Been There…Done That?

I hear ya…

How many times do I have to say it?

How many times do I have to say it?

As I am working on my memoir, I have had to ask myself a very serious question. What theme threads run through the tapestry of my life? Have I experienced things that I’ve learned from? How can this help my readers in some way?

“It is never too late to become what you might have been.” ~ George Eliot

Poor Me!

I actually used to think that I had been through more than anyone I knew, and because of this, I am an authority on the matter of suffering. I wasn’t being arrogant about it, I just knew I could empathize with lots of hurting people. It was because of this belief that I became a psychotherapist. But soon I heard the stories…and then I quickly changed my stance on that subject. Nope! I wasn’t the poster child I thought I was. The world is full of hurting people…and I am just one of them.

But I also recognize that I have been through a LOT, and more importantly, I have overcome a lot…enough that I have hope for others.

My Themes

In my memoir I am going to write about:

Alcoholism

Codependency

Neglect

Juvenile Hall

Teen Marriage

Teen Motherhood

Physical Abuse

Divorce

Drug Abuse

Suicides

Mental Illness and My Experience in a Mental Hospital

Dysfunctional Relationships

Love Addiction

The Church and Bad Advice

A Broken Neck

Addiction to Narcotic Pain Medication

A Brain Tumor

Becoming a Psychotherapist

God’s Love

Healing

Forgiveness

…and a whole lot more!

My articles will discuss things I’ve learned on my own, as well as through education and experience working with others. I really hope you’ll join me. And please leave comments or questions. I will be happy to respond.

Also, for more tips on these subjects and help with challenging life circumstances and highly reactive emotions, come meet me over at http://www.changeyouremotions.com.

Stay tuned and keep updated by subscribing in the box on the upper right. And be sure to download my eBook for free, Becoming What You Might Have Been for some tips on how you can change your life and become all you can be too!

Michael the Archangel

Black eye, 3rd day

A chance meeting through the friend of a friend. Our eyes met across a crowded room (OK, there were about five of us and it was on the corner of Pier Avenue and 1st Street). Soon  we became the perfect little hippie couple. But at the end of it all, three years later, I would feel as if I had gone completely mad. It would take a decade to fight my way back from a pit of despair so deep that I still wonder how I survived it at all. And oddly enough, it the madness would start the night of a Tupperware party. But I digress.

I thought he was gorgeous (they always seem to be gorgeous).  Michael. I thought of him as Michael the Archangel. He was poetic and spiritual. He was calming. He was smart. He took over the parts of my life that I couldn’t seem to manage on my own. Everyone around us seemed to be as drawn to him as I was. My Svengali.

He talked me into moving away, making the break from Los Angeles and most of my friends and family. Technically still a teenager, moving away made me feel like a grown-up, striking out on my own. Only I wasn’t alone. I was with Michael the Archangel.

The first time it happened we were walking down the street talking. The conversation seemed to be going well enough, although I had been feeling more and more uncomfortable with the topics he brought up. Lately he had been telling me about his foray into white magic. At times he didn’t make any sense at all. At other times, I felt a definite darkness in my spirit, as if someone had turned off the lights.

“Do you believe in reincarnation?” he asked. It seemed like an innocent enough question. I didn’t sense the set-up. But I already knew I had better say, “yes,” when I knew that’s what he wanted to hear, so I did. “Well, I’m Jesus Christ reincarnated.” My breath caught in my throat, and I stopped and turned to face him.

“Yeah, right,” I said.

I didn’t even see it coming, that explosion of pain and blackness. My face went numb and I thought my eye had popped out of its socket. I screamed. Horrified, I tried to run, but he caught up to me and pulled me by my blouse. I thought someone would have had to hear my scream and the crack when his fist landed on my face. I hoped someone would come out of their house and rescue me, but the silence, other than the barking of a dog, was deafening. Suddenly, a beautiful sunny summer day turned gray.

“I ran into the kitchen cupboard,” I later lied to my friends.They just stared at my face and turned away. I wanted them to sense I was lying, confront me with it, and demand an explanation. I wanted someone to take charge and hide my son and me somewhere safe.  But no one did, and I kept silent, and I was 360 miles away from home.

