From the author of the TheSoda-Pop.com
SPARKS IN LOVE
A Survivor’s Story
Her Future Was Bright
There was a place within me, and it was so strong,
And I’m trying to find it, but it’s missing so long.
There was a place within me, that drove me there,
And no one could stop me ‘cause I didn’t care.
There was a place within her, for she was so strong,
But I cannot find it, she’s been missing so long.
And all of my days and all of my nights
Are spent going back to see the old sights.
I look so hard to see through her eyes, before she got weak with sadness and cries.
How did she do it and where was her drive,
It was automatic, she was so alive.
She made her mind up and then she was there,
She didn’t need help, she didn’t need prayer.
But now I call out and I try hard to find,
The person I left years ago in my mind.
I want to know her, I want to see, how she was so strong before I became me.
For she took me there, and never was weak,
Her future was bright before mine was bleak.
There was a place within me, that I need to go find,
Before I can put my future behind. S. Sparks
THE FIFTEEN WARNING SIGNS OF DOMESTIC ABUSE
- Tells you that you can never do anything right
- Shows extreme jealousy of your friends and time spent away
- Keeps you or discourages you from seeing friends or family members
- Insults, demeans or shames you with put-downs
- Controls every penny spent in the household
- Takes your money or refuses to give you money for necessary expenses
- Looks at you or acts in ways that scare you
- Controls who you see, where you go, or what you do
- Prevents you from making your own decisions
- Tells you that you are a bad parent or threatens to harm or take away your children
- Prevents you from working or attending school
- Destroys your property or threatens to hurt or kill your pets
- Intimidates you with guns, knives, or other weapons
- Pressures you to have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually you’re not comfortable with
- Pressures you to use drugs or alcohol
The National Domestic Violence HOTLINE/thehotline.org
The number of women in the U.S. who have experienced physical intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.
Nearly half of all women in U.S. (48.4%) have experienced at least one form of psychological aggression by an intimate partner during their lifetime, with 40.3% reporting some form of expressive aggression (e.g., their partner acted angry in a way that seemed dangerous, told them they were a loser or a failure, insulted or humiliated them), or some form of coercive control (41.1%) by an intimate partner.
National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2010 Summary Report. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention, Atlanta, GA, and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Up to 75% of abused women who are murdered are killed after they leave their partners
National Coalition for the Homeless
The number of times more likely a woman in the U.S is to be murdered in the few weeks after leaving her abusive partner than at any other time in the relationship.
I was one of those women. I was potentially all of those women. And now, having escaped from my marriage of two decades and suffered through an often painful and continuously abusive divorce proceeding, I am healing.
Who are you that you picked up this book and what is your why? Are you a young woman dating a man who mesmerizes you even as he shames you with putdowns? Are you a woman in a relationship you feel you need even while you know, from somewhere deep inside, that it is truly toxic? Are you beginning to question how you got to where you are? Or are you a married woman – perhaps with children – who woke up one day and no longer recognized herself in the mirror? Are you trying so hard to please, so hard to make him love you that you no longer are sure exactly who you are anymore?
And what is he doing to you? Is your self-respect being eroded by a man who should be grateful to have you in his life? Are you hiding this from the outside world while you slowly crumble from within? Are you a powerful executive – respected and listened to at work but constantly chastised at home? Are you a mom, embarrassed and demeaned in front of your children every day? Are you a student? A volunteer? Someone trying to improve herself, or the world around her, while he tries to break you, telling you that you are worthless?
Have you been separated from your family, your friends, and allowed it to happen just to keep the peace?
Are you more focused on protecting your children from seeing what is happening than you are on protecting yourself?
Do you cry in private while putting on a brave face with those outside your home? Does your oh-so-perfect family hide a dirty secret – the secret of abuse?
If you said yes to any or all of the above, then you are me and I am you. And I know exactly how you feel and I already know why you picked up this book. We are members of a sisterhood that we never asked to join. We are members of a group who desperately needs to be properly educated, helped, and then abolished forever – the sisterhood of abused women.
