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Ask The Band: Abuse

Here at The Band, we believe in kicking stigmas to the curb, flinging glitter, and shining a light into the dark. And now?

Your bandmate needs a sounding board.

It’s time to Ask The Band!

Hello, The Band. I’m afraid to share my story, so this is really hard for me.

When I was nine, I was sexually abused by my step-dad – the only father I’d ever known. I was born to a fourteen-year old mother who really didn’t want me. She was married at sixteen and had my brother, and at the age of twenty-one.

The sexual abuse happened every other day beginning when I was nine. I was so scared; I was afraid to tell anybody.

He manipulated me; convinced me that if I told anybody of the abuse, my brother and sister wouldn’t have a dad. He told me that my mom wouldn’t be able to make it without him – it would be my fault if they divorced. I prayed and prayed that that that abuse would stop.

I hid from him. I’d hide in my closet, under my bed, in the cubby holes in the walls. Wherever I could when I heard him coming up the stairs. Sometimes it would work, but most of the time it wouldn’t.

He’d normally find me and make me “perform” for him. I’d cry, begged him to stop. I’d beg him to just stop and told him that I didn’t like it. I told him that it was wrong of him to touch me in private areas, but he didn’t care. The abuse continued for a year. I kept trying to tell my mom and grandma by dropping hints and complaining of stomach aches. He kept my mom busy working and taking care of my dying great-grandmother.

She figured he was cheating on her; he always did. He was a drunk, a womanizer, but my mother was determined to make the marriage work. She took me to the doctor who asked if someone was touching me in private areas. I was so shocked that I stumbled across my words and couldn’t give him a straight answer. Right then and there my mom knew. When we left the doctors office and got to the car, she looked at me and asked me if someone was touching me in private areas. She was so upset that I couldn’t lie to her. I told her yes and broke down crying.

I thought I was going to be in trouble. I was so scared of how she would react. She asked me who had been touching me and I told her “dad.” She was furious, but not at me. My mom immediately took me to my aunt’s house and made me tell her what my dad was doing to me. My aunt was married to my step-dad’s brother. I told my aunt and then my mom took me to the police station to talk to a detective and fill out a report.

I did.

The next thing I knew, my dad was being arrested.

I’ve learned a lot over the years. I learned that pedophiles usually target children who don’t have a close relationship with their parents. If the pedophile is a parent, he or she will target the child that isn’t closest to the other parent. I’d always thought my mom favored my brother and sister. She was just too busy for the three of us. I was so relieved when my dad went to prison. The abuse finally stopped. I didn’t have to worry about him touching me ever again. My mom went through a long depression and refused leave her room.

I needed her more than ever but she locked herself away in her room – day and night. I didn’t know how to cope with the abuse. My abuser ended up serving eight years in prison. He got out shortly before I turned 18.

My mom began dating another abuser. He was very verbally abusive. My mother was also VERY verbally abusive – a skill she taught me. She told me that I needed to “toughen up.” My self-esteem was in the toilet. In my teens, I didn’t take any crap from anyone… except from my mother. All I ever wanted was her support, her love, her attention, and quality time. I needed her to proud of me. I needed her approval for EVERYTHING.

Thankfully, I had my grandmother who loved me unconditionally. My grandmother had been raped when she was younger. It was a double rape – not only did he rape my grandmother, but he raped my mother too. My grandmother was often the target of my mother’s verbal abuse.

In my teenage years, I started drinking and smoking marijuana. I started hanging out with boys and “giving them what they wanted.” I thought I was in love with them and that “love” would feel the void in my heart.

I was very wrong. Finally I was pretty, I was wanted, I was loved. I eventually dropped out of school and worked. My mom would take whatever extra money I had for herself, or make me spend it on her one way or the other. I paid my truck payment, insurance. I had to buy all my own clothes, and everything else I needed or wanted.

My mother was also financially abusive. She never wanted to buy me anything. If I needed something for school, I usually didn’t get it. I was told if that if I wanted something, I had to work and earn it. I began my first job at thirteen when I lied about my age. Soon, I got another job – this time I took total responsibility for myself. Who else would provide for me? She gave me a roof over my head, $100 a year in clothing, and one pair of shoes every year.

When I was working, I was happy that I could finally buy myself some of the things I needed and wanted. It felt nice. I had a truck payment, insurance, and money for my necessities.

I could buy food. There was hardly ever food in our house growing up. I usually was able to eat a meal at work for free and a bowl of cereal in the morning. I worked as many hours – picking up extra shifts – because I was only making minimum wage. I eventually took on another job and juggled the two.

