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This is a moderated blog is a project of the Ruth Institute. Have a story to share? We're listening.
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.