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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.

Ask The Band: How Do I Make The Choice?

Some days, despite the blessings I have, I am reminded over and over and over again that I do not have the one thing in my life I thought I would have: a child.

Children.

It seems like everyone I know is expecting their first, their second child. And I try really hard to be happy for them. I try so hard to mouth the right things, because I am happy for them. But every one of those words of congratulations tears open the scars – I will never have a child. Not a child of my own. (And I do very much consider an adopted child to be my own, by the way.)

My wife is not just simply not ready, but also not…capable. I’m not talking physically, but emotionally. I’m already keeping our home together, taking over pretty much every responsibility.

I may be a bad person, but I can’t take care of all of our details, make sure she’s taking all of her medications, and be the sole caretaker of a child as well. Hell, I doubt we’d be able to qualify for adoption if I have to somehow bind everything together, and honestly, I don’t think that would be a good environment for a child anyway.

So. I’m left with a bitter choice that I can’t actually make: my wife, or my life-long dream of a child.

How do you make a choice like that?

This Father’s Day*

Welcome to Father’s Day 2019, here at The Band Back Together. Today, we celebrate fathers-to-be, fathers whose treasures who are in heaven, fathers who don’t deserve the title, fathers who have shaped who we are for good, for bad, for life.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, Happy Father’s Day.

The Band.

To The Man Who “Raised” Me-

You married my mother when I was barely three-years-old.

I don’t have any memories of that day, but the pictures show a happy little girl. I don’t know what was going on in your mind as you allowed me to grow up believing you were my father.

I’ve seen all the pictures. I know they portray the quintessential American family.

I have memories that tell me those pictures were lies.

On the surface, I never wanted for anything. I had clothes that fit me, food in my belly and most of the coolest toys. What I didn’t have, was you.

Even at a young age, I remember feeling that I was somehow less than my sisters, somehow different in your eyes. As I got older, I picked up that it had something to do with having a different last name.

But I never got any explanation as to why.

I was only nine when you brought your daughter from a previous marriage to live with us. I was NINE YEARS OLD when you and Mom sat us down and explained that you weren’t really my father.

You asked for my permission to adopt me.

A chance to finally be YOURS?! Who could turn that down? Did you realize that I didn’t have the cognitive ability to understand what was happening? Did you know how desperately I wanted to have your last name? To be a part of the family, to no longer be different?

Why you and Mom went through with the adoption, I’ll never know. You were already fighting so much. A mere six months later, you were divorced.

Do you know what it cost me to tell my mother that I wanted to live with you instead of her? Do you realize that my desire to please you, to matter to you, caused a chasm between Mom and me that can never be repaired?
And what did I gain? A step-mother who made sure I continued to feel like less, separate from her family. The privilege of being your built-in-baby-sitter and maid. And constantly being bullied by my step-sisters every day of my teenage years. All while you turned a blind eye.

Somewhere along the line, I stopped trying to win your love and started to seek what I was missing from boys.
Even the negative attention I received when I acted out was better than feeling invisible.

For years I called you “Dad.” I bought you cards on Father’s Day every year, signing them, “with all my love.” For most of my life, I’ve tried to please you. I stood by you when others wouldn’t, and made excuses for you when you hurt others. Or me.

I can’t do it anymore.

I have a son now and while I may not get along with his father, I see what a strong relationship they have. I have removed the blinders – I see that we’ve never had a relationship. It’s not really a relationship if one person doesn’t even acknowledge the other.

So this Father’s Day, there won’t be a card from me in the mailbox. You won’t get a phone call or a text.

For once, I’ll be just as invisible as you always made me feel.

Love,
Me

The Story of Me

My story all begins in August of 1976. My birth mother was 17 years old and pregnant with me. My mom already had one child, my sister who was four years older than me, so my mother was 13 when she gave birth to my sister. My sister was taken by the state and was considered unadoptable because she sat in the corner and rocked back and forth.

Fast forward to 1976. I have been told that my birth mother’s parents informed her that she had already made one mistake (my sister) and if she had me they would disown her, so she threw herself down two flights of stairs. She went into labor from the fall and, because she was only seven or so months along in her pregnancy, I only weighed 4 lbs. 5 oz. at birth, but I survived.

My birth mother took me home and life began. It was said she was a drug user and abuser, and while she was under the influence, she would hold me underwater to watch the bubbles come up. I was told she used my bottom as her personal ashtray, and that she used her food stamps to buy drugs (at that time food stamps were like paper money, and were traded for real money or drugs).

Elsewhere, my adoptive mother was telling her best friend that all she wanted for Christmas was a baby. The best friend had a sister and that sister knew my birth mother. One day, when my future adoptive mother’s husband was at work, he came out to his car and there I was. I was dressed in a dirty T-shirt that had been used as a makeshift diaper. He zipped me up in his coat–it was winter in Charlotte, NC–and took me home. He walked into the house and unzipped his coat to show me my future adoptive mom.

Adoption proceedings began, but I was returned to my birth mother. She burned all the dresses my adoptive mother bought and didn’t use the burn cream for my bottom. My birth mother tried to stop the adoption because she would lose her welfare benefits. The judge approved the adoption and at 14 months old and 11 pounds, I was finally adopted.

When I was about two, my mother’s marriage ended; her husband threatened to kill me because I wouldn’t stop crying. We moved back home with her parents and we lived with them until my mom remarried. Her husband adopted me to give me his last name.

Every time I was adopted, my birth certificate was legally changed to represent my current parents and their respective ages at the time I was born. However, many years later I told my mother than I had been abused by a family member and she confided in me that her father, my granddaddy, whom I called daddy for years, had molested her. Only after she returned home with me after the end of her marriage, did she confront him and say it was over. I think she got pregnant by him, moved away, remarried and had me.

Every time I tried to talk about my adoption and wanted to search, she would tell me to talk to my granddaddy; he was supposed to have all the paperwork. When I asked him, he would tell me to go see my mom, that she had the papers. This man never threw anything away, so it’s odd to me that the papers were never found, which also makes me think something shady happened. But no one in the family who is left will talk about it.

My granddaddy was a raging alcoholic for years and only stopped drinking when the doctor told him if he didn’t he would die. He abused my uncles and my mom.

My records are sealed, as it was all considered a private adoption, and unless I have a terminal illness or need an organ that my children can’t provide, I’d have to petition the courts to unseal my records, and they can still deny the request.

I don’t know the truth for sure and it doesn’t really matter, I guess, other than to finally have answers. I hold no ill will toward anyone involved, no matter which story is true. I feel bad that my mom suffered that abuse. I’ve been abused sexually and I know how that feels. I just wish I could know the truth just so I’d know where I belong. I have an awesome husband and three great kids, so I have a family. I’d just like to have medical information. So there it is my story I hope it helps.

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.

Fields of Purple Flowers

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.