Updated: Jul 6
I want to share with you all what will be the first chapter of my book. I am doing this for two reasons. 1. I would love to know what you think of this and 2. I wanted to share my story about the reason I started this whole thing. I hope you enjoy it and I am so excited to get the book complete and in everyone's hands.
I get a strange sort of high when I get angry. I enjoy the warped sense of power I get from that anger. As I allow myself to slip deeper into that emotion I start to think that I am almost righteous in my desire to hold the other person accountable. I have learned over many years that this is very wrong. Anger, destructive anger, is a weakness, not a strength. When we allow ourselves to be consumed by anger we lose so much of our ability to be connected and loved by others.
I spent so much of the first four years of my marriage to Chrissy trying to prove that I didn’t need her. I would push her away. I didn’t want to be open with her. I was afraid of feeling my emotions. I had the idea that they made me weak. If I was vulnerable or open she would take advantage of that. Use it as a weapon to hurt me emotionally. So I built a huge wall to keep her as far away as I could.
Now here is where it gets interesting. I had convinced myself that if I just held on as tightly as I could she would never leave. It was this strange dichotomy of push and pull. This I think was the source of so much of my own anger, at least within the context of my relationship. It seems that this was the tipping point that triggered my anger at everything else. Chrissy had said once that it was like a switch was flipped after we got married. I went from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.
I was content, or at least I thought I was, in this for four years. It was a four year battle of I love you now get the hell away from me. It was a back and forth that looking back on it was miserable for both of us. It is no wonder that one day Chrissy came to and wanted some time away from me to sort out in her own mind what she wanted. It is a pivotal weekend in my journey to understand my anger. It is the weekend that started this whole process for me. I want to share the story of that weekend with you now.
The weekend before
I would like to now paint you a picture of the person I was. I want to help you understand that I have come from a very dark place. As we take this journey into my past please don't pass judgment on the people who have been affected by my anger.
So, I think the best place to start is in the early fall of 2009. My wife and I were on the verge of divorce. I had used my anger to scare and intimidate her for more than four years of marriage. On this particular day, she had finally had her fill. I can't remember what the exact reason was, but she had asked me to spend the weekend with a friend. This way she could spend some time alone to evaluate what she wanted from this marriage.
I can say that I was not really fond of this idea. For some reason, I could see that if I pushed back too hard at this that I would lose. I would lose the argument. I would lose her. I would put the final nail in the coffin of our marriage. So, armed with this I agreed.
Friday morning, I packed a small bag with a few items and made my way to work. I made plans to spend the weekend with a friend who lived about an hour and a half from where we lived at the time. I can still remember the feeling I had at the time. I am almost ashamed to say that it was not grief or fear of losing this person I had spent four years building a life. I was more a feeling of concern that I would lose a thing. I did not value her so much as a person but as a toy that I could manipulate and control my desire.
I spent that Friday night and all-day Saturday away from Chrissy. I didn’t call, I didn’t text, I just let her have her space for probably the first time in our marriage. Under normal circumstances, I would have been calling or texting about every thirty minutes. Not this time, this time was different. I could sense a shift in her that Thursday and Friday morning.
Here we are, it’s Sunday morning and she calls. All she said was she was willing to talk. I packed up what little I had brought with me and I headed back to the apartment. The whole hour and a half drive back I was not sure what to expect. Would we go right back to the way things were? Had she seen the error of her ways and now was willing to beg to have me back? Would this be the end for us? When I got there would my bag be packed and she standing there waiting for me with it in her hand?
I just didn’t know! For the first time in a very long time, I did not feel I was in control. I was not a fan of this. I need to be in control. It kept my brain from going crazy the way it was on that drive.
Finally, I made it back to Newnan. I pulled into the parking lot of the apartment. As I was walking up the stairs to the third floor, I thought I could hear Chrissy talking to someone. I wasn’t sure who she had over, but I felt both an intense anger and an utter loss at the same time. I was extremely pissed because she called me to come home and talk but now, she has someone over! Then at the exact same moment, I felt a sense of complete loss. Had she decided before I even got back that she was done and all I would get was a here is your stuff. After which she would carry on with whoever this was like nothing happened.