It is with this in mind that I share my story. To let you know you are not alone, to let you know you are worthy, to let you know there is a way out and a bright future beyond…and to help you successfully navigate the road to safety and freedom.
I am Susan Sparks, and what follows is my story.
Hitting the Bottom…Stair
When I see her laying on the bottom stair, her body is twisted in a shape that does not look human. I imagine them making a chalk outline around her and everyone gathering to try and figure out her story. Only she is not dead yet. She lies there for forty minutes in terror and finally hears that she will get an ambulance. Then, her mother is on the way. He gives in and doesn’t try to move her when she howls, but he comes near her several times and the terror is almost more than she can take. She is totally helpless. She almost passes out, but wills herself to stay present. All the while her children stand watching from the landing above, asking her over and over if she is ok. The words she screams in her head never reach their tiny ears.
They take her out on a stretcher and she feels the air come back into her lungs. She knows she is alive. She knows that this all means something, but she is not sure yet what it is. For years they will ask her if he pushed her down the stairs. Friends, neighbors, people she barely even knows will stop her in odd places at odd times to try and get to the truth. Later she will realize that he did not, he wasn’t even there, but something did. She wants to make sense of it, but now she can only lay back and listen as the EMT looks down at her and gently speaks: “Do not move, keep breathing, what is your name, do you know where you are?”
She thinks about it carefully for the next four years and tries to make sense of it all but something will not let it come together in her mind. There is too much pain, too much tragedy, things she cannot say out loud yet and cannot admit even to herself, silently, inside of her own mind. She somehow knows that to put it together could be her undoing, so she chooses to stuff it down, keep it locked away, and not deal with it.
Until one day she realizes that the cost she is paying to keep it down is now more than she can afford. She can’t stay quiet any longer because she feels it bubbling up. She knows within her heart that she is here to say something and to make a difference in this world because why else would this have possibly happened to her? At that moment in time she jumps out of bed and runs to her computer and it all comes spilling out in precise detail, in powerful sentences. She can’t stop the words from coming and she can’t stop the tears from coming; they are in perfect harmony, like a symphony suppressed by a maestro for far too many years. She is a writer and this is her way to heal. She writes a blog, her very first, and then realizes that she has just changed her own life. It’s time to come out and tell the world what has happened to her. There is no more hiding from the truth. Today is the day.
This is her story and so it is mine. These words document the torture, torment, and triumph of living through and escaping domestic abuse. They are living breathing true accounts of a life that goes on because she would not quit, will not quit, and does not quit.
I am Susan Sparks and I am ready to tell my story now. I am a real person with a real story and it is one that will not end until I see that the one in four women who will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime start to understand that they have a choice: to escape, to avoid, or to heal. And so I am here to do my part with you: to help, to hope, and to heal.
I live my days feeling like many people rolled into one. I am a survivor, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a friend to many. Some even call me a role model, although I’m not sure of that. The magnitude of that thought is both humbling and overwhelming. I am a person here to tell my story so it does not become yours. If it is yours, then I want to help you change it. If it was yours, then I want to show you that you, too, can write a new ending.
For years I hid my life, my pain, my torment behind the closed doors of my large suburban home because I was ashamed of what was happening to me. I hid it for so long that I could no longer separate what it was and what I was, and so it became a part of me. I traveled a long and painful journey, and from the other side I work to slowly unravel what happened and try to break it apart from who I am now. It feels to me like a surgeon trying to separate conjoined twins. Where is the heart connected? The brain? Can we separate them and still have one life left? Will she have a complete heart? A mind that can lead her through the rest of her days?
Yes, it can be done. But the work involved will take years. It has taken years. It’s been four since I fled from that home, and it is only now that I am strong enough to put my fingers on the keyboard and begin to tell you what happened to me. I’ve wrestled with whether or not to do this. But somehow I know that I must because I am living in a way that others tell me every day is noteworthy. They tell me that they are inspired by me. They tell me that they are proud. They tell me how sorry they are, and they tell me how wonderful it is that I have taken a life so cracked and broken and rebuilt it into what I now have.
