This is actually happening features real experiences that often include traumatic events, please consult the show notes for specific content warnings on each episode and for more information about support services.
No matter how hard you fight against having no change in your life, it's going to come anyway instead of just assuming it's not going to happen, you're doing everything you can to prevent it from happening. It makes much more sense to prepare for it because change is going to happen. From London. I'm with misalign you are listening to this is actually happening episode one eighty four. What if you didn't know who he was? Did you know that everyday foods you love may cause symptoms like bloating, stomach pain and headaches?
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That's code happening. My parents married when they were young and I was five when they divorced. They're both good people. There was no abuse, there was no adultery, they just they just weren't right for each other and they still loved us very much. But they shouldn't have married each other. Just between each one of them moving and then bouncing back and forth between the two of them huge custody battles, I moved an average of every two years.
Growing up, I went to six different elementary schools. After my mom divorced my father, she married a man who was physically abusive, he was not emotionally abusive or physically abusive to my brother, I he ignored us.
We didn't really exist to him, but he beat her frequently. We didn't know she hid it from us until she finally got the courage to leave him. But that was another awful relationship that I witnessed. And I thought that was OK. I thought that women were supposed to be treated that way.
And my mom was skilled at hiding this. I think she hid it from us because she wanted to protect us and because she was embarrassed and I think she was horrified that she was exposing me and my brother to this. Eventually, she got the courage to to throw him out. I was the oldest, so I had one biological brother and then each of my parents married someone that had two children, so wherever I went, I had more siblings, but I was still the oldest are very close to being the oldest.
And I was the caretaker. I was the peacekeeper.
I was an adult from the age of 10. I was always taking care of everybody else around me. And had lots of friends, but even in my friend groups, I was the mom, I was the one keeping my friend safe and making good decisions for the group. I think I was very resistant to change growing up because it did happen so often, some kids, when they're thrust into change, so often, they become very adaptive to it.
I wasn't every time we moved, I hated it. Every time I had to change schools, I hated it, hated losing my friends over and over again. I very much wanted stability. I knew that I needed to not have that chaos in my life and I was going to find someone who was good and kind and treated me wonderful and I would never put up with that kind of abuse. I would never be that woman. So if I was ever going to get married, I wanted to make sure that I had that nice, neat nucular family with husband, wife, kids that had a white picket fence and never moved.
So I knew that I had to not do the same thing, but I did. I got married at 17, married the first person that came along. I had my own self-esteem issues.
And when I was 17, the first nice person that came along in high school, I was like, well, I'll marry him.
I made bad choices in romantic relationships. My dad, biological dad, was not in my life very much because he lived three states away. I would see him the summers and at Christmas time. And so I did that classic thing of trying to replace that father figure with romantic relationships. And it's a cliche, but I started having sexual relationships really young. I think I was 14 and trying to find that missing piece. A lot of my early relationships took advantage of my need to care give, and so they were people that were unstable and unhappy and needed, I thought, to be fixed.
I had a boyfriend once threatened to commit suicide if I didn't stay with him or do the things that he wanted me to do. I had one wind up overdosing and leaving the letter to me, and that was how the police told me that he had overdosed because they found the letter to me. This is all between the ages of 14 and 15. So none of them were emotionally fulfilling at all until three relationships in from 14 and 15 was when I met the man that I would eventually marry.
It was an idyllic high school romance. We met homecoming together and then started dating and went to prom together. He was a senior and I was a sophomore. He was 18 and I was 15. But I thought he was just great. He was kind to me, said all the right things. There was some red flags even early on, not with him or his behavior, but his family. It was pretty unstable. His dad was 50 and his mom was 18 when he was born.
His mom had a drug problem, was an alcoholic, he had spent time in foster care, all these things I found out in the course of dating him and to the starry eyed 15 year old girl, I thought he's overcome so much and he's still this wonderful person.
He was cute and he was funny and he was a football player and he would talk about our future, he had goals and he had aspirations.
He wanted to join the military. He wanted to be an airborne ranger.
He wanted to be better than what he came from. It also felt like we were a little bit on a short time frame and so everything was kind of accelerated because he was already signed up to join the army and that as soon as he graduated high school in just a few months, that he would be gone. And so we had just just a few months to squeeze everything in. And I told him, I'll wait for you, I'll write you letters every day.
And he was in the army right after he graduated. And I wrote him letters every day and he told me all about his his time in the Army. I finished my high school years not doing a whole lot. I didn't go out with friends.
