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This is a moderated blog is a project of the Ruth Institute. Have a story to share? We're listening.
Posted on: Thursday, June 22, 2017
At the age of 52, I recently found myself sitting in my mother's psychologist's office. She went to him most of her adult life, though she died six years ago. I knew her psychologist well since, at the age of 14, I was the one who had sought him out in hopes of acquiring help for my family. My dad attended family therapy once, at which time he stood in frustration, faced his broken family, and proclaimed, "I am an alcoholic and have no intention of changing anything."
After my third divorce, I returned home to the Catholic Church. Then, following a year of devotion to praying my mom's rosary, I felt compelled to approach my parish priest about starting the annulment process. The time had come to confront my painful past, and the healing process was subsequently set in motion. It has not been easy, but necessary.
After Mom passed away, I discovered her own annulment documents. They revealed that my father was a sex addict and described in detail the abuse she had suffered in her marriage. It was overwhelming to realize the puzzle of my past consisted of a myriad of pieces. I think it would have been a relief the day dad chose to walk out of our family had it not been Christmas Eve. He was donning a new shirt and void of regret as he walked right past his wife's brokenness and his children's joyful anticipation of the arrival of Santa Claus.
After two years of therapy, I found myself still staring at a mound of puzzle pieces--very few connected. In my desperation, I thought mom's psychologist could help trigger some memories. Within the first ten minutes of our visit, I regretted this decision as he hastily concluded I had "hang ups" about sex since I was in a chaste relationship. He suggested that if we liked each other, we should live together. I remember staring at his degree hanging appropriately lopsided on the wall when it felt as if a bolt of lightning shot through my body, which appeared to have traveled upwards from hell, as I realized this man had influenced my mom. She sought help to better her life, and this is what she got. I was now guilt-ridden, knowing I had brought them together.
This sparked an unwelcome memory of my mom asking me to purchase her a condom. I vividly recollected struggling to process the metamorphosis I was witnessing--she was planning a one night stand. At the time I was married with two small children. Possessing only the life skills acquired on my own, I desperately tried to persuade her to reconsider. What was most upsetting was that she seemed so happy, even giddy, at the prospect. I wondered what had happened to my mom, the one who attended mass and confession and was quite devoted to praying the rosary. Now I knew.
I listened to the psychologist as he recalled this very encounter as my mom had described it to him. "It was liberating," he proclaimed, for her to express herself in this manner after being abused by my dad for so long. She now had control over her sexual being and was free to express her sexuality with confidence and without fear. He assured me it was quite pleasurable for her. I felt sick and was rendered speechless for a moment as I absorbed the shock waves of this most recent traumatic event. I responded to him by leaning inward and looking directly into his eyes with a resounding, "Seemingly!"
It was time to leave. As I walked out the door, I muttered "hippie" and felt somewhat vindicated.
Submitted by D.W.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 14, 2015
My first step to help others is sharing my untold story.
I was born in 1969 and grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts. My life as a child was not without tribulations but it was rich in memories of playing
outside, spending the summers on beautiful Cape Cod and spending time with family and friends. I live now in Canton, Georgia with my husband of thirteen
years and four beautiful children. Anyone who sees me and does not know my story would not see me as a victim or a survivor of anything, but I am a
refugee from nearly two decades of the Hook-Up Culture. The ideology of the Sexual Revolution, the belief that casual sex is harmless as long as you
use a condom, the notion that it is empowering for a woman to be free sexually, nearly killed me. I am moving into the realm of being a survivor. This
is my untold story.
Despite the bright and shiny veneer, my life for nearly two decades prior to meeting my husband of now 13 years and prior to us having our four beautiful children, was wrought with an ever-increasing darkness, degradation and hopelessness. For two decades my life was marked by alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct and sexual abuse. This dark time, while not my fault, is my responsibility to share with others to expose the deceptions at work in my life through the culture.
What really crushed me spiritually and physically were my college years. Already partying and abusing alcohol in high school, I set off to Penn State “the party school”. At Penn State, I completely abandoned my faith and any notion of a spiritual life as I delved into Women’s Studies and other liberal academic pursuits. I learned that hooking up was not only acceptable but expected. One particular Frat Party during my Sophomore year marked the beginning of my spiral downward. I met a cute guy who really took an interest in me. We talked and I remember he had a great sense of humor, one that matched my sarcastic New England humor. He kept giving me beers and the sad thing is that his “generosity” did not even register as a “red flag” for me. That night he raped me in his room. I was intoxicated almost to the point of my usual black out. The next thing I knew a Rape Crisis team was whisking me to the ER or somewhere where I was given a physical exam. The doctor attending to me said that I sustained injuries and that this was no act of love. I met with a kind campus detective who showed me different pictures of suspects. The man I identified was in fact a serial rapist soon to be on trial from another victim. After that trauma, I became more sexually promiscuous. I blamed myself for the rape, living in shame and self-hatred. I slept with so many men I lost count after thirty.
