Twenty five years ago Sue’s life changed forever.
Unexpectedly and suddenly, she found herself on a murder charge. How does a person cope with this kind of ‘life shock’? The unexpected collision point which takes over your life and leaves its mark indefinitely?
In this episode, Sue talks about the traumatising events that led to her arrest, how it completely blindsided her, and the ways in which she managed to begin healing and find her way back to herself.
In this Episode
- The under recognised stresses of living with another’s addiction
- Navigating a major ‘life shock’
- Learning to forgive
- Finding yourself again after life-changing events
- Transcending emotional scars to help others
Mentioned in this Episode
Life Shocks by Sophie Sabbage – book
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Music by Grant McLachlan
International Domestic Violence Resource Guide 2021
Refuge – National Domestic Abuse Helpline
Citizens Advice – Help for domestic violence and abuse
Victim Support – Help for domestic abuse
NHS – Getting help for domestic violence and abuse
Controlled, Abused and Criminalised – BBC Sounds ‘File on 4’ story
Adfam – Help for families dealing with drug and alcohol addiction
Al Anon – Family group support alcohol addiction, drug addiction and addictive behaviours
Prisoners’ Families Helpline – Support (England and Wales only)
Partners of Prisoners – Support to family and offenders
Carers UK – Support for carers
Samaritans – FREE Help – Tel: 116 123, E: email@example.com
The British Psychology Society – Find a Psychologist
1800 Respect – National sexual assault, domestic family violence counselling service
Lifeline – How to get help for domestic and family violence
White Ribbon Australia – List of helplines for domestic abuse
Bars Between – Support organizations in Australia and NZ
Community Restorative Centre – Help to prepare for prison and court dates
Beyond Blue – Mental health support
Headspace – National Youth Mental Health Foundation with support services
The Black Dog Institute – Medical health resources, services and research
SANE Australia – Counselling support, Tel: 1800 187 263 (10am – 10pm)
Alcohol and Drug Foundation – Help and Support Services
National Domestic Violence Helpline – Domestic violence support
National Institute of Mental Health – A range of helplines
American Psychologist Association – Psychologist Finder
OR contact medical/legal/law enforcement in your country.
This podcast contains conversations around trauma, addiction, domestic violence, death, homicide, and other challenging subjects, and maybe sensitive for some listeners. Listener discretion is advised. If you need resources to get help, please see the show notes.
You're listening to Drawn to a Deeper Story. I'm Cath Brew from Drawn to a Story. I'm an Australian artist who illustrates and educates about marginalized experiences for positive change, with a particular interest in identity, belonging, and expat life. This podcast is about lives that challenge us and the difficult conversations around them.
It's a place to listen openly to absorb people's truths and to learn how to show up differently for the benefit of everyone. And that's you included. The author, Sophie Sabbage talks about 'life shocks'. She describes that they are unwanted and unexpected moments in our lives. They
surprise us. They blind sight us. They shock us. They command our attention. Some bounce off us, others strike deep into our being and these moments are collision points between how we see life and how life actually is. These are life shocks. There's no one who understands the impact of a life shock more than today's guest. Sue is a canine beautician and breeds poodles. I want to give you an image of Sue. She's a gentle soul. She's incredibly kind. She's very small in stature, and as I'm saying this, she's giving me symbols to show how small she really is, but she's also the type of person who would do anything for you. She's the person you want at your community fete, because she's going to have organized the dog show, baked lots of cakes for the cake stall, collects things for the raffle. She's the person that turns up early to set up, stays late to pack down and then she's also that person that gives other helpers a ride home. Yes,
she's that person. Welcome, Sue. Thank you very much for joining me today.
Sue: Thank you.
So imagine yourself working, getting on with life, living with your husband, trying to get on with life generally, like we all do and then one day, one day life changes forever. The life shock is now your life. This is a big subject and to be honest, I'm really not quite sure where to start with it. In 1996, Sue spent 10 weeks on a murder charge. Can you please give me some background to actually how that came about and what led up to you being on a murder charge?
