Chapter 8- Bad Habits

As I got older things got worse with my mother and me. I was thirteen when my mother took on a ‘friend’ role and she called herself the “cool mom.”

My mother was a cigarette smoker and an alcoholic. She thought she was cool because she showed me how to be cigarette smoker and let me drink alcohol. Virginia Slims, the first cigarette I smoked. My mother sat me down at our kitchen table and showed me how to inhale and exhale the smoke.

Drinking. It started with wine coolers and cheap liquor with Kool-Aid. It only took a few times of getting sick to seriously question why anyone enjoyed drinking at all. Luckily, I didn’t keep up both habits. I guess watching my mother and substitute father drunk all the time scared me. I hated who they were with alcohol and I feared that alcohol would do the same to me.

Cigarettes on the other hand, my mother bought me cartons of cigarettes and let me smoke in my own room. I became addicted quickly and I would smoke as often as I could. Every time I got into an argument with my mother or she was upset about something I watched her pick up a cigarette and I too learned to pick up those habits. For years, I could not associate anger or sadness without cigarettes. I relied on smoking to get me through everything, but it was my worst enemy.

I have nothing against smoking or drinking. Of course, smoking is bad for you and drinking a lot can be bad for you. But, what I am against is people abusing those substances. Cigarettes are not for children or teenagers who cannot understand the repercussions of smoking. My mother’s choice to encourage my smoking habit damaged me physically. After years of smoking I felt reliant on cigarettes and realized how much they were damaging my health and it was so very difficult to stop. Oh, mother.

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Thoughts 2: I Apologize

I apologize for the long lapse in writing. I have been told to share my story for a long time because others and myself know that it has the potential to help others. I have waited for years to share because I wanted to be emotionally and mentally prepared for writing and essentially re-living what I have gone through. I thought I was ready, but after some of my first chapters I felt myself feeling pretty overwhelmed.

I took a few weeks to process how it made me feel. I would just like to recognize the importance of self-care. For the first few days I just let myself cry mostly because I felt sad. Then, I took time to think about why it made me sad and prepare myself for how the rest of my chapters would potentially make me feel. Many of us have experienced trauma and it is so important to take time to process and address the feelings associated with that trauma. I do feel that I have overcome what I have gone through, but there is certainly something powerful about sharing.

I am ready to continue sharing my story. More than anything I want to be able to help and empower others. I would feel many days of sadness if I knew I could help at least one person. Mostly, that we have the ability to move past what we have gone through and live a wonderful and fulfilling life. For those who face adversity I want to provide resources a give them a better chance of succeeding. With my willingness to make a difference I will share my story. ❤

Chapter 6: A Layer Of Poverty

Being in poverty slips in and adds a layer of this–s**t–gets–worse to life.

Because we were poor, we lived in a poor neighborhood, where there was higher crime and violence that I was subjected to.

Because we were poor, and living in a low-income neighborhood, I went to a low-income school. Where teachers were less invested in their students and less passionate about teaching. When I was getting bullied (Chapter 4) not one teacher noticed, or at least said nothing to defend me. Teachers saw students get bullied everyday, so why help me? If I was in an affluent neighborhood do you think a teacher, principle, or parent would have stepped into help?

My school didn’t have great learning materials. It was easier for the teachers to regularly put in a 10 year old movie that we would learn absolutely nothing from. Our gym equipment was old, broken, and barely usable. The quality of low-income schools are unbelievable.

Because we were poor, my mother did not buy fresh fruits and veggies. My diet consisted of chicken nuggets and french fries, hot dogs, mac and cheese, and peanut butter and jelly. My mother didn’t know how to make anything else. Remember, I went to a low-income school, so I wasn’t getting better meals at school either. If we didn’t have money or my mother didn’t go to the store due to a mental breakdown I would just go hungry.

Today, when my stomach growls of hunger it doesn’t bother me. Often, I don’t eat more than once a day or just forget to eat at all.  It is interesting to see how the events in my past influence me today.

Because we were poor, there was no family fun activities like amusement parks, zoo’s, museums, sports, musical instruments, or vacations. All I knew as a child was chaos and more chaos. Any interests that I had went unexplored. I was worried about how to get day by day. I didn’t think or plan for the future. I just wanted to make it to the next day.

Can you imagine a child who is getting abused at home and at school, who is malnourished, and inactive trying to learn? Trying to navigate the world? Impossible.

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Chapter 3: It Started Off Bad

I was two months premature and only weighed three pounds when I was born, but I made it. Since birth, my mother never let me forget that she almost died bringing me into this world, ironic isn’t it (you’ll have to read Chapter 2)?

I was born with a birthmark on my face. A birth mark so big a person could see it even if they weren’t trying. So no adult could resist commenting and no child could miss the opportunity to tease me.

I guess what I am trying to say is that since the moment I was born things were tough.

My biological father was still in the picture until I was about two. Clearly, my father leaving wasn’t my fault, but my mother would spend the next 18 years blaming me:

“You were a horrible baby. Your father left because of you.”

“Your ugly face made your father leave, no one loves an ugly baby.”

“If you were just a good girl maybe your father would have stayed.”

All of my her problems were my fault. As a one-year-old I should have known better then to be born ugly and misbehave. What was I thinking? (this is sarcasm)

BUT, think about it. When you are a child and your mother is saying terrible things toward you, how does a child know how to compartmentalize something like that? Emotional and verbal abuse can tear children apart. It breaks down their spirit, securities, and how much they value themselves.

As a child I never believed my mother loved me. I am still not sure if she does. What I do know is nothing that she ever said about me was true.

 

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