Updated: Jul 2, 2020
| This is the 276th story of Our Life Logs |
How did the cycle begin?
I was born in 1992 and lived in Central Florida until I graduated high school in 2010. The youngest of three, I was the apple from my mother’s tree. We both loved hard, had quick tempers, and didn’t filter our thoughts often. Unfortunately, this was completely foreign to my father’s analytical brain. It was odd to me how my mother married a man who didn’t seem to understand either one of us. Our passion, empathy, and sensitivity continued to baffle him throughout the remainder of his life.
I translated this disconnection from my father into defiance. My brother and sister fell silent whenever he started laying down the law. I fought back. Occasionally he would slap me across the cheek to get his point across. I would yell louder. I was sad he didn’t understand me. I was angry he didn’t even try.
My parents had a strict “no dating” policy until I turned 16 and unlike most kids, I obeyed. I grew up in the church, signed some sort of contract promising to save myself for marriage, and even wore a purity ring. I’m not sure how effective that policy was in retrospect. It felt more like a brainwashing strategy that backfired. It made me idolize the idea of dating. I watched friends my age go in and out of relationships and fantasized about the day I could hold hands with someone and call him my boyfriend.
Enter Alex. A tall, wealthy boy with an inflated ego and a red Mini Cooper. I was 15 when we met at a concert and fell head over heels, thinking he was way out of my league. He said he loved spending time with me and didn’t mind waiting. At last, a boy who appreciated my fiery spirit! Little did I know his idea of waiting meant assuming he would be able to “hit it” the second I celebrated my sweet 16. Once he realized I was much more inexperienced than he initially assumed, he dumped me two weeks after we officially began dating.
Instead of taking time to heal from my first encounter with heartbreak, I found comfort in a friend who later became my high school sweetheart. Jonathan was kind, loving, and loyal, but his path after graduation was marriage and starting a family. My path was college and adventure and getting the hell out of my house.
My siblings had since graduated and left for college. My father and I argued constantly, then my parents would continue the argument between them behind closed doors. I would listen with my ears pressed against the wall. Mom always started off defending me, then would concede, emotionally exhausted from the argument. I didn’t understand why she stayed with a man who constantly tamed her, but at the same time I felt guilty for being the cause of such marital discourse.
I gave up on trying to make him understand me. I packed my bags and headed three hours north to begin my college education at a university in Jacksonville, Florida.
Freshman year. It was during this time I experienced lots of firsts, including my first one night stand. It was terrible. I’ll never understand this whole hookup culture. It’s not in my genetic code. I’ve always given a piece of my soul to every man I’ve been with. That first year of college, they weren’t interested in being tied down and quickly took off with the pieces as I felt more of myself slip away.
I continued searching for the validation I never received as a child, while my parents’ relationship continued to deteriorate. My father began disappearing at odd hours and money was constantly missing. He refused to explain, and fed up, my mother moved into an apartment. They remained separated for over six months. I maybe spoke to my father twice during this time. Both times over the phone, I could hear the pain in his voice as he attempted to ask about my life without my mom there to pass the phone when the conversation lagged.
The search for a soulmate continued. I was strong-willed and confident in the beginning, only to be reduced to a shell of my former self by the end of each relationship. I would blame whatever man I was dating at the time for allowing me to turn into a doormat and break up with him after a year or two. I repeated this cycle several times before noticing I was the common denominator. I had truly lost who I was.
This began to trickle into other areas of my life. My sense of direction dwindled and I dropped out of college. My mother moved back in with my father. He never admitted to anything, and I resented both of them for staying together. I barely spoke to my family. It was all too uncomfortable to be around so I only visited during holidays.
It was during this time I met Julio. He was devilishly charismatic. He had the heart of a poet but faced many demons; demons I had no experience with. He wrote love notes and called me Bonita. Julio and I went through hell together, came back, and still loved each other through it all. He was there the day I moved into a new apartment. He was there the day I got fired from my job.
And later that same day, he was there when my mother called me in hysterics. I could only make out two sentences,
“You need to come home now. Your father is dead.”
On July 17th, 2015, the police found his body on the floor of a motel room. Overdose. He had just turned 50 years old.
For every reason I hated my father, there were two reasons I loved him. I hated the way he yelled but loved our camping trips and roller coaster rides. He was not a bad dad. He simply made some bad choices. He enraged me, but I constantly craved his approval. I grieved, but I remember mostly feeling anger. None of it made any sense. Our relationship was on the mend. Why would he do this? I was left questioning my entire childhood. Was he struggling with addiction the whole time? Was I really that blind?
