If you haven’t read the background story, you can find that here.

Last weekend I went to my mom’s house to help her clean out her house. She’d been asking for a long time and I finally did it. In the process I came across this journal I shared with John when we were teenagers. We’d take turns writing in it to each other, drawing in it, asking questions, really anything. My plan when I found this was to burn it.

Thursday rolled around and, after watching the presidential debate, I felt the need to cleanse myself of negative influences. I took the journal outside and prayed to the moon to help me release this negative energy from my life. I did not expect what the rest of the night brought.

I read through each page before reading it. I saw the signs young me didn’t see. He had such a way with words and could make me feel like the most special girl in a room. But at 16 and 17 years old, we were planning our future: kids, jobs, getting married. I read pages where I expressed concern for his anger and violent tendencies.

What I also read was my part in this narrative. A part I ignored for far too long. We both wrote a lot about changing the other person. I wrote about my displeasure in him not getting a job fast enough. How could he support me and a family if he wasn’t also working? Didn’t he want the same future I wanted? The memories flooded back of a domineering teenager who needed to control him because he was the only thing he could control.

That’s not to say his behavior wasn’t awful. What he did was inexcusable, but now I saw my part too. What we had was a mixing of two extremely hurt and volatile children. We both felt our lives were out of control, so we clung to each other, the only thing that made sense in our lives. I kept snapping myself back, reminding myself that he had hurt me. No matter what I had done, I didn’t deserve that.

Suddenly, I stopped burning pages. A desire I never thought would come to me came. I needed to apologize to him. A few years ago, when I was heavy in my drinking and watching 13 Reasons Why, I was suddenly outraged and needed to see how one of my abusers was doing. I checked up on him on Facebook. He was in a relationship and I saw that he was moving in with her. This outraged me. Why did he get to live a normal life when I was still dealing with the hurt he caused? So I did something I regret. I sent him a very aggressive message telling him everything he had done and that he better not do that to her. I ended it saying I didn’t want to hear what he had to say and I never wanted to speak to him again. Then I blocked him because I was too afraid of a response.

Years passed and he remained a boogey man in my mind. I refused to date anyone that had the same name as him or looked even remotely like him. At the time I sent the message, I was in a relationship, a terribly broken one that I dragged on for another couple years until my actions while drinking finally destroyed it. I hid it away, like I always did. Sitting with that guilt once I sobered up. But I never could bring myself to apologize. Hadn’t he hurt me worse?

Back to this past Thursday. The feeling that it was time kept getting stronger. I was terrified. When confronted about the abuse, my father had screamed at me, calling me a liar, telling me I made it all up. I was sure that would happen again. But it didn’t.

I got a hold of John. And we had a life-altering conversation. I apologized for what I said. Yes he had hurt me, but I acted inappropriately and it wasn’t fair for me to throw accusations at him and basically threaten him. He didn’t deny a thing. He validated my feelings. And he was hurt by what I had done, but never expected an apology. I asked him the most important question of all. Had he changed? Yes, he had. And I believed him. I learned about his life and understood him more.

We continued to talk for hours about how much had happened in our lives since then. I learned what was going on in his life that led to what happened. He regretted it. He apologized. So much emotion ran through me during this encounter. Here I was talking to a man I had built up to be a monster in my head. While, at a time he was, people can change. People grow, just as I’ve grown. Recovery has taught me that.

We are not defined by our pasts. Our pasts led us to where we are today. Everything happened exactly as it was meant to. I could wish all day long that it had never happened, but it’s a part of my story, and it’s a part of his. We were hurt, scared children. Both coming from a background of violence and abuse. Our two battered souls found each other all those years ago and a toxic combination formed. And today, I can forgive him for what happened between us. This is not to say this is the case with all of these types of scenarios. But I choose to live my life free of hate. I’ll never forget the pain and trauma of my life, but I can move forward. This week was yet another major life moment only achieved because of my recovery, and his as well.

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