Family Violence Court

I didn’t sleep last night. I had no idea what to expect. I was creating all kinds of scenarios in my head where I’d have to reveal personal details of my life, or perhaps I’d be judged for being there in the first place.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I read up on the judge. I forgot I’d seen him in action before. He’s the person you’d want running a family violence court. He actually cares about the guys in the court (There are no women in his court right now though of course, it’s possible.)

First, let me tell you what happens in court. Each case is called, probation reports on the participant’s progress based on what the court ordered. For most this meant some combination of were they attending addiction treatment, did they test clean, employment status, participation in mankind (anti-domestic violence counseling), etc. Almost everyone was doing well, and I could tell the judge was genuinely happy to see it.

Two participants chose not to show up for court. He didn’t hesitate to revoke probation and issue a warrant for their arrest. That seems reasonable to me. Another participant failed a drug test. I absolutely thought he was going to get his probation revoked, but the judge was pretty fair. He listened to what happened, the man accepted responsibility for the mistake and ended up getting 48 hours in custody and likely will need more addiction treatment. The Judge listened.

 

Our turn came. He’s in custody right now and will be for a few more weeks. At sentencing, the court did not let me speak, even though it’s the victim’s right. A full no-contact order was issued. I understand in theory why this happened. However, he’s in custody and I can’t even visit at the jail which makes no sense to me. Perhaps the intent is to protect against mental manipulation, I’m not sure. But I’m certainly not in any physical danger.

I was allowed to address the court today and they are amending the order so that I can visit him. I am appreciative of this. I’m also glad this resource exists. A little accountability helps everyone. Having to show up and see the judge twice a month isn’t convenient, but it’s not unduly arduous either. Considering that every day 3 women die from domestic violence, and over 10 million adults are the victims of domestic violence each year in the United States, any reasonable effort to help offenders stop is worthwhile.

If you are the victim of domestic violence, please seek help. The situation is unlikely to resolve itself peacefully. Help is possible.

Resources – NCADV – United States

National Domestic Violence Helpline: Home – United Kingdom

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I’m Going to Family Violence Court

The title of this post is six words I never thought I would say. If you were to ask younger more arrogant me (The “girl” I was a mere 9 months ago) if she’d ever be supportive of someone who hit her, I would have laughed in your face. Most likely I would have proceeded to very arrogantly declare that I’d never tolerate a man who hit me and perhaps even that I would have done something drastic to ensure he never hurt me or anyone else again.

Ah yes, younger more arrogant me who had not lived through my last few months.

If there’s anything I’d hope to save someone else from learning the hard way that I have, it’s this, life is not black and white, don’t judge what you aren’t living no matter how much you think you know the truth. You don’t.

I don’t even know the truth of what I’m experiencing. I know my perception of it which is clouded with a lot of emotion.

Before I go on, to the people who are getting high blood pressure because no woman should ever support a man that hit her, let me say this. No person should ever lay their hands on another. Period. Relationship status, gender, age, sobriety, mental health — none of those factors justifies hurting another human being. Nor do they make it any “wronger” with the obvious exception of abusing a child. Physical violence is a stronger person enforcing their will on a weaker one. And I have no tolerance for that. However, life isn’t black and white, so here I am.

I’m not ready to blog about the details of what happened, I may do so in the future, but I will say that mental illness and addiction led both of us to behave in ways we would not have otherwise. And both of us are cleaning up our side of the street as best we can including sobriety, counseling and legal ramifications. And we believe we love each other and want this to work. Family Violence Court is hopefully going to help.

I’ve been reading up on the judge who will prevail over the court. He’s no joke. He has presided over some of the most heinous crimes our county has seen, including sentencing a serial killer to death. This intimidates and comforts me. There will be no bullshitting him. Either we are doing the right things, or not. And if not, we need to be called out so that we don’t ruin or end one another’s lives. This is one of the few times in my life I’m willing to surrender and say, “I’m not the expert, tell me what to do.”

So, I’m scared, hopeful and excited. I will share more as the experience unfolds.

I Can’t do Everything (and Neither can You)

I’m learning a rough lesson right now. It’s tough to admit this, but as it turns out, I can’t do everything. Even worse, I can’t make someone else want to take control of their health.

