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What Happens When You Don’t Know

I guess I’ll start with the things that bother me the most: I am an ex-crack addict, I was homeless, I have a panic disorder, I talk to people who don’t exist, my brother hanged himself, and I was nearly killed by an abusive ex-boyfriend.

I know I have a better life than a lot of people, and I try to be grateful for it.

I feel guilty when I dwell on my problems: other people have it so much worse: how can I complain? How can I mope around or be depressed?!

Oh how I wish I could talk to someone, to sit in a group and swap stories about burning the inside of our mouths, or panic attacks, or how much it sucks to have to lug all your belongings around in a garbage bag.

But I just can’t.

I have walked past the building where NA meetings are held probably a hundred times, looked at their website again and again, memorizing their schedule, but I can’t bring myself to go.

I’m afraid that people won’t like me because I’ve been clean now for four years, that because now I have a car and an apartment in a slightly decent area of the city, I’ll be told to get over it, to stop whining.

On the other hand, I think, what if I go to a regular counselor and I scare them? What if, when I admit to the time I smoked crack with my pregnant best friend, it’s too much and they kick me out?

What if I get the cops called on me when I admit to all the illegal things I’ve done?

Either way, I’ve never felt more isolated and alone then I do now.

I desperately want to be an addict again. When I was addicted, we had our own world; it was nothing good, but everyone was on the same level.

Now I’m surrounded by people that, if they knew what I used to be and what I still am, would go running in the other direction.

I even tried to become an alcoholic for a few months; I drank myself into a stupor everyday, forced it into me until my brain chemistry was so out of whack and my kidneys hurt right through my back.

I still drink – get drunk – by myself, but I have to be careful because it makes my panic disorder worse. I drink just until I feel myself going crazy, stop for a few days, then back at it.

It’s funny, when my brother hanged himself, I was kind of mad that he took that option away from me: you can’t have two kids from the same family both kill themselves!

I’m okay with his suicide, though. I understand it was a planned out thing, so things were obviously pretty bad to get to that point. My brother didn’t speak, though; I was the only one he spoke to until he was about 17, and then he even shut me out.

After a while, I started getting paranoid that he was going to kill me, so I distanced myself from him even further.

I’m pretty alone now.

I lost most of my friends when I got clean, and I’ve moved to a different city since. I hate it here a lot, and most people here are way out of my league education and status wise. I have a few friends from work that I go for drinks with on the weekends, but I can’t really connect or open up with anyone.

I’m afraid to date again; my ex is still too fresh in my mind, and the thought of having to have sex again makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like being touched sexually.

It’s a shame because I would love to have children – they would give me something to focus on, to love and be loved back, without having to be in a relationship.

But I guess as of right now, it’s me, alcohol, and my two darling cats.

How sad.

Ask The Band: Coping With Domestic Abuse

ask band domestic abuse

Dear The Band,

My husband and I got into a very heated fight (to say the least). We were in each other’s face and things got physical and turned into domestic abuse.

Alcohol was involved.

I ended up going to the ER and was diagnosed with a head injury and a bruised rib. The police came to the hospital to ask me what happened – if I’d been the victim of domestic abuse – and I kept my mouth shut because I didn’t want both of us to to to jail.

I was charged with a domestic abuse charge. He would have been too, if I’d said anything.

Anyway, there’s a no contact order between him and I, but he has my children: my 2 1/2 son and my 9 year old daughter. I am only allowed to communicate through my attorney or at the family resource center.

Right now? He won’t answer the phone to either number.

It has been nine excruciating days since I’ve seen my children.

I learned that he’d filed a restraining order on me. He then shut my phone off and took all the money I had out of my bank account.

I’m staying with family now.

I want to see my children but he will not let me see them and I’m devastated.

We have a hearing for the restraining order on the 11th. I don’t know what to do to prepare for it. I have the hospital records of my injuries. I don’t want him in trouble because he is my husband and I still love him very much – we both need help and things got out of hand.

Without my kids, it’s hard to get up in the morning.

Has anyone else been in this situation? 

domestic abuse

 *UPDATE* I finally got in touch with my attorney and let him know all the details. He told me to bring the hospital records to the hearing. As much as I wish this never had happened, I’m not going to be a doormat and let him scare me.