Once you tell your first lie, the first time you lie for him, you are in it with him, and then you are lost.

Anita Shreve, Strange Fits of Passion

There was calm after that storm but it was just the eye of the hurricane. One night soon after, I was beaten while the soundtrack of “A Clockwork Orange” played in the background. I was left with lumps all over my head that were covered by my hair. I ran to a friend’s but she didn’t believe I had been hurt at all because my face looked fine. Resigned, I went back home.

I tried to spend most days taking my son to the park or long walks downtown, anything to keep us away from home as much as possible. Every so often we stopped and I watched  while he gathered his “collections.” Later, as I sorted our laundry, I pulled these treasures out of his pockets; stones and leaves, and the olives that fell from the trees on our street. I felt so proud to be his mom, but I was filled with shame at the situation I had put us in.  Somehow, I had to get us out of there; somehow I had to save us.

I was pregnant again and leaving seemed out of the question. There was no way my parents would take me in again and all my friends were Michael’s as well. I felt trapped and alone.

I was awakened one night to find the police in my living room. A friend had called them after Michael slit his wrists and smeared his blood all over the walls, throughout the house. The police coaxed him off of our property by telling him the neighbors wanted to ask him a question, and took him to the hospital. It took me until dawn to wash the walls before my son woke up and saw it.

One day some new friends in fancy cars began coming by with freebies. They made Michael feel as if they would do anything for him…best buddies. Michael began using heroin. I came home one day from a walk with my son and heard voices in the room I was fixing up for the new baby. I found them there, sitting cross-legged in a circle on the floor, handing each other a syringe. A drop of blood marred the brand new crisp white of the Winnie the Pooh rug they were sitting on. I fled to the garage, blood pounding in my ears. I stooped forward, and tried to catch my breath, hands on my swelled belly.  I suddenly knew what it was like to want to kill someone with my bare hands. And I began planning our escape in earnest.

The next morning, I casually mentioned how fun it would be to move away, to begin again; to be closer to our parents and friends. Maybe after the baby is born. A “do-over” of sorts. Michael seemed taken with the idea.

But, another year of hell followed me like an angry bee, sometimes stinging me, sometimes leaving me alone, but always buzzing around, too close, keeping me on my toes. A constant stream of adrenaline released into my bloodstream, attempting to keep me safe.  The trouble was, there was no where to flee…not yet.

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image19276763What does a neglectful childhood in an alcoholic family, a stint in juvenile hall, The Beatles, gang-bangers and prostitutes, teen marriage and motherhood, the state mental hospital, gang rape, life on the streets, rock and roll and a decade of drug abuse, battering, serious mental illness, the suicides of a brother and father, divorce, a broken neck, and an inoperable brain tumor all have in common? One woman. Me.

For those of you just joining me, welcome!  This is a memoir blog, which means that it details the story of one incredible life (mine!) from childhood to present.  The posts are written so that you can jump in anywhere, but to get the true gist, starting at the beginning (the bottom of the blog after you open May 2012) is the best.  Feel free to browse and see if you would like to sign up to automatically receive my complimentary e-book, “Becoming What You Might Have Been,” as well as all future additions to the story.  If you were signed in to my other WordPress blog via your WordPress account, “Light At the End,” your information didn’t transfer over to this new one (I switched to WP.org so I could offer you the free e-book).  Please sign up again and you will continue to follow and get the e-book as well.  I don’t want you getting lost in the shuffle! If you signed up with your email address before, no need to sign up again.  If you would like your own copy of the e-book, let me know in the comment section and I’ll send it to you via your email address.

Following is an excerpt from my first post:

When I awoke from brain surgery on October 16, 2006, I could hear my breath twice for each one breath I drew.  And it was loud, like the roaring of a waterfall. The first time I heard it, I was actually taking a breath. A couple of seconds later, I could hear it again…in between breaths. I thought, “That’s odd.”

