I feel like I need a quiet place to sit down and reflect on all that has happened in the short (yet so very long) 25 years I’ve been here. The truth is, a quiet place doesn’t stop the bombardment of memories, the instinct to protect myself, to protect those around me, and to stop looking for clues of abuse and trauma in those I meet.
There are a lot of gaps in my childhood, most of which I’m thankful for, but there are moments that are so drastically burned into my memory that I cannot erase them no matter how hard I try or fight.
I remember the drugs – being locked out of the house, beating against the locked front door, screaming as loud as I possibly could for my mother to let me in, while inside there were people doing drugs. Locking me outside was their way of “protecting” me.
I remember fights, words so explicit I could only imagine what they meant. I remember fists meeting walls and flesh; I remember locking myself in my bedroom trying to keep myself out of reach from the drunken and drug-fueled rages my stepfather would fly into. I remember so vividly the pot full of spaghetti sauce flung against a dining room wall, splattered red, the pot lying sideways on the carpet…it looked like blood.
I remember my mom’s screams every night for a year, protesting his advances. I remember wanting to turn on the small radio next to my bed so that I didn’t have to hear it, knowing his rage if he heard it. If I cried, I knew I had to stop, otherwise he would surely give me something TO cry about. I remember my mom disappearing for days on drug binges, leaving me with him. I remember wanting to escape, to run away.
I remember him trying to rape me. I remember fighting him off and telling him that I would tell my grandmother. I remember him being almost too drugged to care. I remember running and locking myself in my bedroom and hiding while he beat on the door. I remember him coming into the bathroom while I was showering, sneaking peeks behind the curtain.
I remember being touched and molested by a boy in the same apartment complex who said that we were playing doctor. His brother molested one of my friends at the same time. I was seven years old.
I also remember the sounds of the ferris wheel, the smell of the funnel cakes and cotton candy, and the laughter of those walking around the LA County Fair, one of maybe a handful of “good” memories. He promised that he would protect me, that he would be a shoulder and a guiding light in my life, a support structure. He should have been. Instead he took the trust of an impressionable little girl and twisted it and abused it, just like he did to his wife.
He turned the parts of my childhood that should have been filled with sugarplum fairy tales and gum drop play scenes into nightmares. Nightmares of beatings, threats and scars. Scars that, while not visible, lie under the surface causing trust and emotional issues in that once 8-year-old child who has grown into a 24-year-old woman. I sat there as he told my mother matter-of-factly that he was going to blow up her car while I was in it. I stood up for my mom and told him that he wasn’t allowed to threaten her anymore and if he didn’t leave I was going to call the police. I was 8 years old.
I heard a few months ago that he died. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but I can only assume it is with the lifestyle that he lived.
My mom was afraid to tell me. She was afraid that I’d actually care, afraid that I may have actually cried at the news. To be completely honest, I was so incredibly relieved. No longer would I have to hope that some unexpected person or family would have to deal with the disaster that came along with him. Not another child would have to go through nearly being raped by him. Not another woman would be raped, beaten or threatened with murder. Not another little girl would have to spend a Halloween inside the house in her costume, peering out the front window at him screaming and yelling at her mom. Not another child would have to go through any of that, ever.
At the same time, I have to thank him for it. I’m not sure if I’d be the person I am today if those things hadn’t happened.
I hope he got what he deserved while he was in prison.
I remember living on the streets in my mom’s car. I remember sleeping on her friends’ couches, floors and empty bedrooms. I remember moving in with my grandparents, giving my mom yet another shot to get on her feet. I remember it not working, her disappearing for days, only to come home in the middle of the night strung out. I remember her moving out of the state with her disgusting, attempting-to-be-intimidating shell of a man who abused her emotionally, verbally and sexually. I remember telling a children’s lawyer that I wanted my grandparents to have custody of me and her willingly signing the papers. I was 9 years old.
I remember being trapped in a community pool bathroom – held against the cold tile wall. I hadn’t slept for days before this and was too weak to fight back, not able to scream loud enough. Not that the screams would have done any good – we were the only ones at the pool. I said no, I said stop, I said get off me, I said don’t do that, I said no. He didn’t care. He was older, a bad boy, a friend of a friend. I had already lost my virginity so I guess he thought he wouldn’t be taking much from me. I still cringe or turn around and swing when someone touches my back or grabs my shoulder. I was told he was murdered a year after, and I felt relief. I was 15 years old.
