Part of Recovery is facing your fears, and figuring out a new way to live.
I watched a movie about being in rehab, rehab for addiction and recovery from abuse have some striking similariaties, I guess abuse eats away at your life the same way addiction does, just one is self inflcited and the other is inflicted on you.
One of the reasons I’ve chosen not to drink for this period of my life is that I have alchoholism on one side of my family, maybe both, and drugs on both, and I don’t want to start making that my go-to during a rough period.
The Holy Spirit is the only coping thing I want to be addicted to, event hough it’s hard. It can feel like taking a pill or a drink would make it so much easier because physical symptoms suck, and make emotional symptoms worse.
I’ve had stress symptoms all this week, which seem to have been triggered by a difficult conversation with my aunt.
See, as part of not letting my dad control our lives anymore, my sisters and I have discussed telling our extended family about what happened.
The trouble is my dad cannot keep his mouth shut about any drama in his life, and he has already told half the family his version of the story. Which no doubt paints him as either the victim, or the person struggling to get over his difficulties (still the victim).
My aunt is the main person who informs everyone in the family what’s going on with anyone else, so all our uncles and grandparents are calling her asking about us…calling us directly would never cross their minds.
I don’t really mind it so much, except that a slanted version of our story is getting spread.
I called my aunt over the weekend, she’s my dad’s sister, grew up with the same crap as he did, and has a handle on many of his flaws.
She said she was wondering about it and would like to hear more, so I told her. I gave her the highlights.
The word that seemed to surprise her most was ABUSE.
She couldn’t seem to grasp that her brother could really have abused us.
I gave her the physical, verbal, and emotional examples. She actually witnessed when my dad punched me, and she said she would have probably done the same if her kid had hit her first. I explained why I did it and his history of barging into my room without knocking, etc, bu it didn’t sway her.
Though I told her that he’d threatened my several times before that point, and had threatened me afterward. When I said that it was over me not doing something he asked/told me to do, she said in her house she’d expect her kid to do chores too.
The crowning injury for me was when she said that she thinks there is no good guy, there is no bad guy, that there were things I could have done differently, things that caused incidents.
I really hope you are horrified right now, and that this doesn’t sound familiar, if it does, you have my sympathy.
Let me define some things:
After a certain age, I don’t think a kid should be physically forced to do things like chores. There’s other consequences.
Which is moot anyway, because I was a grown adult when my dad threatened that, capable of making my own decisions. It had nothing to do with teaching me to be a good kid, it was about power. That’s all it was.
And if you are threatening your child with violence to get them to do something, you are acting like a tyrant.
I believe you can punish children for disobeying, then it’s a consequence, I do not think violence should be a motivation for the action to begin with.
But it doesn’t matter, since I was not a child. My aunt seems to not understand the obvious difference there.
My mom didn’t threaten to slap me out of temper, that I remember, but my dad did. He flung me out of stuff when I had done nothing wrong save for being there first.
I told my aunt this, I told her how he would tell us things he shouldn’t, like he considered suicide a lot. I told her how he verbally abused me with criticism, blame, and just horrible mocking that no one should ever say to or about their kids.
I told her about the manipulation.
She said some of it seemed like him trying to be a better dad than his father, by playing games with us. Though I said that wasn’t for us, it was for him. If we refused he’d whine about no one wanting to play with him, sometimes he got angry and yelled about it. Blaming us for making him unhappy.
Also, when he was trying to get over his gaming addiction, he’d blame us for not giving him a distraction by playing with him. Like that made it okay to play video games all night long and yell obscenities at the computer while we were trying to sleep.
Sure, our fault.
My aunt did admit some stuff, like how he makes everything about him, how he embarrasses people when they most want him not to, how he exaggerates what others do to him.
She puts it down to him having Aspergers (which I doubt after being in a program that talked about it) and not being able to get a sense of what other people feel.
But I know that is not true, I lived with my dad, he could tell what everyone felt as long as he wasn’t the cause. I’ve heard him explain exactly what people were feeling, and sympathize or use it against them.
He knew I had self worth issues, he knew I struggled with anger over what people do to me, but he would blank completely that he was the cause of that.
He could explain why my aunt was bothered by the behavior of everyone else but him, he’d own up to it if my mom pointed it out, and he’d laugh at it. He laughed at my hurt when I didn’t like his mocking and exposing me. He laughed at everyone’s hurt.
My dad liked punishing people. He liked bullying people who were weaker than him, who would let him. He hated me for getting stronger than that, but as long as he could get a reaction from my mom or sisters over what he said, he’d keep doing it.
He treated everyone like his parent, not his responsibility, and he still does.
My aunt told me he’s talked to her a lot about it, and owned up to some of what he did that she herself pointed out, but she focused on what bothered her the most, not what bothered us.
My dad told her apparently that he always thought we’d put up with him no matter what, that he wouldn’t be made to leave.
So, did he get married and have kids to ensure an audience for his bad behavior? A well of unconditional love? That he could withdraw from his whole life?