It turned out to be her mother who she forgot was staying with us for the week while she took care of some stuff in the area. I was still angry but not as much as before and the feeling of loss was now gone. As I walk into the apartment, I hear her tell her mom that she and I need to go talk but we would be back in a bit, so make yourself comfortable.
Back down the two sets of stairs I go, this time with Chrissy right behind me. I was dead silent but, in my head, I was going completely crazy. She too was completely silent. This I think made me even angrier as I just wanted her to say something, anything.
Sitting in the car she finally said, “We need to have a very serious discussion, where would you like to go?”
“I don’t really care, whatever works best for you is fine with me.”
“How about the park around the corner from here?” she suggests.
“Sounds good to me,” I said. “So, what is it you…”
“Let’s wait until we get there,” She interrupted.
At the park
We pull into the park and I find a place to park. Neither one of us has said a word other than the brief exchange we had to decide where to go. The silence was the worst noise I have ever experience, to this day.
Out of the car, we walked over to a bench nestled in a small opening of trees. We sat down, and she looked at me and I for the first time saw her humanity. I saw her as someone I had hurt. Someone I, through my anger, my violence, my control had caused real pain. I could no longer deny that she was a person. I could no longer justify that my actions were only meant to help her, make her a better, or more ideal person in my eyes. No, that was not possible, at least not at this current moment.
“What do you want out of this marriage?” This was the first thing she said to me since we got in the car. I was not sure how to answer this question. I had never spent any real-time thinking about this question. I just assumed that we were together, I was the man and didn’t need to think about such crazy nonsense. After all, what can one really expect from a marriage anyway?
“I’m not really sure, I’ve never really thought about it before.” That was the only answer I would get to come out of my mouth. Sure, I had so many other things swimming in my head that I could have said. “For us both to be happy and successful.” “For you to do What I ask, when I ask, without question.” “To have someone to ease my crushing loneliness.” “For you to be the exact person I have always pictured you were in my head.”
All of this was in there but not what came out. The answer I gave was just a variation on the standard answer I give when I think I am not the one in control. This was not something I was aware of at that moment. It has taken me many years of inner work to realize this.
Alright, back to the conversation on the bench. She just gives me this dumbfounded look and says, “Well will you think about it now!” Oh crap, what do I say now? My brain was reeling with what I could say to get the control back in this situation. I had to say something because I knew she was or would be after this, done and ready to leave.
“I think I want us to say together and try to work this out,” I said this more like a question than an actual statement. I think I was just trying to feel her out, see where her mind was at on this. Looking back on it now I don’t know that I had enough self-awareness to know what I wanted from any relationship let alone my marriage. I just knew two this for certain, I didn’t want to lose the person I had sent almost five years molding into the person I thought I wanted, and second I was terrified of being alone again.
After spending another hour and a half at the park we both agreed that we wanted to stay together. We also “both” agreed that I needed to get help with my anger and control. This was her idea, I didn’t think I really had a problem.
Back in the car and to the apartment we went to. I don’t know if either one of us thought this would really work out. I am not sure if we can either say we stayed together out of love for each other at that very moment.
Back at the apartment
We finally get back to the apartment. As we are walking up the stairs we see her little sister walk down them and pass us. Chrissy and I are both confused at the point. “Hey what are you doing here,” Chrissy asks? Her sister mumbles something that I couldn’t really hear as she was walking down the stairs. We get to the door and head inside to find about half a dozen or more people gathered in our living room. Chrissy could see the anger just about to explode out of me.
“Why don’t you go into the bedroom for a bit and let me handle this,” she said just as I was about to erupt. I sat in our bedroom for what felt like hours, in reality, I think it was less than an hour. I really don’t know when I get angry my perception of time gets all kinds of messed up. I hear it get quiet for a few minutes so I think that everyone has left. At this point, I walk out of the bedroom and see Chrissy’s mother sitting on our couch.
Now the words that I said and heard in my head must not have been the ones that came out of my mouth because at this point everything seems to complete crazy. Like I just stepped into a funhouse at the fair, crazy. The sentence I heard myself say was, “That was really disrespectful of you to invite a bunch of people into our home without letting us know first.” I’m still to this day not sure what everyone else heard or if this sentence is the one that I actually spoke because shit went off the rails quick at this point.
“Well if that is how you feel we will just leave then,” [Kathy], Chrissy’s mother said.