Working nearly three shifts a day had become too much for me. I partied A LOT. I continued to drink, and occasionally smoked some marijuana. I’d have sex with my boyfriends – I felt used by other guys who only wanted sex. I experimented with women. Women were more comfortable sexually, they were more complex emotionally.

I started dating guys again – I found a really good guy. We got our own place, found really good jobs. Things were starting to look up. Things didn’t work out with us, but I had hope for a better future. I moved back to my mother’s house and remained focused upon getting my own place. That’s when I met my now-husband of twelve years.

He took me out of my mother’s house and brought me to the other side of the state to live in the country. He took me to church with him. I hadn’t believed in God and I didn’t know what to expect. We continued dating and eventually I saw a brighter future for me. I gave myself back to God.

My husband was verbally and emotionally abusive – but it was better than going back to my mother’s house. After a while, we moved out of his family’s house and got our own place. He proposed to me. A couple months later I found out I was pregnant. There were generally happy times for us. We’d still have fights in which he would belittle me and call me names; I just told myself that the first five years were the hardest and we would get through it.

After my son was born, things changed. He found another woman he was interested in and He became really mean to me. He would tell me that my son would be better off without me and better with him. He wanted me to move out so he could get a roommate. I was so depressed that I contemplated suicide. If I had to live without my son, I decided I wouldn’t live at all. I didn’t succeed at killing myself. At the last moment, I decided that I wouldn’t leave my son without me. I took my son and moved into my aunt’s.

I had no job, no money, nothing. He controlled all the money, he did then and he does now. He would take all of my paycheck and leave me without a dime. He still does.

We almost divorced, but instead got Christian counseling. Things became MUCH better around home. We both made life-long commitments to each other and decided we would become better people.

I’d been known to be verbally abusive during arguments in which I felt attacked. I quit – I knew it was wrong. While my husband had never physically attacked me, he remained verbally abusive. We hardly ever fight and get along pretty well, but when he lashes out the words, they cut me so deep that he might as well just swing on me. It hurts deeply.

He has my family and friends convinced that he is Mr. Perfect. They don’t see the control, the financial abuse, and the occasional verbal abuse.

I’m convinced that I can’t make it without him as I’m disabled without disability. I’m currently trying to get disability and should have an answer sometime this year. I should be seeing a judge sometime next month.

While disability isn’t that much money, it’s certainly much more than I have. I promised to myself that I will NOT allow him to take my money this time.

The financial abuse has to end.

In a lot of ways I feel I married someone similar to my mother – just not as bad. He is a great father to our two children. He spends the money on our bills, our bills are always paid, the children always get whatever they need and a lot of what they want.

I tell myself “at least the children are getting what they need and want” and “at least I have a roof over my head,” “we always have food and our bills are always paid.” I feel greedy, selfish that I am so unhappy.

I’m stuck at home under lock and key all the time. We have two vehicles and he’ll leave me one of the vehicles, but the gas tank light is always on, and the gas gauge is always well below empty. My wallet is always empty. If he gives me $5, he will make me spend it. He is very quick to take it from me.

Over the years I have reached out to the church for marital help. My husband usually convinces them that he is Mr. Perfect and I am the bad guy, so they come down hard on me. My family tells me I should stay with him as they are convinced that he’s so wonderful.

I wonder is it just me?

Is there something wrong with me?

Am I in an abusive relationship?

I am turning to Band Back Together. I need help, badly. I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m on an antidepressant. I honestly do not know where else to turn. I wish I had my own place so I could leave with my children and find myself.

I know I have to step outside my current situation and because something is just not right.

A Letter I Cannot Send: Dear Satan

An intro: Judgmental people are my pet peeve. The event that precipitated this Letter happened 5 years ago, and as badly as I would like to let the entire world know about these people, I have changed all names to protect the guilty.

Dear Ex Sister-In-Law:

You don’t know me and we’ve never met. I’m Evil Stepmother #3. For the past 10 years, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing your sister and her son, Lucifer. Thank you so much for not only the note you sent acknowledging the flowers we sent for your mother’s funeral, but also the note addressed to Forever Man laying out your concern for our family’s spiritual health.

It was so kind of you to let us know how evil we are. We had no idea! I’ll bet the dictionary has a picture of you next to the definition for “thoughtful.”

We really didn’t mean to ruin your mother’s funeral. My sympathy for your loss was very real, believe it or not. I did meet your mother on several occasions when we picked up or dropped off Lucifer for visitation. She treated Lucifer’s younger half-brother like a blood grandson. I don’t know whether you, as a mother yourself, can begin to imagine what that small act of kindness meant to me.

