I have a story. One that has been kept a secret for a very long time. Half a century actually. Recently, I’ve found myself in a very positive and healing and open environment, and I find my story bubbling to the surface. I cannot stop its emergence.
I was born into a religious cult. This cult demanded my presence four days a week, along with every member of my family. I lived with my Mother and Father, my older sister and my younger brother. On our "off" days, we were not permitted to interact with others outside our church, nor participate in school activities or sports.
I honestly feel my parents were giving life "their all". They were both trying to overcome their own issues, including abandonment and abuse they had each suffered as children. I don’t blame my parents for things that happened. They tried as hard as they could in the times that they lived in.
But life wasn’t very easy for us. My parents hid my Dad’s alcoholism from everyone, including my siblings and I. He was a devout church member – this is all anyone saw. Looking back, I now see this as addiction as well. Addication is addiction. It can come in many forms.
When I was thirteen years old, I came home from school to what I thought was a regular day in our home. Mom was in the kitchen starting dinner and Dad was in the living room sitting on the sofa. But I noticed he was in a state that I didn’t recognize. I wasn’t sure what to make of things.
“I’m in love with another woman”, he said. “I work with her.”
I was still trying to understand what I heard when I saw my Mom quietly walk across the floor. Demurely, she stood in front of him.
“I said, I’m in love with a woman I work with,” he repeated.
SMASH. Mom had just picked up a wooden stool and threw it to the ground with such force that it shattered into pieces. CRASH. The next item in her path was our heavy 1970’s style coffee table – again, in pieces on the floor. I had never seen my parents like this and in an instant, my life changed forever.
Mom left. Immediately. And she left all of us behind. My siblings and I were abandoned by her and left with my Father, who we were now realizing wasn’t as healthy as we thought. As the months passed, the house became filled with lots of men, music and drinking, which went on into the night. My Dad would pass out regularly, locking himself in the only bathroom we had in the house. The next morning, we would force our way in and find him in a pool of his own vomit.
We were all so young and with our limited life experience the environment of a strict religious upbringing, we didn’t know what was happening to our world. How do we make this stop? How did this happen? What is happening? Our entire axis was off. We could not tell which end was up!
To make matters worse, Dad threw me out of the house one day. I had no idea why but I didn’t have time to figure that out. I was a thirteen-year old girl who was trying to stay alive now. In shock, the first night I slept under the bridge that was part of the greenbelt behind our house. I didn’t know where else to go. I didn’t understand what was happening.
The next morning, I made a plan. I knew I couldn’t keep doing this, so I asked my friend if I could sleep at her house. Her parents agreed but only for one night. I spent the night with her, trying to figure out what to do tomorrow. I was in full on survival mode now. Not knowing what was going to happen from one day to the next, not knowing where I would be, how I would eat, where I would sleep.
In the morning, I stumbled back under the bridge again. I was starving and scared. So scared. I had barely slept in days, and I felt so lost.
The next morning, without any other options, I snuck back to our house. I stayed in the greenbelt area behind our backyard, trying to see what was going on, who was home, if I could sneak in for some food. As I made my way closer, I saw a taxi-cab pull into the driveway….my Mother! Tears sprang to my eyes as I ran towards her. Oh, how I had missed her. I ran so fast to get to her, and as she opened the front door, I was right behind her.
She never even noticed me. Neither did my Father.