How My Dad Broke my Silence.

When I was run over this summer and spent the night in the hospital my husband was a long ways away and couldn’t be there with me. I called my Dad who got my message and got into his car and headed in the opposite direction because it was too upsetting for him that I had been hit by a car. I messaged my brother who lives in the town where I was in the hospital, he read my message and didn’t reply. I had to get myself home while I was still in massive shock because my family didn’t care enough to see me after I had been hit by a car. I could have died and they could have cared less.

Last night my Dad reported symptoms of congestive heart failure to me. He could barely talk he was in so much distress. My husband called one of his paramedic friends to borrow his jump kit, and drove an hour out of town to take his vitals and see if he was in immediate need of medical aid. The symptoms and my dad’s medical history made this a direct and immediate threat.
I called my Dad to let him know that Tony was coming and his response was that he didn’t want anyone to take his vitals, he’d hide if Tony came over. He acted frantic and edgy and weird about it. He was so upset I was concerned he would react violently if Tony showed up at the door.

Today I’m not sure if my Dad is alive or dead and today I don’t care anymore. I’m forgiving to a fault and now, after showing him concern and love when he showed none for me at all and to be rebuffed so harshly… well, if he won’t even let me love him then I really am stupid to keep trying. In spite of all the abuse and the horrors he put me through, up until today I still loved him.

As far as I’m concerned my dad died last night, or at least any lingering delusions I had that there was anything good or intelligent or kind about him. It’s one thing when you wouldn’t show love for me when I was hurt but not letting me show love for you is the line. I lost my father last night and the worst part is that every good thing I took from our relationship was tainted by that rebuff.

Moving along now, I’ve known the score since I was fifteen. It took me until last night to actually accept it and all its ramifications.

For the First Time

By Virginia Carraway Stark

Over the past couple of days I’ve had my life unravel.

After I ran away from home when I was a teenager it was many years before I came back into contact with any of my family. The first thing that happened when I saw my Dad and Stepmother were tearful apologies and pleas for forgiveness for the abuses they had committed willfully and maliciously to me. I forgave them both and re-entered the family.

But something was wrong.

My extended family seemed confused, hurt and puzzled by my absence. I asked my Dad about it and he said vague things that threw me off the scent of the deeper cover up going on, a cover up that I only recently discovered when my family found my blog and accused me of being insane and demanded I take it down. When that happened I was confounded because my Dad had said that everyone knew what had happened. Everyone had known why I had run away from home.

So, if everyone knew that he and Judy had been abusing me and that the police and social services had been called and that I had been emancipated because of the extreme abuse I as suffering: Then why was everyone calling me crazy and defending Judy and calling me a liar?

Something smelled funny.

Yesterday I called my Dad and I asked him why my Aunt Linda had called me a backstabbing liar. Why my nephew’s mother had vehemently defended Judy. Why so many relatives had attacked me when I had spoken out loud what he had previously assured me was common knowledge.

He didn’t have an answer for me.

He said all these things like: I’m not taking sides. Judy’s dead, why does it matter now what she did to you?

Finally I asked him: Did you ever tell anyone what you and Judy did to me to make me run away from home?

He refused to answer. He said it wasn’t his fault what Judy might or might not have done to me. I asked him if that was the case then why had he apologized and cried when he saw me again and I forgave them? I asked him why he thought that it wasn’t his responsibility to make sure his child wasn’t injured? I asked him why no one seemed to know the truth?

He had no answer for me.

I said to him, “Daddy, did Judy hurt me?”

He refused to answer.

I said, “Was she good to me or bad to me?”

He refused to answer.

And with that the conspiracy of silence he had kept on me all of these years was broken. I realized that I had been duped. He had been running around not letting anyone know, covering up for himself and Judy and throwing me under the bus. He sure got quiet when I reminded him that there are police and social services reports, reports that I have and more reports that I have ordered. He hung up on me when I asked him why he thought I had run away from home.

He said, “Boy, that sure was hard on me when you ran away from home.”

I was crying now and I said, “Fuck you, Daddy, everything is always about you.”

He hung up on me and I expect the next time I see him it will be under very different circumstances because he broke the bonds he had put on me my whole life. He stole my family from me by not telling them why I had run away. He had led them to believe that I was mentally unstable and that is why I ran away from home. I had been an honor student, I had a lot of friends had always been a good natured person.

I couldn’t figure out why everyone was so standoffish to me until yesterday when my Dad hung up on me for the last time.

We make a lot of mistakes in life and the biggest mistakes I ever made were about my Dad. Up until this very day I protected him, remembered the good and tried to block the bad from my mind. I put everything in a good light and tried tried tried to make sense of what he did and said and how he acted within a paradigm that would let me think that my dad was a good.

My Dad made me feel special, he made me make promises to keep his secrets and I kept most of his secrets, especially the big ones for many years but I’m done keeping his secrets.

