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How I Found The Courage To Leave My Toxic Marriage

Julie Morey
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December 13, 2015

The last four years of my marriage had been, to put it mildly, rocky. Alcohol had taken a firm hold on my husband and the disease was wreaking havoc on our marriage and on me. The amazing, loving man I had married who used to whip up dinner for me on nights I worked late had turned into a moody, hurtful person I didn't recognize — a man who told me, "I have to drink to deal with you."

Every day I walked on eggshells, fearful of triggering one of his angry outbursts. I'd insisted on marriage counseling and that had helped for a bit. We even tried a trial separation, but nothing had the power to break the hold alcohol had on him.

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I was holding out the slim and desperate hope that our upcoming trip to Borneo would “fix” us. A week of diving, rafting, jungle treks, and other adventures was just what we needed.

At the time, I didn’t understand how warped my thinking was or how deep into codependency I had sunk. My world revolved around my husband and his issues. I couldn't see that by staying and molding my life and my behaviors to him, I was enabling him to continue drinking. A trip could never solve the real issues that were destroying us both. Unless he admitted he had a problem and sought help, we were doomed.

The night before our trip, my husband randomly drunkenly announced, “We’re not married anymore and I am not going.” There was no logic behind it, no warning. And no amount of begging could change his mind.

I wasn't sure I could take the trip by myself, but I thought, “I won’t let him ruin one more thing in my life.” In tears, I boarded the plane to Borneo. I was shaking at the thought of traveling alone. I'd always had my husband for support. I was frightened of navigating a foreign country and having no one but myself to rely on, but I was determined to go.

That trip changed everything.

As I navigated local transportation successfully, I rediscovered my resourceful side. I started to remember that I was brave and smart. When I needed directions, I found myself talking to strangers and remembered how much I loved meeting new people. In my hostel, I made friends and had long nights of great conversation, fresh seafood, and local beers. I remembered that I was social and loved interacting with others.

During my scuba dives I marveled at the wonders of the world as I dived deep below the ocean into a rainbow world of fish, opening up yet another piece of me that I had buried deep during my troubled marriage.

I came home and I asked for a divorce. In that week away, I found myself again, and the thought of returning to a marriage in which my husband made me feel small and emotionally unstable was unbearable. I could finally see that we were destroying each other and the only way to "save" both of us was to leave.

It was the hardest thing I ever did. My husband begged me to stay, but he wasn't willing to make the hard changes that would have been necessary. I could finally see that clearly.

Over the next six years, I traveled to over 30 new countries by myself. I backpacked though Southeast Asia and South America. I danced the night away at the full moon party in Thailand. I scootered through rice paddies at sunrise in Vietnam. I kissed waaaay too many boys with accents.

I lived.

For me, the journey from brokenness to wholeness was a lengthy roller coaster of a ride. I dealt with guilt, self-doubt, and frustration as I learned again to navigate the world alone. But along with that came the amazing high of discovering myself again and reclaiming me.

Eventually I came back to the states and started my own business — as a divorce coach. My journey had instilled in me a deep belief that no one should have to struggle as much as I did or feel alone as they navigate the murky waters of divorce. And I learned that my passion was to help other women.

I wanted to see them transform from the brokenness of divorce into the whole, healthy person they were meant to be — and to share that journey with them. I wanted to offer the wisdom and insight I had gained in the last six years, to be there for them every step of the way, and to ease the transition for them.

If you’re struggling with a divorce or breakup and don’t know the next step to rebuilding your life, reach out. Find a coach who wants to help you find yourself again. Talk to your friends. Don’t struggle with your demons alone. Find a warrior to stand beside you, so you can tag-team the ass-kicking you’re about to give all the things that have been holding you back.

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Julie Morey
Julie Morey

Julie Morey is a Divorce Recovery Coach and author of Travel, Sex, & Train Wrecks, a memoir about her adventures traveling around Southeast Asia after her divorce. You can find her at She also runs a private Facebook group for women looking for support and encouragement after divorce.