My journey into survivorhood came when I met my husband. My husband was a devout Catholic who introduced me to the best and most highly skilled healing doctor in the world, Jesus Christ. My husband loved me into wholeness with acts not just words. He did sacrificial things for me that I never knew or even understood until after they were completed, things like fasting 40 days for my sobriety, praying over me in my sleep. You see my husband’s faith allowed him to see me as Christ sees me: spotless, without blemish. Then I began to see myself as being worthy of love. But the secret of my story is that his love brought me to my greater love: Jesus Christ. Only through Jesus Christ was I able to discover my true identity as an overcomer, a redeemed, beautiful, chosen, renewed, temple of the Holy Spirit. My one prayer is that God will use the transformation of my scars to help women reclaim the truth over their bodies, their lives.
Submitted on July 14, 2015.
Have you been harmed by sexual choices you made? Have you been harmed by the sexual, marital, or reproductive choices somebody else made? Please consider sharing your story. Go here to learn how.
Posted on: Friday, April 12, 2013
My parents divorced after 29 years of marriage. Their children, including myself, were all over the age of 18. My mother said that she waited until we were all out of the house to leave, because we would not be affected so much. She was wrong. Many of our extended family members said, "If that is what makes her happy, she deserves to go."
The problems were multi-layered. Since this is not a forum for how to save marriage, but rather for discussing the aftermath of divorce, I won't hash out the variables that lead to divorce. Suffice it to say that there was grave sin on my father's part, and when my parents sought help from the Catholic Church, they were turned away due to lack of resources. "I am not a marriage counselor," the pastor told them. The church lacked the resources to help. My parents had no tools in their toolboxes. We lived in a small town. Eventually, in the void of a path to healing, my parents separated and then divorced.
The problems had just started, though. Neither of them found happiness. Rather, they persisted in their own pain and coping techniques, both became alcoholics. My mother remarried. Her new husband was an alcoholic as well. See, nobody was really happy. My si longs and I never really had a home base, and neither did our children. Divorce shatters a legacy and it remains shattered. Kids try to start the legacy over, but it is impossible.
I have now been married almost 29 years. I understand the temptation to leave. My children never had the love of grandparents from my parents. Rather, they watched adults try to avoid each other at all family events. They watched awkward interactions between 2nd marriages and ex's. It is ugly.
My parents desperately needed healing; not further wounding. I wish the Catholic Church had had a hand to stabilize them when they asked. However, as a practicing Catholic today, I don't think the church has figured it out yet.
Posted on: Friday, March 29, 2013
The earliest memory I have of my natural family is when I was two or three years old. I remember lying on my father's shirtless back while he did pushups. After he finished his exercises, my mother used tweezers to pluck stray hairs out of his back. It is a personal memory, one of many seemingly mundane details that make up a family's life together. What happens, then, when that family is broken apart? That which is personal, the family's very identity, is lost.
My early memories of my family are what I hold on to. They are what preserve my family of origin in my mind, and they are the stories I tell my children. Early on, I was given the normal amount of attention that a child would receive. I remember having family mealtime, watching shows with my mom, and bike riding with my dad. I remember being given instructions that kids normally receive, such as, "Take your elbows off the table." I cherish these thoughts.
One not-so-normal memory is of my mom telling my dad through clenched teeth that she hated him. We were in a restaurant. I recall how she looked when she said it, and how terrified I felt. I was three or four at the time.
When I was in first grade, everything started falling apart. My mother starting drinking in excess on a daily basis. I learned to push furniture against my bedroom door to ensure that she wouldn't bring their arguments into my room. At age six, a tempest raged around me, and I was on my own to figure out how to finish growing up. My dad once took me on his lap and tried to explain to me that he and mom loved me, and that it wasn't my fault that all of this was happening. I began to feel comfort in the midst of my confusion, until I looked up and saw my mom holding a pistol, ready to bring it smashing down over his head. I screamed, and the usual arguing ensued.
At night I tried to go to sleep and shut out the sounds of arguing, my neck aching with the stress of trying to cope with school, friends, and growing up while my family falling apart. Their arguments always seemed to end with my dad leaving. Once, I recall throwing myself on the hood of his car, begging him not to go. As they argued about whose fault it was that I was upset, he peeled me off the hood of the car, then left.