I’m a dreamer and I want to believe the best of people. If someone tells me something I want to believe them. If they tell me that they are really and truly sorry for something then I tend to believe it.

I only recently realized that nobody knew what I was going through in high school except for the two people who put me through the most: my Dad and my Stepmother. When the social workers asked me questions I kept quiet about the big things. I didn’t want to get my Dad into trouble even then. But now that bond has been broken. He stole my childhood from me, he stole my family from me, he stole the last years of my mother’s life from me and now he wouldn’t even admit any of it.

You want to talk about backstabbing liars? Well, I know one of them.

My own mother didn’t know the extent of how bad things were for me, although she had experienced similar abuse when she was growing up herself. She tried to rescue me once and ran away with me to transition house. I was furious with her. I wanted my daddy. He made me feel special. He told me how pretty I was. He was the one who had baths with me. He was the one who rewarded me for being good.

I was furious with my mother for trying to rescue me. I was so deeply under his sway, my head was so turned my his manipulations that I wouldn’t say one word to the counselors. I refused to talk to the police then, years before I ran away from home. I refused to say anything and I knew all the things I wasn’t allowed to say or they would take Daddy away. I knew how to cover up for him and that was by keeping my mouth closed

I protected him but he never gave a thought to protecting me.

I was stupid about him. He is a sociopath. He told me that he had systematically worked to drive my mother insane so he wouldn’t have to pay alimony. He bragged about the tricks he had played on her. He bragged about a lot of things to me. I was his special little girl. I was the most important thing in his life and I would have done absolutely anything for him. I did do absolutely everything for him.

Today is the end of that. Today I am breaking the silence.

There is no statute of limitations on child abuse in Canada. I’m done protecting my abuser. I’ve done it for too many years.

I was shaken when my brother accused my Dad of molesting his children, but I stood by my Dad even then. It had only happened to me because I had been special. He promised he had only ever done those things to me, that we had something together that must never be spoken of. Part of me believed that my brother was lying. Wanted to believe it.

He won’t let my dad see his grandchildren. Well, I’m not close to my brother but I have no right to doubt his accusations. When a man will do those things to his own daughter there is no stopping them. They will do them for all time. The rest of my family turned on my brother and my brother kind of sort of backed down from things after threatening to press charges. The rest of my family has turned on me too, but I’m not going to be silent. This man has hurt too many people and I’ve protected him for too long. His true nature has been made apparent at long last and I won’t lie for him or cover up for him anymore.

You can call me a liar, you can call me insane but after a point the evidence builds against even the most charming of psychopaths and you would have to be willfully stupid to not ask a few questions. Go ahead, ask him why I ran away. Make sure you get details though. Ask him if he ever told people that he was worried from the day I was born that he would be able to not have sexual feelings for me. Ask him and watch his charismatic blue eyes carefully. It took me a long time to see through the gaslighting he was doing to me, he knows how to be clever. Ask him directly and see if you’re heart can believe his lies.

One final word: I had forgiven my Dad for everything but after finding out that he’s been covering up for himself and Judy ALL these years and his apology was just more manipulation I don’t forgive him anymore. There is nothing he could do now to make me every trust him again and forgiveness is something that I will have to work on anew.

 

We Learn from History, Not Silence!

We Learn from History, Not Silence!

By Virginia Carraway Stark.

How Silence Dooms the Generations. Tragedies can bring people together or tear them apart and it’s all down to the willingness of those who have been affected to share and talk and learn and love each other.

condemned to repeat history

I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support at my courage to tell my story. There have been some bizarre messages that are simply removed, people who aren’t willing to listen and at least consider the possibility that my story is true are not compassionate. They are not reasonable human beings. For example one girl told me that she knew for a fact that nothing I said was true because she played Sims with Katy and Katy was nice.

sims

Well, I’m sure both things are true. Those limited experiences however have absolutely no bearing on my experiences. Katy didn’t invite friends over when her mother was on a bender but most of her friends did know about a lot of her struggles.

When I wrote the blog about Katy I did not intend it as an ‘attack’ on her. I didn’t write it for her or for her friends, I wrote it for me. I wrote it about my observations, my thoughts and my feelings. One friend of Katy’s sent me ten copies of the same message saying that I clearly needed mental help as I couldn’t tell fact from fiction. That one was interesting because it is true that someone isn’t being able to tell fact from fiction. That was the whole point of the article is that Katy is delusional about the fact that her mother died from being an unrepentant alcoholic. That Judy wasn’t a wonderful woman and that the world, as far as anyone who experienced her violence and malice is concerned, her being out of it makes the world a better place. In fact, that was the title of the article: Katy’s Delusions. Gosh ma’am, your psychology is showing. Turning things around on people like that (or attempting to) is called displacement and you have it in spades.

displacement

Katy’s delusions and wishes to have the perfect mom and the perfect family are understanding and sympathetic but one day those delusions rise up and bite you in the ass.