I didn't party. I stayed home and studied because I didn't want my boyfriend to worry that I was cheating on him or having too much fun without him. So I got really high grades because that was all I did was stay home and study. But that's what I wanted to do.
I liked that persona in that role of the girl at home that supported her soldier. And I graduate when I was 17 and we got married on the Fourth of July. In our state, you can get married at 17, but you have to have your parents permission. So I had to have my mom's signature on the marriage license and I was a terrible, hormonal, manipulative teenager.
And I said to my mom, I want you to sign this. And she's like, I, I don't want to sign this. I don't agree with this. My mom had been in an abusive marriage. She saw the warning signs. I just don't want you to get married at 17. And we fought for months daily to the point of tears. She tried to get me to do this thing and I told her to sign it or I'll move the wedding date to two weeks until I turn 18 and you'll never see me again.
So she signed it and I got married two weeks before my 18th birthday. It's terrifying.
I instantly moved to the state where he was stationed, so I immediately took over paying all the bills and I started college premed at the time, but it was happy we had this cute little apartment and I would walk to the university every day and we'd go grocery shopping together.
And it was it was happy. But that only lasted about a year because he got kicked out of the army. His original plan was to be an airborne ranger, which is extremely difficult, that's the elite of the elite in the Army, and the first step of that is to become air assault, where you jump out of helicopters. And his very first jump, he twisted his ankle, which is not uncommon, but it wasn't a life changing injury.
But that set him back and he never recovered from that.
After morning and morning and remediation, eventually he was discharged. You just didn't want to do it anymore, so he just didn't. A big chunk of the things that attracted me to him is that he had this drive and he had this plan for his life and he just gave up. And once he was discharged from the army, he had no idea what he was going to do with the rest of his life. So here I was, 18 years old, he's been kicked out of the army, I'm doing well in college, but he wants to go back home because he has no plan and no idea what to do.
I did, but my husband wanted and what I thought was best for him was like, well, I guess we should go back to where our family support is. I can go to school anywhere. So we move back home. So we came home, and at this time we're like in her early 20s, life is OK. We have close friends that we hang out with on the weekends and we got pretty active and involved in a local church.
We were not the type to be partying, drinking on the weekends. We were actually doing Bible study on Wednesdays and going to church every Sunday and kind of became our life. But he did have an affair three years into our marriage. I found out because she got pregnant. Initially, we separated, but then 9/11 happened and it felt like the world was ending.
And when the world is ending, you want to cling to people that you know that you love. And so we got back together and a month later, his daughter was born. And I told him that if he was going to stay with me, he needed to be a father to this baby, and so I became a stepmom and I made sure that he had child support. I filled out the paperwork for the mom and I made sure that he had a relationship with this little girl.
She would call me mom. She knew she had a mom and she had a mommy and those words were kind of interchangeable. And luckily, I got along really well with her mom, who was the woman who had had an affair with my husband.
But I knew it wasn't her fault. It wasn't this little two year old girl's fault, how she was created. I always felt a lot of guilt come from my step mom. She didn't always treat me the best and I never wanted to treat this little girl that way.
I was real mad at him and I was pretty mad at her mom, but I never expressed that in front of her. I never took that out on her.
She's such an easy kid to love. She's always so sweet. We've tried counseling that didn't go very well, but time went on and I was not going to get a divorce. I was not going to get a divorce. I was not going to prove everybody right that it's a bad idea to get married at 17.
And we were established. I had graduated from nursing school. We were looking at buying a home. He had a job that was established. I was not going to bounce around. I was going to put down roots. He was not going to relive my childhood. So when my stepdaughter was three, I had my daughter and I was thrilled, and then three years after that, we had our son. So now I had three kids and we were this happy little family.
And my marriage was better. My marriage was was solid. We had our kids. We had our home.
We were able to to push our stuff behind and look to the future. And at 30, I thought that this is exactly where I wanted to be in my life and things looked good.
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So I was on a trip with my friends in Vegas and he didn't want me to go, and he was kind of rude about it. But I have been planning this for months and there's just a girlfriend trip for just a couple of days.
And he called me and he said, I won a raffle. I won a gun. I was like, that's that's very strange. What do you mean you won a gun? And he's like, I won an AR 15. How do you win an AR 15 and a gun raffle? Like, I didn't think that was possible, but he tells me he wins this this AR 15 and that that should have been something that made me want to go investigate further.
