The idea of sharing my own experiences in a way that people can relate to and feel validated by has always been in my heart. The truth is I have put off starting this journey simply because I knew the hard parts would be difficult to share. The things you wish didn’t exist, you know the things that feel like a heavy suitcase that you have just always carried around! But I’ve realized that people’s perceptions of how someone’s life has been are usually wrong, and often once you open up and be vulnerable, you get to start finding yourself. Almost like if you can’t tell the world about your dark days, you are probably not admitting them to yourself either. Each and every one of my dark days made me who I am today.
My mothers third husband brought a lot of turmoil to our lives. I was in first grade, and although he was her third husband, I had never seen my mother like this, there was something so different about him. Her world revolved around him and unfortunately the choices he was making became hers. I look back at the environment we moved into and realize its something my children don’t even know exists.
The way a child processes things and what you know as an adult become so blurred. Children don’t seem to realize the severity of what they are going through. Children are resilient, right? They adapt. Yet if you want to become a functioning adult, you end up being very aware of what you adapted to, so that you can cope.
I remember it being a small house, cold and cluttered. One room I wasn’t allowed into because he had two huge snakes that lived freely inside. I can still vividly hear the sound of them moving around at night. There was so much that was off limits to me inside that house, I had never seen a gun before, yet it became so normal for them to be placed throughout the house. People in and out, day and night. My mother had become so distant, she wasn’t the same, and I was becoming more and more invisible. The first time he ever hit her I remember feeling almost relieved, like we were going to get to leave, right? But she just seemed to love him more.
It didn’t take long for the inevitable to happen, if you sell drugs, eventually the cops will come to your door, and they wont knock politely. Yet things went right back to the way they were pretty quick, and the time seemed to drag on. The more controlling and abusive he got the more I felt like I was alone, and the more she pushed me away. Then there was the day she just forgot me completely.
It was just after Halloween, I remember we didn’t trick or treat that year, she had filled a plastic pumpkin with cinnamon discs from the grocery store and gave it to me. I am assuming because a gallon of hard candies should keep a 6 year old occupied. She told me I had to stay in my room and be very quiet. The door locked behind me and there I sat. The sun would come up and the nights would come and go. Looking back I am not really sure how long I was in that room. Enough days to know I had been forgotten, and to start trying to figure out how to survive. Until finally a familiar face, the face of someone who loved me, opened that door. It wasn’t my mother, it was my aunt. That door opening did not change the fact that my mother had forgotten me, it did not change the reality that she had ultimately chosen drugs over me. I left that day with my aunt, and it took several more days for my mom to come see me, to realize I was gone. It was the first time I felt that fear that I may never be with my mother again, that maybe she didn’t exist anymore. It was the first time I ever felt like she didn’t love me.
I know in my heart that she never stopped loving me, that she didn’t know how to take care of herself, so of course she couldn’t take care of me. My adult mind and heart can comprehend these things. I can forgive, I can be better than the childhood I had. But those dark days never leave you. The harshness of your realities never go away. You ultimately see where they taught you how to cope with anything difficult. Its the cold hard truth that an addict can find sobriety, but a child cant change what addiction put them through. You can only become an adult that decides how you will face and overcome someone else’s demons.