Valinee Rhines

"Part of me didn't even care about the consequences, I just knew I couldn't do this anymore."

     "I met my ex-husband on October 7, 2000, at Dillard University in New Orleans, LA. at a Freshman Orientation. Once we officially met, he made his interest clear and was very attentive, so before I knew it, we were college sweethearts and were almost inseparable. We went to parties and did the underage drinking thing like most college students, but I had no idea what was ahead of me.

     We were married exactly 6 years after the day we met on October 7, 2006. Our firstborn (David) was a micro-preemie born on 11/5, weighing 1 lb, 5oz. and remained in the NICU until Feb 17th. We were told he wouldn't survive. We were both social drinkers at the time but I noticed the stress of David's birth causing my husband to drink more. Having him home was scary indeed because he was on an apnea monitor along with several different medications to be administered at all different hours of the day. The stress was no joke, especially for first-time parents, but I handled it in stride because this was our baby and he needed us. I never missed a single day of visiting him at the hospital; while my ex-husband's visits were kind of hit or miss.

    The increased drinking changed the way my ex-husband talked to me and treated me. I started planning an "escape route" when I found out we were pregnant again. His drinking continued and worsened (which I didn't even think was possible) at the thought of having another mouth to feed. The second pregnancy was stressful because I had to have a cervical cerclage (ouch) and had to see a specialist every week to measure my cervix and administer progesterone shots...if anyone should have been drinking, it should have been ME!!! I had stopped drinking while breastfeeding for almost 2 years. Our second child, SJ, was born in February of 2010 and by this time, their father was drinking daily and easily angered. I was thankful on the days he would drink and pass out so I wouldn't have to deal with him.

     After our second son was born, I was counting on him to take care of our first child along with some household chores while I was in the hospital recovering from a painful c-section. This was a big mistake! He called my parents and asked them to get our son because he wanted to spend more time at the hospital with me and bond with our newborn. I waited until midnight for him to get to the hospital but he never came. When I called him, I could tell he was drunk. That turned into an EXPLOSIVE argument. He showed up the next morning as we were being discharged, but I didn't have much to say to him. Over the next day or two, we put on our "fake" smiles whenever we had company, but the drinking continued, no matter who was around (*rolls eyes*). Three days after coming home from the hospital with SJ, I needed to shower and take a nap, but there he was: DRUNK...IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY!!!! I was so exhausted from pumping and breastfeeding every 2-3 hours and still trying to heal from my c-section. I was so angry that I couldn't even depend on him for anything so I lashed out which triggered another argument. I was trying to get him to understand my point of view when he slapped me across the face while I was holding our newborn son in my arms. Even though that wasn't the first time he'd put his hands on me, I was appalled. By this time, I had lost respect for him and didn't want to be anywhere near him. 

     In late 2015, he joined a ministry at the church I grew up in. I just KNEW God was at work because, for years, I'd tried to convince him to go to church with us, but he was content staying home on Sunday mornings. During this time, I watched him struggle to stop drinking, but it wasn't working. April 16, 2017 (Easter Sunday) was the beginning of the end...we were at his Mom's house and he was laughing and having a good time with his family while I was rushing to fix him and my sons a plate, and eventually fix my own plate. He refused to sit down at the table with us, and instead opted to eat standing up while laughing and drinking with his brother. I was so frustrated with him I didn't know what to do. We argued all the way home. The following morning, I had jury duty, so I was counting on him to get the boys dressed for school. He had a hangover and said he simply couldn't do it so that started yet another argument. Before I knew it, he was choking me. I started fighting back...we were seriously fighting like we were in an MMA match. I fixed myself up the best I could and went to jury duty. When I arrived home at 3:00 pm, I found him passed out on the bed and an empty bottle of wine in the trash. I stood over him as I watched him sleep...contemplated how many years I would get in prison if I stabbed him in his sleep. Part of me didn't even care about the consequences, I just knew I couldn't do this anymore.

     A few years later, we were officially divorced and I am in a much better place. At first, I was too afraid of doing it all on my own...until I realized I was doing it on my own for years anyway. The difference now is that I can manage and budget effectively because there's no one here to drink up BOTH of our paychecks (what a relief). As a condition of his probation, my ex-husband had to enroll in AND complete an AA course, which I think helped him get his alcoholism under control. Since our divorce, he has reminded me repeatedly that he is a changed man and wants his family back together, but it's too late. I am NEVER going back to that place I was once in...EVER!

     By God's amazing grace, these boys and I have made it through without him and doing even better today. Some days were harder than others, but we have never been threatened with eviction/foreclosure, had any utilities cut off, or gone without food...I mean seriously, NOBODY CAN TELL ME GOD AINT REAL (*praise break*)!  My family/support system is simply amazing and I couldn't have done it without them. I went from working two jobs to being promoted at my full-time job. I still have a part-time job but I work when I want to not because I NEED to (look at God).  These boys and I have been blessed beyond measure and I can't thank God enough.

     In 2020, as we approached Christmas, I proudly looked at our beautiful tree (that I couldn't even afford a few years ago). As I looked at our stockings hanging on the fireplace (Mom, David, SJ, Shadow), I struggled to hold back tears (I'm not big on crying either). I went from walking on eggshells and living in fear (even AFTER a restraining order was filed when he went to jail), to REALLY living. Today, my ex-husband and I along well and co-parent great, all for the sake of our sons. I know he has his regrets and still wants his family back, but I'm afraid that's a mistake he is going to have to live with for the rest of his life. If my story helps encourage even ONE woman to get out of a bad situation (BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY - but don't stab him, sis, lol), then I'll be satisfied with the way God used me. It may take years to get through my issues and trust another man enough to let him close to me, but I believe God has a happy ending for my story.