Yeah, well, we got married in 1990. My husband was a plumber and general sort of builder and he worked for a man who had his own business doing household extensions and things. I
was introduced to him by this man and we, you know, we sort of hit it off together and he seemed interested so long as he liked the dogs, which he did and we went out on a few dates and I remember he came with me to a dog show and, uh, he wasn't really interested in the showing of the dogs. He liked the dogs, but he went off and I thought, well, he left me to show the dog and he came back and I thought gosh, he's had a few drinks and apparently he'd had four points and he was only a small frame. He was only five foot four and quite slim. I thought, where on earth did he put it all? Anyway, he was definitely a bit inebriated by the time we left and I was a bit concerned and I said to him, that's quite a lot of beer, and he says, oh, that's nothing and I felt like asking him when, if that's nothing, what is something? But I just didn't say anything and that was the beginning of concerned that,
you know, he was quite a heavy drinker and he needed it every day. I'm a teetotaller, so drink to me, I've no trust in at all. But, you know, we got on well, and in the end, a bit of pressure from me mother saying, it's about time you got married, you know, so, well, all right then, so we got married, but I was aware that he had a drink, not so much a problem then. He did keep it quite well hidden, but smoke and I said, oh, I don't smoke either. I've got no vices. Anyway, we sort of went on from there and two years after we got married, his boss lost his job. He went bankrupt. It was the crash of the building trade, that must've been, well about 92...93
Devastating for everyone.
Yeah. So his boss went bankrupt and disappeared off the scene, leaving him high and dry with no job, no [00:05:00] income and there's me struggling to keep it going with only my dog income. He then gradually just sunk into more and more depression. I managed to get him a few jobs with my clients, but it was becoming a bit unreliable because he needed drink every day and it just got worse. So he totally lost control and he could be quite aggressive and I felt quite threatened at times. The psychological pressure on me to produce beer and fags every day regardless of whether I've earned enough money or not.
That must have been incredibly difficult.
It was, I didn't realize how much stress I was suffering from because I wasn't aware it was a gradual process. Anyway, this went on for quite some time and I did try to get him some help by arranging appointments at the doctor but he wouldn't turn up and his drinking, he needed to be drunk before we went to bed and the first thing he did when he
woke up was look for the can of beer and it was strong, special brew.
Yeah very strong. I've had one of those and I'm on the floor.
He would have about eight cans.
And this particular weekend, when it all kicked off, he'd had an awful lot of drink on the Saturday. I hadn't got any dog shows that weekend. I'd arranged for him to perhaps go and see somebody about doing a job, but he was so hung over from the day before he wouldn't go. So I had to phone a client of mine, which I felt really embarrassed to do to say, I'm sorry, we won't be coming. So anyway, I got a bit cross with him and I, just, in the end I just got the hoover out and started hoovering and he was watching the telly and he shouted at me to turn the hoover off, sort of words that are unprintable.
Please be aware that the next five minutes includes descriptions of domestic violence and homicide. Listener discretion is advised.
Um, and he came at me and knocked me against the wall. He was really just totally freaked out. He freaked me out was coming in to attack me. I ran into the kitchen cause I thought, I've got to get out of here. So I went in the kitchen to the corner, turned round and there he was coming at me. He'd ripped the wooden poodle apricot poodle that was on the door, which was quite large and he had it in his hand and he said, I'm going to ram this down your throat. And honestly, I stood there and I thought, yeah, you could do this and I don't know how I would stop you.
And terrifying, not knowing what would happen.
Well it was. I actually put my hands out to brace myself and see if I could grab his arm with the poodle in it. Sounds a bit far fetched, but that's how it happens and my hand landed on top of the microwave and our kitchen knife was there
and my hand literally landed on the knife handle and I grabbed it and of course I'm naturally left-handed, but the knife was on my right side. So I pulled it across in front of me and said, look, I've got a knife! But he never took any notice, his propulsion towards me, was such and he was so enraged at this point, he just run straight on to it and it went through his ribs, punctured his heart.
And then, um, he sort of collapsed to the floor in a heap. It seemed, everything went quiet. All the shouting had stopped. And I was still there with a knife in my hand because it hadn't pushed it in and he pulled away and sunk to the floor and his back was towards me. So I didn't know what was happening in the other side. So I stood there absolutely in shock and shaking.
What on earth was going through your mind?
I didn't even know it punctured him because I was looking at him and not the knife. I looked at the knife and saw there was a very thin, um,
smear of blood on it. So I thought, oh my God, I must have stabbed him. So I called him no response and very gradually I walked round. So that I was the other side of him and to my shock, there was this huge pool of blood coming out from his chest area, looked like a spill from an oil tanker. It was very slow, very dark red. So I thought, bloody hell. Well that going to do?
And how quickly your life changes from dealing with a situation to then suddenly oh my god.