But instead, I thought, you know, things are going really good right now. I'm just not going to investigate that any further. I'm just going to put up this little mental block and pretend like it's exactly what he says it is. And then a few months later, some money goes missing out of our account, a decent amount of money, a couple of thousand dollars, and he says that he was buying new windows for his brother's trailer.
And I thought that was strange because normally something he would have discussed with me before he did. And his brother didn't say anything about this either. Again, I put up a mental block because things were going so good and I didn't want to investigate this further. And then one day I found some mascara by the front door that was not my mascara. And I just put it back. I just thought, that's very strange. But I actually was keeping a journal at the time and I wrote in my journal, I found this fence.
I'm writing this down to prove to myself that I'm not crazy. When I would find some of these little pieces, I would try to bring them up to him and he would tell me that I was imagining things or I was blowing them up or make me feel like I was going crazy. So I chose to write them in my journal or just ignore them because I didn't want to make waves. So two weeks before Christmas, I'm home with all three kids, my husband is at work and there's a knock at the door and it's two UN uniformed police officers.
And right away I noticed that one of them is standing right in front of the door and one of them is standing kind of off to one side, almost as if to protect the officer that's right in front of me from me. And they ask if my husband is home and they say, no, I'm sorry, he's at work, and they said, can we come in and ask you a few questions? I've never had any major interaction with the police aside for traffic violations, so there was no reason why I wouldn't allow two officers into my home.
And they started asking me some questions like, where was your husband on Tuesday? This was Thursday. I don't know, he was at work or has he been acting strange? No more strange than usual, I suppose. So, well, we need him to come out of the station, we have some questions for him, OK, as soon as I get a hold of him, I'll bring him down. So they leave, they're very polite and I'm pacing, thinking what what happened on Tuesday, we live in a small town.
There was some big event I would have known about it. I work in the emergency department. I work with police officers I would have known. And the only thing I can think of that happened last Tuesday. Well, some kid called in a bomb threat to the high school and they had to evacuate, but he didn't have anything to do with that. So I have no idea what they're talking about. I call him and he answers the phone and I said, you need to get a hold of the police, the herd here asking a bunch of questions and I'm freaking out.
He's like, OK, I don't know what they're talking about either. He said, come pick me up and take me down to the police station.
I'll I'll get this all figured out, OK? I load the three kids in the car and I go pick them up at work and as I'm driving him to the police station, he says, why does it seem like you're mad at me? I said, I'm not mad at you. I'm just I'm freaking out. There's police at my house are asking me all these questions, and he's like, I'll get this straight.
No, they park in the parking lot of the police station and he gets out and he says, OK, I'll call you when you need to come pick me up.
Said, OK. He walked into a police station and I didn't see him again for four and a half years. So I drive home my kids four, nine, six and three at the time, I couldn't leave them home alone. So I'm going to have to put them in the car and take them with me to go pick Daddy up from the police station.
And I'm waiting and I'm waiting and texting him.
He's not answering and texting him over and over his son, answering what's going on, what's happening. Why do they want to talk to you? Why are you answering me? I finally start to realize that he doesn't have his phone, the police have his phone, he's not reading these texts, the police are reading these texts and they want to know what I know.
So I want to, by texting my husband, let the police know that I don't know anything. So I text him knowing the police are reading it. And I say, I just need to put the kids to bed. Please tell me what's going on. And about five minutes later, two squad cars pull up to my house. Two officers get out that I know again, because I work in the emergency department and they said your husband's been arrested for what he said for calling it a bomb threat to the high school.
I stood there, shocked my mouth, hung open. What why they said they don't know, said how sad. Apparently he used the track phone. A burner phone calling in a bomb threat to the high school and terrifying an entire town.
The entire high school had to be evacuated. Police, fire, EMS, people that I work with every day, we're all there. It was in December, two weeks before Christmas. So these kids were freezing. Parents were terrified. And it was my husband of 13 years who had done this thing and I had no idea why.
Said we need to search your house, OK? You can search my house. They go into my bedroom, they beeline for the bedroom. I don't know why, and they opened up my bedroom closet and found two very large guns.
There was an AR 15 and a sniper rifle.
I did not know that that's what those were. I don't know anything about guns. They told me that that's what they were. And the one officer looked at me and he said, Your husband's a gun guy, huh?
