When I was 11 years old, my father was put into jail for about a year.
How disorienting was that for a little girl who longed for a big, strong daddy to always take care of her? I can tell you, it is incredibly heartbreaking. This event wounded me in so many ways that I didn’t even realize until I was older. But, at the time it was happening, I knew a couple of things: One, my dad wasn’t around, and he was somewhere where only bad people went. Two, my dad was the only one that worked in my household, so life was going to become extremely different.
It wasn’t long before our power was cut off. We didn’t have hot water either, and some months we didn’t have water at all. Food became extremely hard to come by, and I would go to shelters to try and collect any food that I could get. Not only did we lack the basic necessities but my home was disgusting; completely in disarray. At that time, we had over 15 cats that were not litter box trained, so the stench of feces reeked throughout the house. I contracted lice at some point that year, and it was not my mother who took care of me, but a friendly neighbor who bought me lice shampoo and combed out my hair.
Even though that year was extremely difficult physically, it was even more so emotionally difficult. My life was shameful, my family was shameful. Any feeling of safety or security that I had at my home was killed. I had a weight placed on my shoulders that changed me from a child into an adult. I was told to not tell others about our problems, and to ‘keep it in the family.’
When my dad was released from jail, my home life started to slowly come back together. The money started to flow again and we had the basic necessities for life, but I was still scarred. I was still wounded. From there on out, I decided that I had to depend on myself, and myself only. I disconnected myself emotionally from my family, or at least told myself I was doing so. Intense hatred and unforgiveness tainted the relationships I had with my parents and brothers, and I no longer called my house ‘my home.’ I didn’t share my struggles with others, or seek help… only in my journal did I write what I was truly feeling.
Even when my dad was back in the picture, there were many other difficulties and dysfunctions in my family that no amount of money could ever make up for. We still struggled financially whenever my dad would be in between jobs. Alcohol and anger brought our family to the breaking point, and I was always afraid of what I would walk in on whenever I came home. My mother never left the house; she stayed holed up in her room, accompanied only by her numerous depression and anxiety medication bottles. The first thing my dad did when he came home from his long hours at work was to grab a Heineken. My oldest brother was constantly in and out of long stints in prison, while my other brother was a high school drop out with an intense anger issue, who only cared about weed and World of Warcraft.
Even when I changed my social circle and gained some lovely friends, I was still struggling living with my parents. I’d have a wonderful night with my friends, and I’d feel encouraged and happy on the way back to my house. But as soon as I was home, I’d be greeted with loud music, strangers doing jager bombs in the living room, screaming matches between my parents, physical fights between my brothers and my dad, the stench of animals, alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana… and I would instantly relapse into depression.
I knew I needed to move out. So, I got a part-time retail job, and saved, saved, saved. When I turned 19 years old, I was able to move out. I rented a room from some lovely friends, and a lot of my healing came from that experience. Not only was I able to separate myself from an unhealthy situation, but I was able to see what a functional marriage and home looked like. I knew what a functional family was supposed to look like, but I had never been a part of one. I was able to start over fresh, in a safe environment.
Over three years have passed since I’ve moved out from my parents house. I still maintain a relationship with my family, and I visit them regularly. My dad has successfully completed an AA program, and is doing very well. I have chosen to forgive them, and ever since I have, there has been a lot of progress in our relationships. Personally, I am so, so happy. I love knowing that I am not limited or held back by my parent’s failures and successes. I have learned a lot – of what to do and what not to do – when I myself am a parent.
Sometimes there are situations that we need to physically remove ourselves out of. Maybe it is physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse that you’re dealing with. There is a line that has to be drawn. If you are being abused, please seek help. Find a safe person that you can talk to, who has the wisdom and potential to either advise you or to point you in the right direction.
I used to live in darkness; physically and emotionally.
Now, I am lovely.