My Dear Friends and Readers,
For the past two nights I have dreamt about one of my sons, who I shall not name because he has disowned me. In my dream he is five and he was as rambuctious in the dream as he was in real life. He had lots of energy and is as then a most lovable and beautiful child. He adored me and I ignored him. I simply was not present for him and I made him feel that he was a burden in my life. For this I am greviously sorry and I cannot make up for it.
My first dream was about me taking him to a therapist and all that I can remember from the dream was that he would not be still. In reality, I did take my children to therapy- my two sons- and the therapist told me that it was I who needed therapy. He was right.
I had learned from my own mother who had disowned me at 6 months old how to ignore my children. My mother personally told me when I was five that I had ruined her life. Like my son, I did everything I could think of (even becoming an attorney) in the hope that she would love me, She was at best insipid about me. This only made me try harder.
I finally gave up trying to get her approval when I was fifty-five after I remembered that it was she who had brought me into bed to sleep with her and my father. The only thing that I can remember about sleeping in my parents’ bed was that I never went to sleep and I made sure that I did not touch either of them.
Up until the night of December 6, 2011 five years ago, I had always believed that my mother never knew about my abuse. I told people that she had been abused as well and that if she had known she would have done something to save me. Then that night I remembered in that one clear vision that she knew and that she had known for years about my abuse but had pretended all these years that she did not believe me and did not know. I wept that night as I never wept before- and believe me I have had plenty to weep about.
That night was a turning point for me and the years that followed was a stripping away of layers of doing what I thought that she wanted me to do so that she would love me. For years after I recalled that memory, I did not speak to her. It took me about two years to process the fact that she had known about my abuse. I could not face her for I had spent my life loving a woman who had betrayed me. I did not go to see her even when she was diagnosed with cancer. It took me years to understand and to tell myself a convincing story of why she did what she did. I had to remember that she was only 26 when I was five. I had to remember where she was and the circumstances under which she lived. I forgave her. I love her and yet- she has never told me that she was sorry. I don’t know if she ever will. It doesn’t matter. I love her.
I write all of this to say, that while I never physically abused my children not loving them or making them feel unlovable was all that I knew and I wonder how I might have damaged them. I wonder if they are acting out or leading lives that is related to losing their mother who was a drug addict and who they believe chose drugs over them. And yes, in the storm of my addiction I did chose crack cocaine instead of them.
I went to in-patient drug treatment and lost custody of my children when they were 6 and 8 years old. They then became the pawns in a legal custody battle between me and their father, who had remarried a woman who did not have children. The new wife and my ex-husband did everything in their power to keep me separate from my children. I hope they acted the way they did because they feared for the safety of the children. The very worst thing that my ex-husband and his new wife did was to tell the children that I did not love them. They were wrong, I loved my children with all of my very damaged heart and soul and spirit.
Today, I went to lunch with a young man who was sexually traumatized as I had been. Unlike me, he had the courage to testify against his abuser who is now inprisoned and will probably die in prison. Sadly, this young man who is kind and sweet and smart, like me lost the right to be with his children. He was given 4 hours a week of supervised visitation with his children. Like my husband, his ex- used his past childhood trauma to convince a court that he was not stable enough to care for his children- although when he was married he was the primary care giver.
There we sat today, two well dressed educated people who because of what happened to us as children and because we did not know what to do with our pain except to bury it- in drugs and alcohol we lost the right to be with our children. Fortunately for my lucheon companion, his ex did not brain wash the children to be afraid of him and he has face time with them everyday over the phone. For this, he and I are both grateful.
I have a special place in my heart for this kind, smart and gentle young man who is marked by the fact that his father chose to abuse him. I admire his courage. I admire his honesty. I hope he is re-united with his children. I believe he will be and that gives me hope that perhaps someday my children will reach out to find out who I am and to hear my side of the story.
For all of the spouses of the addicted, especially those with children, please do not turn your children against their addicted parents. For all of you with family members who are addicted please seek counseling so that you will understand that addiction is not a choice. Nobody turns to substance abuse or addictive behaviors because they are happy and well. Instead understand that people who are emotionally hurt seek solace and an escape from their pain.
I am not suggesting that parents allow their childlren to be in the presence of parents who are currently abusing whatever they are abusing. That would not be wise or caring or loving to your children, but don’t teach them to judge or hate thier addicted parents. Putting your children in the position to fear or hate their addicted parent becomes a horrible tug of war for children because children love their parents no matter what. As an abused child I can tell you that I love my parents no matter what they did to me.
Children of addicted parents must be taught to understand that their parent’s addictive behavior has nothing to do with them. Children because they are children believe that they are the cause of all that happens in their parent’s lives including all the bad things. Children end up believing that their addicted parents do not love them.
Twelve years ago, I became an advocate for children who had been abused. My clients ranged from the ages of infants to children who were in their late teens. My job as their lawyer was to follow the wishes of the children. My job was not to advocate what was in the best interest of the children, but to follow and carry out the wishes of the children. I can tell you that there was never a child- no matter how bad the abuse who did not want to go back to their parents.
It was my expereince of working with these children who had been removed from the homes of thier parents that made me realize that in the scope of things my abuse had not “been so bad.” In the eyes of those beautiful children,each begging me to tell the judge that they wanted to go back home, I saw my children. Each of those sets of eyes gave me hope that someday my children would want to find out who I was.
I close by saying, that as a society we now know that early childhood trauma and addiction are inextricably linked. We also know that addiction to a certain extent is inherited. We know that addiction is a medical illiness and is often times paired with mental illness.
I don’t have a solution or answer to addiction, but I do ask those of you who deal with family members, friends, children or anyone who is addicted to understand that addiction is the symptom and it’s what’s underneath the addiction that is the core issue.
Go out and hug your children. Tell your children that you love them as often as you can. Show your children that you love them, for there may come a day when they won’t be there to hear you.
Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes