Choose to Overcome: Breaking the Cycle of Abuse
Walking into my room as a child would astound most adults. A perfectly organized closet – by length of sleeve and in order by the color of the rainbow. I knew when someone so much as opened my bedroom door. My room was my sanctuary. It was the place I retreated to in order to complete my homework so that I could maintain my A honor roll. It was the only thing in my life I could control. I grew up in the house of a clinically bipolar mom and an alcoholic dad and dysfunction was the only voice my household spoke.
Outside my door was complete and utter chaos. My childhood stole my innocence. It jaded my outlook on life. I had a mother who was barely functional. At the ripe old age of eight, I was planning and preparing meals alone. My sister and I were cleaning the house before my dad got home from work. My mother was passed out on the couch from whatever drug of choice she had that day. We did this because my dad would come home raging mad (after consuming alcohol on the drive home) that he was providing for the family and we would all feel his wrath. He often drank himself to oblivion nightly. On more than one occasion, the police were called because the emotional abuse turned into verbal abuse. The verbal abuse turned into physical abuse and sometimes, even guns were pulled and we were threatened with them.
This was my life. I did not get to choose it. But I did choose to learn from it. As the saying goes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” But you know, sometimes the apple does fall off of the tree. It rolls down the hill. Plops into the river and is carried out to the ocean – as far away as humanly possible from the tree it started on. That apple in the ocean is ME!
As I grew into adulthood, I knew that I simply was not going to a parent to my children like my parents were to me. I was to become a survivor. I would not become a victim. Armed with no counseling and very little to pave my way through life, I became a mother at the age of 24. I looked at this precious face and knew that I needed to do better for her than was done for me. Ultimately I became the mother of three children and the wife of a career Marine.
I did not escape my childhood without damage. I am not as emotionally invested into my children as many other parents. My favorite part of the day is not welcoming them home and cuddling up with them on the couch. In fact, my childhood has made it difficult for me to want to be physically touched by anyone – including my children. I love them fiercely but I am also aware that the wounds from childhood have created this invisible wall that even my children nor my husband has broken down.
Other very obvious marks on my motherhood are very visible. Where I was forced to cook and clean, I have let my children be children. It is my gift to them. I know that I am overcompensating for my own childhood to continue to cut steak for dinner for my 11 year old, but one day, they will learn. Let’s not rush things! I am still teaching them to have manners and be respectful little people, but I would rather them not look back on their childhood and feel that in the third grade, they were more adult than their parents.
When people meet me and find out my story, they are often in awe of how I could overcome such a childhood and become a productive part of today’s society. I have earned my Bachelor Degree with Magna Cum Laude honors. I have had a successful marriage to a Marine for over a decade. I have three wonderful children who are well mannered, respectful and loved vastly. We have a beautiful house with plenty of savings in the bank. But really, we are functional. Somehow I managed to break the cycle. I chose to overcome rather than become.