A Melancholy Moon

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.

Advice, please.

Or hugs.  I’m hurting…

23 thoughts on “A Melancholy Moon

  1. Chibi Jeebs says:

    Oh honey. 😦 I’m so sorry you went through this. I’m so sorry you’re facing such a difficult decision. I wish I had some wise words of advice. Have you talked to Jay about the situation with Cody (and the possibility of him coming to live with you)? Don’t count Jay out before he has a chance. I can’t imagine how scary it is to face all of this. If there’s anything I can do, even if it’s just lend an ear, please don’t hesitate, okay? You’ll all be in my thoughts. *big, fat, huge squishy hugs*

  2. Nanna says:

    Baby darling, I don’t know what the answer is either. I know that I want to punch someone because your little shoulders are so young and small for such burdens. Talk to Jay. Talk to someone in the situation that maybe can see things you can’t from so far away. Cody’s counselor at school? Any adult that he’s close to there?

    We’ll figure this out, love. I promise

  3. This hits close to home in ways that I can’t go into. My thought is that you definitely need to talk to Jay about it. If you’re thinking that you want Cody to stay with you, set clear lines now. Don’t leave anything unsaid with Jay. If it’s temporary, set dates. If it’s permanent, say so. The absolute biggest thing will be to remain completely honest and open while Cody is there. Communicate, communicate, communicate. As long as you and Jay (and Cody) don’t let things build up, voice your concerns, and are open to compromise, it’ll make things easier.

    Good luck, Bre.

  4. Miss Britt says:

    Aside from Jay, taking on a troubled 12 year is a huge responsibility – and expense.

    I’m so sorry sweetie. I don’t know what to advise you. 😦

    But I’m hugging you from 1400 miles away, OK?

  5. Sarah says:

    It’s difficult to give advice to someone you know is such a limited way. Many of us will base our opinions on our own experiences or understanding of the events that you describe. That is all that we have. But know that what we all want it peace. For you. For ourselves.

    That said. I would speak with Jay as candidly as you can. And I would rescue your brother. Family is forever, Bre. I get the sense that you know and feel this powerfully. But you have had so many negative experiences that it is hard to really grasp the beauty in those words. Family is forever. And it seems time, maybe, to start forging positive memories? Taking steps toward change? Taking steps toward control over something. Helping someone who cannot help the situation he is in. And I don’t say this lightly. It is a tenuous situation. So many involved. Your mother, for goodness sake’s.

    I send you hugs and love. Keep writing. It can only help.

  6. Nicki says:

    Not knowing what is right for you, I do agree with everyone here. Talk to Jay. Lay out what you think is best and see what he thinks. Then, you at least know what is available. Once you realize what is possible, act.

    I am with Sarah on the fact that family is forever. I may not like my family some days but I would do anything for them.

    Praying for all of you! *hugs*

  7. Kelly says:

    I am a new reader, but this situation is not new to me. I was very lucky that my grandfather was alive to take us in when DSS removed my sisters and I from my parents’ home 28 years ago. I’m sorry that your little brother doesn’t have an older, more established relative or family friend who can step in to help.

    If I were in your shoes, I would discuss it with Jay before taking any other steps. Once you know where he stands, try to help your brother the best you can. That may mean bringing him to live with you temporarily until you can place him with someone better equipped to help raise him. Or it may mean that you bring him to stay with you until he can take care of himself.

    While it would be an extra expense and will add stress and complexity to your relationship, it sounds like your brother needs you. You can be there for him without sacrificing your life, you’ll just stretch to include him. My prayers are with you as you make this difficult decision.

  8. Rachel says:


    This is so hard on you. I am so sorry. I want to say that I understand because I too went through so much as the black sheep of my family. My mom still is an alcoholic, prescription drug abuser and the toxicity she exudes is dangerous. I remember leaving at 17 and worrying so much about my little siblings. Then when my sister left and my brother was alone I was petrified for him. Worried that he’d fall down and no one would be there for him. I wish I could have rescued him from the abuse. I don’t think I even realized how bad it was until I was older but here is what I do know:

    You’ve survived. How amazing is that? Really. Amazing. You’ve made it out. That doesn’t mean you don’t hurt and aren’t broken in places that still need healing. It does mean that you will have your own path. You can choose to be free from your mother. You can choose to help your brother because you are stronger than you think. YOU can’t screw him up anywhere close to how your mom can. I think as a survivor you’ll know to build a support system. Let those in your life whom you trust help guide you and your brother.

    Sometimes I grieve that I never had a mom. That I don’t have a mom really. She’s there but fits no definition of motherhood. Even now I have sorrow and I am 37. I am sure part of you still wants that but here’s the deal…. you did it! You made it through and even though she may always fail you, you can move on without a mother. Your brother might get the chance to have a safe, loving relationship with you and it might be a gift in disguise for your heart as well. My little brother is all grown now at 32. We all survived…. fell down and got up stronger only because we had each other.

    Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. What you knew is not who you are. You are most likely remarkably strong at a young age. You have no idea who I am but I can be here as a sounding board if you’d like. I have a son now I’m raising on my own. He’s turning 11 on Friday and we have a beautiful relationship. Me, who had nothing to emulate, and you who has nothing to emulate or draw from… we can have beautiful families. Whatever she has done she can’t take that away from you.

    • Bre says:

      Thank you so so very much for sharing. You’ve renewed my faith that something CAN come from this situation.

      • Rachel says:


        I’ll visit your page more often. I was directed here by Sarah at Momalom and it was perfect timing for me to read your post. Thank you for sharing.


  9. Ambrosia says:

    Wow. I am so sorry for you. My mother took her youngest brother in because of her mother’s inability to care for him. She found out later, he was going to be put into state care because of his suicide threats. This brother, my uncle, looks at my mother as his mom. He is our “older” brother.

    However, my mother was in a situation that allowed her to help him. You, on the other hand, may not be able to do this. Sometimes the best thing to do is listen and encourage. I echo the previous comment that suggests reaching out for help.

    Your brother is reaching out to you and you are doing Your. Absolute. Best. That is the most important thing. He will understand, maybe not right now, but he will appreciate how you listened and supported him.


    (PS I came via momalom.)

    • Bre says:

      “He will understand, maybe not right now, but he will appreciate how you listened and supported him.” Thank you. I needed to hear that.
      And Praise God for @momalom and the whole Five for Ten bit. I’m loving it!!

  10. Crystal Gold says:

    I just want to say first that I am so sorry for the pain you have endured and the difficulties you face now. I agree wholeheartedly with Joe @ IrrationalDad. I think that is the best advice that can be given.

    I also want to say this… I am totally a firm believer in family, but I hope you also know that you did the right thing to get away. Family, unfortunately, can be just as toxic as (even more than) other people to your life. You are a strong woman who did what you had to do to survive. Own that and don’t let guilt eat at you. You made the right choice. Sometimes we have to walk away. And maybe you were meant to so that now you would be prepared and strong enough to help your brother walk away too.

    I will be praying for you and for strength to make your choices.


    • Bre says:

      “You are a strong woman who did what you had to do to survive. Own that and don’t let guilt eat at you. You made the right choice. Sometimes we have to walk away. And maybe you were meant to so that now you would be prepared and strong enough to help your brother walk away too.”
      I think i’m going to post these words on my fridge until this dark moon passes. Thank you so much, I needed to read this over and over.

  11. Bre says:

    Thank you ALL so very very much for investing thoughts into my woes. It means a TON to me.

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