Katy: Addiction and Cancer

Having addiction run in your family is one of the hardest thing to shield our children from. Sometimes, we just can’t help our children.

This is part one of a three part series from one of our amazing Facebook friends.

If you want to submit something to us and would rather use email, please email becky@bandbacktogether.com or stacey@bandbacktogether.com. Remember, your story matters too.

My daughter Katy was always a challenge – she’d not left the Terrible Twos – and when she got older, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). As much of a challenge as she could be, she was also very pretty, smart, and funny. One of my favorite memories is how she loved to eat so much that she’d eat in her sleep – sometimes she’d fall asleep and wake up and continue chewing. No one came between her and her food.

My very favorite Katy moment was right after she was born, they laid her on me, and she lifted her head and looked right at me. Crazy, right?

I still hold that moment close to my heart – has gotten me through a lot of tough times.

Addiction runs in the family, her father was an addict, and by the time she was five, we divorced. He was a terrible, mean person, but never did anything that kept him from seeing his kids. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t just pack up the kids and leave.

By the seventh grade, Katy had begun doing drugs and skipping school.

We fought a lot and when Katy was 16,  she told me that she wanted to go live with her dad. Instead of my usual, “you can go when the judge says so,” I said,

“You can go and you can come back if you change your mind, but if you do this again, you cannot come back to live with me. I can’t keep doing this back and forth.”

And that was exactly what happened, she stayed a few weeks and came home. Her father moved in with Katy’s grandfather, who was dying of cancer, and Katy helped out with him and the problems caused by cancer. She decided to stay with her dad and go to school there.

Her grandpa was on hospice which meant that he had a lot of morphine around. Later, I realized that her dad was taking his father’s morphine and giving it to Katy.

addiction

Morphine turned into methamphetamines and our relationship began to crumble.

By then, I’d gotten remarried and my new husband didn’t want her to live with us when she asked to move back in. I enforced my previous statement, telling her that she couldn’t come home.

Shortly thereafter, she moved back in with her dad.

In 2007, she married a nice guy; one who complemented Katy well. She was very manipulative and he was able to deal with it. Unfortunately, after he joined the Army Reserves and was deployed to Egypt, which left Katy alone with my newborn granddaughter, Rae. Her daughter’s birth, of course, was crippled with complications; she developed a uterine infection and a week after discharge, her uterus burst.

After her major surgery, the doctors told Katy that she probably couldn’t have any more kids.

Katy was a fierce mom. She was a good mother – very firm but fair. Rae still has excellent manners and is very well-behaved because of her amazing mother. During her ten day hospital stay, she fought the nurses to make sure she could nurse Rae. Once home, she was in huge amounts of pain. This is when I believe her addiction to opiates began.

With her husband away in Egypt, Katy got involved with an old friend and with her pain pill prescriptions used up, she turned to heroin. Our relationship was still very shaky – when I told her she wasn’t allowed to come to Easter, we didn’t speak for over a year. Even still, she let me see my granddaughter.

Drugs had rotted her teeth and beautiful smile. The poor thing had to have them extracted and get dentures. I was with her and it was gruesome.

For my own mental health, I had to distance myself from her. I couldn’t deal with the drama in her life – especially the drama with her father. He, and I believe Katy as well, had borderline personality disorder. She was a difficult person – always talking, needing help, wanting something, craving love, starved for attention, and it drained my husband and son. I’d try to avoid getting drawn into her drama, but she’d sense me pulling away and she’d draw me back in.

When Mike, her husband returned from Egypt, Mike began using heroin as well and the three of them moved in with my ex-husband.

On and off drugs, Katy was overwhelming.

At 56, her dad died due to multiple overdoses. He’d been a heavy drinker and drug abuser all of his life. As Katy had bought the drugs that killed him, so her half-brothers blamed her for their dad’s death. They became estranged, which broke Katy’s heart as she loved family above all.

Both Katy and my son, Chris were very relieved when their dad died because he was so cruel to them. Katy replied to someone who said that “he was in a better place” by saying that “no, he was in hell.”

In 2017, Katy began the process of getting clean and sober and had moved to a city with a friend to get away from her husband who was still using.