I try to find validation in every relationship. I try to fix the man that I’m with, try to make him see that he can be better than he is. I tell myself I deserved the shit I put myself through. It’s hard for me to trust people, to comprehend the way they function rather than the way that I function.
In two of my relationships, the men overstepped their boundaries and threw me into a completely defensive mode. I threw them into a wall. I question whether I am now becoming the abuser instead of taking the abuse, but then I feel that even though I did physical harm to them, I was put into a bad position and took the action necessary. I still don’t like being cornered or pinned against a wall with someone screaming in my face.
The doctors didn’t expect me to make it through the birth process, let alone actually live. But I lived. My whole life I’ve struggled so as not to become a statistic, not to follow in the footsteps of my mother – to beat the odds. I made it. I made it this far and I’ll be damned if I’m going to give up now. I have a child on the way; I am nearly 5 months pregnant and it’s a girl. Now I get to try my hardest to protect her from all of the things that happened me.
I’m excited … and absolutely terrified at the same time.
Addiction isn’t called a “family disease for nothing.” The family of an addict is just as impacted as the addict.
This is her story of her son’s addiction:
My child has become an addict and loving my child is so very hard. I’m trying to find my happy as I learn to deal with his addiction.
With the overload of health issues around here, along with the common “life stuff,” I willing took a break from blogging after the last attacks from trolls; trolls who don’t know me, know my child, know my life, know my situation, and will never understand my life or my thoughts.
Simply: I took a break because I wasn’t strong enough to keep going,
Three blogs, five days a week, and two little freelance writing gigs with groups have kept me tied to the computer dumping out my odd take on humor, insane fake advice, and occasional a vaguely serious topic.
I have decided I will blog, on my blog, and the trolls will not, cannot affect me. I won’t allow them that kind of power. I have to share this story because as odd or awful as this is, I can’t believe I am the only one. Sometimes knowing you aren’t alone, can make a differences on your life. It has in mine, just like everyone here at Band Back Together.
I call it “living” but it’s really just existing – when I can muster the strength to push the elephant in the room to the back of my mind. This horrible addiction elephant.
When someone you love makes horrible choices, you can still love your addict child, but you also have to make a choice.
I made a choice to love from a distance to allow my son to deal with his addiction on his own time, allow that person to do things at their will, wherever they wanted. The condition was: I would not support that person, their activities: not emotionally and definitely not financially.
Of course that comes with a higher emotional consequence for me, a soul-eating, mind -boggling, hellish existence.
Torn when the phone doesn’t ring, furious, emotional and torn when it does. There is no happy medium, is no mutual enjoyment of life, it’s an inner ring of hell.
It’s odd how the human brain learns to process things so completely outrageous and unacceptable if they happen often enough; the brain removes logic to save the heart. The brain knows if one more little piece of your soul falls to the floor, you will collapse and finally fade away.
You can’t fix it, they don’t want to be fixed, no matter how absolutely insane and ludicrous the situation, you cannot even point out how completely illogical the situation is, let alone offer solutions. There are no less than 683 million reasons why all of your ideas are completely stupid.
You learn to focus not on the highs, not on the lows. Not the shocking news, but only that you love that person, your child, who just happens to be an addict.
You make sure whatever you say won’t offend them, or their choices, and you make double damn sure that person knows you love them, you love them deeply, you love them completely, you love them from your soul. You only want the best for them, safety for them, happiness for them.
No one really has the same idea of happiness.
it took me 43 years to realize that.
Another thing I learned; just because it’s ” the normal” thing that you’d make anyone happy, happy and delighted and feeling so very lucky, this can seem like hell on earth to someone with a different view of happy. So who am I to attempt to enforce my idea of happy on anyone? Simply put, I am no one. I am just a daughter, a wife, a sister, a mother, an aunt, a friend.