To this day my Dad is still cleaning up her many messes that she left for him. From the fact that her life insurance wasn’t honored because she lied and said she wasn’t an alcoholic to all the unpaid bills and taxes that her addictions and feckless behavior left in its wake. Even my Dad was a victim of her abuse especially as his guilt about how he had treated me ate away at him and he became more and more at the mercy of the whims of Judy’s alcoholism. Would today be a day when he had to call the police? Would she kick him out of her second hand store and tell him it was hers and he was trespassing or would she kiss him on the cheek and ask him to watch the store for her while she ran to the bank? Nobody could ever say.

codependent triangle

My Dad is more honest about his feelings about losing Judy than Katy is by far. He admits that he misses her every day even though he knows that he was miserable with her and he’s also glad every day that he knows he won’t come home to find a horrible disaster on his hands. He told me that when he drove he would reach for the phone to call Judy and had even done so on a few occassions to tell her he would be home soon. He was with her and her abuse for so long that he doesn’t have a life of his own now that she is gone. His life hinged on Judy, keeping her sober, keeping Katy together and then one day he woke up and Judy was dead and life moved on.

alcohol abuse

He isn’t like Katy. He doesn’t tell me that Judy was a wonderful person. He tells me that she could be really good to him sometimes. He tells me that he misses her. He tells me that everyday he learns more things she did behind his back to ruin his life and he fought between his grief and his anger ever since she died. He tells me these things while wiping away an errant tear. He tells me how angry he still is at her for the things she did to me and then he tells me again that he still misses her every day. His conflict is so profound and he has so little left after she tore everything in his life into little pieces that all he can do is roam restlessly from place to place, a restless ghost himself.

The fact of the matter is that all families have things that go one behind closed doors and things can appear more or less normal to outsiders but the truth behind those doors can be very dark indeed. My mother was terribly abused by her father and years after her death I read in her diaries: ‘To everyone else we seemed like the perfect family but nobody heard me cry and nobody saw my blood stained nightgown except for my mother and she couldn’t protect me.’

bloody dress

My mother ran away and got married when she was only fifteen. I ran away from home when I was fifteen. My Dad ran away from home when he was fifteen. Every last one of us ran away because we were being abused. My Mom and my Dad both tried so hard to break the cycle of abuse and they did pretty good jobs of it until they divorced and new, abusive elements were brought into our lives.

When I was fifteen, I thought I was alone. I was alone for the most part in the physical sphere. Not a single aunt or uncle offered to help me. Now, when I speak out about it I had my own aunt call me a ‘vicious, back-stabbing liar’. Well, Aunt Linda, where were you when I needed your help? You’re quick to jump on the criticism but you never offered to help me. If you were really a relative with any love in your heart you would say things like: Are you okay? Do you need any help? Do you need to talk?

It was attitudes like that in my extended family that lead to me leaving the entire mess for good. They made me feel alone because that is another way to hold power over someone. I have talked to other friends of the family who have said things like: I had no idea what you were going through, I would have helped if I had known.

I didn’t tell them what I was going through because the family’s veil of silence was too profound for me to breach at that time. There were threats made. I was told that I was a bad girl for telling the school counselor that my mom didn’t buy food because she was too depressed and that I was hungry. I was punished anytime I reached out for help. Isolated like all the other victims who are taught that they can’t hurt anyone’s feelings. The past should stay in the past, all those other cliches that lead to the cycles off violence, alcoholism and neglect continuing generation after generation.

This is what I have to say today: You are not alone.

I obviously won’t publish the outpourings from people who have sent me their own stories of anguished childhoods, or a cryptic comment from one lady who said she would have to wait for a lot of people to die before she could share her story. This is what I have learned from working on this blog:

For every hundred people who read it only one of those might comment publicly on the ways it helped them or made them feel.

Five(ish) people will private message me and tell me that they read my story and often tell me how it affected them and how akin we are.

Most of the rest will be silent at first but later will drop a comment in passing about how good it is not to be alone.

The point is: People are listening and this is helping them with their own struggles. This is helping people to know they ARE NOT ALONE.

I write a lot of this with my own mother in mind. One of the last pieces of correspondence we exchanged before her death was a card she had made for me. Inside she had written: ‘Every day I hear of something new you write I am so happy for you. You have unlocked a power that I never had, to write about the good in life as well as the bad. I can only write out my pain and writing is pain for me. How happy I am that you have turned it into an act of joy!’

After my mother died everyone poured over her diaries. All those journals that she had written out her pain in. All her sorrows, her defeats, her angers and most of all her pain. My older brother, a preacher man, reviled her for sharing her pain, even in her secret diaries. After reading them he grew enraged. At her funeral he said: ‘She’s better off dead, now maybe she’ll finally be happy for once.’