Having lost my dad and grandmother during the holiday season, I understand more than you might think. But, given your little note, I’m now left wondering how such a kind, caring woman could possibly have raised such assholes for daughters.

You said in your note that you “feel sorry for my children?”

Maybe you should focus more on your own children.

I totally understand your normal, human reaction to need to blame someone for the chaos that surrounded your mother’s visitation. But you know, my normal human reaction is: who the fuck do you think you are telling my family that we need to get right with God?

Who died and made you the Judge of the Entire Fucking Universe? You don’t know the half of what you think you know. If your opinion was even partially based on facts, we might agree on a few areas in need of improvement. But it’s obvious that you are judging from a position of ignorance. Remember that Bible verse about how knowing the truth shall set you free?

Here’s some truth for you: your sister Saint D and Lucifer are assholes.

You don’t owe me anything, and I don’t need your forgiveness. But if you really feel like you need to blame someone or judge intentions, you should blame me, not Forever Man. Why?

Because I exist.

Because I am the latest Evil Stepmother. Because Saint D never expected a sibling to take the focus off of Lucifer. Because I agreed with FM, Saint D and Evil Stepfather #2 (her live-in boyfriend) that it was unacceptable behavior to flunk out of school and live in an online fantasy world. That it was unacceptable behavior to disregard personal hygiene. To be disrespectful. To not apologize when you’re wrong. To not help fix things you broke. To not right wrongs. To lie when it suited your purpose. To be ungrateful for the opportunities and help you’ve received, all freely given even when you didn’t deserve it.

In a nutshell, there must be someone to blame always when something goes awry with the Upbringing of the Crotch Parasite (love you AB!). That someone is always either the ex or the stepparent. Another truth for you: Lucifer is a parasite and so is his mother.

This is, incidentally, an insult to ticks, maggots and tapeworms.

What the hell ever happened to “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?”

Did it never occur to you that there is something inherently unfair about judging someone without first asking for their side of the story?

Yes, life is not fair and the benefit of the doubt does not apply to divorce. If there are children involved, you are doubly screwed, no matter how good your intentions are, how hard you try, or how much you love them. You accused FM of treating Saint D “disgustingly” after the divorce. We should all be so lucky to live in a world where “disgusting” means loving your child so much that you would willing stick yourself with paying all the bills on two houses, alimony, college tuition for two (ultimately useless) degrees, child support (even when it should have been reduced or stopped), extra cash beyond that, legal bills to defend a constant stream of court actions, and personal attacks directed at FM’s employers and siblings.

You’d be quick to condemn anyone else who used their child for money and sympathy.

To be honest, I’m tired of hearing the stories. It’s not a fucking competition to see who had it worst.

If only my ex had treated me so badly!

When Preacher B divorced me, I was supposed to feel privileged that I was “allowed” my freedom. I got no child support, even though Preacher was the only father Number One Son had ever known. There was no settlement or alimony. I got no share of all the property gained – cars, land, home, camping trailers, royalties – because I willingly worked my ass off as a helpmeet, while being spiritually and sexually abused in the special hell known as fundamentalist Christian patriarchy.

I was shunned by my church family.

I got nothing because I believed in educating my God-given brain. That divorce was the best Christmas present I ever received, even though it meant starting from nothing (for a second time) as a single parent. I tried to fit into, to trust new church families – Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, unaffiliated, you name it . When I was brave enough to tell my story, I can’t count the number of fine moral upstanding Christian eyes which glazed over and I became invisible again.

They have to answer for it, not me. I am not ashamed of being a survivor. I kicked stigma in the crotch.

Me! Fuck you.

All these years, FM has held his tongue, because it wasn’t anyone else’s business. Problem is, Saint D has been sharing her opinion loudly, indiscriminately and constantly for the twenty-five-plus years since the divorce. We’ve all heard her side of it.

But consider this: we have a big-ass storage bin full of court papers and check registers – it weighs about 75 pounds – to prove that the story Saint D has been feeding you all these years is a veritable cornucopia of bullshit. All for sympathy. If it weren’t for Saint D’s lawyer getting his license revoked for soliciting a prostitute, we’d probably still be tied up in a court action for something.

Forever Man is also a survivor.

I think Saint D and Lucifer have had a pretty privileged existence. Saint D’s repeated financial and emotional vengeance for the privilege of being divorced from her, even now twenty. five. fucking. years. later, is what is disgusting here. Saint D has elevated martyrdom to both a science and an art form, and passed it along to Lucifer, who has internalized the constant stream of complaints, lies, and dad-bashing since he was a toddler. This is what you’re calling values?

