The End. A new beginning.
The End. A new beginning.
I’ve been talking for a while about all the past drama that was my life but to be real, I’m bored with it. There's a lot more that I've experienced but I feel those things can come to light as we grow together and talk over topics in our open sites (FB etc). I almost feel bad that I don’t really want to finish telling this story, but I feel like I’m wasting words on parts that don’t matter and dragging my work with the people who reach out to me down. The thought of stopping felt like such a relief that I knew it was time. You see, at some point writing it all down transitioned from a tool for use in my work to a burden. I want to do better. As this page is about growth, I feel it is important to be open and honest about the growth I’ve felt. I don't need to keep telling the past parts, but I do have one last story. The story that brought me here. The story I’ve been afraid to tell. I think with new eyes, the words will be more useful than the rantings of an angry and hurt woman.
It all started with love.
Kind of ironic being that I work in a tennis club now, and if you play the game you know -” Love means Nothing!”. Nevertheless, here it is.
I was a wife, a reality star, a fun mom, and beloved the world over for my abilities - and family love - at the height of my RedJacket career. Which, to be honest, was real. I was blinded by my life. I'm not sure how else to put it. I had been so far removed from my past by this point. Yes, life was still hard at times. Poverty sucks, but I was finally out of it, for the most part. I was at least no longer eating off of the fast-food dollar menu. I was experiencing things every day I never thought I would. Getting paid to have a blast and look good doing it. *I never felt like I nailed that last part, but hey, we all have our insecurities.* Years passed while I worked 70-hours per week. Time just slid by. I married the only man I had contact with; he had become my best friend. My only friend. And we were loved by all. We were on fire.
People parted as we walked.
I was self-absorbed.
Insufferable… and people loved it.
One day on the show, a producer told me people loved to watch a trainwreck. It still didn’t click. Of course, he meant those other stars, not us… not possibly us. Over the years I’ve learned that the way my father spoke to people and the lack of filter we all had were not nearly as okay as I thought. There is a place for honesty, brutally real and raw honesty. There is also grace in the ability to not be so damn brutal. Inside my crazy for a moment - my father is the first person who ever told me this. “Could you leave the damn brutal part out of it!?” he screamed at me, ironically. It pissed me off. Where did he think I got it from?
Anyway, we all know the stuff that happened on TV, or at least it can be found. It was fun, and we blew shit up. The end. But, home life was not what most assumed. We slept and worked. We had fun, but it was “work-related.” When we did have time to be ‘just us,’ we were secluded from the rest of the world. We said it was because the world was too much to deal with, but it didn't really bother me to have people walk up - until it bothered them. My dad and my husband liked to complain about it, but deep down they loved it. Ate it up.
Somewhere along the way, the physical pain I felt in my body was getting worse. I started with the normal check-ups and finally got into a doctor who was “a friend of one of the guys.” He was the type of doctor who used his license as he saw fit, a very old school “if it works it's fine” type. I don’t blame the doctor, which is why I won’t refer to him by name. He was a good man who tried to help, and in the end, he made a pretty strong move that brought to light some big issues by refusing to give them to my husband any longer, and no, I don’t feel like clarifying that if you can’t read between the lines... Unfortunately, with all the “help” he wanted to give us, we became addicted to opioids.
Part of that statistic you hear on the news. I just followed the doctors’ orders. I felt better and was back to work for a few more years without much thought as to why I needed *so* much of the medication. There were no other options offered; no other test to perform. Just “here’s your meds.” By the end of the show, the majority of the team was on something just to function. Will was on everything. It was normal at this age with a high demand job, right?
After a few years of over medicating us both, my husband and I started to be different. It got real when he was injured, or when he injured himself I should say. Honestly, I don’t feel sorry for him at all anymore, it was his anger and tantrums that got him there... Regardless, he had to go through therapy and relied on me for everything, from eating to putting on his pants. The medication came pouring in. He asked me once when I thought he started to change into the man he became in the end; I told him it was that moment. It's sad because we were both in the best place either of us had ever been in our lives. We were both broken souls that used each other as stitching. Each other and the medication.
There was an article I read that was written by an abuser. He said that he never saw himself becoming abusive. He just threw a glass or hit a wall here or there. He couldn’t believe that his ways had escalated so much. That his wife had become fearful of him. I think it was almost the same for my husband. We were so close and both so rough and jaded that we fueled the rage inside each other once the 'honeymoon phase’ was over. Once the spark was dimming. At some point, I knew it was ending. The first time he scared me with a weapon, that was it. It was a slow painful drop. We moved to just being great business partners, but the respect was gone. You can’t get that back. You can’t rebuild trust once you’ve seen death in a person’s eyes. My person’s eyes. God knows I tried though, for years.
This is not the main point, but a frame of mind to set the stage. See, we were going downhill but wouldn’t admit it. We held tighter to our “divinely given marriage.” Us against the universe that was applying so much pressure it seemed we would rip apart. The reality was much-needed anger management classes, and not just for him. I can admit I didn’t help myself; I have a quick tongue and a smart quip for everything. I couldn’t let go. In my head, this was supposed to be the one. This was the best life I could ever have. I can smile today knowing that did not turn out to be true. I wasn’t smiling then. I was just going through life.
The news broke of my sisters’ abuse and rape, and everything froze. Part of me went into defense mode, wanting to protect the life I had. My father was telling me everything I wanted to hear. He seemed devastated and pissed off that he would be accused, and the big one, my sister clang to him. She swore and told everyone the accusations weren’t true. Looking back years passed the trauma, I understand exactly why she did. I know why I wanted to believe that it wasn’t true.
