I wanted to write you a thank you letter. A letter detailing all the ways in which you made me the person I am today. I was going to thank you for disappearing on crack binges for 3-9 days at a time. It taught me that I could survive anything, that I could stand on my own, and function under immense amounts of pressure whilst being suffocated by fear, disappointment, and anger. I was going to thank you for having shitty taste in men because they taught me just how much pain and abuse a person could survive. They taught me how to take a hell of a beating and always get back up. They taught me what sick men look like and what red flags to look out for. I was going to thank you for always disappointing me and proving me wrong when I told people “Fuck you, she’s going to get it this time. She’s not going to relapse.” I wanted to thank you for this because it taught me to never put my faith in something as volatile and unpredictable as other human beings. It taught me that we are all fallible (even our parents) and people will always let you down. I know people in their 50’s still struggling to learn this lesson. I was going to thank you for always leaving me to pick up your slack and care for your children. It taught me to mother, to nurture, to protect, and how to have compassion for others. Even when they lash out at me because of damage or pain someone else caused. I was going to thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn more about myself and my own abilities than most people will ever have the opportunity to, and all by the time I was 14.
I was going to thank you, but now I’m not. It took many years for me to realize that my past did not “make me”. It is nothing but a series of events that I overcame. No one goes through everything I did and comes out clean on the other side; but, I am a functioning, sane, healthy human being today. I have successful, loving relationships. I am a good daughter, employee, partner, and person. I help other people whenever I can and I have experience in such a vast array of areas that I’m able to help many, many different kinds of people in a large number of situations. Dealing with you did teach me not to help people who won’t help themselves. But no, you did not make me. I simply am and this person I was born as just inherently had all the qualities I needed to survive the cards I was dealt. You did not give me my strength or my apparent never-ending ability to survive. It was however that ability that made me able to function at 8, 11, 13 years old when you disappeared for days on end because you were stuck chasing the next high. You constantly disappointing me didn’t grant me my resiliency. I always had it; you were just a constant way to exercise it. You didn’t give me my compassion, although you like to say you did. I was born a kind, loving, and empathetic person and it was these gifts that made me able to soothe your children’s fears when they hadn’t seen you in days and were starting to get scared. It was that love that made me able to not lash out when my little sister took her fear and anger at you out on me. It was that empathy that told me when it was time to mother them and time to let them be alone because they needed space. It was my drive to survive that never allowed me to quit or give up.
The issue here lies in that dark place between all these good attributes I have and the damage you caused. I can survive anything but I’m not so good at turning the “survival mode” off. Because of this I have struggled to slow down and truly enjoy my life my entire life. My ex boyfriend’s often wondered why I never showed happiness when I said I was happy. See I learned that happiness is fragile and a weakness. I learned that if you truly love something you keep it close to the chest and never let anyone know about it, for then they can tear it away and use it to destroy you. This isn’t good for relationships as I’m sure you can imagine. I have trust issues (big surprise there!). I’ve kept almost everyone at bay my entire life thus far. Very few have truly known me and the ones who do don’t generally understand how I’m still alive and not a psychotic mess of a woman. Even you asked me once “How do you do it? How do you go through all of this and survive?” I hadn’t given it much thought before you asked me and the only thing I could think to say was “I don’t know. I just go to bed at night, wake up in the morning, grit my teeth, and do it.” It was a crude explanation, but it was true. I don’t have a special method or way, just a very high tolerance for pain. People give up so easily, as you often did when you relapsed or dove into another pot of self pity and Bacardi. Well I simply never had that luxury. As a child and preteen if I didn’t pick up where you left off D and J wouldn’t have gotten fed, they would’ve missed school, CYF would’ve gotten involved, and we would’ve been split up. So I had to keep it together. When I finally ended up on my own at 14 if I didn’t go to work the bills didn’t get paid, I couldn’t get high and pretend to have a normal life, and I couldn’t keep going to school so again, CYF wouldn’t take notice to a 14 year old with no parents and my life would’ve been taken away.