I am made up as we all our of a unique cocktail of our childhoods, our teachers, our elders, our peers, our life lessons, co-workers, books, and shows we have seen. Just a big casserole of a human being trying to find “happy.” When I achieved happiness, I assumed it would be wonderful – more than wonderful – and that, in turn, everyone else would become happy. Everyone would see how hard work brings happy, how loving each other brings happy, how walking the right road, singing your own song, and smiling would obviously land you in happiness.
The past 20 years, I tried to shove people into the happy, I tried to drag them into happy, push them in, beg them, lure them, slide shows of happy, handmade cards, long emails, song dedications, heartfelt talks, and hugs, I could surely get them to happy. Once they saw happy they would be like “duh, I want to be happy too!”
I was wrong. Their happy was so different than mine so I had to accept they would not be in my happy with me. Maybe they were taking a different route, and we would meet up in happy. Maybe their happy just meant more pit stops, more experiences, different criteria, maybe their happy would never lead to the same location as my happy. What would I do then?
Their happy could be really good for them, so I will work on being happy for their happy.
Little crumbles of your heart fall as your soul tears.
In the end, all you really want is for them to be happy. You convince yourself not to be such as narrow-minded selfish ass who demands everyone’s happiness is within arms reach of your happiness. We are not all alike, and really, what a boring world that would be. Keep telling yourself this as it makes it easier to persevere your heart, mind, and soul. Besides, it makes them happy that you are happy for them. It’s painful but it’s good for them and for the relationship.
Then the call comes, not a happy call, you are prepared because you know when this disease spins ’round, the calls come in two forms and two forms ONLY.
One, the world’s best thing ever, everything is amazing.
The next call, though, could be in a week, a month, a day, or within several minutes: the world is ending, there is no hope, no escape.
There’s not a single thing you can do to make it better. So you listen, try not to cry, remembering to love, offer helpful solutions, offer to make arrangements or calls, you do what you can and it’s usually for nothing. It rarely works out, but you make damn sure they know you love them so much you can’t breathe when they are in pain.
The calls – you see the caller ID – it’s a number from a state that you don’t know, but you do know who is on the other end, you never know the type of call, only that it’s from them. So you take deep breaths and you prepare to play the roulette game of their life. What kind of call you don’t know it could be: an incredibly fantastic words of grandeur.
Or the call can be gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, sobbing pleads for help.
You don’t know, because you can’t know but you answer the phone, inviting the roller-coaster of love and hate and pain into your world.
Nothing surprises you now.
As long as it’s their voice on the end, you are prepared, it’s now become common practice. You’ve learned to stop yelling, begging, urging, and learned to focus on conveying the fact that you love the elephant in the room. You love that elephant when your eyes open in the morning, and you love that elephant when your eyes close at night without a tear running down your cheek. No one sees your tear.
No one hears your cry and no one, no one can understand why this elephant is needed, deeply; it has become comforting.
Then as you are in your happiness on the back porch wind blowing you sit with your little family, cross-legged looking at your happiness, eating sandwiches, and thinking how peaceful and loving and happy this all is.
The phone rings.
The addiction elephant steps outside. The elephant sits on your chest, takes your breath, and overcomes you. Sometimes, when that elephant climbs on you, you compartmentalize you soul, your heart, and your brain as this allows you to attempt to speak in a sane, calm, tone, using gentle words, no blame, just love.
The call ends, with mutual ” I love you’s.”
The happiness is now gone for them as they are faced with a very adult matter that can’t be “worked away.”
You don’t remember the rest of the happy picnic: the people in your happiness with you do not have a conversation about it. You move on as you do after every call. But something is wrong, very wrong
You can’t tell anyone, yet you don’t cry, you don’t sob, you don’t fall to the floor, you don’t steal a car to get to the addiction elephant to hold them.
What the hell is wrong with you?
Why are you not responding like a human?
Why aren’t you happy?
Why not like the other times?
You haven’t fallen apart yet.
Will you fall apart?
Will this change your ability to move forward?
You know that If this person comes back, can you handle it?
Can the happy team handle it? What will be the cost of the elephant if you don’t?
What will be the cost of happy if you do?