She’d gone to the hospital for something and called me afterward, stating that she’d been diagnosed with lymphoma – a kind of cancer.

I didn’t believe her.

I thought she was faking it and using the lymphoma as a way for us to take her in. We had a huge blowout and she turned around and left my house.

Thanks to the heroin, her husband Mike had a bad heart valve and needed open heart surgery, and, being a caregiver, she moved back in with him.

That summer, she ended up staying with us in our cabin in Pennsylvania and I noticed she was tired. Always so tired. She slept so much and so often that I wondered if she was on drugs.

Concerned, we took her to a hospital in Pittsburgh on Father’s Day 2017 where she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).

cancer addiction

I remember staring at those three awful words written on a whiteboard in her room. She had been within days of dying. Days.

And I hadn’t believed her.

The hospital started her treatment and we had her transferred to the Cleveland Clinic closer to our house. From then on, I was on auto-pilot.

I was a caretaker too: my mom was bipolar which meant that I had to take care of her when I was a kid.

I was the oldest of four and my parents divorced when I was 15, so becoming her caretaker fell into my lap. She’d made numerous suicide attempts and was in and out of the inpatient psych ward multiple times a year.

My dad had a stroke 12 years ago and was in and out of the hospital and nursing homes for seven months before he died. I went multiple times a week to visit, it was nice to spend time with him.

I was raised to be a caretaker.

I stayed with Katy constantly from the moment she had been admitted until the day she died. There were a few nights that her friends would spend time with her so that I could rest. Otherwise, I slept on a chair that converted to a bed. I showered in the family showers and drank coffee from their family lounge

Katy’s first treatment course lasted five weeks and she was stuck in the hospital for the entirety of it. The staff was awesome. They didn’t even mention the track marks on her arms or asked if she’d done drugs.

And that was the beginning of the end for us all.

Sometimes, I Can’t Help But Feel This Way

Living with borderline personality disorder can be a huge challenge for all involved.

This is her story:

Sometimes I wish what I had was as real and tangible as alcoholism or drug addiction: there is something real to battle and win. Instead I have this intangible illness – this personality disorder – that affects everything I do. I can never be cured of Borderline Personality Disorder, that hurts everyone, and I just have to deal with it until it eventually kills me.

I wonder how many people who have Borderline Personality Disorder die of old age? I know it isn’t impossible, but I wonder what the odds are. Even if they don’t commit suicide, borderline habits can lead to early demise.

Don’t worry: I don’t intend to turn to alcohol. I can’t mix it with my medication. And I won’t turn to drug addiction. I rattle enough as it is, with my daily meds. No, those aren’t the only reasons. My illness hurts those around me enough as it is – why purposely add to that?

All I’m saying is that “15 years sober” sounds better than “15 years off my rocker.”

The List – Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, Abuse and Pain

My therapist has asked me to write down a list.

A list of all the traumatic experiences that have happened to me in my life, that have contributed to my Bipolar Disorder and PTSD.

Right now, my therapist doesn’t feel as though I’m ready for the therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). As far as I understand, I have to relive my traumatic experiences, have the proper emotional response, get over it, then have Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) so I can develop some sort of coping mechanism for the future. But until my medications are adjusted and I’m in a better place, I have to wait.

So, here is my list:

Sexual abuse around age 3 by a family member. I repressed this memory until it slapped me in the face at age 12, causing an intense anxiety attack.

Constant arguing between my parents, thanks to my father’s alcoholism, gambling, and pain issues due to needing a hip replacement. The pain issue turned into an anger issue; turned into a power tool being thrown at my mother, missing, and going through the window and landing at my feet; followed by an argument on a holiday with my father resulting in me taking a heavy duty power torch to the head.

As a “gifted child,” I was bullied a lot in primary school and high school. I still carry some of those emotional scars with me.

Funnily enough, my brain is currently trying to stop me from accessing more memories. Suck it, brain; stop being a whiny bitch and let me write this shit out.

When I was 16, my mother – being severely depressedattempted suicide several times. The last time she tried, she had an argument with my father (now a better man, nothing like his days in my earlier life), and downed a ton of pills. I found her and her suicide note. I actively suppress the things written on that note, but if I actively access that memory, the note started with “I no longer fear death. In fact, I embrace it.” That sentence haunts me in my dreams. She is fine now, thankfully, but I refused to talk about it with anyone and pretended it never happened.