I said, apparently I had never really looked. They opened his underwear drawer, just the first drawer on the top, and it was full of ammunition box after box after box after box of ammunition. My face was shocked and then I thought, I hope they know this is a sincere look of shock.
How would you not know that the dresser in your own bedroom is full of ammunition, but I had chosen not to look because I didn't want to know.
The one police officer must have known that the look of shock on my face was sincere and he put his hand on my shoulder and he said, it's obvious that you knew nothing about this and you're going to be OK.
They left and I laid down on the floor in a ball. Again, my kids were in the living room watching TV and I just curled up on a ball before and I tried really, really hard for about 30 seconds and the thousands of questions went through my head.
What is bail? How much is bail? How does one pay for bail? How do you get a lawyer? Is a lawyer going to help me? How do I get him out of jail? How do I prove that he didn't do this? Did he do this?
Why did he do this for about 30 seconds? All those questions went through my head. And then I took a deep breath and I went, no, no, that's enough. This is not my problem. This is his problem. I didn't do this. He did this. I'm not going to help him out of this. And this huge sense of relief came off of me and I thought I just got to take care of me and my kids.
He's on his own. The next three days were the hardest three days of my life because I had to figure out how to dump the kids, then I couldn't I could not figure out how to tell my nine, six and three year old that their dad wasn't coming home. It literally would have been easier to tell them that he had died because that's something that their little minds would have wrapped around. But they couldn't wrap their minds around that their dad had voluntarily done something to take him away from them.
He had been a good dad, he had loved them, he had played with them, he had read them bedtime stories. He had not been a great husband, but he'd been a good dad. And now he was gone without saying goodbye. So the next day when they woke up, I told them that daddy had left for work early. I lied because I could not figure out how to tell them.
And when they went to bed that night, I told them that he was working late and I did that for three days. And then finally, three days later, we had Christmas at my mom's house.
And I couldn't lie anymore because they would know that daddy wasn't at Christmas. And so I gathered them in my mom's bed and I told them.
And I said, you know how mommy takes care of people that are sick in their bodies, his mom is a nurse. So sometimes people are sick in their minds and daddy got sick in his mind and it made him do something terrible. But he didn't hurt anybody and that bad thing didn't happen. But he told some people something that wasn't true and now he's in trouble and he has to go to jail. My son was three. He didn't really get it.
My stepdaughter was nine and was sad and cried, but kind of moved on pretty quickly and took my three year old son downstairs to go play with him. My six year old daughter wailed. She pushed me away. She was so angry, she threw herself on the floor. She sobbed and talked and sobbed for like an hour. And finally I just told her and let her cry. She was mad at me. She was mad at the world.
Sometimes I think she's still mad. She's 16. I was rough. The next day, I went to a lawyer. He had already heard it was already on the front page of the paper because we live in a small town. And when he heard my name, he said, you're not here for a defense attorney, are you?
I said, No, sir, I am not.
And he said, You're here for a divorce attorney. Yes, sir, I am. I realize that this person that I thought I knew, I did not know at all and I had no idea what he's capable of. I did not know that he was capable of calling it a bomb threat. I did not know that he was apparently stockpiling ammunition. His family was calling me and threatening me because I was cooperating with police and I was letting them search my home.
His mom, who was an alcoholic, called me and told me that she better not ever see me in a dark alley. I did not know if he would manage to scrape the money together and get bailed out. I had no idea. I was terrified. I was sleeping in my clothes, fully dressed with a hoodie and shoes. I was keeping mace by the front door. I didn't know if I was going to need to grab my kids and run or pay them off.
If you threatened me, I don't know. So part of it was was paranoia and irrational, but part of it was legitimate. I was absolutely terrified. Over the next weeks, every single day, I found out something new about this person who I thought I knew. Over the next weeks, I found his mail had been diverted to a P.O. box that he had set up, well, once he went to jail, he was no longer paying for the P.O. Box.
And so they sent it to our address. And so now I started getting the credit card statements. I didn't even know the NRA had their own credit card, but it was a credit card that he had run up. Ten thousand dollars for guns and ammunition and scopes, mount fights, pole accessories for sniper rifles. Payday loan debt, large amounts of money that I knew nothing about. I found receipts for a police scanner. I opened up his laptop to see what he had Googled recently, and he had Googled how to break into an ATM.