My optic, auditory, and facial nerves had been damaged in surgery and everything looked and seemed weird.  For one thing, I saw two of everything, and each image seemed four feet apart and a little up to the left. The pupil of my left eye had moved over towards my nose.  My perception made everything seem strange, and it would take several years before the feeling of everything being “off-kilter” would pass.

I had steroids pumping through my IV in order to keep swelling of my brain to a minimum. I was hyped to the max. All I could think was, “I’ve got to tell people about this!!” I pictured myself before vast audiences of people, regaling them all with the story of the miracle God had wrought.  Actually, I have wanted to tell the story of my life for almost as long as I can remember. I have experienced so much sorrow, and yet I am so amazed at my own sense of joy in living. This blog is my attempt at creating hope, sharing what God has done in one life. If one person latches on to it, it is worth it to me.  Because what God would do for me, he would most certainly do for you.  Enjoy! And please comment or ask any questions you would like.

 

Learning to Fly on My Own

God gives every bird its food, but he does not throw it into the nest.

-Josiah Gilbert Holland

Learning to Fly

Learning to Fly

My mother had been dead for four months. I had become the matriarch of our family in one fell swoop.  At only 34-years-old, I felt alone on the planet. I had finally gotten my independence from an alcoholic, unfaithful husband, but my dependent nature clung to me like soot after a fire.  I wanted to wash it off, but a residue remained, leaving me longing for someone…anyone.

As I worked the microfiche machine at my desk at work, searching through other people’s family stories, I yearned to be part of a family and have a story of my own. I issued birth, death, and marriage certificates for other families daily. Performing marriage ceremonies seemed to feed my loneliness even more, leaving me empty and vulnerable.

I was working at the vital records counter in the county clerk’s office, listening to the good-natured chirping between my co-workers. Suddenly, everyone stopped talking.  The only sound in the large room came from the overhead fans and the rustling of paperwork on the desks near the open door.  Curious, I glanced up from the microfiche machine.

At first I thought everyone else recognized a movie star I had not seen before. Now I noticed all eyes were on me.  I fumbled around with the switches on the machine and walked up to the counter.

“May I help you?”  I looked up.  Our eyes met.  “Hey, I think I know you,” I smiled.

“I doubt it,” he said, dripping with sarcasm.  I took a step back.

“Well, I mean I think I’ve seen you.  Do you go to church?”  Wow…what was I doing?

He glanced up quickly, seeming to see me for the first time.

“Yeah,” he said, sounding a little friendlier.

I helped him with his paperwork, trying not to stare at him.  After he left, several of the women standing close by tittered and made little comments about his gorgeous good looks.  I was thinking about how I could sit nearby him at the next church service and try to catch his eye again.

Within two weeks he had volunteered to head a committee of men who would help me get my newly rented home ready for move-in.  It needed paint, some electrical work, and the carpet ripped out, and he was handy.   He came over every day, bending, stooping, and reaching.   I admired all 6’4” of him in all of his various positions.  He talked about the Lord constantly, incessantly in fact.  I tried to admire this, but it felt off and more than a little odd.

One day, coming back from running errands together, I asked him for a hug (sneaky strategy, huh?).  He sat there for several moments, not moving, not speaking, his eyes closed.  My stomach lurched.  I wondered if I had just made some terrible faux pas.  He reached over and hugged me so hard it hurt and whispered,  “The Lord told me I could.”

At first we found ways to spend time together without really calling it a date.  It was important to him that we went about this the “right” way for the Lord.   Nearing Christmas, we made a plan together (I thought) to take my children to get a Christmas tree.  My kids and I got up early.  They were clearly excited as we scrambled around the house, getting ready for the big day. Then we waited.  And we waited.  He didn’t show up.  He didn’t call.  Finally, I called him.

“Hi, what are you up to?” I feigned cheer.  “I thought we were going to take the kids to get a Christmas tree together?”

“You sound exactly like my ex-wife!”

My breath caught in my throat and my eyes widened as I tried to process what I just heard.  A sound came out of my mouth, but instead of forming a word, I slammed the receiver down on the cradle.  I began to hyperventilate.  It felt like something was being ripped away from me. The kids and I remained home for the day while I wrestled with my anxiety.  We were disappointed, and I felt totally confused…like I had just met Mr. Hyde.