“Alright, bye!” That might not have been the best way for me to respond at that moment but it is what I got out. Over in the corner, Chrissy was now pissed and ready to jump to the defense of her mother, not that I blame her.
“Don’t you talk to my mother that way! Apologize to her.”
“Why I didn’t do anything wrong. She needs to apologize to me.”
“Either apologize to my mother or we are through and you can get out.”
“I guess we are done because I’m not gonna say sorry!”
It was at this point I saw the rest of the people that were in our house when we got home come in off the balcony. My original thought that everyone had left was very wrong but at this point, I was too angry to care and I had to gain the control back again. So I kept right at the argument at just the same passion as I had before.
Chrissy’s mother and father were both up off the couch and headed for the door now. The other people there were not sure what to do or where to go so they too started for the door. Oddly enough though none of them actually leave they just stand in the living room awestruck, not sure what t do exactly. Now Chrissy comes out of the bedroom with an arm full of my clothing and walked to the third-floor balcony of our apartment and through them over the edge. “There are your cloths now you can leave,” she yells!
It was here that I walk out of the apartment and started down the hall to the stairs. Then my controlling mind kicked back in and we did an about-face back to the apartment. I, in my infinite wisdom at that time decided I was not going to leave because I was the man of the house. I paid the bills, I was the one listed first on the lease, I paid the rent. Alright, I can hear all the women reading this right now saying, “What an arrogant jerk! He really felt this way? I bet his wife worked and was just as much of a contributor to that household as he was? Where does he get the nerve!” You would be absolutely correct in this thought. She did work. In fact, she actually made more money than me at her job and was much higher up the corporate totem pole the I was.
None of this mattered in my angry, control freak mind at that moment. Anger will make you dumb and forget basic stuff. Here I come back to the house. At the same time, she is taking a trash bag she had filled with more of my clothing and was walking out of the bedroom.
Let me pause for a moment and give you a bit of insight into the layout of the living room at that time. We had a mid-size apartment and in this, we had a large couch and a large loveseat. The way they sat made an L in the room with a small walkway between the two that was a perfect path from our bedroom. I tell you this so you can understand that as I was walking to the bedroom she was walking out and we meet at this small opening. As we cross paths her I remember it differently than she does. I remember walking by her and I bumped into her as this was a small space and we both were trying to get through. She will tell you I pushed her as I walked by. It was not overly hard or violently but a push none the less. I personally would lean more towards her being correct.
The problem with an angry mind is it can change and distort our reality to fit with what we need it to be to make ourselves feel better and justified in our behavior. That is what I believe is the case here. After I push by her to get to the room I guess this is when all the people in our house decided it would be a good idea to leave. Chrissy comes back into the bedroom and goes into the closet to fill another bag with more of my clothing.
The door to our room was closed and we were yelling fairly loudly at this point. It was about, maybe, ten or fifteen minutes of this when the bedroom door flies open and in comes two officers of the law. One has pepper spray out and pointed at me the other goes straight over to Chrissy. The one with the pepper spray at me tells me to go to the living room and have a seat on the couch. The other takes Chrissy outside.
Let's talk to the cops
On the couch, I sat, no clue what to expect. I was sure it wouldn’t be good, I was just not sure how bad it would be. I was playing over and over in my head the argument we had just had. Trying to see where and for what I could be in trouble for. I couldn’t for the life of me find anything that could land me in jail, or so I thought. At this point, I started to calm down because I was sure I would be fine and in just a while Chrissy and I would be sitting on the couch again and this whole thing would be behind us.
“Would you like to tell me what is going on here,” the officer asked me? I was not really sure how to answer this to remain in control. Even face to face with an officer of the law my main goal was to try to keep control of his reactions and my composure. I had to come up with something to say.
“Just a small argument between my wife and me.” I thought this would be a good enough answer to be the end of our conversation. It is crazy the way the controller will justify and minimize their own behavior. This was not enough to satisfy him in the current situation.
“We got a call that there was a lot of yelling and banging in here. Can you explain this?”
“No, I'm not sure why someone would call for that. We were just talking.” I tried to play off that I was not loud or angry.
“When I entered the apartment I could hear you yelling very loudly. It sounded like much more than just a quiet Sunday afternoon discussion.”