If I have done this, then you can, too. Because I am in no way any more special, any stronger, or different than you. Maybe I just got here first.
So thank you for taking this journey with me. I don’t want to do it alone. It is dark and scary and horrifying to go back. But I go back for you, I go back for me, and I go back for the one in four women who will suffer from domestic abuse in her lifetime. We are not alone. Let us all pray, let us all heal, and let us all become one together.
This day I run to my computer to write, to unload. Did he push you down the stairs? It was one of the most important stories I could share because it was the day I literally hit bottom. I hit the bottom of my life, I hit the bottom of my abuse, and I hit the bottom of my foyer staircase after going airborne from the top landing. And every single day and event after that changed my life forever. I share it with you because by understanding this you will understand the beginning of my end. Here is where we start our journey together.
Did he push you down the stairs?
In November of 2011 I had a tragic accident. Our beautiful dog was sleeping in the foyer, no longer able to walk up the stairs to come to sleep in our bedroom. I had already put my younger son to bed for the night, and it was time to take my older son up. We were going up the stairs and singing happy songs, and as we reached the top I turned around and saw the sadness in my dog’s eyes because he wanted to come up to bed, too. My then-husband was in our basement theatre room watching a movie and having a grand old time while I, (as usual), was running the house. I turned quickly, too quickly, to race down the stairs and carry our dog up so we could all go up together, and I lost my balance.
Time stood still as I felt first my left foot and then my right foot go swinging out in front of me. I desperately grabbed for the handrail and missed. From there I fell from the top landing all the way down to the bottom landing, square on my right upper arm, smashing it to pieces. The pain was indescribable.
My bone was in three separate pieces. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t talk. I could only moan when talked to, and I was moaning loudly. My son ran to the basement to get my husband who yelled at him for interrupting the movie and barked, “This better not be a joke!” as he came storming up the stairs. He found me crumpled and broken and looking up at him with desperate pleading eyes. He asked me if I could move. He came toward me and I howled in fear. Clearly inconvenienced, he wanted me to be ok, but I wasn’t. He finally called an ambulance and off I went. My mom came rushing over to watch the boys, and my husband drove over to the ER to meet us there.
The injury was so bad that they wanted to do surgery in the morning. They also gave me the choice to heal on my own, without pins and screws in my bone for the rest of my life, so I took the hard road but the one that I knew would make me feel the best in the long run. It took two hours and an IV full of morphine before they could even attempt to move me for an X-ray. And there, in the middle of it all, my husband turned to me and said, with a face full of disgust, “I can already see it now. You’re going to milk this for all it’s worth.” And in response to this, right there on my ER bed, I quietly began to cry.
What had happened? I can explain this to you in simple terms. His world imploded. His world? Yep. His world. His world where I did all of the housework, took care of our children, cooked, cleaned, ran our home, and corresponded with school and doctors and the outside world flashed before his eyes. He was going to have to do something to help. And there was more, it got worse for him. Our isolated existence, behind closed doors, that no one was privy to, was going to have to open up. People were going to have to come in and help me. I only had one working arm and needed a lot of pain pills, and I was put on bed rest for months. This was a disaster for him!
My husband did what only someone totally self-centered can do in such a situation. He moved out of our bedroom and he never spoke a single word to me during my recovery. He found a way to further isolate, degrade, humiliate, and make me feel like a stranger in my own home. Since I was unable to perform what he saw as my role in his world, he shut me out. And he did so at a time when I needed him more than I ever had in our twenty years together.
The details from here are very hard to discuss; they are painful, they are ugly, and they still sting. It is incredibly difficult to be so weak and so helpless and in so much pain; having the man who is supposed to love you turn on you only exacerbates that pain.
My mom moved in to help, and my husband decided he would only speak to her. He spoke not one single word to me in twelve weeks. NOT ONE. My mom slept on the sofa in my bedroom and took care of me at night. I would sleep during the day and wake up the minute the boys came home from school. I would help them with their homework, eat dinner with them, and tend to them as much as possible. All while their father made a point of ignoring me in front of them.