I know the other shoe will fall, there’s just no way to process this without dying more inside. Maybe I am out of a soul, a heart, tears. Maybe I have been cried out, maybe I am stronger, maybe my brain is trying to protect me.
I am very much not okay, mostly because I feel okay, there is no way that I should feel okay.
Why am I not shaking, sitting in the shower crying, sobbing, and vomiting like I’ve done before when the bad news comes?
I’m not even shaking.
The shoe will drop, I hope, I beg, I have the strength, the knowledge, the wisdom, the compassion, the ability, the life experience, balanced with the brain, the heart and soul, to take this journey.
To share my happy, to understand their happy, to make a new happy, but most of all, to convey they undying, deepest of love and the basic humanity to make their happy the best happy I can.
Please find your happy; let everyone you know how much you love them – no matter what what makes them happy.
Every time I see the latest affront to human decency perpetrated by this administration and its dark legions of slavish devotees, I make a point of doing something kind for someone else. I practice kindness.
Anonymously, if possible.
Practicing kindness doesn’t have to be a big thing, or involve money, or even a lot of time. The point is not self-aggrandizement or warm fuzzies; the point is to pump an antidote and practice kindness to combat a pathological campaign of destruction, bigotry, and vile greed back into the body of this nation.
The point of practicing kindness is to actively resist an agenda that others women and minorities, strips hungry children of food, destroys families, and trades respect and decency for jingoistic greed and willful ignorance about our shared existence on this precious earth.
My kindness suggestions are always simple, but they are also effective:
Feed someone who’s hungry.
Help someone who’s struggling with work, their kids, with transportation.
Support artists, writers, and other creatives who are generating the beauty we need to combat fascist exploitation and dehumanization.
Refuse to leave unchallenged the propaganda and bigoted views you encounter on the daily, especially if they’re being used to actively attack, demean, or insult someone outside of the oligarchy’s CisHet Anglo Ubermensch paradigm.
Remember that you have far more in common with every day citizens of all races, sexual orientations, genders, and creeds than you will EVER have with a cadre of planet-crushing exploiters and fear-mongers eager to add more filthy lucre to the golden beds around which they coil like the dragons of old.
I used to agonize over who could possibly save us from this slide into brutish dystopian horror.
But I have come to realize that the light we need to banish the darkness comes from within each of us, and it is only by combining that light that we can combat the torrential flow of poison and bile.
So yes, absolutely call your elected officials. Definitely vote. Volunteer your time and resources to causes you care about. March, protest, resist.
But remember, too, the smallest acts; those tiny daily affirmations of our shared humanity, kindling a light to push back the dark.
I’ve heard stories about the realities of the discovery, but never really internalized them because the journey was never that personal. It was always a distant family member of a friend. The degree of severity was never actually driven home until I became a member of the club.
Now, I have multiple myeloma.
I thought long and hard for about a week about I would, and how to, share the news. My wife and I had to explain it to our teenage kids. We had to explain the realities of my upcoming chemotherapy. We had to explain that “Dad may not be his usual self” for a while. I smiled all through the discussion. After doing so, and studying the varying communities where I chat and play, it occurred to me that a cancer diagnosis is not a widely shared struggle. Most do so surrounded only by the closest of family and friends.
Honestly, that’s just not me.
In a previous life, I was a master karate instructor. I only retired back in 2012. At my prime, I used to tell my students that if I can inspire just one person to keep training and become a black belt, then I’ll feel accomplished at my work. While I left the practice to focus on my family, a lot of black belts now claim me as an early influence.
So, I took the same approach with this cancer diagnosis and started posting about it on Twitter and Facebook. If, in my journey, I can inspire just one person to fight back, then I’ll have contributed. Yes, I’m going to make this personal. Yes, I’m going to push past this and live a long life. Yes, I’m going to take you along for the ride. If you don’t want the details, don’t read my posts, unfollow me on social media; but SOMETHING I say just may light a fire under someone and convince them to not give up.
I used to say that the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life was running a triathlon. Then it was taking my Master’s test in karate. Then it was maintaining a good marriage. Then it was raising two healthy kids.
Today, I realized my whole life has prepared me for the challenge of cancer. Y’all come along for the ride.