Yeah, exactly. I thought, well, I ain't going to be able to fix that with a Band-Aid. It was getting a bigger and bigger spread of blood on a bright yellow kitchen floor. The smell.
So what did you do?
Well, I phoned straight away, nine, nine, nine. I spoke to a policemen and he said, what's happened? I said, I think I've stabbed my husband, but I couldn't see any, all I could see was this huge pool of blood. "Oh dear Madam" he said. I think I bet have an
ambulance as well. This was a Sunday lunchtime, you know, in darkest February, February the 18th. And within about five, 10 minutes, I'd run into my neighbour across the hall because I was living in some flats then and I said, oh God, come over. So she came running in and screamed. So by that time there was a wale of sirens. Police cars, an ambulance, they all rushing in. All the curtains were twitching around. Not much happens on a dark February morning, you know. So anyway, they all rushed upstairs. The ambulance people came in the kitchen first and police went off in the other room after assessing what was going on. I still had the knife in me and he said, can you just put the knife down on the table? It was like, my hand was rigid. I had a job to open it up to let the night cause I was gripping it so tight. So I put it down. The paramedic could see I was in shock and said, "look, go and sit in the other room" where the police were and my friend who was
having hysterics and the police didn't really know who was the one that called them because she was there having hysterics. I was in shock, but not making a lot of sense. After a bit they worked out, it was me, they eventually took Robert away. He was apparently was still alive, but he wasn't communicative at all. So they took him downstairs and then the police started asking me questions and all sorts of relaying what happened and then they said, do you have a shoe box? And that sort of threw me for a bit because every thing went quiet and I thought, have I got a shoe box? I don't think I do because you don't keep shoe boxes these days.
Was that to put the knife in?
Yeah, but I didn't realize that. I did find a Pringle container, so he tipped the Pringles out and it was just the right length to put it in. Why do you want a shoe box? He said to put the knife in. So we emptied out the Pringles and knocked all the bits and pieces out and he
stuck the knife in there and then they took it away.
And what happened to you?
At some point, he must've said right I'm arresting you on grievous bodily harm. I wasn't really concentrating, but they took me and the dogs downstairs. I still had hold of the four dogs and one of my neighbours from another flat came and they took the dogs. I got in the police car and I was driven away and I said, well, where are We're going? And I really given it any thought the seriousness of my situation at that point.
Well you were in shock too.
Sue: We're going to the police station and they stopped almost back out on the main road when another police car stopped opposite and this man with legs like lampposts, I tell you he was so tall, he come marching across and got in the car and sat next to me. It was like, I was like shrunk in this corner absolutely not knowing what was going on and what was going to happen. We went to the police
station and I was initially going through the process of going through the arrest and then I had to go with a couple of police women to check whether I had anything hidden in orifices you wouldn't normally want to look into and then I had to go and see a medical examiner. I had to go through all sorts of processes there, blood samples, mouth swabs, everything to get DNA, but there's nothing really, cause he hadn't actually physically touched me. He got the knife before managed to hit me, the poodle was dropped on the floor, which someone else picked up. So I was then taken for interview and by that time, Robert was declared dead. So I was now officially a murderer.
What I know of you is you're like Mrs. Jo Bloggs that's just in the village that gets on with life and to suddenly have that I mean, that's heavy heavy stuff.
Definitely and I mean, I didn't know that
apparently they'd done a post-mortem on him and found out that he had early cirrhosis of the liver caused by excessive drink, but no other symptoms, so, yeah, I had to officially be charged from, just doing his body harm to actually killing somebody and that literally just threw me. I just didn't know what to do. I was worried about the dogs and my whole life was like come to a halt. They were having difficulty getting a hold of my parents. They were working and I couldn't remember what the name of the road was. I couldn't remember anything. It was all my head was just in a whorl. They said, oh, I need a solicitor and I said, well, I can't afford it, oh, well, we'll provide one for you. I was put in this cell while these things were being arranged and it was just like a square box with glass bricks in the top. You couldn't see out and it was huge and it had a little place that was a toilet
and a bed and that was it. I felt like a tiny little insect in this huge room and every so often, I'd see a pair of eyes peering at me through the, through the gap, the door. And I was just sat there wondering what on earth happens next? And then this policeman, um, he seemed like a top, policeman, he had all the paraphernalia, an older man, he came and he looked very embarrassed and he said to me, um, I'm very sorry, but you're going to have to go through all those processes of DNA collection again. I said, well, why? He said, well, he didn't really say, but I think what it was, the initial collection was before my husband had died. So now that he died and I was officially charged with murder, then the whole process took on a different, whole new thing, much more intense. I go marching back and he
went through the whole process all over again. After all that goes back to, to the cells, stay there for a bit, and then, uh, a solicitor turns up, so I go into another room and he said, well, this is quite a serious charge. I hadn't really sunk in yet.