Of course his next phone call smoothed away all my fears.  He was just tired, busy, something had happened at work that had upset him, he was sorry, and he’d make it right.

One night we double-dated with another couple.  He had planned the evening around dinner at a sushi bar and then it would be off to the Sycamore Mineral Springs Spa in Avila Beach, California, one of the most romantic places for a date.  Each oak barrel tub is separated enough from the others for maximum privacy.  Little lights line the dark paths winding up the hill through a sycamore grove.  I was looking forward to showing off my new bathing suit I bought, just for this occasion.  When I saw the truck drive up, I ran out to greet my friends. I opened the passenger door, jumped in, shut the door, and turned to smile.

“Don’t slam my door like that!” he glared.  Everyone went silent.  “Sorry, I didn’t mean to.”  My face reddened, but I struggled to normalize the request in my mind.  Of course he needs to make sure I don’t slam his door.  It’s a new truck.  I worked hard in the next minutes to pretend I didn’t notice his anger in front of our friends.  It was clear they were as surprised as I was.

We ended up having a wonderful time and I let myself relax.  But my mind began to compartmentalize my experiences.  One part held fear, caution, and lots of confusion.  The other part held the picture of the six foot, four inch, romantic man with the movie star looks.  He had a good job; he was handy around the house and good with money.  He was a gourmet cook and loved to grow orchids.  And he was a super spiritual version of what was on my top 10 list.  He was everything a good Christian woman should want, right?

It seemed like every woman in the church, single and married alike was riveted on my relationship with this mysterious man.  I was suddenly catapulted into a type of churchy celebrity status.  For the first time in my life I had something that others wanted too.  Other single women approached him, and asked him out for coffee or for lunch.  He turned them down and I felt pride that he had chosen me over so many others from our large church.  Only I never felt I had a firm grip.  My stomach began to do a play by play of events and I ended up in the doctor’s office almost weekly after being diagnosed with colitis. My feelings were on hyper alert.  Is this what love is?

The next time we argued, he told me he was just tired, busy, something had happened at work that had upset him, he was sorry, and he’d make it right. And besides, I had pushed a button of his, and if I just had not done that, this would never have happened.  I would have to try not to do that.

He planned beautiful, romantic dates at the best restaurants, including roses and wine, and ending with long walks on the beach.  He drove me up to the mountaintop late one afternoon.  He brought a quilt, champagne and flutes, and smoked salmon and cheddar cheese, and spread them on the ground.  He helped me out of the truck and gently wrapped a blanket around my shoulders.  We sat and ate and talked until dark.   He tipped my chin up towards the sky and whispered, “Just wait.”  Soon, a trail of light blazed across the sky.  Then another.  Then another.  Then he kissed me.  I flung my doubts out to the sky and let them disappear into the black ink.

Our relationship became a series of conflicts, retreats and pursuits, the pattern repeating itself over and over.  I believed the only way to bring a stop to my insecurity was to marry him.  I was sure my own fears about his love were what were causing problems.  I believed it would be good for my son to have a strong male figure in his life.

The night we got back from our honeymoon was a turning point.  Now that we were married, Mr. Hyde quit playing hide and seek and decided to stay for dinner.  I felt helpless for several minutes while I listened to him bully my children about helping.  They weren’t doing anything right.  The silverware didn’t go the way they put it on the table.  They weren’t fast enough and dinner was getting cold!  He looked at them as if they were stupid.  They became quiet, and nervous, giving each other sideward glances.

“I sure hope you are listening to the Holy Spirit right now.” I said.  He glanced down and seemed embarrassed.  My chest swelled a little.  I had stepped in and taken care of it, just like that!  I am a good mother.

Soon, none of us were doing anything right.  Nothing happened without his approval.  If it wasn’t originally his idea, the answer was “no.”  If he said yes, he would change his mind at the last minute.  My friends could come over when he said they could.  They came less and less.  My sister could visit, but she walked on eggshells and spent time crying in the guest room.  He always answered the phone on first ring, screening all our calls.  He wouldn’t let my teenage daughter lock the bathroom door.

