I’ve spent at least one post recently ranting about abuse and how horrible my abusive marriage was. I think it’s important to get the word out on these types of experiences, especially in the face of certain widely-read opinions (like this one and others) that divorce is bad and that no-fault divorce is The Greatest Evil to Ever Befall Western Civilization™. No-fault divorce as a civil procedure saved my life and my childrens’ lives. Period.
But even after leaving and getting to a safe place, I found that I was very traumatized from the ordeal, which had some serious implications for what kind of mother I could be and whether I could responsibly marry again. And while recognizing that a problem exists is crucial, at some point you have to answer the question, “What do I do now? How do I fix this?” I can’t even begin to give an answer on a societal level, but I can tell you how I fixed my life, in hopes that it may help someone else. I’m going to try to stay focused throughout this series so we don’t get lost in the morass of my long, complicated story, so I may skip some parts and jump around on the timeline a bit.
I had a four main areas that I needed to work on –
1) Being able to support myself and feed my children
This is the part where I was very, very lucky. I had several things come together at just the right time to catch me when it all fell apart. I had already started taking classes at the university in town, so my Montgomery GI Bill benefits were already incoming and I didn’t have to wait too much longer to have the cash in hand. And because I was a university student, I walked in to the university housing office and got an apartment key (after paying the deposit out of my GI Bill benefits) no questions asked. I showed up to the WIC office on Friday, and when told that I would have to wait until Monday to get an appointment to receive my first batch of checks, I suddenly found myself choking through tears that I didn’t have any money for food to get through the weekend. Seeing this, the kind lady behind the desk dropped everything and handed me my checks right then. I was speechless, but I somehow managed to thank her profusely. (I’m tearing up now writing this as I remember her –wherever you are, lady, thank you!!)
I also applied for food stamps, the Section 8 wait list (I never got on the program, but it’s worth mentioning), daycare assistance, and paid a visit to the local child support enforcement division office. Because my oldest daughter’s father was military, all I really had to give them was his name and social security number. They sent the info off to DFAS and they took care of the rest. Because I was still technically a military spouse (and had the ID card to prove it), I was allowed on the nearby military post and could use the military medical system. Otherwise, I would have applied for Medicaid and CHIP.
So on an ongoing basis, I was able to put my college tuition and my apartment rent on student loans. I received monthly food stamp and WIC benefits, as well as child support. Daycare (less a $10 a month copay) for the hours I was in school was direct-billed to the state. So I had a place to live secured, as well as money / benefits for food, daycare, and a small amount of random essentials, including $18 for a large bottle of Jim Beam which I would ration out over at least a month, maybe two months. And I could keep my kids caught up on their immunizations.
Crisis homeless period over. Deep sigh of relief.
Once I caught my breath, I thought to myself, “Okay, Athena, that’s all well and good for today, but we need to have an end game in mind. We can’t live like this indefinitely.”
It seemed to me that the best available end game to me was to finish college with a degree in a field with good job security. I didn’t necessarily want to make the most money possible, but I did want income to be pretty predictable. Somehow, it came to my attention that with an accounting degree, steady, decent jobs were relatively easy to find. So instead of studying my first choices like economics or international business, accounting it was! And just like that I changed the entire course of my life.
Before I move on, I want to pause here to say – if you can figure out the right combination of public assistance to pay the bills while you work on getting your family set up, there is NO SHAME in that. In case you missed it, I’ll repeat it – NO SHAME. That is what those programs are there for, despite what certain well-publicized pundits may think and despite any attitude from the public at large that you hopefully will not encounter. I can’t say that I personally was on the receiving end of any shaming, but because it seems that shaming welfare recipients is becoming more fashionable, I thought I would point this out.
To be continued …