He had stolen a little furniture mover from his work and kept it in our garage trying to put these pieces together and I couldn't figure it out. And then I talk to the police and they told me what they had found. They've searched his office and they found a large black duffel bag that his co-worker said that he carried around with him for three straight days before the bomb threat. And in that duffel bag, they found a ski mask, latex fingertip covers or covers you can put over your fingertips so you don't leave any fingerprints, a wig and a photo of the White House.
In the middle of me discovering all this and trying to piece my life back together and trying to become a single mom very suddenly and severely, one day there's a knock on my door and it's another uniformed type of person. And he says, Hello, ma'am, my name is Officer Sergeant So-and-so from the Secret Service. And I said, Secret Service. That's the new one. Come on in. So he comes in and he sent me his card and he says, we understand that there's been a domestic terrorist threat with your ex-husband, did not realize that it had been categorized as a domestic terrorist threat, but because they had found a photo of the White House in his belongings with the other evidence, the police had found this and it was a domestic terrorist threat.
The Secret Service was notified. At this point, I was just numb and had lost all filter. I said, I know what you're looking for and what I said, you're looking for that room, that room that houses all the little red strings that go from one newspaper article to another picture in another newspaper article.
And he left and he said, kind of man, yes, that's what I'm looking for. I said, well, you're welcome to look around, but we don't have a room like that in our home.
This was during the time of the Obama administration, and we both had conservative leanings at the time. I did not share my husband's extremist views. I did have conservative leanings, but I didn't feel quite as strongly as he did. And he asked me, was your husband a fan of the president? And I said, no, I wouldn't call him a fan of his. Has he ever made any overt threats towards the president? I said no overt threats maybe during the State of the Union, but no no overt threats.
He said, OK, thank you very much for your time. Here's my card. If you have any questions, any left. I very much felt like they were just dotting the I's and crossing T's, but it certainly was disquieting to have a member of the Secret Service in my house. It's just one more thing that now I am probably on a list somewhere as a domestic terrorists wife, thanks to his actions. I was mostly scared of him and his family because they were irrationally angry at me for cooperating with the police, even though they knew all the same things that I did.
They knew that all of this was his own creation. They didn't ever try to say that he didn't do these things. They were just mad at me for cooperating with the police. It didn't make sense. And that's what made it so scary. At that time, I described it as the hits keep coming, and it was just each day I would find out something else about this person that I thought I knew. This person who was the father of my children was not who I thought he was.
He was he was angry and he was threatening and he was scary. And he was not at all this person who would play with my kids on the floor. I had no idea who this person was. I found more evidence of affairs from the time period when I thought we were happy that I wasn't even upset about because that seemed so small compared to these other things that I was finding, I couldn't be shocked anymore. And it wasn't until one night that his brother came by, I'm like, what does all this mean?
Put this together for me? And he said, Oh, he was going to rob a bank. He said that he had gotten himself in trouble with the credit card and the payday loan debt and that his plan was to call in the bomb threat so that the police would all be busy at the bomb threat and then he was going to rob a bank. But apparently he had only done half of that chickened out or maybe he was just doing a dry run.
But the pieces fit. He still denies it. Last I knew. Things got more complicated when he tried to claim temporary insanity. He realized that he was looking at some serious time for this. And so that's what he tried to do. He tried to claim temporary insanity. Our local judge did not fall for this. She was angry. She wanted proof. She wanted mental health evaluations. And so this went on for months. He was in and out of court and I was on pins and needles waiting for him to get released or sentenced.
And it went on and on and on. In the meantime, I was paying for his truck payment. I was paying for his health insurance. I was paying all the bills at home. I was trying to raise two kids and help provide for his stepdaughter. So I filed for divorce and he refused to sign because he said he was insane and he couldn't sign anything because the insane cannot sign legal documents. And so my lawyer was in uncharted territory.
He literally had never heard of this and had no idea what to do. I've never had someone claim temporary insanity in a divorce and refused to sign the papers until I was stuck. I was stuck paying hundreds of dollars every month that I didn't have because I couldn't divorce him. And my lawyer didn't know what to do either. Finally, I just wrote him a letter and I said, if you ever cared about your children and if you ever cared about me, just sign the papers.
Nita. And that may have hurt his case in the temporary insane pleadings, but the judge didn't fall for it anyway. She said your man is his thirties who never had any mental health issues prior to this. You never had any dealings with the police. I'm not falling for it. You're guilty. So almost a year later, he pled guilty. So he was sentenced to eight years in prison for this domestic terrorism threat. The mental health effects on my kids at the time were not as severe as I thought they would be the day that I told them I was rough.