The reality of what you were facing...
Yeah. So, we went through what's likely to happen. We go into another room, which is then you've got the two other policemen in there, my solicitor and two people, the CID, one sat one end of the table. I was facing a wall and they had all the recording equipment there and I think it was about two and a half hours of questioning, right from the very beginning, right up to the present day. And I was totally exhausted and I'd also gone down with a cold on the Friday and my throat was raw and I could hardly speak at the [00:17:00] end and the solicitor said, look, we're not getting any further. I think she's told you all that you need to know. And then I was put back in the cell. They brought me some food, which I just couldn't eat.
How long were you in the cell?
Well, I was there for two and a half days. I was due to go into court for 10 o'clock Tuesday morning, but cause I couldn't sleep and they gave me a sleeping pill and I hadn't really woken up properly so they couldn't do it. But what I found very strange and it's something I wanted to talk to the FME about, but I never saw him again. In the middle of the night I found myself on the ceiling, but not touching the ceiling, but right up high and I was looking down at myself.
Like an out of body experience.
Yeah, lying on the floor. Apparently I must have gotten to sleep and fallen off the bed. So they just came in and put a blanket over me and left me, but I saw it all. I
saw the door open. I saw the lady police woman who came in and said, oh gosh, we'll, just leave her where she is. They said, well, do you think we ought to get the FME? It was middle of the night. No, she said she should just sleep it off, but I was up watching all this, watched him coming in, listening to what they were saying. And I saw, well, then all sorts of questions were going through me. Have I died? Am I, is this my body wanting to leave and it can't get out the cell? Was this my spirit? I mean, all these things were going through me while I was hovering around at the top of the ceiling, looking at me on the floor.
Some kind of trauma response to thing that you've just experienced.
I was questioning myself. I said, well, have I died? What is I have? What happens now? Do I get back in my body? Or was that it? Have I left?
So what happened then?
I woke up in the morning. All these questions I no know answers to. In the
morning, the door opened and I was looking up at somebody and I'd obviously gone back in or is it your spirit. I've no idea. I haven't had a chance to talk to anybody who knew this out of body experience. People talk about them, but having physically had one it was weird because I had no one to discuss it with, is this normal? Nobody to ask. Anyway, I was glad to be back in me body because I thought wasn't very nice being up on the ceiling. So, this was now Tuesday lunchtime. They put my court case till two o'clock, because I wasn't fit to go in in the morning.
How were you feeling at that point?
I was not really with it at all. I didn't have to say much. They asked me my name and I told them, and that was it really? My solicitor said, well, you might be on remand and he was thinking now, which one could we send you to, would it be Holloway? Would it be this? Would
be that? And I was like, I just didn't care. I'd had a word that my dogs were gone to different friends, so I thought right I don't have to worry about them at the moment.
I imagine that it'd be all a bit of a blur as well. I can't even comprehend the processing that would have been going on for you regardless of lack of sleep and taking a sleeping pill and all the kind of stuff that would affect your body, but the physical trauma response for you, all the chemicals coming into your body?
Well, what I didn't realize was that the word had gone out that this had happened and I'm very well-known in the dog world. It went viral that I was where I was. They had people phoning up sending cards and treats and things and they said, they've never had anyone like me in with so many people wanting to support.
Whilst you're still in the police station?
Yeah. This was all coming in on the Monday and they went to the dog club, which I've been there now what 50
years and asking questions about me, was I a loner, you know, usual sort of thing and everyone said, no, she's absolutely wonderful and she wouldn't hurt a fly. They couldn't find anyone who had anything nasty or horrible to say about me. One of the detectives went to talk to Robert's previous lady he lived with, and, she said, yes, she had trouble with him, with his drinking and put her in hospital. This policeman said to me, you know, her statement, does you no harm whatsoever because you now have got history of abuse, physical and mental.
I wanted to ask you what happened when it happened, did anyone fall away or did people, they obviously knew you so well.
Yeah, no. I got still managing to do my dog trimming. I had to explain to people. I was given bail, which is unusual in a murder case, but because I wasn't considered a danger to anybody, I got 10 weeks, bail, which I had to go to a police station. I had to stay with my
parents, twice a week. So I had to work that in, around my job, but it was my job and my dogs that sort of kept me going.