I guess so, he always did say he’d move in with me once he got too old to work (that’s not happening.)
Dad could never be accepted by his family, so he made one where he though he’d always have to be accepted. I heard him brag to people that my mom loved him despite all the bad things he did that she didn’t know about before they got married, so she was the best woman in the world.
I heard him yell at her for how disrespectful she was too, if she ever dared to question his treatment of me, or anyone else.
My dad wouldn’t always snap right away, but he’d snap eventually and make a whole thing of it, so you wouldn’t try it again.
I grant that our family was different from his, my mom made it so, but it wasn’t necessarily because he was a better parent.
My aunt knows the truth now, but she still encouraged me to think of what I could have done to cause all this, and to try talking to him. That I won’t know if he’s changed or not until I do.
Like I need to talk to him to know that 3 months of self reflection and 8 months of blaming us, are not going to undo 20 years of an abuser’s mentality.
if it could be changed, it would take years. Humility begins with realizing what you did, but you’ll realize a whole lot more once you start that process.
My aunt also told me that she feels we are in the phase of being angry right now, but when we are over it, and have kids of our own, we’ll understand why our dad was that way. We’ll see it was because of his upbringing.
My sister’s response? “I hope not.”
Mine too, I hope I never start justifying myself to my kids because of my past. I hope my husband never gives me leeway to be abusive, even if I sometimes act like a victim because I was one.
I want to adopt, for crying out loud. A lot of orphaned or foster kids were abused, do I want to add my name to that list? Heck no!
What my aunt is doing by saying this was my fault, is saying it’s not abuse. Because you never, ever tell a victim they did something to deserve that. Their abuser might, but you shouldn’t.
Believe me, we deal with that thought enough.
I don’t generally ask myself if I did something to deserve it.
I did about the hitting, but most of the time I knew he was overreacting, and had no right to treat me like garbage.
You know what’s sad?
If I had turned it on for my aunt, if I had cried and told her all my hurt feelings, Maybe I could have gotten more sympathy. My very calm, mature way of discussing it can work against me.
I’ve seen it with other people too, they get put off by me not crumbling, crying, acting like my life sucks.
I get it in a way, if this really happened to you, how can you be calm? It’s horrible, people in movies cry, other girls cry so easily, why don’t you cry? We can do the hug thing and say it’ll all be better.
- When I did cry, people didn’t ease up on me, they doubled down. They told me not to cry, that I wasn’t being attacked, that this was because they loved me… crying was blood in the water to the people in my life.
- I did cry, I spent years sobbing alone in my bedroom, at night, trying to get past it. Trying not to be miserable. I was less depressed then than I am now when I can’t cry and let it out because I’ve become so “mature.”
I can’t beg for pity anymore, I once did. I got it twisted around and shoved in my face, by the one person who begs for more pity than anyone else I know.
He’s doing it now. He just can’t understand why we won’t talk to him, he’s changed! he realizes he was a jerk now.
Like he realized it scores of times as I grew up, and did nothing.
Any excuse will do for him, I’m sick of listening to them.
But I know why my aunt told me all this and won’t call it abuse.
She’s lived through the same thing with her parents, she’s heard terrible things from them. She broke the most out of the cycle of words and actions, I think she got resented for that the same way I did. No siblings to cheer her on either.
She finally accepted the excuses her parents made, and accepted her place in it. She blames herself for causing some problems because that is easier than seeing it as senseless.
Abuse, cruelty, neglect, they are all senseless. I’ve said this before.
My aunt’s view is too cotton candy for me. It assumes people cannot just deliberately do wrong because they refuse to do right.
That’ just not true. I believe the bible, it says people are wicked. On purpose, and on accident. And all of us will do both. A good person might just be one who does the least on purpose.
But that’s a human standard.
A good person is one who can own up to dong all they did, and doing it knowing it was wrong, even if they didn’t see how wrong it was, they knew it wasn’t right, and then, they try to change. Failing to change, they admit they can’t, and fall back on God. That’s what the Bible calls being righteous.
The sacrificial system in the Bible is an acknowledgment that we will sin, we cannot stop, but God’s grace makes us right with Him, if we confess our sins. We can stop sinning when God gives us that ability.
I have not stopped getting angry, but I have stopped bullying my sisters over it. I haven’t stopped feeling insecure, but I’ve stopped blaming the wrong people. I’ve stopped demanding my parents fix that for me.
There are days I hate being an abused kid. I hate the stress of it, and how my body breaks down under it after awhile. I hate how people misunderstand, and still think it’s my fault
As if you blame the slave for trying to run away from a cruel master, and say it was their fault when the master whipped them almost to death for it. Sure, they caused it by running, but would they have run if the master was kind?
I loathe many things about this process.
But I don’t hate my aunt. I feel sorry for her. She still thinks it was somehow her fault. She couldn’t tell me that if she didn’t believe it.
I’ll admit to all of you, I find the whole thing depressing and hard to accept.
But I’ll get through it, because I am doing something about it. In the end, the survivor is still the lucky one.
Until next time, stay honest–Natasha.