We know when things are wrong in our lives, and we know when we need to make a change, to step away. But too often, particularly if we are in an abusive situation, we find ourselves motionless. We stand still and look for ways to make things better. We search our souls to see what we did to cause what is happening. We vest and invest in believing something good can and will come of a deteriorating situation, long past the time we should. The energy we need to extricate ourselves remains present, suppressed only by our disassociation from the reality of our circumstances. But when catastrophe finally hits, when something happens we cannot explain away, that energy becomes kinetic. It is then that we finally find the motivation, strength, and courage to say enough and let that energy move us forward.
The fall I took was in itself a catastrophe. But it was in my husband’s cold and blatant disregard for me that I found motivation. It was during this time that I finally went from indecision to decision. As soon as I was strong enough and back on my feet I was leaving this man forever. Once I made this decision, I never looked back. It was the easiest one of my life. Why it took so long, well, that’s the cycle of abuse.
When someone abuses us, particularly when the abuse is emotional, we tend to withhold knowledge of it from family and friends. Part of it is a disconnect; it is difficult to believe that someone who should love us can treat us so badly. And part of it is embarrassment; we wonder if we are worthy of better treatment or if there is something wrong with us, something that demands we be treated as inferior.
For months after my accident the community watched me make my recovery. They brought meals and flowers, and many came over to keep me company while our kids were at school. No one knew that my husband had stopped speaking to me or how debilitating his heartless behavior was for me. I was weak and embarrassed; but no one seemed to notice anything amiss, and I certainly wasn’t about to share, so life went on as usual as I could keep it.
By the summer of 2012 I had made a total recovery, and in August of 2012 my birthday present to myself was my grand announcement that I wanted a divorce. He tried to talk me out of it and said he would change. I had heard that so many times before that I no longer bought into it; I would not change my mind this time. But I didn’t have a plan, and this became a grave mistake. One that I will have to live with for the rest of my life. One that I will wait to tell another day.
When school started in the fall for my children, word spread of our divorce. I had many friends in this community. At certain times and during certain quiet moments, people would come up to me and ask, “Did he…did he push you down the stairs?” I have to tell you that I was grateful that they asked rather than assumed; neither I nor my children needed rumors. I love my community and I got so much strength from them. I answered each and every one of them and made sure the truth was out there.
When people sometimes still ask me, “Did he…” I answer them with a smile and say, “No, but I think God may have.” I had put up with so much for so long, what else could God do but push me down those stairs in order to get that reaction from my husband and show me so clearly what my life had turned into? What I had turned into? Something needed to happen to make me take action because I just wasn’t getting there on my own.
It is not easy to recall these memories; the pain of doing so is visceral. I do it to share my story and to say this: God may not be available to push you down the stairs, so I would like to help. Well, not literally but you know what I mean. Here I am, let me give you a push: how bad has your life gotten?
Remember this: STRENGTH + SUPPORT + PLAN = FREEDOM. You can do this.
I close my laptop and think about how much work is ahead of me. I want to provide education about domestic abuse and how to get out safely if you are stuck. I think of the stories I will need to share in an attempt to show others how not to fall into the same trap that I did, and give survivors hope. And I understand and accept the pain I will endure as I walk backwards through my life, and do the only thing I can do at this point, which is to try to understand that it truly was not my fault and help others to do the same.
There is also the overwhelming fact that I will need to hide my identity in order to keep myself and my family safe and protect the new life that I am desperately trying to build each and every day. Safety first, I need to get it right this time.
And then, in a true and pure and brave moment in my life, I open my laptop back up, glance over the blog one final time, put my fingers on the “SEND” button and gently press it.
I did it. There is nowhere to go now but forward. Here I am world, Susan Sparks, nice to meet you. Let’s go tell a story and start to change the world of domestic abuse that lives closer to most of us than we even realize.
My Secret Had a Name
I see her at her annual OB/GYN appointment. She is dressed perfectly, as always. Her hair is perfect, her makeup is perfect. She has the perfect exterior to hide the interior that she will not let anyone see. She arrives early for her appointment, always early, never late, never letting herself upset anyone by inconveniencing them.