Rational people would call it child abuse. It is a travesty of justice that the family court consistently sided with her simply because she bears a c-section scar. Unfortunately for FM, having possession of a big-ass Bin-O-Facts does not mean justice. Joint custody and the privilege of being bankrupted maybe, but not justice.

So, let’s change gears and talk about what happened on visitation day, shall we? For the record, FM made travel arrangements with Lucifer two days before the visitation. Given the weather forecast (winter storm watch), we offered to bring Lucifer with us, mostly because we thought it would be helpful to Saint D. Because, you know, compassion. When someone dies, that’s what you’re supposed to do. We thought of her, even with the hell we’ve been through with her. Offering to help someone who’s brought FM nothing but misery for nearly forty years, since he was 18 years old?

Yeah, FM and I are the dictionary definition of assholes.

Just so we’re clear here: the ensuing crisis wasn’t because FM made any rash, selfish, last-minute decisions. Lucifer was the one with anger issues; he couldn’t handle the thought of two specific riders occupying space in the same car with him and FM. The crisis was caused because Lucifer has the social and reasoning skills of a two year old parasite. Oops, I forgot. It’s my fault because I should have known how inappropriate it was for me and Little Brother to offer FM moral support, since it was also his loss. Lucifer’s full transformation into Satan couldn’t have happened at a better time.

Last we knew, Satan had a car and a job. He could have driven himself, if he’d wanted to. Surely you could come up with a better excuse than we ruined the funeral because Satan’s mother had to drive over and pick him up!

Here’s another truth for you: Satan is an equal-opportunity hater; he hates all of you, just like he hates us. He was looking for an excuse not to attend, but one that wouldn’t look like he was deliberately trying to avoid seeing his family. You’d have thought he would have covered his ass better. I mean, come on now, most rational adult humans would have the presence of mind to reschedule a doctor appointment on the day of a close relative’s funeral. Especially since it took four days to make funeral arrangements.

It sure was awfully convenient to manufacture a crisis, blame the whole mess on FM and get out of attending a funeral. Unfortunately for Satan’s sake, we got the EOB for the doctor’s visit a few weeks later. Yes, Satan’s still on our insurance, which is by the way, just another of those nice things we do for him even though he wishes we were all dead.

We’re going to hell for sure.

When I emailed Saint D to let her know that we wouldn’t be able to come, she said that Satan had been expecting time alone with his dad.

See, another truth you need to know is that Satan has not once, in the twenty. five. fucking. years. since the divorce, asked his dad for “alone time.” “Alone time” is Saint D’s code for marginalizing Evil Stepmothers. Satan has our phone number and emails. He could get “alone time” anytime. We haven’t heard a word from Satan since that cold, snowy December day five years ago.

Yeah, we’re awful, valueless, evil personified. We’ve invited Satan over every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, anytime just because, since he moved out of our house ten years ago. Well, not for the last three years because we moved to another state and since he doesn’t speak to us, we didn’t tell him we were moving. When FM handed him the check containing his college fund and helped him move into the dorms at Big State University nine years ago, Satan’s last words to him were, “Well, be sure to let me know when this one ends in divorce, like all the others.”

As long as there was money flowing from the First Bank of Dad no questions asked, everything was fine. Until there were questions, like why he flunked out of BSU, which required thousands of dollars more to settle the final bill, which resulted in Satan’s faking a crisis to get everyone off his case. I know. See, awful nasty jerk that I am, I sat there in the ER waiting room, trying to keep everyone calm. I provided the insurance information. I made sure his prescriptions were filled. I brought clothes and other stuff to the mental ward for him. I offered to let Satan come back to our home until his apartment was ready, because he didn’t have anywhere else to go.

He didn’t seem to have a problem choosing a comfy warm bed and home-cooked meals over sleeping under a bridge. I figured out before the doctors did that it was a giant snow job. But I let it go. Yeah, more reason to hate me, since I’m a terrible, evil, valueless person for caring. He didn’t say “thank you” when he left.

He didn’t say “good bye” to his little brother. Fucking parasite.

You spoke of values. Little Brother certainly learned some important lessons about values, courtesy of your family, for which we cannot thank you enough. Like being born is the only qualification necessary for hating someone. How do you explain that to an eight-year-old child? That compassion, honesty, forgiveness and reconciliation are not in every family’s vocabulary. That families define “family” differently; no one considered it inappropriate for Saint D’s boyfriend to attend the visitation. That it’s acceptable to talk out of both sides of your mouth if it suits your purpose. Which is it: “inappropriate” or “alone time”? I would suggest neither, but who am I to judge if being petty, vindictive and immature makes someone feel better? We heard over and over, “it’s not fair!”

