by Donel Raum
I was molested at the age of three by a boyfriend my mother exposed me to. She went to the store and left me with him. I remember after, thinking I can never ever tell anyone.
He didn’t tell me not to tell. In fact, if I am honest, I would have to say, he probably didn’t even remember doing what he did in his drunken stupor. But I remembered.
I remembered the fear I felt when I realized what was about to happen. I remember the taste I could not get out of my mouth. I remember the overwhelming sense of
guilt. Like I had been the one that did something wrong. And I remember feeling anxious for the first time in my short life.
I never did tell anyone, (at least not until about 2 years ago) and the anxiety I felt that day, found its home in the pit of my stomach, and has lived there now for the last 48 years.
Growing up it was my mother and brother and me
I would visit my father in Las Vegas for the summer. Both my parents educated me on the effects of drugs and addiction thoroughly by exposing me first hand. The strange men that my mom often brought into our home would send chills up my spine and send me into a state of indescribable panic.
The loud inappropriate noises I heard as I laid in bed at night were often the last thing I heard as I finally drifted off to sleep only to be greeted by nightmares of them coming in to have their turn with me.
My mother was an alcoholic and spent days in the casinos. I remember very often sitting in the window watching each and every car, hoping that it was her coming home. I felt so unimportant as a very small child. I would even wonder if she forgot I ever existed. When she had deposited every last penny she had into a slot machine, she would come home, usually in the middle of the night, and I would be woken to her packing up what few possessions we had because she couldn’t pay the rent.
For me, this meant another new school. Another day hungry and another strange place to lay my head. Another “friend” I didn’t know who “generously” took us in. But always with a price.
I honestly can’t recall more than a handful of times in my life when I felt even remotely comfortable in my surroundings or even my own skin. Summers with my father were a different kind of torture. Unlike my mom, he was well off. I would go from homeless and hungry, to 3 meals a day, new clothes, and a nice home. This was little consolation though as his lifestyle was much more terrifying to me.
Along with the strange friends, alcohol, and loud noises, came the hard drugs and later witnessing the acts that accompanied the disgusting sounds I could never seem to get used to. I married at the age of 18 and had three kids by 25. The man I married had a temper and a serious disregard for women. Those 7 years of my life were a confirmation, in my mind, of how little and unimportant my existence really was.
My guilt, shame, and anxiety were the only constants I had ever known
I came to rely on them for comfort. After all, at least I knew they would always be there. I learned early to accept that I was not worthy of blessings in my life, and never even thought to question the fact. I was simply a “bad seed.” I never wondered “why me” or “how come I can’t have what others have?” I just believed I wasn’t worthy.
I became a single mother at 26 and struggled to make ends meet. I did meet a man who treated me well and helped me raise my children for almost 14 years, before losing his life to lung cancer, only reaffirming to me that I was being punished for my dirty little secret all those years ago.
After his passing, I discovered exactly what is was that my parents found so appealing about their chosen means of coping. The warm cozy feeling of numbing myself. The ability to quiet the voices in my head that constantly reminded me of my pitiful, meaningless existence. And the escape. For 10 years my only goal upon waking each day was to get out of reality as quickly as possible.
I did, however, during this time meet my current husband and soul mate, Michael.
I tried desperately to push him away but he wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t accept the gift of his love and was convinced that if I got comfortable in any way, I would be punished once again and would lose him, too. So I fought tooth and nail to destroy our life together. But the universe had other plans, and nothing I could do was going to change that.
I decided to go to treatment for 3 reasons, and 3 reasons only.
- My “hook up” became inaccessible almost overnight, and I was dope sick! I literally thought I was going to die. This scared the hell outta me and I became terrified that I wouldn’t be able to find another supplier.
- I had blown through every dime to our name and simply couldn’t afford my habits any longer.
- I couldn’t stand the pain I was causing Michael and my other loved ones any longer. I was ok with my own lifetime of pain and suffering but watching them hurt because of my addictions was more than I could bear.
My expectation of completing treatment was only to be able to stop doing what I was doing.
Stop using and stop gambling
So, I entered treatment in Feb. Of 2018.
I could write another story about my experiences there but I will give you the short version. One Sunday, shortly after my arrival, I sat down to paint for the first time. I had no expectations of a beautiful or even mediocre finished product because “Donel isn’t good at anything” but I noticed quickly that I could thoughtlessly escape, and lose myself in the process of mindlessly moving the paints across the page. I loved that.
As my love for this new outlet grew, I began to take risks. Small and subtle risks.
I wondered silently, “What if I actually invested? What if I came up with a picture in my head, and put in a little effort. Could I create something nice?”
I began to look for things I thought I could draw or paint and was surprised as others would walk by and admire my work. I loved that, fed and craved it. Something changed for me then, although I didn’t even know it was happening. I started to feel safe and comfortable. Two very foreign feelings to me, yet I had slipped into them so naturally that I didn’t even see it coming.
I just knew that each time I applied more effort, I found a better result. I started thinking, if I could make this, I wonder what else I could do. Could I write a song? Could I climb a mountain, or run a race? Could I graduate this program and actually be successful at this thing called recovery? The answer quickly became, I CAN
AND I WILL! Self-doubt gave way to determination and each new task I accomplished gave me a little bit of a feeling of self-worth and value.
I was introduced to Addict to Artist while in treatment. Its model is that through art, group support, service, and sharing our stories, it is possible to overcome our addictions. With the encouragement and support of its founder, my therapist Blu Robinson, I decided to bring this organization to my own desperately lacking community and began a new journey.
I started to see my life in a completely different light
As I shared my story with others, I learned that each and every detail had a purpose.
If one single part was left out, it would mean an entirely different outcome. If I had not the experiences to share, it could mean missing the opportunity to connect with someone who might relate to my struggles and my pain. Someone who might enrich my life and perhaps allow me to enrich theirs.
My life, my experiences, and each and every scar left behind gave me the strength to endure the next. Each carries with it a powerful story with the potential to touch another and inspire them to see their story in a different light as well.
Yes, the wounds are still present. The pain is still very real. But today, I display the scars with dignity instead of shame. My hope is they may reach someone, somewhere, who might be battling with similar scars and might see that they are not alone.
That they, too, have a powerful voice. That the wounds they run from do not bleed in vain but have a purpose. And the scars left behind, serve as a symbol of sorts. To be seen by others who are lost. A symbol that says ” I have known the darkness you know. I have found my light.
I am here to help you find yours.