Category Archives: alcoholism

Sober October #34

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Sober October #34

She knew I was home by the trail of vomit that started at the front door and lead to the bedroom where I slept had passed out. My mother, her fiance and my brother had been out all day. They did some family bonding outing that I had no interest in. Think vampires in sunlight enthusiasm, I did not want to go. I had better plans, with them gone for several hours, I could party.

Now the term “party” was pretty inconsistent. I didn’t have much money, a place to go or any kind of real plan but that did not deter me. I found some other bored teens to hang out with and we decided to find some trouble. So in our quest to “party” with no plan and no funds, we decided to hitch hike. Sad part is this wasn’t the first time we used this as a means to get high or drunk, it was “party roulette”. We never knew who would pick us up and what adventure awaited us. I cringe at the old memory, the sheer stupidity of it and the absolute lack of self-preservation. Pure insanity.

The details are a blur. They were a blur 34 years ago and they haven’t sharpened with the passing of time. I know I got drunk with strangers. I was in and out of a black out. I remember asking the driver to pull over so I could vomit. Somehow I stumbled up the steep wooden steps to our shabby apartment above the local hardware store. I don’t know how much time passed before my mother found me and insisted I was drunk.

I was a good liar then. I could think up shit on the spot like my life depended on it. I feigned the flu, a stomach bug, so many classmates had it. I convinced my mother’s fiance and my brother that was the case. Mom wasn’t having it. She took me to the Emergency Room to confirm her suspicions, I was busted.

My mother knew a thing or two about drunks, she was in the infancy stage of getting sober and it wasn’t her first attempt. I like to joke that my gene pool is polluted and it is, mostly with alcoholism and heart disease. At 15, I was pretty safe from heart disease but alcoholism doesn’t have a minimum age, that bastard.

Fast forward a few days and I was greeted with “you’re going to rehab” when I got home from school. I had 12 hours to say my good-byes and then I was off. I had no idea what to expect but I figured I could get some street cred from the experience. To say I was flippant is an understatement. I had no intention of getting sober. I was just doing time, garnering pages for my future memoir.

My mother drove me to the place which was a little more than an hour from where we lived. It was in Long Branch, New Jersey and was billed as an adolescent rehab, it formerly served as school for troubled boys. Part of it looked like an old house and part of it looked like a dorm. Guys and girls were separated by common rooms. There was a cafeteria in the basement with intake, detox and a nurses station on the second floor.

I remember getting asked a series of personal questions in the intake office. Based on some of the questions, I didn’t think I belonged. I mean I never lost a job or drove drunk (psst…still 15). I was focused on finding the “not me” which I later learned would be “not yet” if I continued on the path I was on. The place was only open about a month when I arrived, the smell of fresh paint still lingered in parts of the sprawling building.

I remember the first time I walked into the Day Room, “White Lines” by Grandmaster Flash was playing. There were maybe a dozen residents there all between the ages 14 and 17. They came from a range of backgrounds and they all had way more experience than me. Most of them had been arrested for a variety of similar reasons and almost all came from broken families. It was misfit island for teens with a fairly structured daily schedule. We had job assignments, group therapy and some type of meeting, AA or NA. On Sundays a couple came in to bring us their version of Christianity.

The place was so new it was still working out the kinks. Kids were pairing up and couples could be seen holding hands in the Day Room. Most of the staff there were sober an average of 2.5 years and were deep into the zealot phase of recovery (that usually winds down sometime after the 5th year). I don’t know what qualifications they had beyond early sobriety. The counselors were more skilled and had some credentials.

I learned a lot in that place and much of it has followed me all these years. I remember reading the Twelve Steps of AA on a poster. Foolish girl, I thought I could get through a chunk of them just by reading them and giving them a moment’s thought. These steps provided a road map for living and I still abide by them.

THE TWELVE STEPS OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. 

    Copyright  1952, 1953, 1981 by Alcoholics Anonymous Publishing (now known as Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.)
    All rights reserved.

 

I know there’s a lot of God stuff in those steps. Relax, it’s a God of your understanding, a Higher Power (HP). I have heard some interesting spins on HP over the years….some people have used their home AA/NA group as their Higher Power. I once heard someone speak that stated Jack Daniels was their Higher Power because it was stronger than them. Another friend chose Good-Orderly-Direction as their God. I stopped judging this stuff decades ago and life got a whole bunch simpler.

About three days into my stay something remarkable happened. I was in the bedroom that I shared with a roommate but I was alone. I can still see myself sitting there with my white jeans and favorite scarf, a beam of light shone in through the window closest to my bed, near where I was sitting. People call it a spiritual awakening, for me it was an awareness that changed my life forever. In that moment, I got a clear picture of the destructive path my life was on. I also got an intense soul deep understanding that it did not have to stay that way. In that powerful moment I felt the presence of something greater than me and I made a decision to get sober. I have been faithful to that decision for 34 years now.

This longevity of sobriety is somewhat rare. What’s really exotic is getting and staying sober at such a young age. I can only take partial credit for that. That loving, crazy and ever vigilant HP that watches over me has done most of the heavy lifting all these years. I have also met a thousand sober angels along the way. People that guided me through different phases of my life. The ones that told me the harsh truths but always with a solution or helpful suggestion. I’ve also met people that determined I could not possibly be an alcoholic because I got sober so young. I don’t try to win them over with stories of the stupid shit I did for my brief time using. I do remind myself of something I learned long ago in that rehab….”it isn’t how much or how long you drank that matters, it’s what happens when”. When I drank I always put myself in harm’s way, always.

If I can pinpoint one thing that has kept me sober it’s probably the realization that being sober is actually the easier, softer way. That probably sounds nuts to people who aren’t familiar with alcoholism but it’s the truth. If staying sober was harder than being drunk, I would have gotten drunk long ago. Down to my toes I believe that this is the best path for me and that’s why I’ve stayed on it so long.

 

 

 

 

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Of Course, Me too.

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Of Course, Me too.

“Me too” is trending on social media right now. It’s a way for people (mostly women but not exclusively) to identify that they have been sexually harassed or assaulted at some point. At the risk of sounding trendy, this is a tinder box of triggers for a lot of us.

Where to start…..early y’all I grew up in the 70’s when women were definitely not seen as equals. I was a kid – probably 5 the first time someone tried to get fresh with me. We were visiting a friend of my mother. It was a family but the guy and his offspring were overly sexual. I remember seeing boob mugs and a novelty lady parts on the guys desk. His son, a few years older than me, kept trying to get me naked. I was 5 years old. I refused to get naked for him despite his relentless requests.

Fast forward to me at 7 years old, living in New Jersey. There was a teen boy that lived by my babysitter. He got me to make out with him in a fort. What teen wants to make out with a 7 year old? He was definitely a predator in training. I remember him telling me how we would get married when I was 16. Even at 7, I knew he was full of shit.

Leap to my teen years and I wasn’t making great life choices. I had a brief stint with drugs and alcohol which lasted about 18 months. It was the early 80s and there were times when I was stupid enough to hitch hike, sometimes alone. One time in particular, the driver took me to a remote location. I knew I was in trouble and my teen brain was in overdrive. I liked to think I was cool but I was very inexperienced and afraid. I talked my way out of an assault by making up a story about a boyfriend in South River that had ties to the mob. I rattled of names of guys and streets that were completely fabricated. The driver must have believed me because things didn’t escalate. That was a really close call.

Fortunately I stopped drinking and using drugs at the age of 15. I got sent to an adolescent rehab which was a fairly new concept in 1983. Ten months later, I was in a sexual relationship with the man who was previously my counselor in rehab. I have tried to convince myself that this was consensual. It was in some ways but it wasn’t a level playing field. He was 32, I was 16. If a 32 year old man shows any interest in my daughter when she is 16, there will be hell to pay.

When I started working, harassment was just another thing you had to deal with on the job. I was a cashier at a grocery store for several years in my late teens. One older man in the dairy department insisted on hugging all of the girls and then he would make comments about their breast size. I hated this and mentioned it to management. The hugging stopped but I was looked at as a trouble maker from that point on. “Oh, it’s no big deal, he’s just old and likes hugs” my co-workers would say. “Really” I would retort, “he just commented on your cup size.”

I worked for a large corporation in the early 90s. I was good at my job and got consistent promotions. I was there about 4 years when one of my former managers heard that I had ended a relationship. The next day a box from Victoria’s Secret was on my desk. It contained two camisole nightgowns with matching robes and two pairs of thigh high stockings. It cost a small fortune and instantly made me feel uncomfortable. This man was no longer my manager and we rarely spoke. And if that wasn’t enough, his wife worked for the same company. So I handled it in a way that would leave him some dignity. I thanked him for the gift and said “I’m sure you only meant this as a friendly gesture but it makes me uncomfortable”. I requested that he take it back, he refused and I let it drop. By this point, I had learned the importance of deescalation.

I remember going to a sober get together with male acquaintances that said they would not give me a ride home unless I blew them. I started walking and they eventually caught up with me to give me a ride but I didn’t feel safe. Even sober, I could not escape creeps. There was one man in particular that would go to the same weekly AA meeting as me, he harassed me every time he saw me. Every. Single. Time. The kicker was that he sponsored my sponsor’s husband. She had a fit when she witnessed his behavior one night. She had not idea he treated me that way. To me he was just another asshole that I tried to ignore. It didn’t even cross my mind to tell her about it.

