Growing up, I was always taught, “what happens in this house, stays in this house.” Our family always tried to paint this perfect picture. With fake smiles in the family photos that we took every holiday, we always hid the misery and the pain that we endured year after year. Living in a small town, you want your family to have a good reputation in that community. We always put on our fake smiles when leaving the house, dressed nice, and acted as if we were a totally different family. Nobody ever knew about the darkness and evil that lay behind the doors of our home.
When my parents were still married, I was just a young child in primary school. Even then, as young as I was, I could tell they were struggling to keep the family together. Hearing them fight most nights and trying to hide it from me and my brothers, my dad having an affair, and seeing how miserable and depressed my mom was, I watched my family tear apart right before my eyes. I witnessed a lot more than what a child should. I was exposed to a lot of violence, drugs, and alcohol. I always envied my friends’ lives–how happy they were, how perfect their lives seemed. At times, I would try to bring up how crazy my family was and how my parents fought, but it seemed like none of my friends could relate or understand how I felt. They would just brush it off like I was being dramatic and continue bragging about their oh-so-perfect lives. So, I always kept everything to myself.
My parents would always fight, and I never understood why they couldn’t be happy together. I watched my mom be thrown through a glass door like she was nothing to him. I watched my dad physically beat her, throw beer cans at her, and destroy the house in the process–throwing whatever was in reach and aiming at her head, throwing her around by her hair, slapping her in the face, yelling at her, and trying to control her. Being as young as I was, I knew how wrong my dad was. Watching my father beat my mother, someone who did nothing but show unconditional love, devastated me and all I could do was cry.
The last time my mom dealt with my dad’s abuse and infidelity, I was 6 years old. I remember sitting in my room and my dad walking in crying and hugging me, telling me that he and my mom were no longer going to be together and he was moving to a new home away from us. I didn’t bat an eye. I just sat there in silence while he had his arms wrapped around me. Afterwards, we all had to pack and move. My mom, my two brothers and I ended up moving into my grandparents’ home temporarily. And everyone knows what comes after–divorce court. I was called into a judge’s office to be questioned. I remember seeing all the animal heads hanging on the walls, the bear rug on the floor, and the glass jars with dead insects inside. Although all of that was very fascinating to me, I knew what I was there for. He asked me who I wanted to live with and how it was living in the home with both of my parents. I said everything that came to my mind. Then, I was sent out to go sit outside of a court room with some of my family to wait on the court’s decision. My dad somehow got custody of both me and my brother. I remember seeing my mom walking down the steps of the court house crying with my oldest brother by her side. All I wanted was to be with my mom. I didn’t want to be with my dad at all.
Living with my dad was a nightmare. Although he bought us lots of toys and computers, and we had freedom, we were exposed to drugs, alcohol, pornography, and even ephebophilia (adults having sexual relationships with underage teenagers). We ended up having CPS called on us. I was at school when the principal pulled me out of class to go talk to a lady from CPS. Nothing was resolved. My dad hid everything very well and got away with a lot.
About a year later, my oldest brother got into a street bike accident and did not survive. I remember my mom banging on my dad’s front door and yelling that somebody had hit him in an intersection and he was having CPR done on him. We ended up going home with my mom that night and our lives would be forever changed. My dad pretty much gave us back to her. She got custody of us again, and we basically spent the next couple of years trying to adapt to the change and not having my oldest brother with us anymore. My mom started dating someone new after she left my dad. She ended up marrying him a year later. Things seemed great. Although we still struggled with my brothers death, I was thinking I would no longer have to live that miserable life.
Just a couple of years into their marriage, I noticed my step dad’s attitude and his demeanor was starting to change. I was thinking, “here we go again.” He drank alcohol every single day–from the time he woke up until he would pass out on the couch from being so drunk. He always had a cigarette in his hand and would sometimes fall asleep still holding one. He smoked in the house and filled it with that horrible smell, smoking one after another, not caring how it affected anyone else. Because it was his house. He and my mom began fighting and arguing about money and little things. He worked in the oilfield and made good money. To him, money was everything. The fights escalated very quickly. And at times, we would lay awake all night on school nights because of the fights and arguments. The next day, he would buy us things to make up for what had happened the night before. The calm after the storm. It got so bad that in ways, it reminded me of my childhood. Seeing that as a teenager, I would almost have flashbacks. I would try to do everything I could to protect my mom. I would try to intervene, but she always told me to stay out of it. I would sneak the phone in my room at times and call the police just to make the fighting stop. It would escalate so quickly because he was so drunk and violent.
