advice post: Is this really my life?

At the ripe ol’ age of 29, I have lived a life most have only read about in fiction novels. Married at 20, divorced at 24. My ex-husband was physically, verbally and mentally abusive. He had numerous affairs, was an alcoholic and, as I found out later, a drug addict. Five years ago I left him and moved from my hometown in Georgia to Nashville, TN to start a new life. I thought I was stronger and had learned my lesson, and in a way, I have.

A year later, I met a man with whom I moved in after a year of dating. I thought he was perfect…with the exception of a few things, which I decided to overlook. We broke up a year into living together, and I found out he was a porn addict and had been looking up escort services while on the road (he was in the music industry). I then moved on, and two years later I met THE MAN OF MY DREAMS. Little did I know this wasn’t even something I could dream up. I recently found out he has been living a double, triple, quadruple life. He had a girlfriend in Nashville (me) and a girlfriend in Atlanta. It gets even deeper with the fact that I decided to Google his favorite author, Chuck Palahnuik, who wrote the book Fight Club. This being his favorite author and book/movie, I find the similarities disturbing. Basically, he’s living out parts of Palahnuik’s life and publishings. The two main characters in one of his books are named Shannon and Brandy. My name is Brandy, and the girl in Atlanta is named Shannon. The subject matter of the book doesn’t pertain to either of us, but the names are eerie enough! There are other similarities, such as in Fight Club, where the character takes on an alter ego, a double life.

I honestly feel like I have been living in a fiction novel! I promised myself I would have a story written by the age of 35, but it seems the story is getting more and more interesting by the minute. I am a good person with bad fortune. Any suggestions or advice you could provide me with?

straight up advice

Brandy, do you by chance play the guitar? Seeing that you live in Nashville, I’m thinking that it wouldn’t hurt to put all this to pen, offering up some of the lyrics at the Bluebird Cafe. Tragedy plus time equals comedy, plus a truck equals a country song. I know that sounds like a tongue in cheek answer, but the truth is, a lot of the time, our life is such a mess, that we have to stop and put it down and figure out why that is. None of our lives is soap bubbles clean. We have ups and downs. It sounds like you’ve been up and down the same knitting needle, weaving the same pattern, something worth exploring—probably with a therapist, someone who’ll likely expedite the process. It’s not a judgement call, shaming you, suggesting a therapist, just hoping to speed along the process. Someone who can see something you’re clearly missing. I also fear that this MAN OF YOUR DREAMS likely shares an illusive quality with these other men who’ve come before, filling some need that simultaneously thrills and threatens you. It’s a treasured toxin to you—you are your own personal fight club.

And the beauty here is that you are young—sorry, I always hate when people say this to me because it sounds condescending, but I don’t mean it this way—and this is just a blip. You’re seeing this pattern early enough to do something about it, walk the inside of the steps until the painting is spun around. You can make this right. Begin by examining what needs you were so eager to have met. Then, and this is big and not at all easy for any of us (HUGE) try to figure out how to fill this need yourself (Yeah, right Stephanie!). Not forever, but at least for a while. Just try it. I think you’ll find that you’ll be much less frantic and needy. I’m here if you need me. A lot of us are.








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If you have questions or need advice on anything from where to eat to how to get over the bastard, just email your question to my advice email address.



  1. Great Advice, Stephanie!

    I was kinda chuckling and nodding my head as I read your response to this because it’s exactly how a Life Coach would answer. Life Coaches often focus on the client’s main needs (which are different for every person) and making sure the client is taking responsibility for meeting them. Well done!

    I know this because I’m currently in training to be a Life Coach.

    If you ever get bored as a writer (AS IF!), you could think about going into Life Coaching. :D

  2. I’ve noticed that the universe forces me to keep repeating the same lessons until I figure out the correct path through. It’s like that locks and channels game – you have to maneuver your way all around and through until you learn the pattern. Once recognized, then it is time to address it, learn it, master it, and move on from it.

