The Small Miracle That Helped Me Leave My Abuser

Photo: doidam10, Hemera | Canva 
Woman pouting with a scared girl in the background

Fifteen years ago my marriage blew apart. The volcano of tension that had been building for months finally erupted. The warning tremors had included emotional distance; my husband Shaun's affair with his supposed best friend; and verbal rages that I was expected to tolerate because to walk away was to abandon him. That night I was nursing one of the 6-month-old twins to sleep when the other twin woke up. Shaun, unable to comfort the wailing infant, accused me of taking away the baby's bottle, which I later found in the folds of the sheets.

My husband's rage escalated until he finally grabbed me around the throat and pinned me on the bed. Miraculously, the baby had fallen back to sleep, just three feet away. Somehow I coaxed Shaun to release me. I walked into the kitchen to call my friend Sallie, to ask her to let me sleep on her sofa. I wanted an emotional buffer, a human Switzerland, to still the volcanic tremors. But, in mid-sentence, Shaun grabbed the phone and threw it against the wall, leaving a 3-inch dent in the plaster.

Luckily, I had a small miracle to help me leave my abuser — but most women don't.

RELATED: How To Leave An Emotionally Abusive Relationship That You *Know* Must End

Sallie and her daughter, Carrie, arrived within 20 minutes. Even though our conversation had been cut short by the shattering of the phone, she showed up. “When I heard your voice, I knew I had to come. There was no way I wasn’t going to come.” Sallie and Carrie helped me bundle the boys and buckle them into car seats on that late April night. For two nights I slept with the boys on Sallie’s roll-out sofa.



Then two other dear friends invited me to stay with them. They asked their next-door neighbors if I could park my car in their garage, to conceal my whereabouts. The neighbors graciously cleared their daughter’s stored belongings from the garage to make space for my car. About a week later, I moved back into the house. I helped Shaun find an apartment, and friends arrived to move his things.

RELATED: 6 Heartbreaking Ways Emotional Abuse Changes You

First-time shame on you, I thought. The second time, shame on me. I wasn’t going to give Shaun a second chance to abuse me. Five days after Shaun’s attack, I decided to move. Within a week, the house was on the market. In another week, the house had sold. I rented a moving van, with no idea of where I was headed. I spent at least six hours per day on the nursing pillow while the twin boys alternately nursed and slept.

Marooned on this nursing island, I made phone calls and began to rebuild my life. I found a house on the internet, and with the help of a dear friend, began to pack. I also happened upon an article by an acupuncturist who described her experience as a battered wife, with equally abused children. Like many abusive men, her husband had succeeded in isolating her from family and friends.

“I can’t count the number of times I packed clothes and my children into the car, and then just sat in the driveway. I didn’t have a place to go.” It was years before she discovered that she lived within a mile of one of the largest battered women’s shelters in the United States. Finally, she had a place to go. I was fortunate, blessed beyond measure. I had several places to go when I needed to flee. I had resources and a way to support the boys and myself.

RELATED: How I Saved Myself From An Emotionally Abusive Man — And You Can, Too

Before that April night, I could not understand women who stay in abusive relationships. How could they allow themselves to get into that situation in the first place? But driving those dark, rain-slicked streets of Portland, Oregon, following my friend, Sallie’s taillights, the night I left Shaun — I had a new understanding. Like the seemingly placid volcanic peaks of the Pacific Northwest, my stressful, but well-controlled life was subject to erupt at any moment. The quixotic power that shaped the mountains also rerouted my life path and changed it forever.


My harsh judgments of abused women vaporized in the sudden heat of that eruption. No one plans to be abused. Few consciously court the demon of violence. Not all of us have the skill, the knowledge, or the resources to outrun the lava flow that threatens to engulf our lives. I understand that when the tremors start, not all of us have a place to go. I was blessed to have a community of support. I pray that you do, too.

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.

RELATED:I Was In A Horrifyingly Abusive Marriage — And Didn't Even Know It

Dr. Judith Boice is a naturopathic doctor, licensed acupuncturist, international best-selling author, and award-winning author and teacher. She is a professor at the American College of Healthcare Sciences.