Eventually, he caught on to me calling the law. Some nights he would bust in my room and yank the phone out of my hands and yell at me. He’s destroyed our home countless times–breaking windows and knocking holes in every wall and throwing beer cans. Sound familiar? He even knocked over and stomped on my mom’s sentimental things that she kept of my oldest brother and grandmother, who had passed away. I dealt with the fighting over and over for years.
During that time, my dad was with a new woman who was into drugs really bad, and he ended up getting into drugs as well–almost every drug you could think of. The main one was meth. There were times he would pick us up for the weekend. He would drink and drive while arguing with his girlfriend with us in the car, witnessing all of it. That’s pretty scary. One particular evening, when my dad had dropped me and my brother off to my mom’s, I was hugging him to say bye, and he slipped his hand down my pants. I jerked back and asked him what he was doing, and he said he can do that because he made me and he’s my dad. I knew then he was sick in the head. After that, he didn’t really come around much. He’s the type of father that would pop up randomly in our lives and try making up for the time when he was away. He ended up losing everything and becoming homeless and a bad drug addict. And, the only person he had in his life was his girlfriend.
Fast forward to my early twenties. I still lived with my mom and stepdad. Because of the abuse and everything that was going on, it had me so messed up in the head and worried about my mom that I couldn’t leave her alone with him for one night. I was basically giving up my life to make sure my mom was okay and that he wouldn’t hurt her. Because of everything that I had gone through, I ended up becoming very depressed and struggled with severe anxiety. I isolated myself and cut off most of my friends because of it. I was very lonely and witnessed the fights and abuse every night so I spent most of my days with my mom.
I met someone and I ended up getting pregnant when I was 20. The abuse and fighting and alcohol was still going on all the time. He was still smoking in the house everyday, all day, and I was thinking, “how am I going to raise my baby boy in a home like this?” I remember being about 9 months pregnant. It was summer and very hot inside the house. We only had air units in the house because my stepdad wouldn’t pay to fix the central unit. My mom put a small air unit in my window in my room to help keep me cool. One night, when he was arguing with my mom, he shut the door and locked her out of their room. She had to sleep with me. Later that night, he opened the door and cut the cord to my air unit. My mom knew at this point she had to do something for her grand baby. So, we both secretly planned to move out of the house that month and into a rent home so my son could be born into a clean, smoke-free, and peaceful home.
After moving out the abuse stopped, the nightmares stopped, the depression stopped, the anxiety and tension eased, my mom ended up divorcing my stepdad, and I was able to be around friends and not worry if my mom was okay or not. It was like a brand new life. Having my son changed everything about our lives. And, I knew I would never go back to a life like that again. And, I definitely would never let my children live a life like I did.
As far as my dad, we don’t really speak anymore. He still randomly tries to pop up in my life, but only because I have a son now. Other than that, he doesn’t really care about me. He’s too sucked into a world of drugs with his girlfriend. I basically don’t have a father in my life.
I’ve seen what alcohol can do to someone. I’ve seen what drugs do to people we love. I’ve seen people become selfish and evil. Or, should I say, I’ve seen them show their true colors. I’ve dealt with deep depression and anxiety and learned how much your childhood and what happens in your life can affect you long term in the future. Never ignore someone that is going through depression, because it is real. You never know what someone has gone through in their lives. So, if someone is choosing you to open up to, sit down and listen to what they have to say. You just never know what’s really going on.
My advice to the mothers who are going through domestic violence is to stop and think about how much it will impact your child’s lives in the future. No matter how much you love the person you’re with, think about the bad memories your child will have to remember. You want the best for your kids so you want to make sure they have a happy and peaceful childhood. Exposing them to domestic violence affects them too.
As for a teen who’s going through a similar situation, do whatever you can to protect your loved ones and yourself but make wise decisions about trying to help. Don’t always think that things will get better and the violence will stop. It doesn’t. You only get one life and one family.