This last weekend I went home and I confronted my abusers, which sadly means for me I had a very difficult conversation with my parents.
I grew up in a dysfunctional and abusive home. Verbal, emotional, and even physical abuse and threats of violence were relatively normal in my “Christian” home. As my brother and I were talking about it earlier this summer anger was the most common emotion expressed in my home. Both of my parents unloaded their stress on their three children. My mother used me in particular for their emotional comfort and I was triangulated with her and my father as she tried to work out her marriage difficulties with me. I think of the three siblings I took it the hardest. My mother focused on me as the youngest, a child with a genetic defect, and a willing accomplice in that I took to my role rather quickly assuming responsibility for her emotions. I was also the youngest of the children and have always been very sensitive. This abuse and the chaos of my home, and God’s apparent indifference as evidenced by his inaction, is the primary source of my deep wounds.
Complicating this has been the fact that these deep wounds were never ever addressed. My family enforced a code of silence in a variety of implicit and explicit ways and we, the children in the family, were never allowed to talk about our experiences in the home. When I talked about this with my sister she talked about how we were pitted against one another. I remember I could join my mother in her condemnation of my brother or my sister and as a “reward” would escape her accusations and scrutiny at least for the moment. It was not until college that I began talking to my siblings about what went on in the home. This combination of abuse and secrecy left me in a place where I was not really in denial about how bad it was in my home; the Big Lie that we were a loving Christian family was so pervasive I had actually come to believe those lies were true. Consequently I was perpetually searching for healing for a wound I denied was even there. This lead to self-destruction in chasing after solutions that were not solutions and addictions. Even at my recovery testimony I gave at Celebrate Recovery, a healing place of catharsis and honesty, I said that I came from a loving Christian home…and at the time I believed it.
During my Pastoral Care and Abuse class last year I again recognized the insanity of my home as I had many times before but for some reason I was at the place to start dealing with it. I was away from home, I had made progress in my recovery, I was in a loving and caring relationship and my heart said it was time.
Over the last several months I have been dealing with this in counseling and to a lesser extent, at Sex Addicts Anonymous, coming to grips with the nature and extent of the damage done by my parents and how this has subtly dictated my life. When you are this wounded you just live from your wounds.
Over Christmas I spent time with my family for three weeks in the Philippines seeing all the behaviors, subtle manipulations, and character defects of my family up-close and personal away from all of my support groups and friends. I dealt with this by “turtling” into myself and my resentments, as I had many times before.
My father did not seem to notice and I realized we don’t really speak at all so he did not see anything out of the ordinary. Most of my friends were shocked when I reported that for ten days I said a total of about five sentences. Normally people can’t get me to shut up. My mother is more sensitive and knew something was wrong. Since I came back to Pasadena my mother had been after me to talk about what is wrong. However, I could no longer respond to my parents because in responding to their questions I would be honest, and they did not want to hear what I had to say. I decided to take the easy route and I simply did not respond to any texts, calls, or emails for the last three months. My parents started to get manipulative to get me to talk to them and I felt I needed to do something but feared the outcome.
Then I became frustrated with an acquaintance who talked of wanting reconciliation with me but did not take any action towards that end. I quickly calmed myself, reminded myself that I was dealing with a human being, and with the gifts of the Twelve Steps I was able to reflect this question onto myself. I instantly saw that I behaved in the same way with my parents. I professed that I wanted a new relationship with them, that I wanted reconciliation, but I was not taking the actions I needed to.
So I decided to confront my parents and be honest with them over break. When I got home It was very tempting to just let things slide and play along with my parents when I went home but I asked to talk with them and sat them down. Then I proceeded to talk about the things that happened in our family that we’d buried for the last twenty years. I cannot communicate how difficult this conversation was, but it was good.
From my father, I received the closest thing I am going to get from him by way of an apology. He, in his own way, acknowledged that he had done certain things that I was expressing had deeply hurt me. One shocking thing was that he revealed he believed that what had happened in our home was “normal” for families and marriages…and I could see he was entirely sincere. I had to explain to my father, “No Dad, screaming at the top of your lungs that your children are pieces of shit and then hitting them is not normal.” I have known for some time that my father grew up in a screwed up home situation, the aftereffects of can be seen throughout my father’s side of the family, but this reality really sunk in for me when I saw his sincerity. Because of the home that he was raised in my father truly believed what happened in our home was “normal.” I think this, more than anything, will help me to have grace and compassion on my father and his behavior in our home.
My mother, however, blamed, deflected, and minimized what I talked about. She blamed everyone from me, my counselor, my father, to smaller things such as the amount of activities I was involved in, for my pain. She never accepted responsibility for anything or truly heard me, she was too busy defending her own actions. She in fact rather quickly attacked me, and my fellow siblings, for not staying closer to home and not having a relationship with her that her nieces and nephews do with her sisters. If anything constructive came of this conversation with her is that I have seen her character defects and underlying assumptions with more clarity. While this does not excuse her behavior I see why she did what she did and also have a better understanding of what needs to change before I have a restored relationship with her, what boundaries need to be established, and where I need to assert myself (for the first time?) as an equitable human being in our relationship, not just something that exists to serve or validate her.
For me this conversation has opened up my ability to talk about what is really going on with me if and when my parents contact me and also increased freedom for my siblings to talk about these issues amongst ourselves and with our parents. Early on in my recovery I “killed” the Golden Boy image I had been maintaining for years by introducing myself to non-recovery peers as I did in CR very publicly. Taking a mic and saying “Hi, my name is Kevin and I am grateful believer who struggles with sexual addiction” in front of 150 Christian young adults freed me to talk about my recovery and my addiction and this newfound freedom has been incredibly healing for me.
I hope in the coming months the same will be true for me and my family though I know this is just a beginning.