After my mom's first stay in a treatment facility, she became pregnant. As an only child, I was naturally thrilled. I remember my Dad bringing her flowers, going to church as a family, and no arguing during the time she was pregnant. Perhaps the nightmare was over. I continued to try to be good, and hoped that would help things go well with my mom and dad. When my sister was a month old, I knew she was drinking. The arguing started again, but this time my ten year-old self felt responsible for my sister. My stomach ached as I walked home from school, wondering what I would find. My mom went away to treatment again, this time for many months. My sister and I went to stay with our grandparents, since Dad was busy with work.
While she was gone, I keenly felt the need for my mother. I tried to ask my dad questions I had about my appearance, but he couldn't give me what I needed. Again, I was on my own. When my mom returned, things quickly returned to the old normal. One night after my dad left I found my sobbing mom lying on the floor. What I suspected was true--he was gone for good. The excruciating process of divorcing due to "irreconcilable differences" had begun. I remember one trip to the lawyer, during which the discussion regarding who would take what centered around record albums. I felt so sad, as everything that was a part of my life was divided up. I found out that I would live with my mom (which terrified me). My dad, the stability of my life, would be available for visits. However, after he left, I didn't see him for an entire year.
An identity crisis ensued. I decided that I did not want to do anything that would keep me from being part of the popular crowd at school. I quit taking advanced academic classes; I quit my music lessons. I started to smoke occasionally, and later, to drink with my friends. Being good never got me anywhere, so what was the point? My dad was gone and my mom wouldn't notice my bad behavior. If she did, her guilt over her alcoholism would cause her to overlook it.
When my dad began contacting me again I was relieved, but it felt strange. I was not a little girl anymore. We did fun activities together occasionally, but when I came home my mom would get angry at me. We began to fight regularly, and I continued to care for my sister when I was home.
Then, another woman came into my dad's life. We three began to do activities together. I liked her but I felt like I had lost part of my dad. He used to take me bike riding, fishing, and sledding. He and I have never done anything alone together since. That was a hard adjustment for me.
I went to live with my dad and step-mom just before my high school years began. My sister stayed behind with my mom. I was so relieved to be out of the craziness of living in an alcoholic household, and expected things to be fine. However, I was not fine. I suddenly felt like a fish out of water. I didn't feel like I belonged in this new family. The family rules and ways of doing things seemed like a foreign language. I had fun doing things alone with my step-mom, but when we were with my dad, I felt hopelessly awkward.
I was depressed, and didn't know it. I felt like I didn't belong in my own home. I felt guilty when I visited my mom, because I wondered if my dad and step-mom thought I was strange for wanting to visit someone with a serious drinking problem. I felt guilty for wanting to do activities alone with my dad, because I thought my step-mom wouldn't like it. I had thought that I wanted my parents to divorce, because then the fighting would end. I never expected to feel so awful, and so alone. After my dad and step-mom started having kids, I gave up trying to fit in with them ; instead, I stayed busy with friends, school, activities, and work. I figured they would be glad if I stayed away more. When they got their first family portrait without me, it confirmed in my mind that I was a thorn in their sides. My step-mom once said, "If only you had your mother." In retrospect, I think she was being sympathetic, but at the time, I heard her comment as, "I don't want to be in the role of your mom." Another time she tried to encourage me by saying, "You could do anything, go anywhere in your life." I heard her comment as, "I don't care if you end up living close to us or not." The warmth and the desire for closeness that I had grown up with in my very flawed natural family wasn't there, because it wasn't really my family.
Years passed, and I started going to church regularly. I quit smoking and excessively drinking. I married an amazingly patient, trustworthy man. Early in our marriage, at times I was paralyzed by fear that he would abandon me. At first, I was afraid to have children, because they might grow up and hate me. On the contrary, my kids have been a source of healing in my relationship with my parents and step-parents. They gave us something to focus on other than our own awkwardness. Yet some things never heal. When we visit my hometown, we have to divide the time in half between my mom's and my dad's. There is not much time to be with either of them once it is divided. It is like having half a relationship with each one of them. Children, young or grown, relate to their parents as a unit. When one is absent, something is missing. Mom isn't there to fill me in on what is going on with dad, as only a mother can do.
I can't share my good childhood stories comfortably with my mom or my dad. I'm afraid of making my mom sad, because she has so much guilt and sadness about the past. I don't want to bring up childhood stories with my dad, because I am never alone with him. Somehow I feel like a traitor to his current family if I were to talk openly about memories from his "other" family. It is like my whole childhood is a big, sad secret that no one wants to mention. My beautiful mom and handsome father are a memory that I hold in my heart and mind, just like their old photos that I keep packed away in a box. I thank God that I belong to my own husband and children, as well as to my paternal grandparents, who are still living. No one can take that away. But the pain and consequences of a lost family of origin remain.