I met a woman who saved my life because of your mistakes. She was actually your sponsor and when you disappeared again and I called her days later she came and got me and took me in. You’ve spent so much time since she became my “Mommy” being jealous that she had the more adoring name, that I spent more time with her, that I was closer to her. You were so preoccupied with trying to show that I was yours that you failed to recognize that she was exactly what I needed to heal from this world of shit without turning all the pain inwards and destroying myself. I’m sure it is incredibly painful to watch your child call another woman mommy but after all you’ve done and not done don’t you think you owed it to me to let me heal in whatever ways life offered me? This woman was and is the dose of unconditional love I needed. She was there when you were not. When I kicked, screamed, lied, and stole to push her away she pulled me in. When I had had my fill and couldn’t make one more adult decision at the tender age of 13 she swore to always fight for me and do what was best for me, even if it wasn’t what was best for her. And she kept that fucking promise. She refused child support from you that she really needed to raise me because she knew I would never trust her if she was getting paid to have me. She told me exactly how it was; no lies or games. She never sugarcoated or lied. She treated me as the mature child that I was. She let me exercise that freedom that I was used to when I needed to and gave me boundaries and rules where I needed them. When she asked how I was doing she actually listened to the answer without interruption and she didn’t follow it up by ignoring what I said and talking about her newest boyfriend. She talked to me about my life. Fuck, she taught me how to live it. She put me first, she protected me, she mothered me, she nurtured me, she valued me. That is why she is Mommy and you are mom.
Now I know you’re human and an addict. As an addict myself I now know how insidious this disease is. I could forgive you being an addict. What I have trouble with is all the times you should’ve protected me and failed to do so. YOU could’ve saved me a world of pain. Why couldn’t you defend me when your piece of shit husband was trying to convince me that I was stupid and useless and not worthy of the life I was given? Was that because of the drugs? Why did I get shipped off to Alabama away from my brother and sister because your husband was so abusive? Why did I have to leave when I was a good, loving child and he was a narcissist hell bent on breaking me because I wouldn’t roll over and die the way you did? Why didn’t you report me being molested until 6 months after you found out? I understand needing to be sure before you ruin another person’s life, but had you talked to me about it after I initially told you then the “absolute proof” you needed to report it would’ve been told to you a lot sooner than it was. I’ve heard you say it was all just too much to bear and you were in a lot of pain. I understand that. But how do you think your kids felt? WE’RE THE ONES IT HAPPENED TO! You’re supposed to protect US and deal with yourself later or at least at the same time but what you do not do is fall into a bottle or a crack pipe for 6 months while your kids get next to no therapy and everyone pretends like this horrible thing just didn’t happen. The kids are always supposed to come first. But you didn’t even try to talk to us about it outside of 2-3 times over that 6 month span and every time I’ve brought it up since you’ve always asked me not to talk about it because it hurts so much or you cry until it stops. I’m not a sociopath, I know it hurts you too. But you can’t put your own shit aside long enough to let your abused child talk to you about it? Jesus. I feel like the perfect sentence to describe our entire relationship is “What about me?” I mean really, who finds out their children were molested and then doesn’t ask about it again for months? If that were my child I would’ve gotten every single detail I could without further hurting my child as soon as possible. I would immediately report it and let the courts sort out the rest. Furthermore, who in their right mind starts writing their child’s abuser 13 years after the fact and doesn’t even let the child know? I walk in your house one day and there’s letters from that pedophile fuck on your table and you say nonchalantly “Oh yeah, I started writing David. He says he’s really happy you found a career and a man that you love. There’s a letter just for you if you want to look at it.” Now THAT is too much to bear! Did you even think about how much it would re-traumatize me to know my mother gave my molester personal information about my life without my knowledge or consent? Did you even stop for a second to say “Hmmm, it might not be normal to start a friendly correspondence with the man who permanently damaged my daughters and left one with severe PTSD”? You tried to tell me that it was a part of your amends process but being as I’ve been involved in