But kids really are resilient and they adjusted to the new normal very quickly. They knew that dad had done a thing and that he was away in jail. But I told them all the time, Daddy loves you. He made a mistake, but he still loves you. He would write them letters once a month, once every two weeks, and I would ask the kids, Daddy wrote you a letter, would you like me to read it to you?
In the beginning, they would get excited and then within a short amount of time, they would say, not right now, I'm busy playing. He had left them and so they kind of left him, they stopped being emotionally invested in him, they didn't seem to miss him very much. I knew he'd be back in their lives eventually at some point. And so I tried to keep that positive. There were times that I missed him and worried about him and thought, what a terrible life that must be for him in prison.
I mourned him. It was like he had died. And I felt so sad for him that he was living this life in prison. But those moments were fleeting because I was so angry at him for hurting my kids and me. I had to come to terms with the fact that I had made a mistake, that getting married at 17 to someone with a really rocky past was a bad decision, I had to come to terms with the fact that divorce is not always wrong.
Sometimes it is the right thing to do. I had to come to terms with the fact of the loss of that white picket fence and that perfect little family. I had to come to terms with the fact that no matter how hard you fight against having no change in your life, it's going to come anyway instead of just assuming it's not going to happen. We're doing everything you can to prevent it from happening. Makes much more sense to prepare for it, because change is going to happen.
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Feel the hope wondrous. Feel the story.
Hi, I'm David Brown, the host of the Business Warriors podcast and author of our new book, The Art of Business Wars. The Art of Business Wars features great stories from history's greatest business rivalries. And the stories are fascinating, that's for sure. But the lessons we draw from them about determination, ingenuity, patience and all the other traits of the victorious enterprise are invaluable. Whether you're just coming up in your career or are already a CEO to order your copy today, go to Wonder Dotcom, the art of Business Wars.
I very much felt like a widow without the sympathy that comes with being a widow, losing your husband. People were angry with me, but nobody was really sad with me, wasn't sad very often. But I had lost my husband. I had lost him physically. Then I had lost the person that I thought he was. And so with my kids. I didn't Capwell dated sooner than I should have. I did the same things that I did when I was 14 and tried to fill that hole too quickly and with bad decisions.
I kept it all for my kids, but I made bad decisions. I had vivid, horrific nightmares. Sometimes they were classic. You know, someone's chasing me. Someone was trying to kill me. Those weren't the ones that were awful. The ones that were awful was when I woke up and he was in bed next to me, that was the nightmare. I woke up and he was in bed next to me and he was acting like nothing had happened.
And I would scream at him and say, What are you doing here? You're not supposed to be here. I would have those kind of nightmares all the time. And a lot of people ask me why I didn't move, I stayed in the same house that we bought together, the same house that we had brought our kids home from the hospital and the same house that we lived in for 13 years. So he was around every corner. But I didn't want that instability for my kids.
I didn't want to move. I didn't want to take their home away from them when they lost their dad. Luckily, his family left me alone. I didn't see much of them, they would call sometimes, but they didn't come to the house.
I did develop and still have some pretty decent PTSD when it comes to police. A few years after this, my neighbor's home was broken into. And so when I got home, there was two police cars in front of my house and I had a full on panic attack. I had trouble with the mail he used to write me threatening letters from jail. His first few letters, he was apologetic, but it was kind of remote, it was I'm sorry, this is happening.
I'm sorry you're having nightmares. I'm sorry this is so bad. This never I'm sorry I did this. There was no accountability for the fact that he had done this and he had put himself in prison. It was just all anger at me for not doing the things he wanted me to do. He got very angry because he thought I was filling the kids' heads with animosity towards him, the kids didn't write him letters, I just didn't. And he thought that I was encouraging them not to.
He thought that I was telling them terrible things about him. And so he would threaten me in letters. He would tell me before, and I know you're going to get yours. Just wait till I get out. But every time I got a letter from him, every time I saw his handwriting, the outside of an envelope, it would send me into a fast heart rate handshaking, even though it was just paper with ink on it. The letters get so threatening that I wrote to the warden and said, your inmate is writing these threatening letters and I would like them to stop, they stopped.