Shit, I knew now I stuck. At about this time two officers came into the apartment and asked the one who was talking to me to step outside with one of them while the other watched me. I sat there quietly for what seemed hours. Then the two of them came back in and walked up to me.
“Sir, can stand up, turn around, and put your hands behind your back for me?” As I did this I could hear the sound of the handcuffs coming out. I knew I was done. I wish I could sit here and tell you all the stuff that was running through my mind. I would love to say that I was scared or I was anxious but I can’t. I think at this point I was numb. I had no idea what to expect. I had never dealt with anything like this before.
As we walked out of the apartment I had an officer at each shoulder. We slowly make our way down two flights of stairs. In the parking lot of the apartment complex, I could see two patrol cars sitting with their lights on.
From behind me, I could hear Chrissy crying and screaming, “Don’t take him to jail! He didn’t hit me! Don’t take him!” I waited for a moment as one of the officers at my shoulder opened the door. The other help to guide me into the car. I sat down and the door was closed. Then the two of them walked over to Chrissy and the two cops with her. They stood and talk for a while. I could not hear what they were saying. I could just see Chrissy upset and crying. I could also see she was being very animated in her gestures.
After a while of the five of them talking, two of the cops broke off and came over to the car I was in. They got in and we were off to the county jail.
At the county lockup
It was a very quick ride to the jail from where we lived. At least it felt quick. We pull into the back of the police station where I get out and am lead into a small room with a window. Behind this window is another officer that I am handed over to. He tells me to go over to a door and open it. As I get there I hear a loud buzz and a click just before I pull on the door to open it. I walk into a large room with many smaller rooms off of it and a long desk to my left.
I am told to hand over anything that is in my pockets. It is all placed in a large ziplock type bag. After that, I am taken into one of the small rooms behind the long desk where I sit at a desk and am fringes printed. Then placed in front of a camera and have the standard mug shots taken. You know the ones, they tell you to look at the camera, click, turn to your right, click.
While in this room, after the photo session, I am handed an orange jumpsuit and told to strip down. I have to strip down to nothing. I am given underwear and socks to go with my orange outfit. The fun part was they didn’t have any of the Sandler's that would fit me. As a result, I wound up with a pair that was a size or two too small.
Once changed I am given a really thin “mattress” and told to follow the officer at the door. We walk along a corridor and I see the steel door with the bars on the window straight in front of me. At this point, it is starting to feel very real. I, for a while before this, thought I would not be staying. Even as they fingerprinted, took my photo, and I changed I still truly believed I was not going to go to the cells and be with the general population. After all, I was not a criminal as they were.
Now with the door open and being led into a large open room filled with at least three levels of cells with doors similar to the one we hand just entered, it was real. I was led to a cell on the bottom floor with a bunk bed on one wall and a sink/toilet on the other. To my surprise, there was already someone in each bunk.
“We don't have any more beds, you can lay your mattress on the floor in the corner.” The guard said very matter-of-factly.
I laid my inch and half think mattress on the floor and sat down. I had no idea what would happen next. It was still a bit before lights out but I was too late for dinner. So I just sat in the room terrified and thinking that my marriage and my future were over.
I am not going to go into all the agonizing detail about that next twenty-four hours that I spent in that room. I will, however, tell you that I have never felt more venerable, alone, and helpless in my life. I spent that night wide awake with some paper, a pen I had borrowed, and the small amount of light coming through the small slit window. In this set up all I could think to do was write. So I wrote Chrissy what I thought at the time would be the last words I would get to say to her.
That is a really hard state of mind to be in, wanting to be open with someone but also knowing that you would never hear from them after the fact. I was as open with her in that letter as I could be. I was sure we were through. I knew once I got out of there I would never see her again. While I wrote, all I could do was think about how bad I had messed up. How I was such an awful husband, hell an awful person, for so many years to her. I deserved to be right here where I was.
Getting out of jail and going home
When I got out I was picked up by my dad. The first question I asked was if Chrissy was still at the apartment. To my amazement she was. When we got back to the apartment I asked him to stay for me until I found out what Chrissy want me to do. I was mentally prepared to go in, get some clothes and a few of my things, and leave. I didn’t think she would want anything to do with me. I was sure she would have nothing to say to me.
As I open the door and walk in I can see her sitting on the couch. All the lights were off except a small lamp we had on the end table. It was extremely difficult to make out her face.