Julio went to the funeral with me. He held my hand and passed me tissues when needed. I believe he really did care, but in the end, he couldn’t keep his demons at bay. He was in a relationship with painkillers long before we met and I knew it. I turned a blind eye for nearly two years. But I couldn’t ignore it anymore. My father’s death jolted me awake. It was draining, both emotionally and financially, to extract him from my life. Eventually, he left my beach side apartment and moved home to New Jersey.
During this particularly dark time, I confided in my friend Jeff. He had a gentle heart and was an excellent listener. Rather than finding myself, I ran to Jeff as my protector, my safe haven. We began dating towards the end of 2015, about two weeks after Julio moved back to New Jersey.
At this point, I was carrying some serious baggage. More like drowning in it. The problem with serial monogamy is when you jump from one relationship to the next, you don’t give yourself time to heal. You project your insecurities and pain from past relationships onto your current one. I was jealous, irrational, angry, overly critical, and refused to trust Jeff.
He tried his best to understand but eventually, my distrust became a self-fulfilling prophecy. A close friend of ours confessed she had feelings for him. How dare she? I hastily forbid him from ever talking to her and cut her out of my life. I looked through his phone on the regular. The more I fought it, the more we grew distant, neither of us wanting to admit how miserable we were. But I couldn’t end it. My identity was too wrapped up in him.
Then she told me they slept together. He eventually confessed. He was incessantly apologetic and told me it was the biggest mistake he had ever made.
I wanted to believe him. I tried my best to forgive him but couldn’t let it go. Instead, I took all my baggage and anger, from past relationships and my father’s death, and threw it in his face every chance I got. I didn’t respect him for betraying my trust. I didn’t respect myself for staying with him after I did. It felt broken and I searched for a way out.
I waited a whole four days after breaking up with Jeff before jumping into a relationship with Greg. He was covered in tattoos, with a killer beard and dangerous vibe. He had the charisma of Julio, minus the opiate addiction. Little did I know at the time, he preferred liquor over pills.
We planned an elaborate trip out west a couple months into dating. It was during this trip he became unhinged at the drop of a hat in a way I had never seen. He screamed at me countless times, I cried and screamed back. We returned back to Florida, both aware we were not destined to be together like we initially thought.
Then I started throwing up. And feeling inexplicably exhausted all the time. We were still talking on and off, enough for him to know what was going on and make me take a pregnancy test. I was in shock when I saw that little, life-changing plus sign. He was ecstatic. He couldn’t wait to be a father. I was terrified, but his reassurance eased my mind for the time being.
It didn’t last long. Our fighting got worse, at times physical. We resorted to yelling matches and name calling. His drinking got worse, as did his anger. He couldn’t keep a job and I worked full time up until a week before our daughter was born. He smelled like peppermint schnapps in the delivery room. I’m not sure he actually remembers her being born. But it was a moment I could never forget.
The second I laid my eyes on her delicate features, a shift occurred within me. Suddenly, I was no longer living for myself. My decisions and actions now directly affect this tiny, helpless human who depends on me for survival. I couldn’t change what happened to me. I couldn’t change the choices I made that led me down this path. All I could change was the life she was going to have. I could no longer validate staying with a person who drank to feel normal and called me every name in the book. I refused to let my daughter fall into the self-destructive cycle of serial monogamism, searching for acceptance in the hearts of broken men, instead of herself.
So, I made a choice. I waited until he left for work, packed my belongings along with my daughter, and I left. I packed what I could and drove straight to my mother’s house. She welcomed me home with open arms, and I never went back.
This is the story of Sarah Heinkle
While the contents of this story are true, the names of the people involved have been changed to respect their privacy. Sarah is a self-diagnosed, recovering serial monogamist. She is a member of codependents anonymous and wants readers struggling with similar battles to know their worth and they are not alone. She finished her degree in psychology in 2017 and launched her own blog for single mothers and freelance writing company in 2018. Her mission is to provide support as well as shed light on healing emotional trauma through holistic health research. She hopes this story will inspire others to break the cycle of self-destructive patterns and codependency. She swapped unhealthy coping mechanisms like serial dating and recreational drug use for healthier habits, like exercise, yoga, and gardening. She is learning to truly forgive what is in the past and to stop pointing fingers. For the first time, she is finding her confidence without the validation of others. Sarah is the first to admit she is still in recovery. Some days are better than others, but she describes her daughter as the motivating force that makes her feel like she can accomplish anything. She is currently in a relationship with herself and loving every minute of it.
This story first touched our hearts on March 4, 2019.
| Writer: Shelby Buchanan | Editor: Colleen Walker |