But I don't know if he ever had any kind of consequences from that. I've tried to put myself into his mind to figure out why he was so angry at me and all I could come up with was that I cooperated with the police and I would not bring the kids to visit him in prison. I also would not send him pictures of the kids while he was in prison. I chose not to do those things because I didn't want to traumatize my kids by bringing them to a prison to see their father.
I also chose not to send him pictures because of his claim of temporary insanity. He was put in the psychiatric ward of the hospital and I did not want pictures of my children floating around a psychiatric ward of the hospital. And so I did to protect my kids. That made you very angry. In fact, he would go to alternate sources to try to get pictures of my kids, his family, my family. He would try to contact other people.
He was so adamant to get pictures of them. I was trying all along to keep some kind of relationship for my kids, even though they just were not interested, they just I think they felt like he left them, so they left him. So when I would talk about him with the kid, I would say dad and my daughter, who was maybe eight or nine at this time, she said one day she said, he's not my dad anymore.
And I it was sad. I said, What do you mean he's not your dad anymore? I don't know who he is. My uncle, maybe I said you can call him whatever you want. She said he's still my family, but he's not my dad. And I said, OK. And then I looked to my son and I said, what about you? What what would you like to call him? And he said, that guy, he's just that guy.
And then from then on, he was that guy. While he was still in prison, my son developed a condition called cyclic vomiting syndrome. He would wake up in the middle of the night and vomit over and over and over again 10 or 15 times in an hour. And I would just lay next to him while he was so, so sick. And then the next morning, he would wake up and want pancakes perfectly fine. And this would happen every six months or so.
Finally saw a pediatric GI specialist who diagnosed him with this sick, like vomiting syndrome, which he said is often caused by emotional stress and trauma than it is for anything physical. Luckily, when my life stabilized and I met my current husband, my son's sick, vomiting stopped, my son is not had an episode since. So four years after he was convicted, he was released on good behavior, which I didn't think was appropriate because he had been writing me threatening letters from prison, I didn't think that was good behavior.
But the state that we live in disagreed. Was terrified the day that he was released. I thought he was going to immediately come after us. By this time I had remarried and my husband now is wonderful and was very supportive. And I had given his mug shot to my children's principal and said, under no circumstances is this man to pick up my children or to come near them without my knowledge. But we heard nothing from him for six months after he was released for six months, I kind of walked around on eggshells.
What is he going to do? Is he going to leave us alone permanently or what's going to happen six months after he was released? No letters, no phone calls, nothing. I got a letter from a lawyer saying that he is seeking custody. He wanted 50 percent custody. He wants shared custody. And I said absolutely not. I said, you can have visitation supervised at best, and then we'll go from there. I was willing to let him be a part of their life if I knew that he was safe, if I knew he wasn't going to be detrimental to my kids, if they wanted him in their life, which they were willing initially, but it didn't go off.
Supervised visits or supervised by his family. The kids were emotionally tortured by him. He mostly ignored them during the visits. I think he just wanted to visit them to torture me. He didn't really do much with them. He wouldn't even take them down to the park. That was a block away from his house. He would hold up pictures of my daughter smiling at her and say, see, you do like it here. You do like being with me until she was in tears.
My daughter stopped eating during the visits. My son got very, very quiet. One night I found a pair of scissors in my son's bed. I said, Buddy, what are those for? And he said, I was going to, you know, and he made a motion like he was going to shove the scissors in his abdomen. My son was eight at the time, so I held him and cried and got him into counseling and got him on Prozac, because now my eight year old son was suicidal without even really knowing what the word suicidal meant.
This went on for six months of him making demands on visitation, cancelling visits when he didn't feel like doing it. It was awful. And then all of a sudden one night he texted me and he said, if you give me six hundred dollars and an Xbox, I'll sign away my parental rights. And I wanted to so bad because my kids were miserable, they didn't want to go on the visits and what kind of parent offers sixteen hundred dollars and an Xbox as a price for their children?
He's willing to do that. He should not be their parent. Anyway, contacted my lawyer and he said that I couldn't do that because that would be bribery.
I told him that I couldn't do that. And he said that he would sign away his rights for free. He had met someone, she had actually been writing him letters while he was in prison, he was getting married, she had two kids to foster children. He wanted to move on with his life, wanted to pretend like his previous life had never happened. The entire time that he was in prison, he would write letters to his biological daughter, who I continue to have visitation with.