I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder when I had a panic attack at high school so bad my heart rate was 180, and I had to be rushed to hospital for fear of doing damage to my heart. Since that day, I regularly have palpitations.

I had a psychotic episode at 17, when voices told me to stab my mother. I became paralyzed in my own bed while lights shone down from the ceiling, and I was convinced aliens were coming for me, despite my logical brain telling me I was being stupid.

I was diagnosed with endometriosis and told I should probably have children before 25. I’m currently a week away from my 24th birthday.

I moved out of my family home to the capital of my state to attend university. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at this stage, and promiscuity, sleepless nights, shopping sprees, and severe irritability kicked in.

I dated a Muslim man for eight months. Toward the end of the relationship, I was emotionally abused, when he called me a dog. I went running into the arms of a male friend.

I decided I was the worst person in the world and went off screwing any guy who looked my way, drinking myself into oblivion, and eating pills like candy, just to numb the pain. I wanted to be used. I asked my male friend – now my fuck buddy – if he was using me for sex. He replied yes. I cried and said, “good.” Turned out he wasn’t using me: he was in love with me; as a result of my promiscuity, and his inability to tell me how he felt, he quit university, broken-hearted.

I started dating my current partner, whom I have been with for five years now. We lived with his sister, her fiancé, and their daughter. His sister is a lazy bully who cannot look after herself, let alone children (currently a total of three). Her fiancé is a violent, alcoholic gambler. After being made a prisoner in my own bedroom, we got our own place.

My diagnosis of fibromyalgia explained my constant pain and tiredness. Yay for inheriting every single shitty illness my parents have.

Recently, I have started to have feelings for a close friend, who also has a partner. While drunk, we have made  out twice. I have feelings for him, but he is just attracted to me. I have immense guilt over betraying my partner, who is emotionally stunted. I think I’m just attracted to my friend because he has the social and emotional skills my partner lacks.

I was severely bullied at my last job until I began having daily panic attacks and getting into a screaming matches with a higher-up and former friend.

I decided to self-harm and contemplated suicide when the medication I was taking for five years stopped working. Unfortunately, while the medication stopped working, my now non-existent libido did not return.
Have also suffered Dermatillomania (chronic skin-picking) for most of my life, particularly my feet. It is disgusting.

Currently, I am plagued by insomnia, headaches, anxiety, shame, severe depression, guilt, and every other horrible feeling imaginable. According to my therapist, I have feelings of low self-worth. According to my friends, I have a much lower opinion of myself than everyone else does of me.

I am both numb and emotionally unstable. I can’t cry, even though I really want to let it out. I think of myself as selfish and horrible, a terrible person who doesn’t deserve what I have. I theorize that I have some subconscious need to sabotage myself.  Every time something is going well, just to add some drama in my life. Why I do this, I don’t know. And as I have written this list in such a cold, emotionless manner, I find it odd that I can be so numb and feel so many negative emotions at the same time. I feel like a robot.

I don’t want sympathy. At least, I don’t think I do. I am just tired. Tired of struggling through every day with these issues. I want the problems to just magically disappear because I’m tired of fighting.

I know it’s a long road ahead to my recovery. And as much as I don’t want to relive the aforementioned memories, I am also excited for the first time in ages because maybe, finally, with proper therapy…

…maybe I’ll finally get some peace and closure.

Child Abuse Awareness Week: Fields of Purple Flowers

April is child abuse awareness month and we at The Band intend to highlight the stories of those who’ve suffered from this form of abuse. There damage child abuse leaves in its wake can last a lifetime:

This is her story:

Her first memory became her second memory once they started coming back, a piece at a time.

The old first memory, in her words:

“My stepfather has brought me into the back part of the house that we used as a living room.  I am maybe four years old, maybe younger.  I am very happy, as the Monster is being nice to me.  I have a dress on, black patent-leather shoes with buckles and white ankle socks with ruffles. The couch is plaid – brown, yellow, green.  His hand is on my knee and he is rubbing my leg, smiling at me. I don’t remember him taking off my panties, but they are gone.  I am not concerned, I am just happy he is not hitting me, he is not yelling at me, he is smiling at me and I feel safe for the first time in a long time.  His hand is under my dress and he is rubbing me and I have this strange feeling in my belly.