She felt alone her whole life. She was alone. She didn’t feel safe sharing her secret feelings and abuses with anyone but what should have been the sacrosanct pages of her diary. Those diaries were later used against her in court by my Dad. They were used against her by my brother at her funeral. To this day I hear disparaging remarks about her from the outrage people had that she was in pain. I haven’t read all of her diaries. I have only read one or two and I thought that they were beautiful. Her words were in the language of pain but each one was poetry. How she struggled against the sorrows of being abandoned by her husband, how she tried to be a good mother but she couldn’t escape the darkness of her childhood. Now I can only tell her grave that after all these years I understand and that she wasn’t alone.

grave angel.jpeg

She was offered the chance to press charges against her father for rape years after the statute of limitations ran out and refused. She couldn’t do it, she couldn’t face that monster that had surrounded her as a little girl with a blackness that would pursue her her whole life. I wish so much that I had known about these things when I was a child. I would have been more forgiving of her lapses, I would have been able to have more empathy for her when she needed me to be a mother and she the child. She was silent and so she remained alone.

She was silent because she was afraid of being told she was a liar. She was silent because she was afraid people would say she was sick and no one had hurt her. She didn’t press charges because the monster her father was was too big of a monster for a woman who inside was still a raped eight year old girl.

darkness.jpg

Leave the past in the past. That’s what people will tell you when you tell your history. I call bullshit.

Learn from history or you will be doomed to repeat it. That is the real truth here. Those who try to silence history are no different than any other petty dictator. What I observe about my family isn’t written for them and their anger at my rending of the veil of silence implicates them all as those who held the veil in place.

I was driven from my family by the abuse of my stepmother and my father taking her side again and again. As a result I missed my mother’s funeral. I found a paper doll she had made. It was folded up in layers and on the body of the doll she had written her feelings. Each doll went a layer deeper into her feelings and how it made her body feel. On the innermost doll, written on the heart she had written, ‘Maybe Ginny will come home’.

paper dolls

Oh how these veils of silence hurt us all. She wasn’t there for me and I wasn’t there for her. I didn’t come home before her death, I didn’t even know about it for several years afterward.

I don’t want you to be a paper doll, I want you to be a speaking, living breathing powerful being. Every time we break the veil of silence we pull through another layer of truth and become more real and less of what the abuse we suffered made us into.

Learn from history and share it. I had no idea what my mother was going through, she was so silent, so hurt, so broken she had become a paper doll. Each layer filled with more pain. Unable to break through the two dimensionality of victim hood and find her voice.

For all the ‘family’ who have taken to stalking my every word and sending hate-filled innuendo my way, allow me to flip you the bird right now. You never helped me and I hope you read every word and you sting with its truth. Tell yourself that Judy was a wonderful human being and Katy’s inability to talk about the trauma her mother visited on her is a good and normal way of being. We all know you’re lying and the truth is driving you mad with rage.

If I were saying this out of some sort of ‘inability to tell fact from fiction’ as apparently some ‘family’ seems to think what being a writer is about, then why would it burn you so bad? Why would it bother you? The ravings of the mad don’t bother me, I feel pity for them but no anger. Enjoy the stalking and enjoy my tiny little finger flipping you off in defiance. Your attempts to bully me won’t work, they let me know I’m on the right track at clearing out all the monsters that my mother never had the courage to fight.

th_009.jpeg

Stay tuned for my next blog to hear how an accidental conspiracy to become enablers of my stepmother’s drinking was made by one errant promise by Dad made to Katy when she was still a little girl.

Wolfspiders and Vodka

Wolf Spiders and Vodka

By Virginia Carraway Stark

When I was very small I was terrified of spiders.

It was pretty classic little girl fear of the eight-legged monsters. I knew that they ate the bad bugs and all the rest of the things but I was still scared of them.

When I was about five years old I came down with the chicken pox. It wasn’t a regular run of chicken pox (yes, I had my vaccines), it was the sort of chicken pox that kills.

chicken pox

I was lying on my mother’s lap while she talked to some lady friends of hers. We had some pictures on the wall, blue mountains and lakes painted on thin slices of log. On the bottom of one of the logs there was a white spider. I don’t know if it was dead or just extremely stoic but I had seen that spider there for ages. I wasn’t very afraid of it because it didn’t move and it hadn’t moved since the first time I had seen it. I still watched it though, I didn’t trust it on general principles.

