Most kids can’t wait to get out of school on Friday afternoon. For them, it meant the weekend had finally arrived – time for sleeping in, Saturday morning cartoons and having fun. But not me.
For me, the weekend was all about survival. It meant that when the bell rang and I walked out of school my dad would be waiting for me.
My parents were divorced and every weekend I had to stay with him. I hated it. He was an abusive, drug-addicted drunk; and whenever my sister and I were with him we were always walking on egg shells. We knew that one wrong step meant we’d be punished. Severely.
One weekend in particular stands out in my memory: I had to go to my Dad’s alone since my sister had gone to a birthday party sleepover. On Friday night, after a few beers, he decided he wanted to visit his
drug-dealer’s “friend’s” house. When we got there, he handed me off to some stranger who put me in a room upstairs where I was told to stay put until someone came to get me. After a couple hours of waiting I felt scared and worried, so I decided to go look for my dad. That’s when I discovered they had locked me in. I started banging and kicking the door, yelling for someone to come and let me out. When they finally came to open the door I was yelled at for making so much noise. My dad was ready to go, but I could tell he was totally wasted and I was afraid to go with him. He grabbed me by the arm and dragged me, kicking and screaming, to the car. Everyone there was trying to stop him from leaving – even they could tell he was in no condition to drive. He stuffed me into the front seat of the car. The others stood holding the car doors open and trying to pull me out as my dad peeled out of the driveway – breaking off one of the door handles. In his drunken stupor, he then decided he did not like that my sister was spending the night with a friend during what was supposed to be HIS time with us, and drove to the party. I begged him not to go, but to no avail. We barely made it – him swerving in and out of lanes the whole way, and me, trying to help keep the car straight – and getting hit for it.
We pulled up and somehow I managed to get out of the car and to the front door before he did. I got inside and had to tell this girl’s parents what was going on. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed. They locked my dad outside, where he stood, banging on their door and yelling. My sister and I begged them not to call the cops – but to call our mom instead. I don’t know how, but she could always calm him down and get him to leave. Thankfully, that’s what they did and my mom came to save us.
Things like this happened quite often.
Several times while visiting him, my sister and I called family members to come and get us after my dad had left on another one of his binges. He didn’t like that, so he had locks installed on all of his doors that had to be unlocked from the inside as well as the outside – a separate key was needed for both locks. When he left, he hid the phone so we couldn’t call anyone. One time, he was gone all night. We found the phone sometime early in the morning and called my Grandma. We found out that he had been arrested for drunk driving and spent the night in jail. Again, I was left feeling abandoned and alone – like I had no one to care for me and no one loved me.
We tried to refuse going to his house – but it always resorted in more physical or verbal abuse. When we said something that upset him, my sister and I knew that we had about 10 minutes to get out of the house and find a place to hide. When he found us, it was either get a severe beating or be yelled at until our ears would ring. I didn’t know which was worse. My dad’s rule with spankings was: when you got in trouble you got spanked; and if you cried you got spanked until you stopped crying. One time he hit me upwards of 25 times – I had to lay on my stomach the rest of the weekend. The things he would say to us cut right to the bone: “You’re the worst daughter ever!” “If you were a boy I would take you out in the street and kick your a** for everyone to see!”. He called us all kinds of names. Sometimes it felt like it would never end.
By the time I was 13, my sister was old enough that she didn’t have to go to my Dad’s house – because he couldn’t force her anymore. So I tried bringing a friend, hoping that would make him behave. One time while a friend was with me at his house, my dad came home drunk and began to throw things and scream at us. We ran to my room and locked the door. I tried to assure her that if we kept quiet and ignored him, he’d eventually stop… but she was scared, and she called her mom. Her mom called the police and they came to the house and kicked the door open. I remember seeing my dad, face down on the lawn, being handcuffed in front of the whole neighborhood. My friend’s mom came and took her home. I had never been so embarrassed in my whole life.
I lived in a constant state of fear and shame. I was extremely introverted and never wanted to say the wrong thing to anyone, so I just didn’t talk. I didn’t tell anyone about the things that happened behind closed doors in my house.
One day, a girl at school invited me to a Lovely Group. Quickly, I learned how “not normal” my home-life was… and I realized that I felt really angry and bitter about it. I hated my dad. I hated how alone and unloved I felt. But, as I learned to trust those lovely girls and began to share about my experiences, I realized that being angry at my dad wasn’t hurting him. It was hurting me. In this Lovely Group, for the first time ever, I felt accepted. I was learning that I could make mistakes, or say the wrong thing, and I could be loved anyway. I decided to forgive my dad because it took too much energy holding onto my anger towards him – and I needed that energy to go towards learning how to receive real love.
These days, My life looks a lot different. My dad is trying to get help. I don’t visit him much, but we talk occasionally and it’s nice – because I’m not angry anymore. I’ve forgiven him, but honestly, some days, I find myself feeling angry about things that happened 12+ years ago – and I have to forgive him again. It’s a process. The difference now is that I don’t live in fear. I’m not ashamed of my family. I know that I don’t have to earn love – because my life is full of it.
I used to live in fear.
I used to hate my drug-addicted father.
Now, I am Lovely.