There’s this thing that happens I guess when you start the awakening process. Suddenly things are not adding up. The lies don’t match. The words and feelings don’t line up. Suddenly everything feels like a bad dream. After it all becomes very painfully clear.
The moment she finally told me it was true, the world shattered. I had a dream as a child that it was going to happen. I told everyone about this dream, thinking it had a totally different meaning… Only recently have I realized this dream was exactly what happened. My family was scared and holding me down in a destroyed house while a bubble rested on a bottle. The moment I popped the bubble, the earth started to shake, and we were sucked into space, a void. Death. I woke up.
This dream and the dream of the bear killing me stayed with me throughout childhood, and I still never put it all together. My fathers’ pet name was “Poppa Bear” because he was such a grizzly. Shortly after, my husband and I broke down my sisters’ grandfathers’ door, literally, to get to her. During the screaming and commotion, she woke from her spot on the couch and screamed, “It’s true.”
Everything stopped. The world froze. All the illusions I had built fell. It was over.
We ran. Literally.
We changed our appearance, told the cops the truth, and agreed to testify against him. Then ran to another state for safety. At this point, my husband was everything I needed him to be. Honestly, he was just genuinely hurt too. The man was like a father to him for years; he had changed his life and his future forever.
I found out from a friend that my father had put out a “hit.” He was determined to find me and had the “wrong kinda friends” to do it. I even got calls on the burner phone I had picked up on the road. He was either good or I was paranoid; if the latter, then some major coincidences occurred. There was so much happening; details of which would make their way to light for years to come. Once we knew he was in police custody, we were able to go home. We were safe. When we arrived, a car was waiting in the driveway. We left and called the police. The cops said the person fled and was not caught. I still don’t know the full truth.
The next parts of the story all took a lot of time. A lot of waiting. Trying to figure out what to do. I had been asked to do interviews, and we had a company to dismantle. I also had a failing marriage that came to a head. Somewhere in all of this, the Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade happened in my hometown. The police used my face on the side of a float; the victim shaming would continue, that still leaves fear in me today...fear that I’ll succeed and someone will do something of the same sort to bring me down. That's just how our minds work after certain things happen I suppose... The messages, the emails, the calls. People seemed to hate me for telling the truth. Accusations of lying in comments and articles, yet all I could think was that I was finally NOT lying and things were worse because of it. I knew that the last part wasn’t true, although it felt true. I wanted justice for my sister, not even myself. Then the others started to come forward. I realized how blind I had let myself be. He was manipulating everyone he met. Every man worked for him in some way, and every woman was there to serve him in some way.
That's when the trauma happened. I truly believe that I had not been affected deeply until the blinders came off. That was the moment I broke. I also got very sick. My hair and teeth broke, I had acne covering my face and back. It was big and painful, and I cried for months. I didn’t leave my house. My husband got worse. With everything. I understand it was not okay, and I am not justifying it, but I broke, so how could I blame him? Ours was a very unique situation. We were never made for each other. We were just broken the same way. He started to lash out, and the last straw broke. I left. I literally ran out of our hotel room one night.
We had gone to another state and were doing a gun show, a show I begged him to leave me behind for. I could just feel it was going to happen. It did. He threw that last glass and screamed the last time. Braless and broke, I spent the last dime I had to run. I grabbed a taxi and a last-minute flight home. I had to fly to beat him back to the house; I needed time. I called a friend crying when I got to the New Orleans airport. I was picked up and brought to my house. I collected my things and left.
My kids had summer vacation places to be, so for a while, I slept in my car or at my friends’ house. I finally started to get my head around what had happened and how my life had really been. I got angry. I hurt. I cried. I still had those pills though. Doctor approved…
It took time. There's no easy way to go about it. I started small, lightly getting back into work. I had to, I had to support my kids. I even met a guy - who I put through hell at first, not being willing to commit because of what I had just been through. He’s still around after all of my “healing processes” and for that, I am equally amazed and grateful. I also started seeing a different doctor. I hated the withdrawals, but coming off the pills made a big difference in my life too - as I’m sure you can imagine.
Today I am in a job I love, my kids feel like they have a good mom, and they even confide in me on big issues without worry. My boyfriend and I made 4-years together last NYE. At last, I am really helping people with my story and my experiences. I am happy. I guess with everything that’s been shared, I wanted to clarify the hardest part wasn’t being hurt by my father. The hardest part was how everyone responded to MY experience. The judgments, the “I would have(s),” the hate, and anger, the loss of my family and the business I had poured everything into. Finally, the feeling of starting over with nothing.
I wasn’t actually starting with nothing, but the feeling was there. That's what I want to be there for, the start. My boss always tells us, “start at the start”. What that means is when you don’t know what to do just take one step. This lines up with me pretty well because when things were at their worst all I did was take every minute for what it was. I made no plans, I set no goals. I just pushed through each day without putting a gun back in my mouth. I had so much to be grateful for, and I thought about it every time I let myself feel like a victim or feel like a failure. I had a right to keep existing, even if the trolls wanted to see the trainwreck. This is my life. It is not for your entertainment. Today I can say I have taken it back, and all I want now is to help others take back their power as well. Does that mean I never compromise or that my life is perfect and has no problems? Not even close. It means that I'm in control though. I decide how to let life affect me. I chose who to allow near me, and my eyes are open to the truths people tell when they don’t speak. Painfully open. I’m growing every day, and I truly want to thank you all for being here to witness it. I hope you know I pray for all of you. All the stories I've read, all the lives I have had the chance to be a part of. It's everything to me.
Now, that's the last of it.
No more “my past” stories. From now on this page isn’t about me, maybe my thoughts on things, but this is for y’all.
Use it, write to me, tell me, ask me. This is your space. You are loved here.
Till we meet again…
Stephanie Marie [email protected]