Then something strange happened, something that had never happened before, I noticed that the white spider had a couple of friends with it. These ones were moving and I told my mom about it. She shushed me and kept talking with her friends. I shushed and watched the spiders and then… There were more of them. At first there were only six or seven of them and then they were everywhere. I mean, everywhere. They were all over the walls, the ceiling, everywhere. I was terrified and started to cry and panic.

many spiders

My mom realized that something was wrong and called my Dad home from work. He had been working at a grain elevator at the time and it was only a few blocks for him to come home. He picked me up and at this point he noticed that I was burning up with a fever. He asked me about the spiders, trying to figure out what I was seeing, even trying to kill the spiders that I was having a fever dream about. There were fewer in the kitchen than in the living room. In my fever I saw the stippled ceiling of the living room as each stipple being a spider. Every nail hole, every blemish was a dancing, moving, threatening spider.

fever thermometer

I was crying and absolutely on fire at this point. They rushed me to the hospital which was nearly an hour away. When they took my temperature they found out it was 104 and I was slipping in and out of a coma. The last hallucination that I had was that they put my bed inside of what I saw to be a janitor’s closet and closing the door, leaving me in darkness.

closet

This darkness was actually a coma. I was in a coma for a couple of weeks and they thought I would never wake up. Both of my parents were prepared to lose me and then I woke up. Everyone was crying and holding me and I remember that the first thing they brought me to eat was cabbage rolls which were not appetizing in my state but my Dad loved them and ate them and gave me the jello which was all I could handle. Then we went home.

I was sick with the chicken pox for awhile after, all spots and sore throat and a fever but not a dangerous one any more. The spiders were all gone and I recalled how each imperfection in the wall had been a spider. I could remember them all and now I could see the reality, just specks, nothing else. The only ill result of my chicken pox adventure was that I couldn’t stand creamsicles after that. They tasted horrible to me and still do to this day. Ditto for orange floats, they just taste rotten.

The one positive result was that my mom was so deeply impacted by my form my fever hallucinations took and my fear of them that she took on a campaign to desensitize me to them. There was, of course, readings of Charlotte’s Web, which I had heard before, but then my mom did something very special. She took some pages of paper, folded them in half and stapled them into a booklet.

After that she wrote a story in her book. It was the story of a little girl who was afraid of spiders and then, rather predictably, was rescued by a spider who became her friend. She drew pictures on every page (something that didn’t come easy to her but that she drew each with only the love a mother can give.)

crude spider

She presented me with the book and we read it together. I knew what she was doing, of course. I knew that she was trying to make a miracle. She was trying to make me not afraid of spiders anymore. Her gesture had so much love in it, so much hope that I couldn’t stand to let her down. The story didn’t make me OK with spiders but I pretended for her sake that it had worked and over time, it did work. I was braver and braver about spiders and even playing with dandy long legs and letting them outside instead of squishing them. She had made the miracle real in the end and I was no longer afraid of spiders.

Fast forward about nine years round about.

I was living with my stepmother Judy and my Dad in Sicamous. My Dad was a long haul truck driver and he would leave me at home with Judy and Katy for weeks sometimes. Sometimes Judy wasn’t too bad. She even tried to help me with my homework a couple of times. She worked me hard but this was before they owned a restaurant and there was only so much work to be done. She mocked me for my weight frequently, and gave me a pair of jeans that were 24 inches at the waist. She said I could eat more food when I could easily fit into those jeans and I was sliding into anorexia and my cheekbones were more like jutting ledges than high cheekbones. I was gaunt and I ran everywhere to lose the weight she constantly assured me I had at ninety pounds.

One night things became very dark. None of the lights seemed to be working and Judy was sitting in my bed. She had collected quite a few very large wolf spiders and was letting them crawl on her arms. They were the size of my hand. I was horrified. This was NOT a hallucination and my fear of spiders came flooding back all at once.

wolf spider

“What are you doing?” I asked, terrified. She looked freakish, unnatural. She grinned at me like an evil clown.

“I’m playing with the little spiders,” She said. “Don’t you like the spiders?”

I shook my head and started to edge towards the door. She got off my bed and followed me, still holding two wolf spiders in each hand, “Come play with the spiders, you aren’t afraid are you? I’m not afraid,” She said.

I was afraid. In fact, I was terrified and bolted from the room she chased after me with the wolf spiders still in her hands. I had never imagined spiders so big, so hairy existing anywhere outside of the tropics and Judy was alternately petting them and trying to keep them from escaping her clutches as she chased me.

evil clown abuse

I ran down the hallway and she grabbed me by my nightgown and pulled me to the ground and tried to put the spiders on me. I was in a panic now. All my fear had returned. I kicked and writhed and screamed and got out from under her, brushing the wolf spiders off of me. I ran into the kitchen and turned around and she was gone.

I was terrified and alone and I didn’t know where she had gone but most of all I was hurt and sad that she hated me.

That was the only thing I could think of: that she hated me. She didn’t follow me into the living room and I went into the living room and held my legs and cried. I had done everything she had told me to do. I had happily worked to try to please her, I had bought her mother’s day presents, I had never imagined someone who could hate me like Judy did. The house was still dark, I later discovered that she had for some reason partially unscrewed all the light bulbs. I don’t know what her logic was except that she wanted to give me a scare.

