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Yes, I am Paying with Food Stamps. Yes, That Is an iPhone in my Dooney & Bourke Handbag
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Humble Pie, Paid for in Food Stamps
In October 2014, I was forced to apply for food stamps for the first time in my life. It probably would have been more humiliating if I hadn't been so emotionally distraught and in such desperate need.
Our family had been on assistance once before; when I married my second husband, his military E4 (specialist) pay just wasn't covering all our expenses, so we applied for and received WIC. It was a generous amount of food and greatly helped us for about a year.
The marriage was sometimes good but mostly bad. He wasn't ready for the responsibility or stress of three small children and was already somewhat mentally ill. I was completely surprised by his behavior early in our marriage because we had been best friends for 11 years before we got married. He never told me about the rehab he went through shortly before we started dating.
He came home in November 2013, a couple months earlier than expected, which was tremendously disruptive to our family. We hadn't lived together for 4 years due to deployment and his being stationed at the Dugway Proving Grounds, where they test biological, nuclear and chemical weapons. I refused to allow our children to live there.
So he came back and said he was being recruited by the FBI. My friend said she wasn't sure that could be true because just a couple months earlier, he had a DUI. He almost hit a police car. He received probation for the offense because if my ex-husband was capable of anything, it was controlling people's minds and making them do what he wanted. Some people will laugh at me for believing him about his recruitment claim, but he is a really smart guy and they work with incredibly sensitive matters on Dugway, so I thought it could be true.
But then the lies got bigger. Instead of being recruited for the plain ol' FBI, he was actually being recruited by the FBI to work at the International Space Station in Belgium. He told us he would begin training on July 23 and that the whole family would move to Belgium in January 2015. I was suspicious that he was that sought-after, having worked overseas myself in a American corporate law firm that represented some of the biggest companies in the world.
Of course, July 23 came and went, and he didn't go to Quantico, so I demanded he get a job. He started going to what I thought was work, but he wasn't actually going to work. I think he actually did go down to Fort Carson every day, but I don't know what he did down there; that's what he did for two months.
The week before 9/11, he told me he was going to be deployed to Texas to fight ISIL on the Texas/Mexico border, because of his experience with chemical and biological weapons. Then, he told all of us that he was being sent with an army unit to Africa to build ebola clinics. There was too much, all at once. Plus no pay check.
Never Trust an Addict
I probably forgot to mention his raging drug addiction. I knew something was wrong not long after he came home around Thanksgiving 2013. He would be talking to me and fall asleep in the middle of a sentence. Just be talking and then trail off and fall asleep, his head slumping over to the side. Sometimes he would start snoring.
I thought I could control the addiction. The VA made it tough; every month, they prescribed him 120 10mg oxy tablets and 90 time-release synthetic morphine tablets called Opana. I'd make him give me the pills as soon as he filled the prescription, but he was too smart for me! At first, my plan worked. Sometimes I would give him more than the prescribed 4 per day because he does have a mild neck condition. But then, in April, he took the bottle of pills and switched most of them out with extra-strength Tylenols. I didn't know the difference until he told me he needed some and to check the imprint on the tablets so he would get oxy, not Tylenol.
In June, he was up to 12-14 oxy tablets per day. How he didn't overdose, I don't know. But I was tired of the passing out, I was tired of the strange behavior, and mostly, I was just done with him.
I kicked him out on September 30, and my friend told me to apply for food stamps the next day. It was some of the best advice I've ever received. They also signed me up for Medicaid and TANF (welfare), and said I could take a few months to start looking for work and sort through all these issues, although I would get much less money doing it that way.
His erratic behavior frightened me. I spoke to him a couple times on the phone and he had no remorse whatsoever for what he had done. I tried to get a restraining order; I didn't have enough to get one the first time, but the judge told me to immediately go file for divorce. Of course that made my husband's behavior even scarier, and he ended up doing a lot of things that landed him in jail, convicted on two domestic violence charges. He will have served his entire sentence and will get out on May 11, 2015. But between the divorce and protecting my family, I was appearing in court or filing papers at the court about every other day for several months.
I couldn't possibly afford a lawyer, and he only receives a small pension from the VA. The judge couldn't have ordered him to pay court costs so the financial burden of a lawyer would have fallen entirely on me.
He caused great emotional and financial hardship to our family. Early in the ordeal, we found out he hadn't paid the utilities bill - or any other bills - for about 6 months, the entire time we lived in our new rental house. While he was in jail, our landlord evicted us for non-payment (my husband tricked us into thinking he had paid the rent and our landlord into thinking I was the one stalling on the rent check).
There Should be a Grandfather Clause for Luxury Items
So I own this fantastic handbag. It's a genuine luxury bag, purchased at Nordstrom's with money he said was his severance pay.
I have discovered that many things he said were a lie and some things were true, but I can't get an angle on the money we got when he first retired from the army. All I know is that it's all gone or hidden. I can't even sell this bag on eBay, because of all the fakes that flooded the site for so long. I looked into selling it somewhere else, but I would get about $100 for it. And I'll tell you where to shove it if you think that's a good deal.
And yeah, I have an iPhone. Wanna know how? Because my first ex-husband didn't pay his child support for about a year and a half; I never went after him for it (he was unemployed), so he does actually owe me money. He put me on his cell account, and this iPhone was the best deal on his plan. He could also pay over 2 years. And yes, I suppose he could have purchased the crappy little flip phone, but it wasn't part of any plan so it would have cost $100 out of pocket. My husband hacked into all my electronic devices, so I was forced into getting a new phone regardless. He even managed to get the number for my throwaway phone by hacking into my e-mail.
So if you're mad about me being on food stamps and having an iPhone, why don't ya go talk to my husband about it. Let's just say that at the time of writing, he's a captive audience.
And lastly, about my car. I own two cars: A 1990 BMW we bought for my daughter to drive and a 1989 Cadillac. Together, they are worth about $2000. When my husband was still living at the house, I drove a 2006 Rav4; when I kicked him out, I made him take it because it was reliable and I didn't want him to have the excuse of the car breaking down to come home.
If you're wondering where that car is, he abandoned it on the side of the road, the police came and got it and it was auctioned for $800.
Neither of the two cars I have are reliable. Two motor mounts on the BMW broke about a month ago and I'm waiting for a mechanic friend to fix it. The Cadillac was never meant to be driven every day, especially after the entire exhaust system fell off last October. And because of that, I have to drive my mom's new Subaru. Definitely a nice, expensive car that someone on food stamps couldn't possibly afford. And guess what? I DON'T, BECAUSE IT'S NOT MY CAR!!
Every time I've been to the food stamp office, everyone there looks in desperate need of public assistance. I'm probably the one person someone saw that one time who was flooded with righteous indignation over someone having a - GASP! - Dooney & Bourke bag in the food stamps office. But never, ever forget that you have no idea who these people are or what their stories are. Tell me that there has never been an instance where you found out something about a friend that totally shocked you ... but you know all the dirty secrets of a complete stranger you're interacting with in a public place? Have you ever even been in the food stamp office?
You all need to get a handle on your judgement because honestly, if I can end up on food stamps, ANYONE can wind up on food stamps.
© 2015 Carrie Peterson