“I met my abuser in 2011,” stated Anna, bluntly. “I had two children at that point in my life. Being a single mom was hard, and one of the best accomplishments. My best friend told me that her brother-in-law wanted to meet.”
Anna met her friend’s brother-in-law, Gary, and within two years, they were engaged to be married.
One day when Anna came home from work, Gary broke the news to her that his father died.
“We found out after his death that his father was found naked in his basement, withdrawing from heroin,” recounted Anna. “Our whole family was hurt. Shortly after, I began to notice a difference in Gary.”
Everyone expects grief to affect people in different ways. Emotional and behavioral changes are more intense and frequent shortly after a loss, but, even still, something was not sitting right with Anna.
“He kept losing jobs. My parents would come by my house, and he would be gone,” said Anna, who noted a time Gary was to watch her children while she went to the movies with her friends. “He was supposed to pick me up after the movie but left me stranded. My phone was dead. I was heartbroken.”
Even worse, Anna would later learn that he left her children to go to a party with underage girls to use drugs.
“My children were home alone. They were only six and four at the time.”
Anna managed to make it back home after the movies. Once Gary came home, she attempted to confront him, and he beat her.
“I thought I did something wrong,” said Anna, echoing all too many victims of domestic abuse. “Two days after that, he wrecked my car. A couple of days after that, he was let go from another job, due to his drug use.”
Around this time, Anna began to find pills all over the house. She jumped into action and petitioned a 302 at the local hospital. A 302 petition is an authorization for involuntary emergency evaluation for no more than 120 hours (5 days). Three people can authorize this: a County Mental Health Officer, a police officer, or a physician.
The reasons for seeking a 302 are that a person exhibiting severe mental disability poses a present danger to self or others. The person is then taken to a hospital for an examination.
At the hospital, a doctor decides whether the person needs hospitalization or not.
“The hospital authorities kept him and wanted to send him to rehab,” said Anna.
Anna left the hospital believing Gary was going to get the help he so desperately needed. Instead, according to Anna, he fled from the hospital and walked 10 miles in two foot of snow in a hospital gown.
“He hid in my attic,” shared Anna. “Once he spent enough time in the attic to make me think the hospital released him, he had clothes on and walked in my door.”
Anna would not realize he had been squatting in her attic until she ventured up and saw evidence of this. At the time, Anna believed Gary was clean, and that they would be able to move forward in their relationship.
Instead, he totaled her car on the way back from picking up drugs. He returned to their home, Anna called the police, and Gary, once again, fled before they arrived.
Anna began to formulate a plan to remove herself and her children from Gary safely. Anna told Gary he should start looking for a roommate to stay in their extra bedroom to help them with bills that had begun to pile on the kitchen counter. In reality, Anna never planned to stay in the home much long after the roommate.
“Gary found a roommate for ‘us’ quickly,” said Anna. “Next thing I know, I had a heroin dealer living in my home with my children.”
Things began to “disappear” from her home, like her television.
Her plan to quietly exit Gary’s life and start a new life for her and her children backfired. Anna constantly felt like she was trapped in an inescapable situation.
“Gary asked me when we were getting married,” recalled Anna. “I was so scared of him at that point, I just responded ‘whenever.’”
Threatening her by showing her his handgun, a weapon she did not even know Gary possessed, they went to the courthouse and were married.
“We came home from getting married, and he beat me. I was in bed for two days,” said Anna.
Anna was beaten and bruised, but plotting her escape once again.
One day, when Gary was out of the house, Anna packed a few of her family’s belongings and left the house. Gary must have known she was leaving him because he was watching her from a distance.
“He threw me all around and pushed me down the steps. He yanked me back up the steps and locked me in the bedroom,” described Anna. “I opened the bedroom window and screamed for help. Three teenage boys heard and called the police.”
Anna was admitted to the hospital for her injuries at the hands of Gary, who was arrested and placed in rehab. Anna filed a PFA (protection from abuse) against Gary.
The restraining order did not keep Gary from hacking into Anna’s social media and bank accounts. Through her email, he found where Anna and her children were now residing. He began to stalk her relentlessly.
The authorities were once again able to intervene in time to save Anna and her children. He was arrested once again, and placed in rehab once again.
Anna’s next home address was put in an address confidentiality program, a program that allows victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other types of crime to receive mail at a confidential address while keeping their actual address undisclosed.
Anna lives in fear every day. Gary has not stopped stalking Anna since March of 2014.
“He always finds a way out to find me. To this day, I can’t have friends; I can’t give anyone my address. My life has been horrible,” said Anna. “I can’t have a normal life. I can’t just leave the state and take my girls because their biological father is excellent and I would never do that to him.”
In hindsight, Anna does admit the signs of Gary’s drug use before his father’s death were there, she just didn’t seem them because she wasn’t looking. For example, before meeting Gary, Child Protective Services removed Gary’s own child from his home, and he lost custody. Gary told Anna it was because his ex, his baby’s mother, was using drugs in the home.
Anna believes his father’s death caused Gary to spiral out of control, making it impossible to continue to hide his addiction to opiates.
To read more stories like Anna’s, check out Alicia Cook’s book Heroin is the Worst Thing to Ever Happen to Me on Amazon.