It was at that moment that I heard the most wonderful sound in the world: The phone ringing. I brushed away my tears and answered it, “Daddy!” I cried, trying not to dissolve into tears.

“What’s wrong?” He asked, his voice was extremely concerned. I told him what happened and after a very long pause he sighed.

I know that the average child would have recognized that Judy was drunk but I had been raised by parent who never ever drank or stayed around people who drank. I had, to my knowledge, never seen someone drunk.

“Honey, I want you to go and see if Judy’s asleep now, just set the phone down. If she’s awake tell her I want to talk to her. If she’s asleep I want you to keep going down the hallway and go into our closet. Look under the shoes and tell me if you find anything there that shouldn’t be there.”

“You’ll stay on the phone?” I made him promise.

“Yes, honey, I’ll be right here,” He assured me but his voice sounded tinny and far away to me. It would be days before he would be back.

tacky shoes

I crept down the hallway, she had ‘fallen asleep’ in my bed. I closed the door and went to the end of the hallway where the master bedroom was. I was terrified that she would wake up and fly into a rage at me. I was not allowed in her room and I had never been in there before without her inviting me in. I opened the door and went to the closet.

Down the hallway I heard her sigh and mutter and turn in her sleep. I froze in place, my heart beating in my ears. She went silent again and I opened the closet. There were a lot of clothes in there and even more shoes. She had a ton of shoes and boots. I rummaged around in the mess of vinyl and patched leather and found something strange. This must be what Dad had meant when he had said to look for something that didn’t belong. It was a pickling jar, just a plain old one pint glass jar with a screwed on brass lid.

mason jar

It sloshed in my hands as I lifted it. In the other room I heard Judy moan again and froze in place. It looked like water, just plain old water. But why would she put it in a mason jar and why would she hide it under all her shoes in the very back of her closet?

darkened hallway vodka

I carried it out to the phone, running past my bedroom the way you run past a haunted house. There was no sign of the wolf spiders in the hallway. In retrospect they probably were worse off than I was.

I picked up the phone and right away Dad said, “Well?”

“I found a mason jar. I think it has water in it.” (Yes, I really was that naïve I am embarrassed to say.)

His breath caught and I could hear that his voice as a little choked, “Open it up.”

I unscrewed the lid. I was scared of the contents. I knew from his voice that it wasn’t water. Whatever was in that jar was liquid evil. As soon as I opened the lid a stench leapt out of the jar and bit my nostrils, “Uch, it smells gross, like paint thinner.”

It was he favorite at the time, Vodka. Easy to hide from little clueless girls who might tattle to Daddy.

He sighed loudly and I heard true sorrow in his voice. It was as though I had told him someone had died. Something had died, some of his trust and a lot of his pride. It was time for the truth.

“Daddy, are you coming home soon? I’m scare…” I started to choke up. It was an ironclad rule not to cry in our house because Dad said that women only ever cried to manipulate a man. He didn’t reprimand me though.

“I’ll be home as soon as I can,” He paused, calculating in his head. “Tomorrow night. Don’t tell her I’m coming though.”

“Daddy,” And I started to cry for real now, silent tears that streamed down my face. “Daddy, why does she hate me? Why can’t she love me? What did I do?”

I let go and sobbed, gasping for air and desperate for silence. I didn’t want to make my only ally turn against me and I didn’t want Judy to wake up and start chasing me again. There was yet another long pause, “Sweetheart, she doesn’t hate you. She’s just drunk.”

My head swam and then cleared. I knew about drunks. I knew about alcohol, I hadn’t recognized it but I knew about it. Dad had told me stories about his own parents and how they would beat him or humiliate him when they were drunk. That was why he never drank, that and because he learned at an early age that he was a mean drunk. He was a smart man and he never picked up the bottle.

vodka

I could breathe again a bit. This wasn’t about me. She didn’t hate me, she was just drunk and didn’t know any better.

“Pour the jar out into the sink and put it back where you found it,” He instructed. “Don’t say anything to her in the morning, act like everything is normal. When I get home, I’ll sort things out.”

Those last things that I thought and that he said to me were lies.

Judy did hate me. Unlike the rest of my family who she treated more or less decently when she was sober she treated me like crap all the time. She demeaned me and stole from me and even undercut my relationship with my own mother as best as she could.

The other lie was that he didn’t sort it out when he got home.

