Awhile back my younger sister was killed in an auto accident. She was also my close friend and my daughter. I raised her. Mom was tired of raising kids after having had four in four years so she gave Jeanne to me and said, “You raise her, I’m tired”. I was nine years old. Jeanne thought I was her mom when she was growing up. My initial grief at finding she was gone was so acute that the doctors at the hospital where she died had to give me a shot of morphine. It carried me through the preparation of the funeral and the trip back home. Days and weeks and months of intense grief followed. It has now been thirty four years since I lost her and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. But time has put a cushion between the reality of her death and my grief. I can live with it. I am happy. I live a good life. But I still miss Jeanne. Sometimes, you need to let go of your grief. That’s how recovery works too.
Once upon a time I lived a life filled with nightmares, poor choices, failed suicide attempts, time spent in a psychiatric ward and mountains of shame. But I went through recovery. And I did it right. Today I am happy. I live a good life. Do I still think about what happened to me when I was thirteen years old and my father entered my bedroom in the middle of the night? You bet I do. But it doesn’t traumatize me. There too, time has put a cushion between the reality of what happened and my grief. Any pictures that flow into my mind about my past anguish have objectivity between them and me. It is almost as if it all happened to someone else.
There is no truth to the often said comment that you can never recover from child sexual abuse. I used to be suicidal. Now I can hardly remember what it feels like to be that way. I often tell God with a certain dark humor to “please disregard previous instructions”. I used to like to party, too much; too many men, too much booze, too many poor choices. Today I know how to say “no”. It wasn’t easy learning that. During recovery I stood in front of my mirror and practiced saying “no”. I bought a sweatshirt that said, “What part of no don’t you understand.” Today I make healthy choices.
I remember a time when I had no idea what was going on in the world. I barely knew who the president was. I was so buried in my own pain that I didn’t know there was a world out there. But once I started recovery everything changed. It didn’t happen overnight. At the time I was married to my third abuser and his abuse was so sadistic and so severe that at times I lost my mind. But slowly I began the journey that would take me across the bridge of recovery. Sometimes I stumbled, lost my way, made the wrong choice for a group to join or a book to read that promised me a healthy life and wound up costing me a lot of money and no help. By some miracle or by God’s guidance and a Guardian Angel I kept putting one foot in front of the other.
I started writing the story of my life, tracking the mistakes I was making in my recovery and the directions I went that turned out to be good choices. I knew there was no hope for a happy ending but I kept writing, exploring my childhood, delineating my parents and their parents. I joined a Twelve Step program called Incest Survivors Anonymous. I also joined a group called Alternatives to Domestic Violence. I read every one of John Bradshaw’s books avidly and went through three copies of his tape, Healing the Shame that Binds You. I visited my Dad’s grave and spent four hours screaming at him until my voice was raw and I was exhausted. I told him I would forgive him if he would help me get a movement started to stop child sexual abuse, if he would help me get my writing published. I worked a rigorous and honest Twelve Step program. I made myself a Magic Mirror and read it daily, sometimes hourly (read REPAIR Your Life if you want to know what a Magic Mirror is). Still embroiled in my painful addiction to a sadistic monster one day as I began to cross a busy street I saw a large van approaching. This time no one could stop me. I stepped on to the curb and as the van approached I hurled my body forward. Someone grabbed the back of my shirt and pulled me back. I felt the wind of the van as it rushed by; my feet wobbled on the curb. I was furious and turned around to give a tongue lashing to whoever had interfered. There was no one there. Stunned, I began thinking maybe I wasn’t meant to die. Maybe God had a plan for me.
Little by little, I felt myself walking across that bridge. Some days I looked down and saw dark and troubled waters that terrified me. But I knew I either had to succeed or I would die, either by my own hand or my husband’s. One day I felt an unusual feeling, hope. I began saying “no” to my husband’s brutal rapes. I spent time in a women’s shelter. I hid out in Arizona for three weeks, a poorly organized and complex plan roaming around in my brain to either end my life or find myself. I returned home to my husband but somehow had found bits and pieces of myself in my travels.
I could see all the good stuff on the other side of the bridge waiting for me, joy, confidence, stability and most of all mental equilibrium. My Twelfth Step was soon approaching. I was almost finished with the story of my life. I went back to the town where my abuse first happened and went into the bedroom where my father had raped me. It was tough facing the avalanche of memories. I didn’t think I could do it. But I came out stronger. I went back home, got rid of my abuser, filed for divorce, then had my “spiritual experience” my Twelfth Step and I was DONE! I was finally on the other side of that bridge. Everything I had been working so hard doing for almost five years had paid off.
Today I am one happy lady. I have a great husband (he does the illustrating for my books and is also the funniest man I know so I have my own entertainment committee), I have many friends in many states, a great relationship with my four kids and I live in a beautiful home near Sedona, AZ, a longtime dream of mine that I thought would never happen. I sleep deeply and richly every night with no more nightmares. I sing, I laugh. I take long hikes with my Golden Retriever, Gwinevere, I read, I write books. Today I’m the published author of five (soon to be six) books. Today I’m the Founder of an international movement for recovery from child sexual abuse called The Lamplighter Movement. We have 83 chapters in 13 countries. I’ve achieved so many goals and dreams that I never thought to do. I did recovery right!! So can you!!!!!! Have you been REPAIRed??? Choose a happy life!!!