She walks in with a bright smile, signs in at the front desk, and takes a chair. People notice her. She is pretty, she is kind to the staff, and she makes a joke or two to let the world know that she is doing fine. She waits to be called back for her exam.
She has no idea that her life is about to change forever. That she is about to see something that will immediately alter who she is, how she thinks, and what she tells herself at night when she just can’t take another day. I watch her sit there, so together, so in charge, and I wonder how she ever did it. I marvel at her strength of mind, of will, and of character. Family first, appearances matter; she did not. My heart breaks for her as I know what is about to happen, but she does not yet. A simple stop in the bathroom that will forever change every single day for the rest of her life.
They call her name and I watch her get up. I want to yell “NO!” but I know that I can’t – and would I anyway if I could? This is her path, this is her destiny, and somehow she has to walk it. I see her get up and go towards the doorway as they call her for her appointment. I watch her walk through that door knowing that she will never be the same.
A simple stop in the bathroom and a moment frozen forever in time. Her life is about to unravel and now I can only watch her and feel so badly for her. “I’m sorry!” I want to shout it out, “I am so sorry Susan!” But I only watch as the memory of that day plays over and over in my mind.
She is me and I am she, and this is a day that I will remember forever.
There are 15 distinct signs of domestic abuse. I didn’t know that when I woke up that day. I didn’t know it when I entered the doctor’s office. But simply reading those signs would change my destiny.
It is the day I found out who I was. But it would take four long years and a near-tragic accident to make me come to terms with it, and to decide that I needed to take it and make it something that would help change the world into a better place.
There are 15 distinct signs of domestic abuse, and before my work is done the world will know each and every one of them.
The Day My Water Broke
It was a day that forever changed my life. I had my annual OB/GYN appointment and after being called back for my appointment they asked me if I had to use the bathroom. I did. So I went into the bathroom and started juggling my purse, my keys, my bottle of water, and trying to put things back in my purse where they belonged.
As I turned around, I saw this huge poster on the door. I didn’t really realize what I was looking at, just this long list. Things started popping out at me like, “extreme jealousy,” and “keeps you or discourages you from seeing your friends or family members” and “controls every penny spent in the household,” and I thought, “That sounds like my life, what is this?”
Then I kept reading the list and it said more things like, “tells you that you can never do anything right,” and “insults, demeans or shames you with put downs,” and “tells you that you are a bad parent.” Feeling a little uncomfortable, I thought, “This is my life. What is this?” I scanned up to the top of the poster and it said, “If you have three or more of the following signs, you are a victim of domestic abuse. Please get help today.”
I dropped my purse. I dropped my keys. I dropped my water bottle on the floor. The bottle cracked, spilling water everywhere. My life – my terrible, awful daily existence of a life – had a name? It was something? I was a victim of domestic abuse? Wasn’t that was when you went home and hid behind the sofa so you wouldn’t get hit that night? This was something different. Domestic Abuse. I was a victim of DOMESTIC ABUSE. I WAS A VICTIM OF DOMESTIC ABUSE.
My hands were shaking as I started cleaning up the water and shoving items into my purse. As I stood up from the floor I saw a stack of pamphlets in the same bright purple color as the poster that said, “For more information on Domestic Abuse…” and I quickly grabbed one and stuffed it into the bottom of my purse. The nurse knocked on the door to ask me if I was ok, and I said yes.
I silently went through my exam that day and every time the doctor asked me how I was doing I did what I always did: “I’m fine,” I said with a smile. “Everything is fine.” Except everything was not. I had a secret that I had been hiding for over a decade, and now my secret had a name, and somehow it having a name made it real. I didn’t just have a terrible life, I had thirteen of the fifteen warning signs of domestic abuse listed on that poster that said you needed three to qualify. I had thirteen. I am something, I thought to myself. I am a victim. I am a victim of domestic abuse.
I stumbled through days, months, before I could make myself pull that pamphlet out of my purse. But one day, after hours of him yelling, berating, and intimidating me again, I went into my closet and took that pamphlet out. I read every word. Yes, this is me, I thought. This is still me. Now what do I do?
Remember this: STRENGTH + SUPPORT + PLAN = FREEDOM. You can do this.
I take a deep breath and will myself to have the courage to publish this blog, to share my private fears with others who may be struggling without somehow sapping the strength that I have worked so hard to gain. To put these words together is one thing. To send them to the Internet for the world to read is another. What if he was right? What if I was worthless and had nothing of value to say? Who would want to read this anyway? It wasn’t any easier the second time than the first.
For years people will question me about why I stayed, how I survived, and what I am doing to heal. The answer is right in front of all of us: I am writing a book and blogging about domestic abuse so that my story does not become yours. And if it already is yours, then let’s rewrite the ending together. It is never too late. You just need to learn what you are up against. And I’m here to tell you with the twenty-twenty hindsight that very few are willing or able to share.
No Longer a Victim
I see her as a little girl. What a great life she had! A loving family, wonderful friends, family vacations, and visits with everyone that she loved every summer. I wonder how she made that turn down the wrong path and why she didn’t see it coming. I see her dancing, smiling, laughing, and twirling around on hot summer days. I see her outside in her backyard playing Frisbee with her friends, swinging on her swing set, enjoying every moment before the hot sun would set.
I watch her growing up. She is becoming quite lovely. I see her kindness, her heart, her love for her friends and family as the cornerstone of who she is. She has talents, too. She can dance and she can sing. She loves to share them with the world. She is a bright light. She is a spark on a dim day.
I often wonder if she didn’t see the warnings because her life had been so blessed. Maybe she didn’t look for danger because she had never seen danger before and she simply didn’t know what it would look like. Maybe, because she was always surrounded by love and goodness she never knew that darkness and pain existed and could one day infiltrate her life.
I want to go back and tell her on that hot sunny day that I am so sorry for her. For what I will do to her, for what will happen, for what she will become. But she wouldn’t have listened because she only believes in goodness and love, and my warning would not have made sense to her. I see the sunrays bouncing off of her bright white dress, her face glowing with an early summer tan, and I want to run over and grab her and hide her from the world. She doesn’t deserve this, she doesn’t deserve what will happen to her.
I want to shout to her. “I am so sorry! I didn’t know. I didn’t see. I didn’t look out for you,” but all I can do is watch her life as she gets closer to the day that she will walk into his trap. My heart breaks every time I look back and see her.
This is my daily pain as I work to travel back in time and see where we walked off the path together. This pain, this insistence that something be learned from it, that somehow the world should change because it just can’t stay like this, is what brings these very first blogs to life.
I spent twenty years hiding it, four years running from it, and now the day has arrived where I force myself to face it head on. This is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. To travel back in time, to see what I have done, to learn from it, to live with it, to know that I changed her, and to know that I cannot completely undo it.
I sit for days staring at the keyboard and one day something washes over me and hits me square in my heart. I decide that I am a survivor, no longer a victim. Victims don’t have choices, survivors do. Victims are stuck in their circumstances and I am not. And so I find a wave of strength that I did not know I even had in me, and I will myself to continue forward.
If I am to be a true survivor, then I have to tell my story from the beginning to the end, no matter what the end becomes. So I sit down and explain how I became a victim of domestic abuse because I realize something on that day: I have to go back and find Susan before I can move forward and become her again. I have left bits and pieces of her scattered throughout my past, bits and pieces that he broke off and were carried into the wind like little scraps of trash. Only I know better. Each piece of her that he threw away is a treasure. I need to go back and collect them and put them back together and when I complete this, then I can become whole again. I can be the best possible version of me again. This is going to be a long journey. I take a deep breath and head for my keyboard.
What Does SODA™ Mean to You?