They got into a big fight. He yelled, things were thrown, she cried and begged him to forgive her. He yelled some more. In the morning there was a hole in the wall that Judy patched up primly. She avoided eye contact with me. It was the first time I had witnessed, albeit obliquely her being punished for her drunkenness. She was extra nice to me for a few days but I don’t bribe easily and a veil had been lifted for me. I could see the drunk nightmare clown chasing me with spiders in her nervous laughter and her shifting eyes. I knew now that she was dangerous. I knew that my Dad had made a huge mistake in bringing her into our lives and I knew that my road was about to become a steep one.I just had no idea how steep.

steep road

The Truth

The Truth

By Virginia Carraway Stark

After the last blog I published I had a roaring response from my family who were angered that I dared to talk about the abuse I had suffered. The responses fall into the chart of classic abuse to perfection.

abuse children

 

The minimized, denied and blamed me for the abuse. One member of my ‘family’ said that it wasn’t any wonder Katy shunned me because I dared to talk about the abuse. The messages sent to me by family who were suddenly made aware of my blog was phenomenal. They attempted to intimidate me, threaten me, call me names, abuse me emotionally and to shun me.

abuse intimidation

I don’t think they realized how that made me feel because it let something loose inside of me. It was like it was the midnight hour and someone called out, ‘Unmask, unmask’ and all their true monstrous faces were revealed. There was no more idea that these people were my friends or family. They uniformly seemed to think that I was mentally ill for talking about the abuse. They all claimed to know my family so well that they would know better than I, who lived in it and was horribly treated by the people who were supposed to love and protect me.

you have to stop child abuse

The rallying cry of those who would protect my drunken abusive stepmother was (briefly) deafening. Some of the people were so ashamed of themselves that they actually posted from accounts labelled as, ‘fakeemail’. Others used their real names and as I read their comments I smiled because they had unmasked. When I was little they had never helped me and now that I am speaking up they use all the tricks abusers use to silence their victims.

silence abuse

My half-sister ordered me to take down everyone of my blogs (as if she has any right to order me to do anything). She sent me the first message she had sent in years where she demanded that I not be allowed to speak any of these words. She claimed that they are defamation but there is only truth in every word. To every relative of mine who sent me intimidating, hateful messages all I have to say is: where were you when I needed you? Why did you protect my stepmother and why do you continue to do so?

how dare you abuse

 

The best thing I ever did was run away from all of my family. They were so angry with me, they made a big production of ‘forgiving’ me all the while knowing what they had done to me. Anyone who looked at me SHOULD have known what was going on and NO ONE offered to help me. No wonder they are so angry at me for speaking now. If they didn’t feel so guilty maybe they wouldn’t feel so angry.

help me abuse

 

How dare I speak The Truth? How dare I tell my story? I dare because I am strong. I dare because what was done to me was wrong. I dare because of all the messages I have received saying, ‘thank you for sharing, you are a sister to me. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone.’

Shame on all of you who see abuse and don’t stop it. Double shame on you when you hear about it and you blindly run to defend the abuser. You are no family of mine. You are very evil people to hear the truth and to not even for a minute say, “Could this be true?”. I know that you know how Judy behaved, how she would pass out on beds in the second hand store, how she would pass out on the street. You saw her drunken benders and you even have likely heard that she hit my dad and he had to call the police to stop her from hitting him. She was a monster and YOU KNEW IT.

You become monsters yourself for covering up for her. Trying to tell people I’m crazy when there are police reports, social services reports, witnesses, the list goes on and on. It’s intimidation and it shows you to be abusive. When Katy messaged me it was a threat plain and simple: take down your blog or I’ll start a war against you. She was metaphorically putting a gun to my head plain and simple, the same way her mother did when she would threaten me to stay quiet…or else.

girl with gun abuse

It’s midnight now and the monsters have unmasked. I’m grateful to you all for showing me your true natures. I won’t be silenced, I have memory and I will tell my story. Your insistence that I stop just tells me that I am doing the right thing and that you are as evil as she was in your own special way, even if that way was in being silent. Thanks to all of your anger at me for speaking the truth I feel so free. I feel free to tell even more of the truth, to go into even more of the details and to help other survivors of abuse in any way I can.

 

abuse freedom

Katy’s Delusion: Children of Alcoholics

 

truth

I saved my half sister’s life when she was a baby. I didn’t think twice about it, I grabbed her out of a bathtub of water that was spilling over the edge of the tub and flooding the hallway. She was face down in the water, her mother drunk and passed out on the couch.

What did I get for my troubles?

Well, my half sister Katy won’t talk to me now because I criticized her mother for being a bad person in the present.  In the past, my step mother punched me in the face when I told the drunken hag that she had almost let her baby die.

Yep. That’s the thanks that I got for saving a human life. My sister never said ‘thank you’, no one did. My older brother spread stories about me and said I ‘lived the wrong lifestyle’ and wouldn’t let me talk to my niece and nephew. I think he says that because I ran away from home when I was just about sixteen as a result of being punched in the face and telling social services and the police about it. I’m not sure of his real reasons. He’s never told me to my face, only whispers behind my back.

My half-sister is a big girl now and she thinks she is the only one who ever lost a mother. I lost my mother eight years ago while I was gone from my family to escape the abuse. My mother wasn’t perfect either but I still lost her. Why is my loss less important than Katy’s loss?

