I heard his car door slam and felt the impact of his fist on the back door before I heard his voice Ė but I already knew from experience that it was time to prepare myself.
Just as I know winter weather is an inevitable part of living on planet Earth, Iíve also learned there will be times when life with my husband Ronnie will get out of control.
Ronnie is an alcoholic. Heís also a believer and hates his disease. He goes to AA and has even been to rehab once or twice, but sometimes his alcoholism takes over and he becomes a raging, cursing, violent man. I love him, but itís difficult to live with him when he gets like this. I donít get to choose how he acts or when these times will happen, but, with Godís help, Iíve learned how to make the best of these times.
When I hear the pitch of his voice change; when I see the glaze in his eyes or the unsteadiness of his steps, I recognize the signs and prepare myself for one of Ronnieís "storms."
Most importantly: I protect our children during these times. Iíll never forget the time Ronnie picked up the large black cast iron frying pan and looked ready to use it on little Zach - but once was enough for me. At times like that, I send our kids next door, with our neighbor Mandy. She and I both know; once the kids go over there, itís time to begin praying.
Those prayers cover me Ė emotionally and physically Ė just as snugly as a pair of warm, woolly mittens in winter weather. I stay in touch with God, during these times; moment by moment. Iíve never felt the need to leave the house, myself Ė but, if I did, Iíd do so.
In the beginning, I argued with Ronnie. I begged him to get help and told him how his behavior hurt me or the kids. Now, I know those words only fuel the anger thatís so easily kindled when he is under the influence. So, in the same way a scarf covers my mouth and throat in the icy winter snow, I ask God to keep my frustration and angry words from being spoken.
I wouldnít want to go through one of these episodes without filling my mind with Scriptures. I often meditate on Psalm 46:1: ďGod is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.Ē or remember Psalm 12:7: ďOh Lord, You will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever.Ē
I step carefully through the house during these times; just as I protect my feet with boots in order to safely walk in the snow or on icy winter sidewalks. I do my daily tasks quietly, so as not to provoke Ronnieís anger.
In winter, the snow eventually melts, and the wind eventually stops blowing. The danger fraught by the icy cold is slowly dissipated. In the same way, Ronnieís voice changes gradually to a slurred drawl and he drifts off into a healing sleep. When he wakes, he returns to his usual self.
On the mornings after, Ronnie is apologetic. He makes promises to me and the kids - and renews his efforts to seek Godís help in his recovery journey. Iím glad to be there for him. With Godís help, I will continue to honor the man I love.
Our 15 years together have taught me the best way to do this is to remain prepared to protect myself, whenever the situation calls for it. Just as I put away my winter coat, scarf, boots and mittens in the closet, during the springtime each year, I also put away the ďgarmentsĒ I must use during the seasons of Ronnieís disease-induced behavior. But these ďgarmentsĒ must, sadly, remain at the ready, because Iíve learned that although an alcoholic may have many sober days, he or she will always remain an alcoholic.
So, just as I always keep my winter garments packed and ready for the next storm, I also keep my preparations ready. I may not want to use them, but if the storm comes again, I know God will be there to help me put them on, once more.
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