Little Brother understands the concept of fairness, you know. You made him cry. You people are despicable.

I’ve been calling bullshit on Satan for the 14 years I’ve known him, but telling a parent he has to choose between his children? Him or me? A child is not a paint color, a new car or a bag of potatoes. This was cruel, monstrous, despicable, evil beyond reason. I would say I hope Saint D and Satan both burn in hell, but I’m not sure I believe in hell anymore. Why do we need “Hell” when we have family? It seems to accomplish the same purpose.

So, in closing and just in case I wasn’t clear, it’s a really good thing that I’m not God, because if judgment and justice were left up to me, the Plagues of Egypt, the Crucifixion, the Inquisition, would be too lenient for your whole fucking family. You say you “don’t pretend to know [our] beliefs.” Then please do yourself a favor and save the lecture about getting “right with your Maker” because you might end up next to me in the hellhole you mentioned in your note and that would be even worse karma than occupying it with FM.

Until then, I wish you a lovely bouquet of Mushroom Prints. Asshole.

The Evil Stepmother #3

A Letter I Can’t Send: Dear Mama

Mama,

In my teens, I was toxic to everything I touched.

I didn’t mean to be – I just had a lot of pain inside and was too young to understand the connection between that and the reckless behavior I exhibited. You understood it and prayed for me, always hoping I would see the light.

It wasn’t that I was a trouble-maker as so many claimed. Yes, I vandalized an elementary school in my home town, thoughtlessly claiming the rooftop with my giant ‘My Name Was Here.’ Yes, I ran away once, all the way to Tennessee, and yes, I became a teenage mother at the age of sixteen.

Maybe I was a trouble maker.

I didn’t mean to be.

And then into my twenties, the bad choices and reckless behavior chose to continue itself. I’m sure you remember the destruction I left in my own life after post-partum depression led to the loss of my two children.

I put myself in dangerous situations, willingly, hoping for harm to come to me – and in doing so, harmed others, especially you.

I didn’t mean to.

Years 23-29 are a blur – six years in a hellish nightmare that I had convinced myself I deserved. You screamed at me that I deserved better, that my children deserved better. I assured you that I believed you – and stayed in the nightmare anyway, because that’s what I deserved.

I lied to my friends and my family. I became a stranger even to myself.

I didn’t mean to.

The worst part was marrying my abuser on your birthday as if to honor you in some sort of way. ‘Look Mama. I did it. I married what I earned.’ I spent my entire twenties hating myself for my teen years – and so another decade was lost to my toxicity.

I didn’t mean to lose those years with myself and my children.

It wasn’t until my thirties that I started to feel like you know – maybe I gotta start forgiving myself in order to act right. I read all the mushy quotes, convinced myself I was beautiful inside and out, walked away from everything that caused me harm and for a while I was so happy.

I was so brilliantly happy and dazed by how very blessed my life was – I even found myself being loved by someone who never raised his voice or hands to me.

But now I’m almost 33.

But here I go again – unable to forgive myself and unable to stop the path of destruction. I can see it happening. I know I should stop it. But I can’t. Not until it’s all burned to the ground.

Because I’m toxic.

And I don’t know that I ever won’t be..

I Can’t Heal From This

Three years ago, my husband attempted to rape me. I didn’t really think of it that way at the time. I did shove him off me with a hand to his throat, and he was extremely angry. A few months later, he completed the rape.

He’s always been terrible with boundaries and when I would say no to sex, he would keep trying until I gave in. I didn’t like it, but didn’t recognize it as anything more than annoying.

It was a red flag I guess, but didn’t seem like “real abuse” because I wasn’t being harmed.

After he raped me, I slowly spiraled downward.

We did marriage counseling. I did individual counseling. Still, I wound up checking myself into a psych hospital with severe post-traumatic-stress-syndrome, anxiety, and depression.

We have managed to stay together, but, as you’d expect, It hasn’t been easy.

He still struggles with boundaries, which are obviously so important to our relationship. Unfortunately, he will touch me sexually even after I’ve explicitly said that I don’t want to be touched that way (when my anxiety is at a high I do not want to be touched at all; much less sexually).

He’s started having sex with me in his sleep despite me saying no – when he’s aware of what’s going on he stops, thankfully. When he is very much in the mood, he won’t come to bed with me because he’s afraid he can’t control himself. I suppose I should just be grateful that he stays away but I  don’t like hearing him say he can’t control himself. It freaks me out.