Then we were battling over how to cook ground beef or when to start a load of laundry.  He was disgusted when I didn’t know to put two slices of cheese on a grilled cheese sandwich, so he threw it in the trash.  I began to filter everything I did or said around what the consequences would look like.  What would he say if he knew I thought this, said that, or did this other thing? What would he do?  Mostly I knew what he would do, and it wasn’t pleasant.

At times I escaped by hiding in the tree house in our backyard.  I took long walks or I got in my car and drove to a nearby gas station and cried to a friend from the payphone.  My anxiety attacks and depression worsened and I needed medication.  My children were miserable.  I started calling some friends to see if we could come stay with them for a while and no one could help.  I began stashing change from the market in a shoe along with a spare set of keys.  I ordered a credit card in my own name.  I knew I had made another stupid, stupid mistake, and I felt ashamed.  I stopped looking into my friend’s eyes when I went to church.  I lied to everyone.  I’m fine, how are you?

My church family and pastor seemed to turn their eyes away, as if they couldn’t stand to watch the train wreck happen.  No one called; no one came to help. The church counselors knew I had bruises, but by this time his charisma and charm had landed him a position on staff at the church. They believed him when he told them I was out of control.  Many times I drove onto the freeway and just screamed out to God in desperation.  But I didn’t believe I deserved his help.  After all, I had done this…with eyes wide open.

Finally, I was ready.  I called my husband and asked to meet in the middle of a parking lot at the shopping center.  With others around for protection, I told him I was divorcing him. It had been two and a half years of pure hell.  I was a shell of who I had been starting to become.  Thin, hollow-eyed, defeated.  I was filled with guilt over what I had allowed to happen to my children and myself.  I believed God was so disappointed in me that he had turned his back altogether.  In one month’s time I had managed to lose a husband, my home, my car, and my job. It was my third divorce.  I was wrecked.

So I did what I did best.  I ran.  There’s a story in the Bible about a concubine of Abraham’s.  Her name was Hagar.  She gave birth to Ishmael, before Abraham’s wife had her own son, Isaac.  In Sarah’s jealously, she mistreated Hagar to the point of desperation.  Hagar ran out to the desert with her son, alone, and seeming without friend or protector.

I thought of her as I ran out to my own desert, away from church, friends, family.  I ran empty-handed. And then, just like God met Hagar in the desert, God met me there too.  He picked me up and carried me like a wounded little bird in a cardboard box.  He was gentle, tender, giving me little sips of water.  He slowly restored my spirit and eventually, he restored everything I had lost.

And then he began to teach me how to fly on my own.

 

 

 

 

 

Making My Move

Michael the Archangel and I had finally found our way back to Los Angeles.  His mother had allowed us to temporarily move in with her.  She already shared the three-bedroom bungalow with her elderly mother, who had lost a leg lifting a car off of a six-year-old girl.  We were supposedly saving money for our own place.  I had a different plan in mind.  I just hadn’t figured out how I was going to pull it off.

The next time I felt Michael’s fury,  the blow to my face was so loud it woke his mother out of a deep sleep.  She flew into our room, screaming for her son to get out of the house.  Instead, he dashed into the bathroom and ran a razor blade over wrists already scarred from previous attempts.  Somehow his mother kept him in the bathroom so he wouldn’t bleed all over the house, but neither one of us made an attempt to call for help.  We just stared at each other, as if daring each other to make a move to the phone.

Finally, his mother made the call and an ambulance arrived. This time Michael landed himself in a facility for a three-day evaluation, but as always, he convinced the docs he was ready to face the world again.  Looking pale and haunted with his wrists bandaged up, he attempted to gain my sympathy.  He related how the EMT told him that if he really wanted to end it, he would need to slice vertically up his wrist, and not waste his time marking up his arm side to side.  Information offered too late.  For the next several weeks I hid out, not wanting anyone to see my face in public.