I will say these things don’t happen with the frequency they once did. I’ve been married for 15 years and I am self-employed. I’d like to think the world is starting to change but it is more likely that I have aged out of the target zone. Now my focus is preparing my children for the situations they may encounter. Time to make “me too” the exception instead of the norm, it’s beyond time.

 

 

Trying to balance compassion and self preservation…..

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Trying to balance compassion and self preservation…..

I’m trying to balance compassion and self-preservation and it’s a bitch. My mother has certifiable mental illness. She has a long history of mental illness issues including hospital stays for suicide attempts and alcoholism. She is generally miserable and unable to maintain long-term relationships. She has seen doctors and specialists by the dozens, she’s had inpatient stays in psych wards, has more than 3 decades into 12 step recovery and has tried every pill known to big pharma to treat depression. She has been on disability for at least 25 years for her depression so it’s well documented. Sometimes though, the lines blur between her mental illness and her just being a shitty human. Other times she is amazingly thoughtful and generous, mostly to strangers or acquaintances. She saves the gnarly stuff for my brother and me, we are the only relatives that have stuck it out.

I’m not sure when her mental health issues began. She has told me a lot about her life (too much if I’m honest) and I know she always had a terrible relationship with her brother. In fact she had a rough go of it with both of her parents as well. Was that due to their treatment of her, her mental illness or some other sad combination….I don’t know. I do know this, misery is her most frequent companion. If there isn’t something to lament about, her razor-sharp mind will find something obscure and mold it into a formidable monster.

She’s smart, so very smart that it makes pitying her as a sick person near impossible at times. Master manipulator and rationalizer extraordinaire, check and check. She can twist the most innocuous situation and turn it into filth and wretchedness. She has left a wake of destruction behind her. When she goes, she goes big, in a huff…..a cloud of confusion, hurt and anger swirling around her like her own personal tornado. It’s sad, infuriating and exhausting.

I have to mentally remind myself that she is sick. Like cancer, diabetes, MS, lupus, fill in the blank…..except it isn’t like that at all. If your mom has cancer she doesn’t typically say “I wish you were never born” repeatedly to you as a young child. Diabetes doesn’t abandon you in the state of Florida to go to New Jersey when you are 9. MS doesn’t call you a “whore” because you over did the eye shadow and lip stick at 14. Cancer won’t leave you and your brother homeless at 15  because mom doesn’t have it together. Lupus doesn’t tell you that you’re a bad person because your husband bought his dream house, the one he worked his ass off for, but it’s too big so you’re all horrible people. Mental illness and alcoholism does that, not the other diseases. So I’m a bit tired of the mental illness is just like any other disease line, no it fucking isn’t.

So now I have a 72-year-old broken down mentally ill mother who has basically treated me like shit most of my life. And as much as I want to let go of past bad experiences, they keep reinserting themselves into present day. Every time she makes an unreasonable demand or is inconsiderate I am haunted by the ghost of reason that says – “seriously, why are you doing this for her?”

Why indeed. I’m a good person and I don’t want her to haunt me when she dies and she would. I have had my share of obstacles that I have overcome and I basically cheer for the underdog. At this point I’m not sure which one of us is the underdog. I think it’s me today. Yesterday I told my mother to “fucking move then”.  What got me to this point beyond the cumulative effect of 49 years of insanity?

I bought a house at the beach in New Jersey in 1999. It was a struggle to purchase it and I did it on my own before I got married. That house was a testament to my financial and emotional independence. It was one of the most empowering things I ever did as a young woman. Fast forward 14 years and I no longer needed the house. We hadn’t lived there in years. My brother and his family lived there for 5 years and they moved away. My husband and I have a beautiful home in a neighboring state. After Hurricane Sandy, we began to worry that at some point it would get destroyed in a storm and we would lose the financial appreciation. I sold the house a few years ago and tripled my investment. As someone who had been a reluctant, accidental SAHM for a decade it felt great to make a financial contribution to my family. I also used a portion of that money to buy a small house in a nearby adult community. I bought a place for my mother because she was so unhappy where she lived. For nearly 10 years she complained about her living situation.I also thought it would be more practical to have her closer to me as she aged. My brother moved to Maine so he can’t help with medical or other issues that require hands on assistance.

Fast forward another 3 years and there isn’t a week that goes by that she doesn’t complain to me about something. Some of it is normal life stuff, a few ants, a nosy neighbor, the air filters. The air filters get to me. My mom smokes about a pack a day but INSISTS that the air filters in her house get changed on a monthly basis. She complains a lot about her financial situation which has always been awful. I bought the house so there is no mortgage but there is an association fee that she pays. She also has utilities and other bills. It is a stretch for her and I help with some of it.