How did you cope in that 10 weeks? What got you through until you knew?
Well, I had a lot of friends around me. I used to go to friends who I would talk and talk and talk and talk. It's a way of just getting all of the stress out and they were very good. They listened over and over again. I had to go and see a psychiatrist. I went to the hospital and talked to one guy and he said, how do you feel about it? Do you feel any remorse? And I said, to be honest, I don't know how I feel. I've never been in this situation before. My feelings change by the minute. One minute, I would feel angry that Robert had pushed me into this position that I had to defend myself and this is what happened. Then I'd feel angry at myself for not
recognizing that this was gonna come to a head at some point and make a better effort of getting him seen but I did, but he wouldn't ever turn up.
And hindsight, hindsight's a wonderful thing, but it's also really damaging.
If I said to him, I think you're becoming an alcoholic he'd deny it virulently and said, no, he enjoys a drink, but he's not an alcoholic, but he was just in denial and I didn't know many alcoholics, none at all, so I didn't know the pattern because not coming from a house where we had drink so I'd never come up against anyone who has drink problems, never heard of Al Anon, which is for families and relatives of drinkers. I felt angry with myself and then I'd feel very upset because it seemed my whole life had been turned upside down, just trying to protect myself and if he killed me, what would have happened? You know, it was a very difficult situation and my emotions, I was on like a permanent roller coaster. I'd
have highs and lows and my doctors kept giving me antidepressants for when I was low and then I'd be on anti-psychotics. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and I had bipolar for about a year or more. Couldn't control when I was high and the pills were always on catch-up because they never worked straight away. So my antidepressants would kick in when I was already high. And then that would send me even higher than I'd have to drive extra drugs to bring me back down. It was all over the place.
I can't imagine that rollercoaster where your body's just reacting. You've got no control over...
Well, I didn't, as I say to the psychiatrist, I said, I just don't know how I feel because you asked me in five minutes time and I feel something totally different and he said, well, stay close to your doctor, my dear and that was it and I was living in the bloomin' doctors because I just didn't want to go home. My mind would be thinking, right
will I have to go to prison? And how will I cope in prison? What would happen to me dogs? Would I go for a long time? I mean, it was a murder charge for goodness sake.
And presumably, back living in the flat where it happened?
No, I never went back to that flat. I lived with my parents up to the time of when I was due to go back to the court after the 10 weeks to decide what they were going to do from then on. I'd had a moment of madness. I tried to commit suicide and that didn't work. My dog put her paw on my wrist as I was hurtling towards a brick wall and that pulled me back straight away thinking, oh God, this isn't just my life. It's me dog's life. But she put a paw on my wrist. She must've known, but it was enough of a time that I could suddenly realize what was happening. I was able to drag the car round a sharp corner. Thankfully there was no one coming the other way because I was right on the wrong side of the road.
Was that you just wanting just to stop the pain?
I'd had a very intensive meeting with the solicitor who said, look, you don't realize how serious this is and I'd worked really hard to be on the compos mentis state when he wanted to do a big interview with me and I felt really angry because I had worked so hard to be able to be... not calm, but able to explain everything.
Express yourself basically?
Yeah and he thought that I was taking it too lightly, because I really struggled to be able to tell him everything. He expected me to be more emotional and I was so angry with him. I think that's it. I'm just going to do, I thought for my parents, would they want to keep coming up to some prison to see me. So I thought if I do myself away now, then that's it it's over for them. It's over for me, but it wasn't meant to be obviously.
And I'm jolly glad you didn't.
Yeah. So once I stopped and literally I just shook and cried and cried and shook and it was just the raw emotion was just pouring out. Me realizing I could have just killed myself and I was so angry with the solicitor for not taking me seriously, that I actually went back and I walked right in his office that the receptionist said, oh, you can't go in there, but luckily he didn't have anyone in there and I went right up to his chair and I let him have it. I had all this emotion coming out and he was sat in his chair, you know, he couldn't go back any further and I let him know how I felt and then I just turned around and walked out and I then felt as if everything had drained out of me. I felt like often I was like a badly shaken can of Coke, which suddenly you take the lid off when all this stuff comes out.
That's a really good analogy, actually. The pressure all the time.
What fascinates me is that you had the pressure when you married and
Robert was alive and that slowly building up and then this catastrophic thing happens.