“I just came to get a few things and then I guess I will go to my parents’ house.” I was told during the arraignment that there was to be no violent contact between us and I was to be the one to leave if there was a chance there would be any.
I had played this out in my head so many different ways. I was certain I knew what her response would be. In fact, I think I was already reacting to her response in my head before she even spoke. It seemed to take her forever to respond to me. In my mind, I was sure this meant she had nothing to say. She was angry, or hurt, or exhausted, or disheartened, or frustrated, or… I don't know?
“Do you want to stay so we can talk?” Was the first faint words she spoke to me in over twenty-four hours.
It was difficult to tell from her tone what her emotion was in this question. I was not sure how to answer this. I thought for a moment what if she is setting me up. What if she wants me to stay so she can call the cops back out here, tell them we got into another argument and I go back to jail. What if I stay and we really do get into another fight and I go back to jail because I can’t control my anger. What if we talk and she really does want me to leave and I get confirmation of the thing I was afraid of.
“Yeah, I can stay. Let me call my dad and tell him he can go home.”
After I got off the phone with my dad I went and sat next to her on the couch. We then had a conversation that lasted hours. I got home at about 8:30ish PM, we went to bed finally at, I think, 3ish. To summarize that conversation is not easy, but here you go. She was tired of living life afraid of my anger, violence, and control. She was willing to stay and try to work things out. I had to find help and actively work to find a way to healthier behavior.
I agreed to what she was asking. Here is the part that most control freaks won’t tell you, I really had decided at that point that I was not the problem, she was. I didn’t plan to follow through with any of it. I didn’t need help I was fine the way I was.
Court and classes
I don’t want to get too much deeper into this story yet. I want to just say that I had to go to court a couple of times. I was played the 911 tapes. Chrissy and I found out later that her mother was one of the people who called the cops that day. I can tell you that hearing those tapes in court was difficult. I got a rare look at myself through someone else’s eyes. I for a moment got to hear in someone the fear they had of my behavior. I at that moment almost felt I really was the problem. It was short-lived at that time.
As we went through the whole process with the courts I was just going through the motions. I was just agreeing to what the courts said I had to do so we could get it done and move on. Even when I was told I had to take an anger management class I still just “played” along. I never, not for a moment, thought that the classes would help. I didn’t have an anger problem I had a problem with people who just tried to piss me off. If everyone would just do what I want and act the way I want everything would be fine. This is, of course, classic controller behavior.
I was incredibly lucky that Chrissy found the anger management class that she did. I let her be the one to find the class and just let me know where it was. I told her it was because I didn’t have time to make the calls, I don’t know if this was the case truthfully. I think it was just a way for me to not take responsibility for what was happening as well as being able to blame her when the classes didn’t work. I could make it out that she didn’t find the right program for me.
I can remember going to the class for the first time. For the first class, I had to share what had brought me to the class. I shared a very abbreviated version of the story I just shared in the previous pages. When I was done sharing the instructor looked at me and said, “Is that why you think you are here?”
It was a challenge to the truth I had held for so long about why I had gone to jail and now was sitting in anger management class. It was followed by him telling me words that have stuck with me to this day, “The reason you are here is never the reason you are here.” At that time I was sure what he meant. It took me about three or four classes to really allow myself to hear what was being taught. Until that time I held fast to by idea of I don't have a problem, I don't need to be here.
I don’t remember exactly what it was that triggered the change in my view. I just remember that when it happened the words he shared with me on my first day made perfect sense. I was not in the class, I didn't go to jail for my actions on the day or even that weekend. It was the way I was with Chrissy for the four years leading up to that day. That was the reason I was there.
I finished my twelve weeks of class and felt I still was not ready to leave. I keep going every Saturday morning for over two years. After a while the instructor, Charles, and I became friends. I would fill in and teach the classes when he had to go out of town or he just had something else that had to be done. After about three years of helping him teach he helped me get certified with the state of Georgia to teach the Family Violence Intervention Program.
I love to share this story with every person who comes into my class. For me it allows me to never forget who I was, what my mission is, and how much further I have to go. Now that you know a bit better who I am and where I came from I want to get into the real reason I wanted to write this book. In the coming chapters, I will share some of what I have learned teaching others and myself about anger, violence, control, and personal growth.