The other day she called to tell me that I “had to pay” her Comcast bill so she could pay out-of-pocket to see an eye doctor that isn’t in her plan. If she said “can you help me” or “I want to go to….” that isn’t how it was presented at all. It was a command given with a bitchy tone and she went on and on about how horrible Pennsylvania Medicaid is compared to New Jersey and……..I just snapped and said “fucking move then”. Granted I could have delivered the message in a calm tone minus the expletive but she wouldn’t have heard me then. I’ve tried that approach for two years, no luck. She heard me this time.

Later I got an email from her telling me how she doesn’t expect me to pay ALL her bills. She then went on to describe how she is the victim of a corrupt government of evil ne’er-do-wells. Blah blah blah I’ve been reading and hearing this crap for years. I’m worn out I tell you, worn out. She has never taken financial responsibility for herself and she is seemingly incapable of any consistent emotional stability. This life long inability or disregard (not sure which some days) has left her facing her “golden years” pretty much broke and alone.

The biggest barrier for me though is her complete lack of interest in me or my family. She has two kind, funny, smart, beautiful grandchildren 10 minutes from her home and she could not care less. Soccer games, shows, Sunday dinners she is frequently invited and rarely shows. When she does attend a dinner she is consistently late. She shows absolutely no regard for how her actions or lack there of could have an impact on others. Again, I don’t know if this is part of the mental illness or just someone so self-absorbed that they are incapable of basic consideration. Either way the end result is the same.

So here I am again trying to balance compassion for her with my own self preservation. This isn’t new territory I know what I need to do. Take a break, don’t call her for a few days or minimize interaction until I can fortify myself enough for the next round. Once again I remind myself that this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. I just hope I can make it to the finish line.

 

 

 

Keep On Truckin’……….Part 9

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Keep On Truckin’……….Part 9

So in 1983 my world imploded just the tiniest bit. We had been living in the same town in central NJ for about 5 years. Some years were better than others but it was the longest stretch I had lived anywhere in my 15 years so it felt like home. I lived there with my mother and twin brother.

A little background, mom was a drunk until she got sober for good in August of 1982. That is pretty much when I started to drink and “experiment” with drugs. Fortunately for me, I had limited means so it was mostly some pot and an occasional pill. I am pretty sure I would have tried anything put in front of me. We called that a garbage head in the 80’s. I was quite reckless and I put myself in harm’s way on a regular basis. Traded in my long term friends for a sketchier variety that wanted to meander along with me on my path of self destruction.

How did the once good girl suddenly find her self so misguided? Escape. I just wanted to escape from the life I was in. As a young girl I remember looking at the most popular girl in the class and I wondered….what is it like to be Kim? Back then I was a judge-a-book-by-it’s-cover kind of gal and my cover was torn, tattered with some coffee stains and a cigarette burn or two. Kim had a flawless, shiny, smells like a new car cover going on…..I wondered what that was like.

In addition to having the family from hell I also had a fairly long “awkward stage” that’s the stage when the kid is fairly ugly for a few years and everyone hopes it’s temporary. So I basically went from being the buck-toothed scrawny girl to braces straightened teeth, kind of pretty and overly made up. It wasn’t a magnificent transition but it was enough to get the boys to notice me. The ones who made fun of me the year before suddenly wanted to “hang out”. I was insecure enough to not tell them to fuck off. If only I had a time machine…….

So this is where my childhood ends. The story, my story continues in another series titled…..(insert drum roll here) “1 in 37……..”. That series describes my first year of recovery. Spoiler alert I have been sober since 1983. Don’t let that stop you from reading…….some crazy shit happened that first year (and trust me, I know crazy, we’re like besties….smh).

https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/04/28/1-out-of-37-part-1/

 

 

Keep on Truckin’…….Part 7

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Keep on Truckin’…….Part 7

Sometime in the summer of 1978 my brother and I finally moved back into a place with our mother. She had spent the last year getting settled into a job and a new apartment. While she was getting settled my brother and I stayed with our maternal grandparents. That living situation was prompted by a disastrous year in Florida with my mother, her boyfriend, Frank and my twin brother and me.

When we came back to New Jersey my brother and I were excited about seeing our father again. He lived in a shore town in New Jersey and we were both looking forward to reconnecting. Before we left for Florida we saw our father and his bride on a regular basis. They even tried to gain custody of the two of us. I remember having someone from the court ask me who I would rather live with….which was a ridiculous question for me…that question was a 1,000 pounds on my 7 year old shoulders. I answered with trepidation….something to the effect of I love them both but I guess I’d rather live with my mom.

The truth is I was torn. I kind of fantasized what it would be like to live with my father and his new wife. I really loved them, they were good to us….her whole family was good to us. On the other hand I had my mother and I recognized that she was wounded and I felt like she needed me. I also knew with every fiber of my being that if I went to live with my father she would be lost to me forever.

She frequently said bad things about my father and step mother which made me question my loyalty on a regular basis. I felt good when I was with my father and his new family and then when my brother and I would get home our mother would interrogate us. She would look for the smallest sliver of anything she could use against him. How many drinks did so and so have, who was there, what was on tv? It was intense. And I’m not sure exactly when it started but sometime early on my mother started referring to my father as “shithead”. She did this constantly used shithead in place of his name or a pronoun. Textbook definition of how not to behave after a divorce.

So naturally when we went to see our father for the first time since returning to New Jersey, my brother and I were nervous. We were also excited. He called us weekly while we were in Florida and we were under the impression that they missed us. So when he answered the door and didn’t invite us in my world caved in a bit. He said something about not being able to just come over unannounced and blah blah…..I don’t remember the exact words. I just remember shutting down and closing him off. Of course my mother reinforced how awful that was when we told her what happened.

Even though my mom was crazy it was hard for me to be apart from her. So when the three of us starting living together again I was happy. We started 5th grade that year in an elementary school which was maybe six blocks away. I had been to plenty of new schools by this point so I was pretty good at making new friends and observing situations.

Not sure how far into the school year it happened but one day I got into a verbal altercation with someone.  Before I could blink I had half the class threatening to beat me up after school. At which point I became more bravado than brains and started to assign people numbers something like “oh yeah I’ll fight you first, you second, you third….” pointing out the kids I would fight and in what order. Somewhere before I got to double digits an angel stepped in. She was the class jock and everyone adored her and even then she was cool enough to not give a shit about what people thought of her. She announced that if anyone fought me they would have to fight her as well. They all backed out of the fight and I got a new best friend.

I’ll never forget the day that Shelly stood up for me. After school I was determined to go to her house. I went up to the door and from that day until high school I spent many hours there. Her family was crazy but in a good way. They were loud, all the kids cursed but they loved each other. There was always food, snacks, dinner and all the Nestle Quik you could drink. Those were luxuries for me then…..hell we couldn’t afford Devil Dogs. Her mom didn’t work so she was often driving her kids and their friends around. I was always welcome there.

This was such a stark contrast to my family life. My brother and I were latch key kids. We came home after school to an empty apartment and I always had a long list of chores including getting dinner ready most nights. My brother and I fought all the time. That caused problems because we lived over a business so my mother had to hear about our behavior a lot. That did not make her happy and if mom isn’t happy no one is happy.

We never knew what kind of mood our mother would be in when she came home. When we heard her coming up the steps we would scatter like roaches when the lights come on. Scurrying off in different directions, tucked away until we could determine if it was safe to come out.

To be continued…..https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/11/12/keep-on-truckin-part-8/

Keep on Truckin’……Part 6

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Keep on Truckin’……Part 6

When I was in 4th grade my twin brother and I lived with our maternal grandparents. We spent the prior year moving from one place to another in the northern part of Florida with our mother and her then boyfriend, Frank. Parts of that year were fun. The weather was mild, little lizards were everywhere, we got to Disney World and we had a boat. The bad parts probably outweighed the good; snakes, domestic violence, multiple moves, mom in a Psych Ward, a foster home and a rapid departure after mom was arrested. So all in all an exciting year.

My brother and I were staying with our grandparents so our mother could get back on her feet. She needed to time to get a job and find an apartment for the three of us. Our parents had divorced several years prior and at this point my father was remarried and recently had his first child with his second wife. Before we left for Florida our father requested custody and ultimately lost. When we finally got to the shore town where he lived my brother and I could hardly wait to see him.

We were visiting a family friend who lived around the corner from my father. My brother and I bounded over there excited to see him. We could barely contain ourselves while we waited for him to answer the door. A somber version of our father emerged and coaxed us away from the entry and sat on the steps. I don’t remember his exact words but the gist of it was you can’t just come here unannounced and I’m sure it had something to do with his baby daughter. Looking back I can see where the man had been put through hell. Trying to get custody, loose that battle and then his crazy (certified) ex wife takes his kids to Florida….it must have been an emotional roller coaster for him. I lacked that perspective then. What I heard was I don’t want to see you now and then it all faded to black.

I think my little psyche had been through too much at this point so I just shut down. If he didn’t want us there then fine I wouldn’t want to be there. I flipped a switch, threw up a wall, deployed the shield. If I am honest some of it is still there, maybe half a wall (3/4s) at this point almost 40 years later….My brother god bless him he handled it different. He just tried harder to get the man’s attention and sometimes they still do that dance. It’s heartbreaking, infuriating and pathetic to watch. Like watching an animal stuck in a trap trying to get out, wailing in pain. I avoid the trap, still do.