When Katy was about three or four the woman delivering the mail heard a baby screaming in the house. She looked in the window and saw that the house was filthy and could see my stepmother Judy passed out in the living room. I would imagine it was in about the same spot that she was passed out when I woke her up with the crying and recently resuscitated infant in my arms and got punched for saving her child’s life. She liked to swan dive onto the couch.

The mail carrier tried the doorknob and it was unlocked.  She came into the house and followed the sound of the screaming baby to the bathroom where Katy had become stuck behind the toilet and was covered in her own filth and waste. Nobody knows how long she was stuck there.

When my stepmother died last year around this time I posted a meme that said, ‘ding dong the witch is dead’. I was so relieved that the insanity was over. Judy would stalk me, drive around and around my block, park outside the house until the cops chased her away.  I worried for my safety and the safety of my family and pets. I found poison set out for my dogs. Hearing that she was dead was exactly like hearing the boogeyman wasn’t real and being able to truly believe it. She was truly the most wicked of witches that there ever was.

I wasn’t the only one who suffered from her abuse. I ran away and Katy lived with the abuse her whole life. When Judy was alive Katy would call her and yell and scream at Judy and alternately extort large sums of cash out of her as an ‘apology’ for something her mother did when she was drunk. She obviously had a lot of anger to do that. T

The thing that confounds me is that Katy defends her mother now that she is dead. Her mother died because her body was failing from the alcohol abuse and she fell over in a snowbank and didn’t wake up. She brought her fate upon herself and yet I am banished for speaking the truth about one of the most horrible mother figures in the world.

At first glance this seems to be another injustice visited upon me but I think it goes deeper than that.

Examining Katy from a neutral perspective it is easy to see that she hasn’t accepted her mother’s death. Her mother never tried to stop drinking. She could barely admit, even at the very end that she was an alcoholic. By extension, Katy since Katy never accepted her mother’s death, she also never really accepted that her mother was an alcoholic.

More and more I see her sliding into her mother’s patterns. The first of these patterns is in demonizing me in the same way that her mother did. The second way is by increasingly the rumors I hear about her becoming a ‘party’ girl. Just like her mother, her career comes before her family and is only interrupted by binge drinking and in Katy, an observer can see this leaning increasingly towards alcoholism.

Katy is not only embracing all the mistakes and evils of her mother, she is also glorifying them and putting her mother on a pedestal. If Mommy drank, Katy always got gifts and money afterward. Judy would do anything to make it up to her and my Dad. This set up a cycle of punishment and reward that resulted in a pattern of endless dramatics. By making her mother into a saint and me into a demon she negates the truth that her mother was abusive, not just when she was drunk but when she was sober as well.

This is a common trait in children of alcoholics and it is part of what perpetuates the cycle of abuse. If Katy admits for one minute that her mother hurt me, she will have to admit that Judy hurt her too. She will have to admit that if it wasn’t for Katy and my Dad enabling her behavior Judy would have died drunk and on the street the same as she did even after they put her through every counseling and rehab program available. Katy would have to admit that if I was right about her mother that she had been left behind the toilet for days covered in filth and screaming. She would have to admit all the times when her mom didn’t show up for important events because she was drinking. She would have to admit that the only reason her mother is dead is because she refused to stop drinking.

I don’t have much in common with Katy. She doesn’t have a sense of humor, she isn’t creative, she isn’t adventurous and most important of all, she isn’t a realist. I don’t want or need a friendship with her.

I am glad that I saved her from drowning that day. I’m glad I knew first aid and got her breathing, I’m glad she got to grow up and make mistakes. I forgive her for her treatment of me because she is bound in a world of delusion and she can’t even see me.

I forgive her for being Judy’s daughter. I forgive her for using that fact to get special treatment and rewards after mommy was drunk. I forgive her for everything. I won’t get a chance to say that to her face, at least I would be surprised if I ever did. She has a hate on for me that rivals her mother’s hate for me. What did I ever do to Katy?
Well, I told her the truth. Sometimes that’s too much, especially for children of alcoholics. I feel a deep pity for Katy and her inability to face her reality because I see her walking her mother’s path and I see no sign of her waking up and realizing that she is becoming the same as her mother.

I hear the things people say about her. That she says cruel things, that she has a ‘mean’ mouth on her and it’s the same thing as her mother… generation to generation. Unless you are very proactive, self-aware and willing to examine any delusion you may have the curse repeats again and again. I forgave Judy before her death and am at peace with my relationship with her. Katy never forgave her mother and without facing the reality of the situation, she never will.

I forgive Katy now. I forgive her for hating me. I forgive her for the horrible things she says about me. I forgive her for not loving me. I forgive her for following her mother’s path. Being the child of an alcoholic is a tragedy and forgiveness is the only cure. Forgiveness and bringing the wounds that were caused by it into the light of day.

white feather