He has been (for the most part) patient and understands why I’m like this now. He’d do absolutely anything to make me happy.

I feel guilty because a large part of me hates him. He has told me that he doesn’t think about the rape unless I’m struggling, which is devastating to me. Something that changed me at my core so much. Traumatized me. Destroyed trust, my ability to enjoy intimacy, gave me massive, crippling anxiety and he…?

He doesn’t even think about.

We are in marriage counseling again; but we haven’t yet told the counselor what happened.

We’ve only had two sessions so far, and I haven’t been ready to discuss the rape.

The counselor is giving us all these tools to work on things and I just…I don’t know. I don’t know how to make it work.

I can’t afford to care for my kids alone. I’m a stay-at-home mom, no good work experience, no family to help me out. I MUST make this work.

And my husband really does try to make me happy and I feel so guilty that he can’t.

I will never be the same again.

Part of me wishes to just end it all and escape the constant anxiety and feeling like I will never get better. Don’t worry; I would never do that to my children.

I’m just struggling with so many feelings of anger, sadness, depression, stress, and frustration.

My husband used to be my best friend. We get along pretty well now, but I just can’t see him romantically again.

Can we make this work?

 

Broken

Me. Briefly.

The first time I used, I was 9. I stole some of my mom’s appetite suppressants. For the first time in my short little life, I felt like I could do anything. I forgot that I felt like I didn’t belong. Don’t ask me why I felt that way. I am an adopted child raised by a good family, so I should have felt fine. I truly believe that addiction is genetic. With dope, at long last, I belonged. I wasn’t afraid.

Life went downhill from there. I gradually branched out to other drugs. At 14, I was stealing my parents’ cigarettes and booze and smoking pot. At 18, I got introduced to what would become the great love of my life-meth. I really could do anything on that stuff-no job was too big, and my mind worked like a pinball machine with an electrical short-thoughts careened around so fast I never held one long enough to examine it, so I never really thought about feelings of inadequacy or fear.

Or shame.

At 19, I was tired of trying to make it on my own, so I found myself married to an abusive bastard; anybody who’s ever been through that can understand what I mean when I say that it destroyed any shreds of self-worth I had a chance of having. By then, I knew how to fix that-I used more dope. It didn’t matter what kind as long as it helped me shove those feelings of worthlessness into some dark, forgotten corner of my soul.

After 3 years of being smacked around, I fought back, left, didn’t look back, and didn’t quit fighting for a long time.

I went through a string of failed relationships for a couple of years, until I met “the one.” He actually started to redeem the male of he species for me. For a year and a half, I somehow managed to limit my drinking and drugging. Life was pretty good. I was living the suburban American dream.

In the end, untreated addiction always wins. I got involved in some unsavory business, running drugs up and down the interstate. For each time I got arrested, I made it through at least a few more times. I guess sometimes it really is better to be lucky than good, or I’d still be in prison.

My second husband finally had enough, and I got sentenced to prison knowing that divorce awaited me when I got out. Looking back, I can’t blame him. At the time, I was just enraged.

In prison, in a state far from home, I didn’t have drugs but I still had that fight in me, and the ability to stuff my emotions into some dark corner of myself and forget them. It allowed me to survive in a cold and lonely place. When I got out, I did what I always did. I got high. How else was I supposed to deal with my situation? I was 4 states from all I knew, being held against my will by a parole officer who wouldn’t let me move home.

Fast forward to 2005.

I’m on probation for yet another drug offense, headed for an inpatient drug treatment center at the judge’s (and probation officer’s) suggestion. I had reached that point where I used dope to become that static-y snow on a TV with no reception. I didn’t want to feel. I didn’t want to deal with the mess my life had become and I damn sure didn’t want to deal with the mess that I had become.

I muddled along for a while until I had a using experience so horrific I will never forget it. I had finally used so much dope, trying to kill my feelings, that I had used myself into a corner and it was that dark corner of my soul that I had been avoiding for 27 years.

The dope had led me right into the hell I had been denying from the time I first discovered dope at the tender age of 9.

I got clean, finally. It hurt. Detox can kill, and I guess I considered myself lucky to be alive, considering the way I had used my body for a toxic waste dump.

And I grieved the loss of the drugs. I grieved the loss of the numbness. I was FEELING shit again and it was ookie and I didn’t like it.

The human psyche is an amazing thing, with a remarkable talent for self-preservation. I managed to avoid the real problem: here I was drugless, and the big shitty mess inside was still there. Denial became my best friend. I felt no emotions (or so I told myself.) I damn sure didn’t show them.

