I was raised in New England, in the late 70’s early 80’s, when the world seemed
normal, and everyone wore a smile to hide their pain.
The environment up north was very private, especially in Massachusetts, and certain
things were just not talked about, especially if it was inappropriate or embarrassing to
the family. So was the case in my family, on both sides.
My mothers’ family was large and spread out everywhere. My grandfather came from a
large Canadian family, Christian in upbringing, and until I was older, we did get to know
all the cousins, aunts and uncles pretty well with annual family gatherings and
reunions. There were people in the family that were not “cookie cutter” to the
upbringing my great-grandfather and grandmother had raised them, but those stories
were not told to me until a few years ago… stories of alcoholic sons, uncles and
brothers who were “not worth talking about”, but whose wives and children were left
picking up the pieces and carrying that trauma to the next generation — whether they
knew it or not. Aunts who now had beautiful families, loved, well cared for and
protected, but had childhoods riddled with horrible molestation by fathers and stepfathers,
and were never acknowledged or protected.
My father came from a family with multi-generational trauma, neglect and abuse.
My Nana Rita was married 3 times, all to abusive men, who were controlling and drank.
All her children sadly had to endure whatever abuse came as a result of each
relationship. My father’s half brother, who was 15 years older, had a “nice family” but
developed a drinking problem that no one ever acknowledged as a problem. His half
sister married someone who drank heavily and was verbally inappropriate to others,
but she learned to turn and look the other way until he died. My aunt Patty, who is my
father’s real sister, who share the same father, and who I became extremely close to for
4 years before she died at 56 of kidney failure (due to being an alcoholic most of her
whole life) was married 5 times, and had one abusive relationship after another. I am
thankful to say she entered recovery in the last 8 years of her life, strengthened her
relationship with GOD, and was able to reach out so that we could connect and
develop a friendship before she passed away. For that I am truly grateful!!!…She is one
of the souls that became a “kindred spirit” to me. A special person, who made me feel
loved and understood, because she knew how it felt not to be.
My father was very affected by having an unhealthy, unsafe environment to be raised
in. His father abandoned his mother when he was 2 years old, and he never knew his
father, until a few months before he died in the late 80’s. On top of that he also went to
war, in Vietnam for 3 tours at a very young age of 15 ½ years old. He moved out of the
house at 14 years old, due to an abusive environment with his step-father, and worked
multiple jobs to support himself. Although he has shared many comments over the
years about how poor they were, and the condition of the places they lived, until now I
never saw things in this light. You could definitely say he is the “poster child” for AA,
He never spoke much about his emotions. He was very private and did not have
many close friends who he spent time with or confided in. So as a family were
conditioned to not share our feelings, to keep anything that went on at home
“hush, hush”, and even if we had good friends, loyalty was to the family first and
you did not compromise that.
Although my father was more compassionate when I was young, both verbally and
physically, he had a nasty temper that would rage out of control when let loose. Many
times, my brother and I would receive the effects of it when physical discipline was
administered. The belt was always used and there was never a rhyme or reason to
what behavior ignited it. This always made us on edge, and caused us to stay away
from home as much as possible as we grew our independence.
Staying outside riding bikes, street hockey, kick ball and playing in the neighborhood
with other kids was our only oasis. We had fun vacations each year, multiple times, and
my dad provided well for us and tried his best — but he did not see the damage his
upbringing transferred to our family.
Our home had NO PEACE, NO JOY….sadly, ONLY PAIN.
My parents always fought, and my brother was my dad’s buffer while I was my
mother’s. When they weren’t fighting with each other they were fighting or bullying us.
It was like a vicious cycle of negative energy, circling faster and faster like the inside of
a tornado, ever destructive to whomever got sucked into its vortex.
My only escape at a very young age was my Grammy Betty, who was a strength
and support to me before I knew what that was — and how valuable it truly is.
She always saw “who I was”, and encouraged it. Granted, I was her first grandchild,
and many could say it was favoritism, but she did not spoil me with things that were
disposable or perishable. She gave me gifts of value: her “time and love”. She was not
afraid to tell me what was right and wrong, but she took the time to explain why. She
taught me about helping others, and the TRUE JOY that comes from getting nothing in
return but GOD’s LOVE and His smile of approval.
She gave me her time even when it was inconvenient, when she was sick for 8 years
with cancer. We still had picnics and swims at the pond when she could make the walk
a few blocks away. We still shared time laying in bed and watching old reruns of “I Love
Lucy”, “Bewitched”, “Hogan’s Heroes”..etc. She taught me how to cook, and crochet,
and use her old heavy iron sewing machine. We had endless hours of playing gin
rummy, cribbage, war, parcheesi, scrabble and poker that I treasure to this day. She
took the time to write me cards and letters for my mother to read to me, before I could
even read, that expressed how happy she was that I was in her life. I still have one of
those letters, that I treasure to this day.