a 12 step program for years I know that you aren’t supposed to make any amends if doing so will cause more harm than good. And I’m pretty sure once a man tries to fuck your kids anything you’ve done is forgiven. Plus none of that excuses the fact that you then tried to sideways guilt trip me into going to his next parole hearing and recanting everything so he didn’t have to spend the rest of his life in prison. You even said “He’s already been in for 15 years Ashley, That’s a really long time.” And when I said it was nothing in comparison to what he did to me you said, “He’s gotten three kinds of cancer and you know jail isn’t kind to child molesters.” The hint was in that sentence right there. “CHILD MOLESTERS.” When they do what he did they go down for a long time for a reason. They don’t deserve to live in our society. You were the one who told me if I testified when he wouldn’t plead guilty that he would never be able to hurt another little girl. And now you want to let him out because you feel bad?!?! Again, WHAT ABOUT YOUR KIDS? Had that guilt trip been successful I would’ve been coerced into undoing something that took everything my 8 year old mind had to do in the first place. When I told people that story I would’ve had to end it with “Oh yeah but I went to his parole hearing when I was 21 and recanted everything so he could get out because my mom felt bad.” Have you lost your fucking mind?! Out of all the things you’ve done I think that one takes the cake. It’s always been all about you and your men and how you feel. It will always be about you. I rarely speak to you now and when I do you always tell me about the new guy you’re with and how you want me to meet him. You always sing his praises. But you sang the rest of their praises too. And every time I’ve warned you about a new one because I have this sickly accurate intuition what do you do? Tell me all the reasons I’m wrong until I’m proven right and you come to me for pity. And I do feel bad for you. But I’m done with any men involved in your life.
Let’s be honest, this isn’t a letter. You’re never going to read it. I’m not so sure I’m going to post it. It’s pretty fucking personal. But who knows? Maybe I should. Maybe it’ll help heal this wallowing pit of resentment I have towards you. This is enough damage for ten lifetimes and it’s not even 1/2 of it. And the sad part is, you trained me to worry about you so much more than myself that somewhere deep inside me I’m worried if I do post it and you somehow find it that this, my deep seeded feelings about things you did to me, will hurt YOUR feelings. THAT, ladies and gentlemen is the kind of damage that is done being raised by the most self-centered person I’ve ever met. I’ve endured all this shit, survived everything. And for what? To still be worried about hurting my mom’s feelings with the truth. Well she damn sure never worried about mine, so maybe I will post it.
But to you mom, none of the good in me ever came from you. I choose to believe that I was just born this way. No child learns in a day how to survive things like this, yet all I remember is always knowing how to. I am empathetic where you only consider yourself. I am compassionate and giving where you’re always out for #1. I am protective of all children and would bend the earth over backwards and fuck it to keep them safe where you’ll risk them to keep your bills paid or your bed warm. I am strong and resilient and a fucking survivor. And I earned the right to call myself those things by myself. You don’t get to claim my good parts as coming from you when so much of what you did threatened to destroy me. It’s sad that in thinking about you saying that I’m “just like you” I can remember hearing the ego in your voice because you truly believe you made me like this. You gave me life and I do love you but I learned at a very young age that you are something to protect myself from. I don’t know what horrible thing happened to you to make you this way. I know you experienced a situation like mine at a young age and have had your fair share of pain but I just don’t believe that that excuses all you’ve done. I’m going to be a mother myself some day and writing shit like this raw, hot mess of a ramble is just one way of healing myself so that I never expose that innocent life to anything like what I’ve been through. My children will never go through what I did. Maybe all of this isn’t on you but at some turn or another you could’ve prevented a lot of it. No one can predict their kids being abused but you do have a choice about what to do after you find out. I could let the waiting slide, but never having a full conversation about it or putting us in long term counseling? That’s just not okay. And putting your own emotions before your kids and not talking to us about it much so you could save yourself some pain while we wallowed in agony? Again, not okay. My kids will never experience that. So that is one thing you did for me. You taught me what not to be and what to protect my children from. So…thanks for that.
Your 1900th priority