Do you remember the first time you ever tasted soda? I do. I was a little girl, we were on vacation near the Jersey Shore, and I asked my parents if I could have a quarter for the soda pop machine. My brother had gotten a quarter, my sister was already drinking her favorite orange soda, and I sat staring at all the mouth-watering flavors in front of me while begging for that quarter. My dad gave in and handed me one, I pushed the button for grape soda, and it was everything I thought it would be and more. It was sweet and sticky and delicious! The can was gorgeous, a bright purple with an eye-catching design and all the right colors and shapes to attract my eye. I was hooked. Grape soda became an instant hit with me, and I was interested in no other flavor. I was loyal to this one brand, this one flavor, this one design. I stuck with grape soda every chance I had because it was all I ever wanted.
But then something changed. Puberty came on and my hips began to get wider and I started to gain weight. One summer day, probably three or four years later, I asked my mom what I could do to stop these changes. “Just give up soda,” she said casually, “and your clothes will fit again in no time.” WHAT? Give up soda? What was she talking about? The thing that was incredible and sweet and attractive to me was now bad for me and had changed me into something different? WHAT? How could something that seemed so good for me turn out to be bad for me? I never saw it coming.
I bet you’ve figured out by now that we’re not talking about soda right? But let’s go with it because it works and you’ll see why. We face these situations in life all the time. We find out that something we love, something that we may have thought was good for, us turns out not to be. So we basically have three choices: first, we can ignore the obvious and keep it in our lives. We understand when we make this choice that we are consciously going to turn into something that we were not when we began. This is difficult and I have a lot more to say about this, so stick with me. Second, we can cling to indecision (keep it or give it up?) and hope that something will change. Not making a decision is making a decision = deciding to do nothing is doing something. Maybe we will learn that soda is not bad for us? Maybe we can give up something else in our lives and make it work? Maybe, maybe, maybe. All the while we live the same pattern day after day, we are exhausted by our own lives because soda is still there and in the end nothing changes. I’ll come back to this, too. Finally, we can decide to give up soda, change the situation, shake everything up and run like hell towards a change. This solution always being the best and most obvious choice, it is, of course, the hardest one to make because it takes the most courage, the most planning, the most energy, and the most effort. But what comes from this is the biggest payoff.
For now I am only talking about choices: decide to live with a problem, decide to do nothing, or change your life and leave your problem in the dust.
My name is Susan Sparks and I am a twenty year survivor of domestic abuse. You got it: Survivor Of Domestic Abuse. I use the analogy of SODA™ because it fits. When I first had soda it was sweet and amazing and everything I ever wanted it to be. Then things changed over time and I found out that it was hurting me and I had a decision to make. In my life my once charming boyfriend of four years became my husband of sixteen years and slowly turned from my Prince Charming into a frog right before my eyes. Someone who had once seemed like my dream come true became my living nightmare. I went through all three decision-making processes. First, I decided to ignore the problem and thought I could live with it. Then I couldn’t decide what to do. And finally, after twenty years, I mustered the courage and strength to blow the lid off that damn can and I ran for my life. It wasn’t clean, it wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t without injury, but I made it. I made it to the other side, and I’m here to talk about it and tell you what I did.
I’m going to share my story because I don’t want it to be yours, and if it is yours, then I want to help you get to the other side and avoid the many mistakes I made. I didn’t reach out for help, I didn’t have a plan, and I didn’t use the incredible resources that were available to me everywhere I went. I was an abuser’s dream: scared, weak, and isolated. I want to give you strength. I want to let you know that you are not alone. I want you to have a plan before you decide to leave. With those three things you can get out safely.
Remember this: STRENGTH + SUPPORT + PLAN = FREEDOM. You can do this.
Tomorrow the world will have a new acronym that they have never heard before, “SODA™ – Survivor of Domestic Abuse.” I hope it sticks, I hope it makes sense, and I hope it means something to someone. Because dredging up all of this pain, this hopelessness, and these fears have to mean something to someone or why am I doing this? I never planned to tell my story and really still don’t! Yet I sit here daily and type the words because I now consider it my full-time job to share my experiences in the hopes of validating yours, to collect the broken pieces of my past and mend them back together so I can walk into my own future, and to make sure that we all get out of this as soon – and as safely – as humanly possible.