As soon as my eye was almost back to normal, I applied for a job where Michael’s mother worked.  Garrett AiResearch manufactured and sold turbochargers to the military, so to even get into the plant I had to drive up to the guard shack and show my photo I.D. badge.  Once in the building, I felt safe.  Michael the Archangel would not be allowed in.  But my children were not there with me.  So I waited and then made my move.

I was hardly ever left alone, but one day Michael decided he could trust me long enough to take my car to the repair shop.  He’d hitch back, so I figured I had about 45 minutes.  I carefully pulled the curtain aside and watched as he backed out of the driveway.  I waited about one minute and then ran into the kitchen and pulled a large green garbage bag out of the cabinet.   Scarcely breathing, I pulled socks, underwear, pants and shirts for my son, diapers for the baby, bottles, a couple of toys, and tossed them without looking into the bag.  I threw the bag into my son’s Little Red Wagon and pulled the baby up onto my hip.  “Come on!” I told my four-year-old.  “Follow Mommy!”  “Hurry!”

My son didn’t even question me.  It was as if he knew exactly what we needed to do.  The three of us raced out of the house, with Michael’s grandmother helpless in her recliner, yelling at us to stop.  I walked as fast as I could and still keep us all together.  We went around the corner, up a few blocks, down a street, up another block, zig zagging away so as not to be found easily.  I was petrified, sure that if Michael found us I would be killed.

I knocked on a door in the middle of a block.  A middle-aged woman answered the door.  She took one look at us; me at eighty-two pounds, long, stringy brown hair, shaking like a leaf; my son, a look of bewilderment on his face.  And then there was the baby in my arms.  “Could I use your phone to call a taxi?” I said.  She hesitated, folding her arms.  Surely she’s not going to say no!  I almost began to scream, “Let me in your house!!”  “Please!”

There are far too many silent sufferers.  Not because they don’t yearn to reach out, but because they’ve tried and found no one who cares.
― Richelle E. Goodrich

She let us in and with fumbling, shaking fingers I looked up the number and made the call.  She asked us to wait on the porch, exposed.  I saw her watch me out the window.  Thoughts of being killed in front of my kids raced through my mind but I felt trapped, cemented to the spot.  If I left the taxi would not pick us up.

The driver looked incredulous as he lifted the red wagon and the garbage bag into the trunk of the cab.  I wondered if he was going to call the police on me, as if I were some fugitive from justice.  I gave him the address of a guy I had met at work.  He had stopped me in the lunchroom one day and asked me what was wrong with me.  Why was I so thin?  Why did I shake?  I unburdened myself and he offered to help.  I was sure he didn’t really expect me to take him up on it and show up on his doorstep, but I gave the driver his address anyway.  It was our only chance.  I felt myself begin to breathe again as we drove away, and I melted into the back of the seat.

I didn’t stop shaking for weeks.  I never saw Michael the Archangel again…ever.  I never showed up for another day at Garrett AiResearch, and within a week we were living miles away in another city.  I heard years later that Michael had died of an overdose in a fleabag hotel in San Francisco.  As for me, I made it for another year before I really began to unravel, before I began to lose myself completely.  It was finally safe to let go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael the Archangel

Black eye, 3rd day

Black eye, 3rd day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A chance meeting through a friend of a friend.  Our eyes met across a crowded room (well, I think there were five of us).  Soon we became the perfect little hippie couple.   At the end of it all,  I would be completely mad.  It would take a decade to fight my way back from a pit of despair so deep that’s it’s a miracle I survived it at all.  And oddly enough, the madness would start with an invitation to a Tupperware party.  To this day, I don’t like Tupperware parties…but I digress.

I thought he was gorgeous (they always seem to be gorgeous).  Michael.  I thought of him as Michael the Archangel.  He was poetic and spiritual.  He was calming.  He was smart. He took over the parts of my life that I couldn’t seem to manage on my own.  Everyone around us seemed to be as drawn to him as I was.  My Svengali.

He talked me into moving away, making the break from Los Angeles and most of my friends and family.  Technically still a teenager, I felt like a grown-up, striking out on my own.  Only I wasn’t alone.  I was with Michael the Archangel.