That year with my grandparents I started to slide. I mouthed off to people said shit that was stupid and incoherent. I told one kid to “suck momma moose cock” which isn’t even a real thing. Had to have my grandmother sign a note with those ridiculous words on it. I got in physical fights one was with a classmate who happened to be a boy. I was ready to fight anyone. My brother and I fought a lot and it got nasty – punches, scratching full on physical altercations. I also stole change from some charity box we had at home that was supposed to go to church. I wanted ice cream at lunch …..I didn’t think past the box.

Our mother would visit us sometimes on weekends but not always. I was so insecure I’m sure part of me thought she would just leave us there with our grandparents. She did leave me in Florida with family friends the prior summer for several weeks so it wasn’t that far of a reach. So here I am an angry, scared, insecure 9 year old girl who has already moved at least 12 times and attended no less than 5 schools by 4th grade. The poster child for dysfunction.

To be continued……https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/11/09/keep-on-truckin-part-7/

Keep on Truckin’………Part 5

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Keep on Truckin’………Part 5

My mother was arrested in front of me in August of 1977. I was 9 years old. We had just destroyed the mobile home we lived in with her boyfriend, Frank. Apparently someone called the cops. I was put in the back of one police car while mom got taken away in another. It took them a while to figure out where to take me. We didn’t have any relatives in Florida, we were only there about a year.

My twin brother had been sent back to our home state of New Jersey in June. He was staying with relatives. I stayed with family friends for about 3 weeks while my mom and brother made the trip back home. My brother stayed in New Jersey and mom came back but not for long. She attempted suicide shortly after she got back to Florida.  Because of that, I was sent to a foster home for about 5 days in early July. When she got out of the Psych Ward we went back to living in a mobile home with Frank. Mind you at the time I didn’t know she tried to kill herself, I was told that she needed to rest.

Things were rocky to say the least. Frank and my mother fought constantly and I saw my mother get physically abused by him. He dragged her throughout the home and she was crying. I was chasing after him and screaming for him to stop. My mother tried to say it was fun, that they were just goofing around.  The rug burns on her arms and legs told another story and I can still picture them in my mind.

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The night my mother got arrested I stayed with a childless couple that were friends with our once foursome. They seemed like nice people. I remember sitting on their couch and talking but I don’t remember what we talked about it. I think they took me snorkeling but the memories are fuzzy. At any rate I probably wasn’t with them more than two days. Frank had to buy me a first class ticket to New Jersey. I guess that was the rule then for a minor traveling alone. It was my first plane ride. I don’t think I was afraid of flying but I did challenge myself to get a candy bar out of the guy before I boarded. That was a personal victory, it was a mounds bar in case you are wondering. I remember being encouraged to chew gum during take off so I was totally fine with flying.

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My maternal grandparents and my twin brother met me at the airport in Newark, New Jersey. I remember that my grandmother fell on the escalator…..as if my homecoming needed more drama. My grandparents were probably close to 70 at the time so a fall could have been a real game changer. Thankfully she recovered. I’m not sure how long it took my mother to get back to New Jersey but my brother and I lived with our grandparents for a year while my mother got back on her feet.

That’s pretty much how it was explained to us. My mother was busy getting her life in order; getting a job, finding a place for us to live, etc.,. So while she did that we lived with our grandparents in Waretown, New Jersey. Sometimes we wouldn’t see her for weeks and that was really hard. When you are a kid you tend to believe what the adults around you tell you but I was getting cynical.

We were in 4th grade that year and my brother and I both had issues with kids. He was tormented by some jerk on the bus and I was the second least attractive girl in class. In the 70’s no one gave a shit if you were bullied you just dealt with it. I remember feeling conflicted about the other least popular girl in class. I simultaneously felt sorry for her and was grateful there was someone under me in the 4th grade food chain.  I recognized that made me a bit of a jerk.

Her family lived in a trailer and had less than we did. She didn’t seem to have a good handle on hygiene but I suspect that was because she only had sporadic access to hot water. In the spring we were picking buddies for a field trip and no one picked her so I offered to be her buddy. Looking back I don’t think I had a lot of offers.

One time a kid found milk bone dog biscuits in my desk, that was unfortunate. I had an explanation…….there was a dog I passed on the way home from school and I regularly brought treats for it. That wasn’t the take away that the class latched on to….no from that day forward I was referred to as a dog. That was a thing when I was growing up, ugly girls were referred to as dogs.

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To be continued…….https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/11/07/keep-on-truckin-part-6/

Keep on Truckin’………Part 4

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Keep on Truckin’………Part 4

In August of 1977 I was living in a mobile home in the northern part of Florida. I was there with my mother and her boyfriend, Frank. My twin brother who started the adventure with us nine months prior was back in our home state of New Jersey. My mother made the trip back with him and I stayed with friends of the family for several weeks until she returned.

