A story from Courage Does Not Always Roar.

"Courage is not the towering oak that sees storms come and go, it is the fragile blossom that opens in the snow."

- Alice MacKenzie Swaim

When Steve and Jo met, it was a whirlwind romance. Steve professed his love for Jo daily and took her to the best restaurants and on wonderful vacations. He gave her beautiful gifts and told her he was going to marry her, that he knew right from the moment he met her. Jo felt so lucky to be with Steve-he was funny, charming, intelligent and creative. He had a plan for a beautiful life for the both of them and she was swept away.

A talented musician and artist, Steve had charisma. He was the life of the party, but she noticed that he would get really drunk when they went to parties. He was never mean or angry, just funny and sarcastic, but very harmless.

All of that changed right before their wedding. Steve would get drunk and have horrible nights of screaming and verbally abusing Jo. The next day he would cry and apologize, promising her that he was never going to drink that much again.

Although Jo was hurt by all the terrible things Steve said, she knew it was the alcohol talking. This was her wonderful husband, so she committed to helping him get better. Jo demanded that Steve seek counseling. They both went for several months. Steve would make promises at first, but then he started coming to their sessions drunk. He attended more group therapy sessions as a result of his poor behavior, but Jo wondered if any of it was really helping. Steve would have a "breakthrough" of enlightenment after a session, but a few days later he would be back to his same old ways.

What was Jo going to do? The counselors told her to read books on co-dependency and explained that she was part of the problem, not the solution. But how could she give up on her husband and her marriage?

Jo told me that she never felt as lonely as she did in her own marriage. She was really good at keeping up the fa็ade, but people close to her knew she had changed and how unhappy she was.

Finally, one night she drove home to find her husband drunk again, using foul language. The caged animal came out in her, and she lunged across the table at him, started strangling him and couldn't stop. Luckily, she finally took charge of her emotions. She let go and ran out the door to her car, knowing at that moment that her marriage was over. She had turned into a person she despised. She had no control of her emotions and could have easily hurt her husband in that moment. When did this all happen? Jo was a sweet, smart, pretty girl with an aspiring career, but everything changed after her marriage.

That night that she strangled Steve and luckily didn't hurt him had changed everything for Jo. She realized that she couldn't control her own anger and her addiction to this horrible relationship. She had to leave and make changes in her life.

Jo consulted a lawyer and began to pull her savings together to start her life over. The fear of her own anger towards Steve kept her away from him. She had to find the strength and courage to believe that there was a better life for her.

Steve was furious and continued to try to manipulate Jo, leaving her threatening messages all night long. He broke her personal items in the house, changed all the locks and bank accounts, cutting her off financially and personally. Jo was scared and wondered how she was ever going to get out of this horrible mess.

The one saving grace was Jo's counselor. He was patient with her, giving her the tools to handle herself emotionally. Steve followed the same script many nights - an alcoholic acting out and angry. Jo's best defense was to be prepared with a great offense, trying her best not to take things personally. The horrible things Steve said about her would never leave her mind, but she knew it was the alcohol talking. She continued to move forward, taking small steps each day.

She learned to set boundaries and not let him enrage her. Jo met with other women in the same situation and started to understand that she was not alone in her embarrassment and fears. She leaned on her family and friends for support, asking them to help her maintain her boundaries with Steve. Jo also kept a journal, writing down her feelings and thoughts, knowing that she could look back on them if she started to become weak again.

After a three-year battle, Jo got a divorce. She has moved on with her life and is happier and healthier.

Jo is now dedicated to helping other women get out of abusive alcoholic relationships. She volunteers at a woman's center and teaches "Self Esteem" classes. Jo has found her voice and independence again and never wants to lose it to another destructive relationship. Through her volunteer work, she hopes to help other women muster the courage to find their voices too.

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