los Angeles. Let that register.

It was cold. Cold-cold. The fresh air felt fresh.

I wore a sweater, even at 1 in the afternoon. Normally, that’s when sweaters get peeled off in L.A.

I am 37, nearly 38, and I had just written a letter to a counselor, explaining to this unknown person about my very close family member who will be checking into rehab Friday.

I wanted them to know about this person. Let’s call this person Charley.

For years, only myself and one other family member suffered under Charley’s mental abuse.

Three weeks ago, I opened up the floodgates and started calling other relatives, people I don’t really talk to, telling them I had found an “affordable” rehab facility that focuses not only on addictions but mental issues.

This freaked my family members out.

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For 37 years, I have been dealing with confusion, stress and immense burdens due to this person. The last few years have been much better, due to me putting up boundaries. Cutting Charley off via email, not answering the phone and not allowing him/her to visit much has helped my sanity.

Sometimes Charley shows up at my house, despite living hundreds of miles away. Staying for an hour, leaving and driving hours and hours home.

You might have empathy for this person. So do I. But I also have learned to have empathy for myself.

That has been something I’ve had to learn for a long time — realizing that the cloud of confusion I was brought up in was, well, confusing. I didn’t make up the nagging sensation that something was wrong in my family. Something very wrong. I wasn’t the person to always be blamed. I wasn’t really that bad after all. In fact, I was such a “good girl,” because I was trying to compensate for badness.

I wondered if the snow will fall low enough to touch our yard? I imagined it would be the sign of a fresh new year. Something I have never experienced before in Los Angeles, something I might never experience again.

The plan: I was to take this person’s animals on January 1, and Charley would head to rehab the next day.

Charley didn’t want me to drive her/him. I offered, but the offer was taken away when I said my husband would have to come with us.

Charley likes to have the upper hand.

I put $2,500 of our money down on a bed that’s been waiting for Charley for almost a month, while she/he texted a bunch of us proclaiming poverty (before taking off to travel and sending out a bunch of nasty texts upon return on Christmas. I and another family member bore the brunt of these missives.)

Charley said what I had done was incredibly hurtful, I didn’t text on Christmas. I just had a bed waiting for Charley, that was all.

The text I received that last night said, “My animals are my children. Promise me you will protect them. They are my family.”

I sat on my couch, trying to relax, after a day with my three kids. I thought, "No, I am your family, and you should have protected me."

I wondered if the snow would fall low enough to touch our yard?

I imagined it would be the sign of a fresh new year. Something I have never experienced before in Los Angeles, something I might never experience again.

I told myself that if Charley doesn’t make it to rehab, I will cut him off. If Charley comes out of rehab and continues to assault me with nastiness, what little is left will be cut off.

I will be 38 soon. I am ready for fresh, new feelings.

The car and trains raced around, frantically, noisly. I thought about Charley's mind and how this must be what it feels like inside there.

In fact, Charley did drop off his animals on January 1, as planned. He texted me on January 2 saying he would not be going to rehab. Not the plan.

On January 3, I gave back the animals. It was dramatic, filled with upset family members and, quite honestly, me too afraid to see Charley. I blocked Charley's number. Momentarily, I felt relieved to be taken off the crazy train of destruction I'd been riding, to some extent or another, my entire life.

The next day, I took my middle child to the county art museum and under a warm winter Los Angeles sun. I enjoyed time with him there. The weather was warming up, getting back to normal for us.

My heart ached suddenly: Charley would never be allowed in my house again, unless he/she really went and got better. That likelihood is slim. I did all I could do. At one point, I held my son in my lap and cried under my glasses as we watched the transportation exhibit, my kids' favorite.

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The car and trains raced around, frantically, noisly. I thought about Charley's mind and how this must be what it feels like inside there. But I have to have my boundaries; I want to keep my own family healthy.

That blanket of snow never did show up, never did cover my yard.

Image by Lindsay Kavet

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