Soon after she returned to Florida she tried to kill herself and ended up in a Psych Ward. Mind you I didn’t know she tried to kill herself at the time. I was probably told that mommy needs a break or she is sick and needs to rest. The family friends were probably weary of my company so I landed in an emergency foster home for about 5 days. Nothing horrible happened in the foster home except that I knew this wasn’t normal. My whole life up until that point had not been normal but the emergency foster home made me feel especially isolated and insecure. I was 9 years old and my entire family except for my mother was in New Jersey.

I also wondered why she took my brother back to New Jersey and not both of us. In retrospect I think she was trying to pry herself away from an abusive relationship in what she thought was the safest way. If she left one kid in Florida she could convince Frank that she would come back. If she took both kids he would have been alerted to the fact that the relationship was over and the abuse could have escalated.

Why take my brother and not me? Well being the oldest by a full five minutes, I always acted as his protector. Of course we fought like hell but deep down I would have taken a bullet for my brother and somehow that was known. In fact I would have taken a bullet for him up until I had kids of my own. I was also mentally and emotionally stronger. So I can understand her choice and I am giving her a lot of benefit of the doubt. Any way you slice it….it was a fucked up situation.

A couple weeks after we both got out of our institutional settings, things got nuts. My mother and I were at the mobile home and Frank was out. It was a hot day in Florida typical of August. I was outside playing with a friend. The mobile home had a large window in the front room and I could see my mother motioning my friend and I to move away, so we did. A couple of minutes later a large object came crashing through the window. I told me friend I had to go and went inside to see what was happening.

My mother’s master plan for ending the relationship was to destroy the home. She thought if he sees this level of destruction surely he will let us go. So I helped my mother trash the place. I’m not going to lie it was kind of fun. I threw dishes like they were frisbees. We decorated a framed photograph of Frank with toilet paper and drew a crown on his bald head and renamed him “King Shit”. I threw flour and other food all over the kitchen, we slashed furniture and clothes. We destroyed the place.Featured image

It was all great fun until the cops came. Then I saw my mother get arrested and hand cuffed in front of me. Apparently it was the second time she was arrested since we moved to Florida. I wasn’t present for her first arrest. I was placed in the back of a police car until they figured out what to do with me. My mother was taken off to jail.

To be continued……https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/11/04/keep-on-truckin-part-5/

Keep on Truckin’……Part 3

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Keep on Truckin’……Part 3

My twin brother and I turned 9 in early June of 1977. I still remember my favorite birthday gift, a pink pair of silky smooth bell bottom pajamas with a ruffle halter top. I did some serious dancing in those jammies to Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke. It was a good song then and it stands the test of time.

We had been living in Florida with our mother and her boyfriend, Frank, for about 10 months. In that time with lived in a hotel, 2 houses and a mobile home. We attended third grade in two different school districts. Did I mention that we were there for about 10 months?

We also spent a fair amount of time on a boat we named Gemini IV and yes we were all Geminis. It was a 40 foot cabin cruiser and I learned how to fish on that boat. I also tried snorkeling and I remember hearing about sponge divers. We ate out a lot, mostly at Red Lobster which was a new experience for us. We even went to Disney World – somewhere I have a photo of me in orange bell bottoms with Holly Hobbie stitched on the leg bottoms. I was also wearing the ever popular mouse ears.

Featured imageIt was a big year for us filled with adventure and we weren’t broke which was a nice change. Prior to Florida we had lived in a boarding house and various apartments and shack houses. I knew what poor was from a young age. The year before our move we had a secret Santa who dropped off a couple of black hefty bags full of goodies including a Candy Land board game and some Fluff marshmallow spread. I knew what it was to want things that you knew you couldn’t have.

Eventually though the relationship between my mother and Frank started to deteriorate. There were some mamma drama moments. One time my mother ran over our bicycles. Mind you she wasn’t mad at her kids….she ran the bikes over to piss off Frank. The bikes were a gift from his sister and somehow destroying them seemed like a good get-even plan to her. I’m going to assume alcohol was involved in that thought process. She wasn’t the only one who was nuts. I remember seeing Frank drag my mother across the carpet and I was screaming at him to stop hurting her. To her credit she tried to tell me it was OK and that they were having fun. The rug burns told another story.