Out of nowhere, the most tremendous blinding pain I have ever felt.  I try to scream, I try to move.  He has his hand over my mouth and is holding down.  The pain is unbearable.  He is smiling.  I can’t breathe.  The pain is excruciating.  Am I dying?  Is he finally killing me?  What is he doing?  Why is he hurting me like this?  As suddenly as it started, it is over.  He gets up and leaves the room and I curl up in a ball sobbing.  He returns with a washrag and rolls me over on my back spreading my legs again.  The rag is moist and cold, he wipes me.  I lay there terrified the pain will start again.  When I see the rag, it is covered in blood and still he is smiling.”

She ran away then, into the fields of purple flowers. She ran and ran, finally falling down into the tall grass.  The sun went down, it got dark, and though she was afraid of the dark, she was more afraid of him.  Later she hears voices calling her name.  Her mother, her aunt, her brother.  Her mother crying for her, she stands up and hollers “Mama!”  Her mother runs to her, crying, saying “My baby is OK!  My baby is OK!”

Back at the house, her mother asks her why she ran away. She tells her.

“She slapped me so hard across the face that I was knocked several feet backwards and fell to the floor.  She screamed at me, that I was a liar and sent me to my room. I sobbed, hurting from the pain in my bottom and the pain in my heart, knowing that I was going to die.  He was going to kill me.  There was no one to stop him.  So I did what all good Christian girls did:  I prayed to God that I would die in my sleep before morning.

That was the longest night of my life. Somewhere in the night I fell asleep.  When I woke up, the Monster was smiling down at me once more.  My heart was racing and I knew I was about to die and he just kept smiling.  He puts one hand on either side of my head holding me down by my long brown hair, and smiling the whole time, he said, ‘She didn’t believe you, she never will and if you ever try to tell again I will kill you.’  Then, like nothing ever happened, he walks to the door, opens it, and calmly says, ‘Breakfast is ready when you are.’”

She later remembered a time in the car, when she was much smaller.  Three, maybe, almost four.  Her mother was asleep in the back.  She was on his lap, “driving”, a policeman is yelling at her Daddy.  “Where are your shoes?  Why are your pants unzipped?  What is going on here?”  She had a little dress on.  He hadn’t hurt her yet.

How did her mother sleep through the policeman, through the yelling?  Or was she asleep at all?

Her words:

“After the first night when I was raped by my stepfather and ran away, two things happened.  Because I had run away, a lock was placed on the outside of my door.  Every night when I went to bed I was locked into my room.  From then on, when mother passed out at night from her ‘nerve pills’ and alcohol, Monster was guaranteed easy access to me.”

The abuse came from her mother as well.  She wasn’t “Vicki” anymore, she was “bitch, slut, liar, whore.”  Any infraction of any kind was met with blunt force, blows to the head, back, ribs, whatever was closest.  Her fingers were held over an open flame until the skin bubbled and blistered.

In a few years, it was not just Vicki who was being sexually tortured, it was her two brothers.  And then the brother and sister that her mother had with the Monster.

When did it end?

You want to know how long it went on?

Vicki was fourteen years old when her stepfather finally went to prison for his crimes.  A caring neighbor finally heard her, believed her, and confronted her mother.  Her mother had the option to help provide evidence against him or be charged as an accomplice.

Perhaps worst of all, her mother did not leave the Monster.  When the Monster got out of prison?  He left HER.

Vicki is my sister.

Vicki is my hero.

Vicki has spent most of her life overcoming the most horrific kind of abuse imaginable and despite it, despite every bit of it – the foster care, the beatings, the years of alcohol and drug abuse to blur and erase the memories – she has not only survived, she has overcome.  She has raised a son who is now in college.  She was married to the love of her life until she lost him to a sudden heart attack.  She is the strongest, most self sufficient woman I have ever had the privilege to meet in my life.

I thank God for many things, but most often I thank Him for two things:

That Vicki is my sister.  And that I?  Was relinquished by her mother at birth to adoption.

My sister thanks God that I was given up for adoption.  Which makes me weep.

My sister is a survivor.