I didn't realize how stressed I was until it all happened. The psychiatrist gave me a psychologist and I had this woman for six months and that helped a lot because she were able to sort of crack the badly shaken can of drink up and very gradually release the pressure rather than just take the lid off, straight away. You get this sort of fizzing coming out until you've got that fizz out and then you've just got Coke flat. But every time it was just like having a Band-Aid over a gaping wound. It soon fell away and the gaping wound was still there.
In the time I've known you, we've always kind of said it with a smile, but we've always talked about you having a high startle factor.
I still do!
And I wanted to ask you about that. Can you tell me more about the residual impacts on you today?
Well, yes I have high anxiety, rate. It doesn't take much to get me
stressed, so yes, I have a high startle and I really jump and that's basically, that's what it's left me with. Also, I never wanted to anywhere close to another bloke. I think that's why two years later I was in a very strange way shown the church at MCC because there were no blokes there that I felt scared of and the women, you know, I was very friendly with everyone, but I wasn't going to be a threat, but emotionally I was not attached to any of them, but they were there to be friends for me, but going back to the after-effects after the inquest the case was dropped. I had no case to answer for. I acted in self-defence and my own personal history and those of others, there was no further case to go for. So I just walked away.
How do you go from having a murder thing on you...?
It was very, very difficult because it was a steady build up over the 10 weeks that I was coming to this sort of cliff, the edge of the cliff to know what was going to happen.
Holding that is huge.
And my solicitor phoned me as it was a Friday evening and I was due to go back to court on the Monday and I was with a friend, thankfully. He phoned up and he said that your court case on Monday has been cancelled and you no longer have a murder charge hanging over you. I said, well, how can that happen? He said, look, just accept it. That as far as they're concerned, you have no case to answer. You acted in self defensive role and just put it behind you, but it never goes away. You can't and then I had all the, all the television outside. They were waiting to interview me. I had all sorts of people wanting to interview me, people from a magazine, come and
want my story. I was out walking with the dogs one occasion, a lady recognized me and she just came over, and she said, my dear, if it hadn't been for your story and what happened to you, I would never have had the courage to leave my husband, because she was heading in that direction with her husband and she said, what your case has made me decide that I can't go on anymore, live in this, this fright and this fear. She would have probably ended up in the same way. And that wasn't the only person who would talk to me about that and then a year later I was asked to go on the Kilroy Silk program. I said, oh, I don't know. It's dragging it all back. Not that it ever went away, but they said, well, people would be interested in your story and you might be able to help other people. And go all the way to London. There were all sorts of people there. Similar circumstances to myself. It was the first time I actually met other women who had been in a similar situation.
People to talk to.
Did you find that helpful?
Yes, I did and also there were people there psychologists, doctors, people who dealt with this sort of thing, but it did open up to me that I'm not the only one who's been in this situation. It never went away and it still doesn't twenty-five years later. It was like, it was yesterday. It's constantly there. I am carrying this image of what happened in my kitchen. It will be with me forever. So I sort of got used to talking about it now. The fact that I went from a murder charge to nothing, not even probation, a lot of people couldn't understand that. I said that has been like me being a fish dangling on a hook for 10 weeks and then they decided, just cut the wire and let me go and the stress of living with that and the guilt I felt it's almost like survivor's guilt where you
feel should I be punished then again, I think, well, no, I only defended myself. We are legally allowed to defend ourselves and I didn't have much time to think about it.
No, and if the law has cleared you and it's been investigated, then you go with that. But it's never that simple. What happens in your mind and I mean, I've spoken to people who have been inside and they've talked about how difficult it is with what your mind does and the ruminating and the conversations that you're having with yourself. So equally, you may not been being punished by the law, but there's this memory that replays.
Oh, it's constant. It goes round and round and round. I mean, I deal with it better. I'm not on any more, anti-psychotic drugs or tranquilizers or antidepressants, but it don't take much for things to trigger.
I like to ask you about MCC, the metropolitan community church that you went to, just for listeners who don't know is pretty much known as the gay church and most of the men, if not all, at that time and possibly now, were gay men.
And so for you, it would have been a very safe space to go to in that regard.