And I know something you may not … so I’ll share my secret. None of us can. But that hasn’t stopped me from spending the last 6 months trying to get someone I love to make changes they were not ready to make, to conquer alcoholism and address mental health issues.

For some reason as a society, we can accept that Alzheimer’s, a disease of the brain, is blameless as it robs us of the person we knew. But for reasons I don’t understand, we tend to fault the patient for being an alcoholic or suffering from mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder. And worse, as loved ones, we often think we are at fault or that we can “fix” them.

Let me go on record: I call bullshit on that theory. I have suffered from depression and alcoholism (often referred to as dual diagnosis). I am now managing both (meaning I don’t drink, I am active in Women for Sobriety, and I have gone through lots of therapy for depression which is in remission and does not currently require medication). Nobody could fix me. Nobody “made” me an alcoholic and nobody “made” me have depression. Wondering why someone you love is an addict or is mentally ill is as fruitless as wondering why anyone has cancer, is the victim of a crime or is in an accident. As someone who has been on both sides of the equation, I speak from a unique perspective and if you love someone who is suffering you have to let go of the question of why; accept that it simply is, and move on. There is no “why.” Looking for that answer will rob you of any peace you can find in a difficult situation.

Science is still working through this, but as nearly as I can tell (and according to Science Daily, The Very Well Mind, and the National Institute of Alcoholism) depression, bipolar and alcoholism are likely a mix of genetic and environmental issues. We need to treat people who are diagnosed with mental illness and/or addiction the same as we would people with any other physical disease. Because they are.

As a loved one, being supportive is hard because the presentation of these diseases looks remarkably like bad behavior. Acknowledging and identifying the difference is challenging. You want to scream “KNOCK IT OFF” you just want your person back. Trust me, they want to be back.

If my loved one had heart disease I would never read a few articles on the web, chat with some people on Twitter and think that qualified me to help them heal.  I’d never try to “reason” cancer out of the body. But somehow, as a well-intentioned support person, I thought I could help someone dear to me get their addiction and mental health disorders under control in exactly this manner. To be fair, I didn’t have illusions that I didn’t need any help. But I did think I could get them through without as much professional assistance as I needed. I tried to reason his illness away.

I felt guilty (sometimes annoyed) when he would not take medication. I didn’t ask for professional help to understand when his disease was speaking and when it was him. I got angry when I should have just let it go. And then I beat myself up for not getting it perfect. Eventually, I was forced to let him sleep outside for three nights because he would not get treatment and I could not have him at home; his disease made it unsafe for me to be around him. I’ve never felt so helpless in my life. I could not force him to make the changes I knew he needed. He’s brilliant, creative, talented, funny, and kind. He’s not human waste to forgotten or lost in the system. He’s #sicknotweak. I need help to help him. He needs a team of professionals right now, and he’s getting it.

Here’s what I did do, I took him to the hospital to get his prescription. He hated this and was adamant that he did not need it (to the point of a Jerry Springer-worthy fight in the parking lot where I eventually took the keys and sat in the waiting room until he came in). I’ll probably never know if I did the right thing by forcing him to go, but I know if he needed stitches for an open wound I wouldn’t have taken no for an answer so I did my best and applied that logic. I navigated his very crummy insurance and the prescriptions to him. I got him in touch with his sponsor but couldn’t get him to go to AA meetings. I cried, a lot. I can’t overemphasize this, I cried a lot. I tried talking to him. Holding him. Loving him. In the end, it was not enough. He was under too much stress and I ended up calling for professional help. Then I cried more. I’m still crying, but I’m also doing something new, I’m hoping.

I’ve been fortunate to find a NAMI Family Support Group in my area that is helping me understand what I can and cannot control. I’ve found an amazing “tribe” on Twitter that includes so many superheroes who struggle every day but keep showing up and supporting each other. They teach me so much! I write and I pray.

If you love someone who struggles or are diagnosed with a mental illness or suffer from addiction please use the comments to talk about what you think are the best ways to provide support. If we talk about it we can eliminate the stigma.