At some point my mother started to plan our escape. Apparently it was a two part plan. Sometime in the beginning of June she left Florida and took a bus to New Jersey with my brother. She left me behind. Let that sink in a minute…..she left her just turned 9 year old daughter in Florida with a family we knew for maybe two months. The family I stayed with moved into the second house we rented in Newport Richey so at least the house was familiar. The memories are fuzzy but there were at least two daughters and they taught me how to stuff oranges in my shirt to make it look like I had boobs. I also tried smoking and had my first kiss with an Australian boy. What can I say he had me a “‘owdy mate”. it was a hell of a month.Featured image

Somewhere close to July my mom came back to Florida and I went back to living in the mobile home with her and Frank. Within in days my mother went off the deep end and wound up in a Psych Ward. My brother was still in New Jersey and I landed in an emergency foster home. I don’t remember much from my time there I think I was only there about 5 days. The woman who picked me up to take me there told me I had nice eyelashes. That was almost 40 years ago and I remember that simple compliment. I also remember there were other kids there. Some were the foster parents biological kids, others were transients like me. We drank powdered milk which was gross and the dad was a cabinet maker. They liked to watch Little House on the Prairie. I was there for the 4th of July, we watched the fireworks on tv. I also remember it being 7/7/77 while I was there. I was told at the time that it was a special date. It didn’t feel special but it was memorable.

To be continued……https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/10/22/keep-on-truckin-part-4/

Keep on Truckin’……..Part 2

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Keep on Truckin’……..Part 2

There were a few incidents that I remember from before our trek to Florida that made me think my mom had some problems. There were fights with my father. I remember he got physically violent with her once. I swear I was crawling at the time and people say you can’t remember that far back but I can picture it. Had to be under 2 years old. I remember seeing my father hit my mom across her face as she slid down with her back against the wall. I also remember the verbal assault when my mom was screaming at my stepmother outside of the house where she lived with my father.What a tricky situation for a kid. Three people I adored and my mom was out of her mind, most likely drunk and making a scene on a block where we knew everyone.

Then there was the night when were couldn’t have been more than 5 years old. Our mom woke us up in the middle of the night, she had a bandage on her chin. She told us that she was in a car accident and she just wanted to hug and kiss us. I later found out that she was driving drunk. The cops let her off because it was the 70s and she was pretty. So, drunk driver turned into driver swerved to avoid hitting an animal.

There were of course the family holidays which were an excuse for the adults to get wasted. That always guaranteed some level of dysfunction. I learned at an early age that topics of religion and politics were fine because if they focused on that they left the kids alone. When they tired of those topics the kids became targets. I was smart, kept my mouth shut and generally stayed under the radar….the ones that stood up for themselves got the most abuse. I learned how to blend in like a chameleon.

During our send off/8th birthday party the drunkenness was at expert level. A few people stayed over in our small apartment because they passed out. I shared a bed with one of those. Her name was Eleanore and I adored her. We met Eleanore and her husband Frank when we lived at a boarding house in Point Pleasant Beach. We had one room for the three of us and they had an efficiency which was basically the penthouse in that place. They were kind to us and were very close friends of ours. Anyhow, I woke up the day after the party and the bed was wet. I was mortified. How could I have wet the bed……..wait a minute….I realized my underwear was dry though the sheets next to me were wet. Took my 8 year old brain a minute to realize Eleanore had wet the bed.

Shortly after that party we found ourselves in Florida with my mother’s boyfriend Frank. He was an inventor and he was working on a product that would conserve water in toilets. Sounds boring but the guy was so damn charming, I was in love. We were in Florida for about two weeks when I made the conscience decision to be an adult. Not sure what made me take that mental step. I’m sure I heard bits and pieces of conversations and somehow decided that was the best way to help out.

So I started that day. The four of were living in a Quality Inn hotel room and I started my adulthood by cleaning out the coffee pot. I was going to be a responsible citizen from that point on. Sure enough that year I started to cook family meals, vacuum and do my own laundry. I adored my mother at this point and I wanted desperately to please her. I’m sure that is why I went into adult mode. The adults probably thought it was cute at first and then they realized not so bad this kid can get shit done.

Aside from the Quality Inn we lived in three different houses and went to two different schools. We were in 3rd grade that year. The first house was next to a Drive In Movie Theater…..guess who saw JAWS on the big screen from outside of our house. I’m not going to lie that movie messed me up. We also had a coral snake in our shed once which freaked me out. This house was a bit of a dump if the proximity to a drive in and the snake didn’t already give that away.

The second house was a huge upgrade. We had a lot that went from one street to another. We were near a park and had an orange tree in our yard. We were so complacent we even got a dog. He was a German Shepherd, we named him Duke. My brother and I each had our own room. It was a 4 bedroom house which to me was palatial. I had the chicken pox in that house. I remember taking an oatmeal bath in the brown bathroom. We had a snake in that house once, our cat coaxed it out of hiding and then a neighbor stepped in to finish the job. Did I mention that I really hate snakes?

The third house we lived in was actually a mobile home. For those that are familiar,  it was a double wide which pretty much means what it says. It was a very nice mobile home with new carpeting and I remember I had white furniture in my bedroom. My brother and I had a Jack and Jill bathroom that we shared. Hard to imagine but the downward spiral went quick after we moved in.

To be continued……https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/10/20/keep-on-truckin-part-3/