Yes. I didn't know anything much about MCC. Two of my clients were a gay couple and I trimmed their dog for quite a while. I said, oh, I'm getting so fed up at weekends with nothing to do. No dog shows, just getting more and more depressed and he said to me said, why don't you come to our church one evening? If nothing else, it's a night out. I hadn't been anywhere, apart from the dog club and just work because I just didn't feel I could do it mentally. I wasn't fit enough, really. So I thought, I don't know, I haven't been to church for 20 years. So he gave me a booklet. I flipped through it and thought, I don't know. Funny enough, I put it in a drawer rather than bin it and I never thought any more about it till 11 days later, it was Sunday, the 15th of February, but it was about quarter past six in evening. And I was flicking
through the TV and there was this voice. It was like all around me and it said, "Go to church, go now". I couldn't describe the voice. It was very, very powerful and I looked at the dogs and they hadn't moved, so I thought, oh, they hadn't heard it. And then I thought, what must that must've imagined it, you know, been on so many drugs you just don't know. Anyway, a few moments later the voice came back again, but it was in my head this time. Go to church, go now. I remember that I did that is, I did hear it. So I thought, well, what church am I supposed to go to then? I went into the bedroom and found the leaflet in the drawer. And I looked at it is said 6 45. I looked at the time it's 20 past six but I've never had this experience before; curiosity got the better of me and the voice came again, but much more urgent, "Go to church go now." I knew more or less where it was because I'd been past the road, not really been in the road, but knew where it was.
So I told the dogs to stay and I got in the car and I drove there and I felt there was this initial sort of excitement and yet fear and yet I just felt like I was being pulled. There was a cluster of people around the doorway and this bloke in a white priest outfit. I looked across at the same time, he looked across at me and I felt this strange shiver go down my spine and a tingling all over. This is crazy. Anyway, I went and parked the car and I walked back. I could feel people's eyes on me wondering, oh, who's she?
And then the service started and it was wonderful because they were singing songs that I knew from my school. It was the most wonderful service and I felt safe. I felt comfortable. And yet, I didn't know any of these people apart from my clients and then a communion came up. My clients said, do you want to come up for communion with me? And I said, well, I
don't know. I've never had communion. He said, oh, come on it won't, you know, you might enjoy it. I decided at the end I would. So we got to the end of the line. It was quite a busy evening and we were at the back and I mean, there's me about 4 foot 10 him six foot five. We looked stupid. We really did.
The line was sort of slowly moving forward and then I felt something touch me on the shoulder. Enough to look around. There's nobody there, but the voice was back and it said "you have suffered enough. You have carried this burden for two years. Now is the time to be relieved of this weight and to live. Only by forgiving can you yourself feel forgiven. When the understanding of these words grow in you, will your journey from your darkness to my light begin". And it was like, wow!!
Bloody hell, this is 25 years on and you just said that like...
It's never left me. It's never left me.
Wow. That's incredible.
Yeah, and it took me quite a few months to work out, "only by forgiving, can you yourself feel forgiven?" And that took me a long time to get round that and I was also having counselling by, an occupational therapist. He came almost every week to my flat and it took me quite a long time. And then the Easter, cause this was February the 15th now the actual second year anniversary was the Wednesday. Cause it was the 18th of February, but on a Sunday to Sunday, it was two years to the day. So, yeah, it, it really threw me that, and I've never forgotten it.
But also holding that. The idea of forgiveness is that holding what we haven't forgiven yet is incredibly time-consuming and energy consuming.
There's a lot that goes into that. So to release that is also incredibly difficult because it's become familiar and known and releasing it
is like, oh, what do I do now? Like how it's trying to get used to that new state. And it can be really scary.
Well, I sort of went over and over it. Because I was in some kind of wilderness at that time. I struggled really at the time to forgive Robert for putting me in that position where the outcome was, that I would always be known as someone who's killed their husband by accident or otherwise, you know, and I felt I couldn't forgive him for destroying my life, basically, you know, I've got that to live with for the rest of my life. Luckily my customers and my dog friends, or stood by me, so that was a constant and my work was a constant, but I felt such guilt that I hadn't done enough to get him help with his alcoholism. You know, could I have done more? Could I have tried harder? Was it my fault cause I was buying him the drink. If I didn't, it was a nightmare. For an easy life you just
buy him the beer as much as he wanted otherwise he'd have a rage. And then that was where I felt the biggest guilt, although I tried to get him to have help, but he wouldn't didn't want to know, it wouldn't accept he was an alcoholic.
And if someone's got an addiction, there's no reasonable conversation around that. Like if someone from an addiction point of view needs their fix, they're going to get it.
So I had to try and forgive him because I was feeling such anger towards him for putting me in a position in the first place that this happened. I couldn't forgive myself for allowing his state to get to the stage it was where we had to have this awful experience and that was going to live with me for him. He's dead. Yeah. I've got that problem. I'm living with it permanently for life. So yes, only by forgiving those words over and over, over again.