    I went from abusive husband that took years to escape from, to an abusive boss that went on for a year. Then an abusive co-worker that I tolerated for 3 months. Then a board member that was mean one time, and now I recognize the pattern. I think I’ve mastered it. I walk down a different street. This may help:

    The Hole

    I walk down the street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I fall in.
    I am lost … I am helpless…
    It isn’t my fault.
    It takes forever to find a way out.

    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I pretend I don’t see it.
    I fall in again.
    I can’t believe I am in this same place.
    But it isn’t my fault.
    It still takes a long time to get out.

    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I still fall in… it’s a habit…
    But my eyes are open.
    I see it is there.
    I know where I am.
    It is my fault.
    I get out immediately.

    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I walk around it.

    I walk down a different street.

    -author unknown

  3. Stephanie and other comments here have been wonderful. I just have one thing to say: do you listen to other people’s stories, their life, their problems, both mundane and important? Because if the answer is no, then you might be subconsciously creating your life to be the best possible story for you to share.

    But if you are genuinely concerned for family and friends, and listen to your friends complaints and grievance about even the most trivial things, then you are a compassionate person who just had a run of bad luck.

  4. Being a true product of some excellent therapy, I couldn’t agree more. I was married at 24ish and divorced at 30 to someone verbally and emotionally abusive. I look back now at my younger self and want to give her a big hug. Why the hell was she so desperate for love? Ok, that is rhetorical, I figured all that out in therapy :) But you know, it is the life path I walked and it is part of my story and it has made me a better friend and partner in some ways, so I can’t exactly wish it away, even if I wish the 24ish girl wouldn’t have so sad and so wanting for something that she wasn’t able to give herself.

    I think it’s excellent advice Stephanie. Walk down the road and we take our turns, left or right. We have to make those decisions but every road will bring a new turn. Eventually :) Nothing is forever, so don’t beat yourself up over the shit decisions (in retrospect), they will add to your life eventually.

  5. I agree with Stephanie – therapy can help immensely with figuring out where the patterns come from and how to break them. A lot of people cringe when they hear the word ‘therapy’ thinking they are going to be lectured, scolded, condescended, shamed, etc. for the choices they’ve made/are making. I used to feel the same but after a string of volatile relationships with similar fellas to your exes (mine were always musicians and always arrogant, cold, critical, angry and noncommittal) I finally took the plunge and found a therapist and ended up finding my biggest supporter.

    So, now I tell people that having a therapist is like having a best friend who is ALWAYS on your side no matter what, listens to you w/ rapt attention and keeps digging and digging to understand you.. REALLY understand you. It feels amazing that someone could focus so much attention on you and care so, so much about helping you.. about your happiness and success in life. Honestly, it’s humbling and I’m incredibly grateful to have such a solid support system (I’ve got 2 therapists – a psychotherapist and an EMDR therapist who is helping me process my early childhood trauma.)

    Through therapy, I’ve realized that I keep going for guys who treat me the way my family did – w/ neglect, criticism, derision, etc. When I met these men, they energetically they felt ‘right’ – we’d vibe completely, understand each other deeply.. it was easy and it felt perfect. This is b/c deep down I had that learned belief – the one that said family = neglect, criticism, anger, etc. And, this belief was running the show.. that was my ‘picker’. Anytime I encountered someone who could fill this need of mine (to be neglected or treated w/ disrespect & abuse) I would eagerly try to connect whether it be w/ a friend, a boyfriend or a job. As I’ve been able to start working through my trauma and figuring out how to recognize and navigate my codependence, I’ve been able to recognize why I was always attracted to the abusive boyfriends, bosses and best friends. It’s a long process and I’m only somewhere in the middle of it but I can tell you this – figuring out how & where this pattern began (somewhere in early childhood) will be the most important thing you ever do for yourself in this lifetime. You will feel free to be YOU and pick your true love from your heart, not your subconscious.

    BEST OF LUCK!!!!!

  6. hi, my husband is taking drugs too, verbally and mentally abusive. But I have no strength to leave him because of my 3 kids. My eldest daughter is doing well in figure skating,I am worried if I leave him what is gonna happen with my 3 kids. why i am so afraid,just a few days ago he splashed a glass of beer to me in public because he was just too drunk.But financial we are well supported.I have 2 maids and a chef.what shall I do?

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