The first time it happened we were walking down the street talking.  The conversation seemed to be going well enough, although I had been feeling more and more uncomfortable with the topics he brought up.  Lately he had been telling me about his foray into white magic.  At times he didn’t make any sense at all.  At other times, I felt a definite darkness in my spirit, as if someone had turned off the lights.

“Do you believe in reincarnation?” he asked.  It seemed like an innocent enough question at the time.  I didn’t sense a set-up or anything.  But I already knew I had better say, “yes,” so I did.  “Well, I’m Jesus Christ reincarnated.”  My breath caught in my throat and I stopped, turning to face him.   “Yeah, right,” I said.

I didn’t even see it coming, an explosion of pain and blackness.  My face went numb and I thought my eye had popped out of its socket.  I screamed.  Horrified, I tried to run, but he caught up to me and pulled me by my blouse.  I thought someone would have had to hear the crack when his fist landed on my face and I hoped someone would come out of their house and rescue me, but the silence, other than the barking of a dog, was deafening.  Suddenly, a beautiful sunny summer day turned gray.

“I ran into the kitchen cupboard,” I later lied to my friends.  They just stared at my face and turned away.  I wanted them to know I was lying, confront me with it, and demand an explanation.  I wanted someone to take charge and hide us somewhere safe.  But no one did, and I kept silent, and I was 360 miles away from home.

Once you tell your first lie, the first time you lie for him, you are in it with him, and then you are lost.

Anita Shreve, Strange Fits of Passion

There was calm after that storm but it was just the eye of the hurricane.  One night soon after, I was beaten while the soundtrack of “A Clockwork Orange” played in the background.  I was left with lumps all over my head that were covered by my hair.   A friend didn’t believe I had been hurt at all because my face looked fine. Resigned, I went back home.  And of course, that wasn’t the worst of it.

I tried to spend my days taking my son to the park or long walks downtown, anything to keep us away from home as much as possible.  Every so often we would stop and I would watch him while he gathered his “collections.” I pulled these treasures out of his pockets before I did his laundry and it was one of my greatest pleasures.  I never knew what I would find; rocks, leaves, olives that had fallen off of the trees lining the street on which we lived.  He was a little over two-years-old and so funny already.  One day, I flipped a cigarette into the street.  “Does that look like an ashtray?” he quipped.  I laughed out loud and stared at him. He’s only two and he’s already got our family’s sarcastic sense of humor!  I felt so proud to be his mom.  Somehow, I had to get us out of there; somehow I had to save us.

Soon I was pregnant again and leaving was out of the question.  There was no way my parents would take me in again and all my friends were Michael’s as well.  I was awakened one night to find the police in my living room.  A friend had called them after Michael had slit his wrists and smeared his blood all over the walls, throughout the house.  The police coaxed him off of our property by telling him the neighbors wanted to ask him a question, and took him to the hospital.  It took me until dawn to wash the walls before my son woke up and saw it.

Then there was the problem of the heroin.  I watched his addiction happen just like in a film we saw in middle school.  New friends in fancy cars came by with freebies.  They made Michael feel as if they would do anything for him…best buddies.  I came home one day from a walk with my son and walked into the bedroom I had fixed up for the baby.  They were sitting cross-legged in a circle on the floor, handing each other the syringe.  A drop of blood marred the brand new crisp white of the Winnie the Pooh rug they were sitting on.  I fled to the garage, blood pounding in my ears.  I stooped forward, trying to catch my breath, hands on my swelled belly.  I suddenly knew what it was like to want to kill someone with my bare hands. I began planning our escape in earnest.

The next morning, I casually mentioned how fun it would be to move away, to begin again; to be closer to our parents and friends.  Maybe after the baby is born.  A “start-over” of sorts.  Instead, another year of hell followed me like an angry bee, sometimes stinging me, sometimes leaving me alone, but always buzzing around, too close, keeping me on my toes.  Adrenaline released into my bloodstream, attempting to keep me safe.  The trouble was, there was no where to flee…not yet.