Tears are burning the backs of my eyes. Every time I have read a text in the past 20 minutes I begin to well up again. What could be so wrong? How can there be this much emotional upset within the past 24 hours of my life? Buckle your seatbelts, because I’m about to tell you a story that holds such raw emotion it shouldn’t be legal.
I’ve touched lightly on the subject of addiction in my family but this time I’m going to tell you about how deeply I am affected by addiction in my childhood.
I can recall my parent’s divorce with such clarity it’s like reliving a nightmare. In my parent’s last night living as a married couple my father was instigating a physical altercation with my mother while my mother was holding my baby brother, just 10 months old. My sister and I were huddled together in our bedroom, and I was shaking as she prompted me to dial 9-1-1. I did. My sister and I thought our dad was all at fault, that he had turned in to a monster. Well, in our adult lives, we now know that meth played a huge part in that fight. My dad filed for divorce in early spring of 1997, just months after I had to call the police on him. On my own dad. I was just 10.
My mom found us a place to live, after toting all three of us from various family members and friends’ houses. We were, for a time, homeless. I don’t know when exactly the dynamic of our family shifted from “We’re gonna survive this” to “What the hell is Mom thinking?” but somewhere between age 10 and 13 I started to be in arms whenever I was around my mother. I was either 13 or 14 when I found drug paraphernalia that was undeniably hers. Her habits had grown to be disruptive; I would wake up to her blaring music at 3:00 in the morning. Whenever I asked her to turn it down because I had school in the morning I typically got this response: “No, it’s my house. I pay the bills, I’ll do as I damned well please.” Wow. You’re telling your daughter this? All because you’d rather party and she wants to be rested for school in the morning?! I could feel my resentment begin to rise.
These occurences went on for months. I began to feel hopeless. I turned to my school counselor who, of course, was a mandatory reporter. Consequently, the Iowa Department of Human Services became involved. I remember coming home from school one day and walking in the door to an emotional war zone. DHS had apparently been to my mother’s house to inspect the situation. “Don’t look at her! Cody, sit down! Don’t touch her.” My mother spat these orders to my brother and sister. I was the bad guy. I was the target of all of her anger. And she never once held her razor sharp insults at bay in front of my brother and sister.
I ended up leaving my mother’s house when I was 16 years old. We had bounced from place to place in the six years since my parents’ separation. This, of course, destroys any vital sense of stability in a child’s life. I had to get out. I had to go before I went crazy. I sought refuge at my then-best friend’s house. I just felt so. damned. guilty. I was leaving my mother’s roof while Chelsea and Cody had to stay. Chelsea was 12 and Cody just 6. For months after I left my mother wouldn’t allow me to see or speak to my siblings. I was still the bandit. I was still “the selfish bitch who only cares about herself”. Heh. Yeah, it’s very selfish to want a real life, Mom. It’s extremely self-centered to want an education and a career. I was so very very hurt.
For about 2 years after I left her “care” I had nightmares. Awful, awful, awful nightmares. In the one that still plays a rerun every now and again I am beating the living shit out of my mother. I am grabbing her by the back of the head and smashing her face into the corner of the car door. It is a gruesome visual that I just cannot shake. But I don’t feel guilty for that nightmare.
Chelsea coped with my departure in her own way. She began to run away at the tender age of 13. I think that because she became the middle child she felt unheard and this manifested itself in counter-productive ways. She started getting into trouble, running with the wrong crowd, the whole 9 yards. Meanwhile, my dad was MIA, caught up in his own mess; I was away from home, trying to get through high school; and mom was barely scraping by, claiming that her “only reason for living is your little brother.” She still utters this bullshit to me whenever I speak with her.
So why am I so upset now? Tonight? This November 16, 2009, half a decade after all of the events depicted above have been swept under the rug? That’s just it. These problematic behaviors have not been truly eradicated. My dad, yes, is now sober but my mom is still a raging alcoholic, anorexic, possible meth user; my sister is lost on her Path of Life and my brother, now 12, is reaching out to me for help.
I’ve gotten a series of texts tonight from Cody. He is near begging me to help him get out of my mother’s house. Feelings are flooding my head– I don’t know why but his pleas have evoked so many of my own emotions.
I just don’t know what to do. I know exactly how Cody feels, living with our mother. When she gets into a mood (which is basically daily) she’s out for blood. I’ve watched her pick on him until he screams out in frustration. She does it to all three of us and it’s disgusting. Since I’ve been an adult, she’s tried to play me vs. Cody and/or Chelsea on more than one occasion. Newsflash: You’re supposed to be the mom!
So here I sit, alone in my apartment in Iowa City. Nearly 100 miles away from either sibling and not a clue as to what to do next. There isn’t a likely candidate in my family to support my brother, so that’s out of the picture. My dad is searching for employment and doesn’t have much to offer in the way of stability. I’m worried that my brother will follow Chelsea’s path and I’m worried that if I take him in I’ll be destroying my relationship with Jay, slow but sure. I’m so scared and lost but I feel it necessary to help my little brother.
Or hugs. I’m hurting…