And do you find those words come back to you in "everyday circumstances now? So even if someone wrongs you ...
No, it's just with him, but that was what was my problem at the time when I was called to the church. I was constantly asking questions because it was only a couple of months after I started there, that the voice was back. "You will write a book. I want you to write a book." I thought, well, this was sometime in the night I woke up with these words. I said, I'm not a writer, I'm a dog groomer go away. Then I felt a bit guilty there. What have I said? Who is it actually speaking to me? Is it the same person who told me to go to church? And I'm still writing this book 25 years on.
The thing is with writing a book on something that's like this, you can't just sit down and write it.
No I couldn't. I had to be in the right mindset.
You're revisiting in a way that's really present all the time.
Yes, it's a lot to go through and so
yeah, I walked away from that, but I felt as if I'd just been tossed aside, you know, like the fish, I just got the line cut and you go away with a sore mouth. Cause you've still got the hook in it. And uh, you're just left to just swim around and not know quite what was going on.
And how you process something like that? That for 10 weeks? Well, before that, the five years of being married before, and then the 10 weeks of thinking that your life is going to be in jail forever or whatever. You're going through that process. So if in having these kinds of conversations, now, you talked about meeting that woman in the park who thanked you for having your story publicly. What do you hope from this podcast that will actually come from conversations like these?
You know, if there are people out there, a lot of people suffer with husbands or wives or girlfriends boyfriends who have addiction problems and it's a very lonely place to be in because in my case, I didn't want
to let my friends know that I was having difficulty with my husband and that he could be very abusive, very psychologically damaging me. I didn't realize how badly it was until afterwards and people try not to show that behind closed doors, a lot of things go on. He didn't go out to drink. I just hope that in some cases there is light at the end of the tunnel and also to do some about it before it gets to the stage where like me, I was threatened with my life. So I'm hoping that may be someone like that lady who said, you know, she made her make that decision to leave her husband. And what happened to me could so easily have happened to her.
I think these horrendous things happen and you've also had so much of your life completely out of your control because you're at the whim of dealing with an addict.
And I found that coming to the church was so good for me
Sue: [00:44:00] because I hadn't really mixed with anyone else and I was learning to live with my horrendous memories and it was different when I was called to the MCC, because as a straight woman I was in an environment surrounded by gay men and women, and I'd never even met many gay and I never knew what a transexual was or a transgender. Had a few friends at the dog clubs that were gay partnerships. I was in poodles. That's a sort of breed that they, they like. So I've quite a few gay friends. You know, you meet them at the shows you say hi, and you enjoy their company. And that was it and I never even knew that MCC existed. And when I've sat there in this full church feeling totally surrounded by strangers, I felt as if I'd come home, but to an environment I'd never had any dealings with. I felt so comfortable. I didn't feel threatened by either the men or the women because I'm not, you know, so sitting in the middle and as time went
on, I would try to help them with their breakups which could be a bit extreme at times. I would be, oh, okay, well, never mind we'll talk about it.
Churches are generally welcoming to newcomers, but I also wondered to what degree that their experiences of being a marginalized group helped welcome someone from the outside and provide you with a safe space.
Well, I've written about that. It's like I was a minority within a majority where normally I'm a majority amongst a minority. It was very interesting because I felt accepted because I was no threat. I wasn't going to pinch other girls' girlfriends and the boys weren't really not much use to me anyway. And I was no interest in having another relationship with anybody. I felt sheltered and comfortable and also I got involved with the fundraising. I would, help in the kitchen. I'd run dog shows
and other social events. Although I was one of the very few straight women there, there wasn't one person who said to me, we don't want you here but, I felt as if the church was well chosen to get me out of my wilderness, to bring me to a place where I felt I could start a new life and with people I felt safe with.
Yeah, yeah. That's wonderful. And on that note, I think I'd like to end on that because I think that's absolutely beautiful summing up of where you've got to now.
Cath: I want to say thank you hugely for your willingness to share, from the challenges you've faced and grown through but just to talk because it's such a story that we hear so often in the news, So thank you very much for joining me today.
Thank you for inviting me.
Thank you. So if you have a deeper story that you'd wish to share with listeners, challenges you've faced and grown through, or you still might be dealing with them,
please do get in touch with me at drawntoastory.com. You've been listening to Drawn to a Deeper Story with Cath Brew. Thanks for joining me and good bye.