For the first two years I was clean, I was involved with another abusive bastard. Got a busted eardrum out of it. During that two years, I did a good job of not allowing myself to feel much of anything, partly out of determination to deprive that bastard of the satisfaction of knowing he had affected me, and mostly because I didn’t want to look at that big shitty fucking mess in my mind and soul.

I did all this while calling myself a member of a twelve step fellowship.

Two years into my abstinence, the pain of my living situation became too much. Denial, toughness, bad attitude-none of it was working anymore. Without the dope to numb my soul, the big shitty mess in the darkest corner of my heart began to fester. So I got honest. Well, a little bit, anyway. Six months later, I was out of the abusive relationship. I was healing.

At least that’s what I told the world.

Until the physical after effects of the corrective surgery on my eardrum became unbearable. They also became a physical representation of all that was wrong with my psyche.

Broken.

I could no longer use those old defense mechanisms. I could no longer be the hardass, the tough girl who didn’t give a fuck. I gave a fuck and I was tired of being broken.

Aunt Becky, I cried. Like I don’t think I have ever cried before.

I cried for all I wasted. I cried over all the wasted potential, the wasted years, the wasted lives I destroyed with my sick spirit.

I cried for a little girl who never felt like she belonged. I cried for my mother who couldn’t fix her child. I cried for what was left of myself and for the parts of me that were lost forever. I screamed. I cried until my throat hurt, my rib cage hurt, my head hurt. I cried until my entire head was so congested I couldn’t breathe. I cried over all the sadness I had never cried over, I cried over all the pain I never cried over, I cried over all the fear I never cried over. I have no idea how long I cried. It seemed like forever.

And then I slept. I slept the sleep of the damned. Because as I cried, screaming about how I was tired of being broken, I realized that nothing could fix me. I was doomed to this existence of knowing I was broken and the only thing that ever made me feel whole was dope and I couldn’t have it anymore. It had been killing me while it killed my feelings, except it wasn’t killing the feelings anymore. I couldn’t stop using once I started, and once I used I became this horrible beast who got arrested and burned bridges with the people in her life. So dope was out.

I was, finally, alone with the truth. I was rotten inside and nothing could fix me.

At 40 years of age, I’m glad I can say that a lot has happened in the 3 years since I cried that night and screamed my frustration at being broken. I started working the 12 steps of recovery from addiction. I have a sponsor. I have 5 years clean. I have a reasonably good relationship with my mother these days. I am now in a very serious and mostly healthy relationship with the man who held me the night I cried-he is truly a good man. I am in my first senior year of college. I have been well trained in the work I do and have been working the same part-time jobs for 5 years now. I’m good at my job. I have a few friends-true friends.

Aunt Becky, I wish I could give you a happy ending. I wish I could say that I have finally progressed through the 5 stages of grief. I think it’s safe to say I have passed through denial.

Yet I still can’t let go of those old defense mechanisms. It is so fucking hard to express emotions. It’s just as hard to live through them. So I shop. I eat chocolate. I find things to distract me. Often, I stick my feelings in that dark corner of my soul. Even the good ones. I still miss the ability to deny their existence. I don’t know what to do with them, so it’s easier to deny them.

I guess it’s progress, being able to admit I have emotions.

Some days, I get so angry. Why the fuck can’t I be normal? Why oh why do I always seem to feel inadequate, less than, afraid? At least the rage can be empowering, motivating me to get up and try one more day to find a way to heal my sick spirit. If nothing else, rage feels good. It’s so primal.

Some days, I’m depressed. The possibility of spending the rest of my life knowing I am irretrievably broken saddens me beyond belief. This is where I am grateful for my adoptive mother-she’s my REAL mother. Nothing ever stopped her, and rarely did anything slow her down. She always kept going. What an amazing example; I believe it’s the only reason I keep going on my depressed days.

Bargaining. Yes. I do that. I make bargains with whatever’s out there-if you would just fix me, God, I would try to touch another life so some other woman doesn’t ever have to live with the pain I lived with for so long. Just please fucking fix me so I am not afraid, ashamed, and insecure. Make me not hurt and I will try to share it with someone who needs to know it is possible to not hurt.

Acceptance. Not so much. Today, I refuse to accept that I am irretrievably broken. Maybe that is where the twelve steps are beginning to work in my life.

And maybe that’s the happy ending after all.

Angry And Frustrated

For the last five years, I’ve been lying to everyone; my parents, my children, social services, but most of all, myself.

