Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My First Life

I've read lots of people's accounts of their own childhoods and what kinds of things happened with the alcoholics in their lives. I didn't come from your "typical" alcoholic family, if there is such a thing. There were no routine beatings, no hangovers (that I saw), no calling out sick for work, no worries that our dad would come home, pay-check squandered on last nights drinking binge, no worries that he wouldn't come home at all. Although I did wish for that last part.

Denial has played such a huge part in my life but it took me 18 years until I realized I was in it. I grew up with my mom, dad, and two younger sisters in a small town where everyone knew everyone else. Our parents were happily married, we lived in a decent neighborhood, we took family vacations every summer and things were good. On the surface. And even though I couldn't put a name on denial, unconsciously I knew there was something about us that My dad was weird. The way he acted, talked and moved; how he interacted with other people was just bizarre to me. He was embarrassing to be around. He made me and many of my friends uncomfortable, though they were too polite to ever tell me that. But I could tell when they declined my invites for dinners and sleepovers that they felt the same way I did and eventually I would stop asking. He would stare at me in a way that gave me the creeps. I felt him undressing me with his eyes. I felt sick and a knot the size of a softball slowly started forming in my stomach. I kept my feelings inside and the knot only grew bigger. I kept waiting for him to pounce, holding my breath whenever we were alone. I itched to get away at every possible second. That feeling lasted for most of the childhood that I can remember. I would run straight to my world of make believe (a.k.a. the back yard), pretending to run away and able to survive only on my 10 year-old intellect and the relief of having escaped completely unscathed, physically anyway. My relief would be short lived though and guilt would quickly take its place. If I ran away, who would watch out for my little sisters? This hypothetical question ate at me. They were so little. J was only 5 and A was just a baby. I had to stay to protect them.

But the need to escape never left me and it only became stronger as I grew older. The feeling grew so big that the summer after I graduated from high school my stuff for college had been packed weeks before I was actually scheduled to leave. I was more than ready to go. That twinge of guilt I felt about leaving the girls (now 12 and 8) was over shadowed by my own selfish need for distance. They would be fine I had to tell myself. Famous last words.

I have no idea what I thought I was running away from, or what it would change in my life. What I do know is the suffocation and oppression I felt living under that roof only intensified when I returned home the following summer. And that's when my second life began.....

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