When I lost her at age 14, I truly lost “myself”, because she was the only mirror I
could look into and truly see my reflection — who I was meant to be.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but throughout her illness and after her death I truly was
traumatized, never to be or remember that person the same again. It was as if when
she died, the other voices took over, ever so loudly and drowned out any decibel of the
song we had sang together. I fell into a downward spiral emotionally and mentally
throughout my teenage years, and was sabotaged and tormented verbally — and, at
times, physically — by my mother, until I had the courage to rebel and leave home at
age 17, 3 months after graduating high school.
Now my mother’s love…that is something that is so hard to express into words.
I didn’t feel it much growing up, but I didn’t realize it was lacking either. I just figured it
was “the way it was”. But her lack of love and compassion, empathy, humility, her need
to make me feel “NOT ENOUGH” — so that she could feel she was “enough” —
hindered her from seeing or caring about who I really was and supporting what my
Grammy had cultivated and grown in me for so many years.
This has distanced us my whole life and, although throughout that time we were only
estranged for 3 years, we have never really had a close loving, relationship — dare I
say, anything that resembles a “mother-daughter” friendship. She just never made the
effort, and I was too stressed and overwhelmed by the other relationships in my life to
I fell into two bad marriages, that were both controlling and abusive — mostly
verbally, mentally and emotionally, and this just layered the guilt, shame and
anxiety so much that I felt I was buried in quick sand, unable to breathe.
Above all, I always strived to be what I knew to be a “good person”, “good wife”,
“good mother”, “good friend”, but unfortunately drew negative people into my life
that abused and misused my kindness.
I also never realized it until now, but I did not know how to “think for myself”, because I
always had my mother thinking for me, telling me my decisions were wrong or
inappropriate — even if it was what my favorite color was or the music I liked. This
caused me to become very rash or indecisive, one extreme or the other. I always
reached out to others for advice, because I did not trust my own judgment or had
doubts that I could get a good result.
I tried to shield my two young daughters as much as I could from the negative
effects of my abusive relationships, but in the end realized that they were
exposed to more than I could shield them from.
The reality was I could not fix or control “everything”, although I tried to. These
environments I was raised in and exposed myself to, over and over, caused me to
always feel trapped — held under water, always at someone’s mercy to escape. And,
because of that, instead of searching for a solution by figuring out what the main issue
was, or attempting to, I would just find a way to keep running away from my problems,
and would always find the next candidate to keep me in the “victim role”.
I always found a way to SURVIVE, and had good supportive friends who had
similar woes in their past — but none of us understood the WHY and the HOW of
the situations we experienced or where to find a more permanent solution.
When I found ARCS in August 2018, I was so far down the path of unraveling in my
feelings of anxiety, defeat and worthlessness, that I felt life was no longer worth living,
and truly felt I would never be whole again or worthy to have a relationship with GOD
ever again — because I was “too far gone”. I didn’t want to believe that, but the mental
“mix tape” playing in my head did not know how to record anything else.
I had been taught so many lies, and had had to learn how to lie and manipulate
others so much my whole life, that I didn’t even know what was true, anymore.
ARCS has taken me by the hand, and gradually, gently, loving taken me through
each lie and “dismantled it” — though education, illustration, life stories,
modeling in classroom, inner child work, journaling, reading books on concepts
of codependency, trauma, abuse, so many things.
I can truly say that I am not the person I was over two years ago, nor do I want to be,
ever again. I am becoming that “little girl” that was lost too many years ago, that my
Grammy loved so completely. I take each day as a gift, I stay present in each moment,
I listen to my body and the voices in my heart — the ones that were scolded harshly, in
Each day I wake up, I meet myself on a “level playing field”, without judgment,
without shame, without guilt…only “LOVE and COMPASSION”.
I am a sexual, verbal, physical, mental and emotional abuse survivor.
I am ALIVE for the first time in my life!!!
I am 43 years YOUNG!!!
I say young because I feel “reborn” because of the transformation I have gone through.
I am the butterfly who has rested after nourishing her body, so that the beautiful wings
she has grown can fly unbounded.
I am the little girl who always could hear the “music in her heart”, but lost the
frequency, and now “dances in the rain”.
I am the proud parent of my beautiful inner child, that never had the love, support and
understanding she needed — but, now, will “never be lacking EVER AGAIN”.
I will be the change that this world needs, one life at a time, and will live my life
THRIVING — instead of just surviving.
I have finally made it HOME, and now have a safe place to lay my head forever — safe
in the arms of my “Higher Power”, surrounded by those who know who I am and love
me for it!!!
***To this day my daughters and I joke around that they have inherited my
sickness, “taking in strays” and “helping those who need to help themselves”, but
they are also more than proud and overjoyed that I am now modeling for them
how to truly love oneself, build a new life based on truth, and create a “solid
foundation” that will whether any storm.
I am passing on a legacy of helping others to learn the tools to transform their
live — with an endless cycle that will PAY IT FORWARD to the world. forever. ***