I Left My Abusive Husband In The Middle Of The Wilderness

How I hitchhiked to freedom.

Last updated on Mar 20, 2024

Hitchhiker woman Aleshyn Andrei, Elitsa Deykova | Canva

He was screaming at me, throwing things, breaking things as we set up camp that night. I’d hiked too slow, walked too fast, not followed the map enough, and led without following. The accusations went on and on. I tried to calm the mood. Reached into my pack to pull out a surprise I’d been keeping — two little hand warmers. Maybe this small comfort would be enough to show my love. I opened the plastic package and exposed them to the air. Waited for the heat to fill my palm. Then placed them gently in the bottom of his sleeping bag.


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It did no good. I woke to more screaming. I’d slept without kissing him. I hadn’t apologized right. I had left us without water. He was cold and it was my fault. He was angry and it was my fault. He was uncomfortable and it was my fault. He raged. I listened gently. Quietly, quickly packed my bag. Hoped my calm readiness would show my loyalty, my love, my willingness to be his battle buddy. It didn’t matter.



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When everything you do is someone else’s excuse to treat you poorly, nothing you do will make them treat you well. He raged and raged. I stood meekly. Apologetically. Gently. Patiently. Listening to it. Taking it. Then he turned to me, lifted a single finger at my face, and spit with disdain: “As far as I’m concerned, you can go off without me.” And that was it. The permission I needed.



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I snapped my pack across my shoulders, turned my back to him, and started walking. Where? I didn’t know. We were days deep in the Colorado wilderness. I had no map. No cell service. But as I placed one foot in front of the other, he screaming at me, calling me names. Telling me I’m no good. I’m the worst. I deserve nothing in life.


I started to whisper to myself: Don’t go back. Do not go back, Brooke. Then louder, my voice overcoming his: Do not go back. You are done being treated like this. As his booming waned behind me, a raven cawed, and stared at me from the side of the road. As if to announce the space where I left that voice behind, that life behind. So that’s how I ended up unshowered and weeping, hitchhiking somewhere on Highway 24 — and it’s one of the bravest and best things I’ve ever done for myself.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of ongoing emotional abuse, you are not alone.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not a reflection of who you are or anything you've done wrong.

If you feel as though you may be in danger, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474, or log onto thehotline.org.

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Brooke Lark is a photographer, cookbook writer, and founder of LarkXCo Connection Studio —a creative studio in Salt Lake City dedicated to creating content, conversations, and experiences that shift perspective, ignite possibility, and bring real humans together in real ways.