My “courtship” with my husband lasted just three months before we became engaged. A year and a month after we met, I married him. I blindly ignored the warnings from my parents, my loved ones, and my own eyes. I thought I could change him. He would be better after the wedding, when all the stress was gone.

How wrong was I?

Within months of our marriage, what I saw scared me, but I decided to stay, thinking, “I can still change him. I can make him better!” I was so arrogant!

We had just conceived our first child when he sprained my arm. I told myself that it was an accident and justified it to everyone else.

His sister assaulted me when I was pregnant. He put me down in front of his parents.  His mother assaulted me many times. They told me it was my fault. It was all my fault. Everything was always my fault.

What’s worse is that I genuinely believed them!

They threatened to take my baby away from me if I left. I was so scared of them, I stayed.

Now that WAS my fault! I should have left, but I didn’t!

He raped me the first time when our daughter was just five days old. I can still remember the searing agony that tore through my whole body as he did it! The tears and cuts burning with fire, my screams mingling with those of our daughter who was in the same room as us! That was my fault too apparently. After that, I had to have treatment for an erosion in the womb. That was also entirely my fault.

He was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Now he had something else to justify his treatment of me. He “needed” round the clock care, an excuse to stop me from working.

He moved me away from my parents to an isolated town and wouldn’t let me visit them. My parents still blame me for that, as if I had a choice!

After our second child was born, the abuse got worse and worse. I confided in my midwife about him raping me when our daughter was five days old. She and all the other midwives we saw made a point of reminding him that sex wasn’t allowed before my six week check. Normally a woman is signed off by the midwife within days of giving birth. They visited me for over a month to protect me. As soon as my six week check was over, the rape began again. This time almost every night and sometimes while I was asleep.

I haven’t slept for almost two years! I began to crave the oblivion of deep sleep, but I couldn’t because of the fear of what he would do to me while I slept. Twice he raped me anally because I had a period. If he wasn’t doing that, he would say things like, “I was hoping to have sex with you, but I can’t because you’re bleeding,” as if it were somehow my fault for being a woman.

That wasn’t the end of the emotional abuse. There was always shouting and yelling. The police were called. Social services were called twice. He isolated me more and more from our friends and would only let me go out with one of the children at a time.

He’d lock me in the house and “forget” to leave my key behind. Sometimes, he would move my keys, and when I wasn’t looking, would put them somewhere I’d already looked. I thought I was going mad!

When our son was five months old, we went on holiday with his family. While we were there, he dragged me out of the room by my legs in front of our daughter and threw me out into the rain with no shoes and no coat. When he finally let me in half an hour later, I had to sit in my wet clothes feeding our son, while his mother lectured me on how the whole thing was my fault.

A week later, I was rushed into hospital with chest pains. Everyone noticed the bruises and three people made separate calls to social services on my behalf. They sent two police officers out that night to check on the children and me. It was so humiliating! He would never let me speak to men because as far as he was concerned, I was cheating on him with every single man I spoke to.

While I was visiting my parents, he kissed another woman. I wish I’d left him then! But I listened to his sob story about how he was really going to change this time! He did change …for the worse.

In November 2012, his brother assaulted me. I had to go to hospital and was on crutches for six weeks because my sciatic nerve had gone into spasm. I lied in the hospital and said that I’d fallen in the kitchen. I was so scared that my children would be taken from me this time.Do you know how much sex hurts when you have sciatica? Especially when it’s rape.

In May 2013, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. The doctor believes there is a link between Fibromyalgia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That was another excuse to isolate me further from everyone. I wasn’t allowed to do housework because I was “too ill.” I’d given up fighting him. I was so far into my shell, I couldn’t even care for our children.

He slowly crushed me to the point that I didn’t know any different.

We had a visit from our new health visitor. He told her that he was afraid of bathing our daughter because he was afraid of having sexual feelings for her. I was shocked and scared, but I didn’t know what to do! I should have left him there and then, but I couldn’t! I was paralyzed by five years of emotional, financial, and sexual abuse. He’d groomed me for this very eventuality so that I wouldn’t leave him!

The next day a social worker turned up with two police officers who seized all of our computer equipment. They told me that I needed to get the children out of the house. I replied that if they were going, I would be going too. They agreed.

My children have been protected by social services for three months now. I’ve ended the relationship and am seeking help for the abuse. Social services are being as helpful as they can be, but the health visitor thinks I should have left and should not have my children back. She thinks I’m a failure as a mother.

Maybe I am. I should have left. I should have sought help sooner. I have to live with that for the rest of my life. I obviously don’t deserve my children. Obviously love isn’t enough!