When he got out, there was those six months where he had no contact with us and he had no contact with her. He didn't try to see her. He didn't have any contact with her. And then I got letters saying that he was taking me to court for custody. I assumed that her mother also got the same letter saying that he was taking her to court for custody, but there was nothing. He never tried to have any visitation with her.
So here's my kids being forced to see him, and I don't want that for them, but then she is being told he doesn't even want you to see you. And I don't know why. I have no idea why. And then when she saw how the visit went with my two kids, she knew she wasn't missing out on anything. But I'm sure that that repeated the cycle of having that missing hole of a father figure.
I sat down and explained to her when I was getting a divorce, I said, I am divorcing your dad, but I'm divorcing him, not you. I would still like to see you as long as you would like to see me. And she asked if I got married again, would he be her dad? And I said, Well, technically, no, but anyone who loves me has to love you. And she said, OK, my husband now does.
He is very much a father figure in her life and she loves him and he loves her. He asked to see them one last time, and I should not have let him because it only caused trauma, my son remembers every detail of that visit. My daughter refused. She said, I'm not going to give him that. I'm not going to go see him. So you don't have to. My son wanted to. He was eight. My ex-husband kneeled down in front of him.
I was there. I saw him do it and he said, I may not be your dad anymore, but I'll always be in your heart and touched his chest. And my son now often talks about what he should have said in that moment. I should have told him this. I should have told him, you're not going to be in my heart anymore and you're not my dad anymore. And I've often had to tell him that he was eight.
It's very difficult to have an articulate response to somebody when they're hurting you like that. And then it's OK not to have that response. I've often told him that if he wants to write him a letter to say all the things that he wished he had said when he was eight, that he can that moment really traumatize my son. There's weird laws in our state that will not allow a man to sign away his parental rights unless there is another man to take them over.
So I looked at my new husband of six months and said, how do you feel about legally adopting these two kids? And he said, Where do I sign? The most difficult thing of the entire thing is trusting I had no intention of marrying again, I just thought I'll be a single mom. There is no way that I can trust my heart and my kids with another person. But my kids would say things like, could you go to Wal-Mart and get us a new dad?
Because Wal-Mart has everything. So they wanted another person in our life and I needed to be able to trust again. And even now with my wonderful husband, I feel like I need to have an escape hatch and an escape plan, because that feeling of getting the rug pulled out from underneath me was not a pleasant one. And I don't feel the need to snoop or know everything about my current husband. But I do feel the need to have an emergency escape plan and do feel the need to be able to operate independently if I had to.
I have found closure with this, I no longer feel the need for revenge. I have a whole lot less anger. My hope for the future is that my kids can find closure with this. I hope that they know that they are wanted and their loved. For a while, I thought, why me so many other people get a happy ending? I eventually did, but how come I had to go through all of it to get there? And then I realized not even the fairy tales don't have some kind of conflict.
Everybody has to go through some kind of awful to get to the happy ending. Everybody does. He don't have some kind of awful happen to you in your life. You haven't lived.
So I have tried to get out of that victim mentality and learned how to be self-reliant, learned how to problem solve. I've learned to give up on the ideal and treasure what I have. I've learned that crap is going to happen. Since then, a worldwide pandemic hit while I was in New York and my mom has been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, so there's always going to be something. No matter how hard you try to make your ideal in your little world, perfect life is going to happen and things are going to fall apart a little bit.
You can't plan for everything. You have to accept, you have to adjust it to adapt and overcome. It's going to be good that comes from the other side, it takes a long time if you're constantly waiting for things to settle or for things to be good, things to be right, you miss out on all the wonderful moments in between. From London. You're listening to this is actually happening, if you love what we do, please rate and review the show.
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Just after New Year's Day, 1983, a man named Mario Rossi quietly vanished off the face of the Earth. The news sent shockwaves through NASCAR, for Rossi was known as a trailblazing engineer. He needs to be looked at as a genuine empirical genius. Soon after, unconfirmed reports of a fatal crash in the Bahamas left people with more questions than answers. I was told he crashed nearby, but that's not so at all. In Season three of the Snake, a true crime podcast from For the win in USA Today, we will investigate the disappearance of Mario Rossi.
And to do so, we will look into a NASCAR drug smuggling scandal that could explain everything that was in the middle of, you know, the race car drivers and the Colombian cartel and everything. The sneaks third season is out April 8th. Wherever you get your podcasts or you can listen to the entire season right now, ad free and Monori. Plus, download the wandering app to start your free trial of one request today.