This story was shared with me by a survivor of extreme childhood abuse. She was never “rescued” into foster care, but her siblings were. At the end of this post she leaves a note for kids currently in the foster system today.
My name is anonymous, and this is my story.
I was never a part of the foster system, although my younger siblings were. I am the product of an absent father that I didn’t meet until I was 17, and a drug-addicted mother who never seemed to make her children a priority. Who can say when the abuse began? Unfortunately my earliest memory is telling my mother that a monster had done something to me with a pencil when I was about 3 (she was putting on my diaper for bed as I had a bed-wetting problem), and she asked why my private area was all red. I don’t remember exactly what happened, I don’t want to. I remember the way the bathroom at that day camp looked like from the perspective of laying on my back on the floor. I remember talking to the police. I don’t remember anything else. I don’t even remember if it was the first time, but it certainly wasn’t the last.
During this time we were living with the man my mom married who would be the father to my next 2 siblings. He was a good guy, I guess…except when we would take showers together, he liked to pee in my mouth. I thought it was a fun game. I didn’t realize until I was an adult, that this was not ok behavior. I was around 3 years old. They divorced at some point between when I was 3-4 and we moved away.
When I was a bit older, maybe 4 ½, I was left alone on a regular basis to care for my 2 younger siblings while my mom was out getting high. She found a man at some point around this time and he came to live with us. He liked to play a game called “vampire” where you sucked things. I don’t remember if there was any sexual abuse during that time, but my mind has blocked out many things. This man also liked to beat us. I remember one specific occasion he sat the 3 of us down under the coat rack and the coats were touching my face and shoulders and he began to swing a belt, left and right, back and forth, across us. I don’t know why. I don’t remember what we must have done that was so wrong. It didn’t matter, my mom liked him, and so he got to stick around.
I started kindergarten when I was 4. I lived with my mother for the first couple months of school, and at some point she could no longer handle the responsibility of 3 children and we all went to live with my grandparents. My grandparents were strict, godly people. They believed in yelling, hitting, “spare the rod, spoil the child”, hot sauce, and various other forms of punishment. Those years are a blur of resentment, hatred, fear, and somehow, love. I loved them. They were the only “love” I had, even if that love came from the end of a thick, wooden paddle with holes drilled through it or a spoon full of hot sauce. During my time with my grandparents, my mom had my little brother. She was deep in her drug hole and one day my little brother was dropped. He suffered a major skull fracture and ended up in foster care for the first time. I never thought to ask why he didn’t come live with my grandparents, but my first memories of time with him were spent at the home where he was staying. He was there for over a year.
When I was 13, I went back to live with my mom and her new husband. I thought he was a great guy, he took on all of my mom’s children as his own, and they even had my youngest sister together. I never had a “dad” and he was the best. He let me drink, he let me leave and go hang out with my friends, and he let me do whatever I wanted. One day I was sitting on his lap, and apparently he liked it. It made me very uncomfortable, but I didn’t know how to react so I just kept sitting there. That opened Pandora’s Box. The first sexual experience I remember that was purely sexual came from this man. Was my mom going to be mad at me if she found out? Was he cheating on my mom? Was I going to get in trouble for this? How do I make it stop? The self-loathing and hatred of my own body was strong for the next few years. I regularly contemplated suicide.
Around the time I turned 15 I somehow managed to end the abuse that was happening with my stepfather and we never spoke of it. I would find ways to completely avoid him or make sure we were never alone together. I told my mom a bit of what happened, she didn’t seem to care and I never brought it up again. He is a still a big part of our family, and no one knows or at least cares. We just act like nothing ever happened.
As previously mentioned, I started drinking when I was 13. It was all downhill from there. I began drinking regularly, going to school drunk, drinking all day and night. My daily mission was to find a way to make enough money to buy a fifth of vodka and a pack of Newport cigarettes. It was easy enough to accomplish this by mowing someone’s yard, walking a dog, washing a car or stealing. When I was 15 we moved to a trailer park. I had to switch schools, and as a result, friends. My new friends enjoyed drinking and partying as much as I did. I smoked weed daily along with my drinking habit. I snorted cocaine for the first time when I was 16.
The next 10 years would be filled with the abuse of any drug I could get my hands on, extreme alcohol use, rape, random sexual encounters, and poor choices in significant others. During my years of self-destruction, my mother once again lost control of herself and as a result lost custody of my 3 youngest siblings. They spent the better part of a year in foster care. It was hard to be able to see them; they were moved to 2 or 3 different homes in this time. Regardless of how nice the house was or the people were, all my siblings wanted to do was come home.
My rock bottom came a few years later. I was selling heroin, and ultimately got my door kicked in for selling pure MDMA to an undercover police officer. I went to jail for probably the 8th time in my life, but no charges ever came of it. It was a wake-up call, and clearly a second chance.
Since that fateful day, I still had my struggles with substance abuse. It wasn’t until I became pregnant with my son that I stopped all self-destructive behaviors. I no longer smoked cigarettes, no longer drank, no longer had the urge to do drugs or party. Since he’s been born, I’ve become the person I always was hidden underneath all of the self-hatred, I’ve escaped from my own prison. I’m a successful business-woman making a significant salary, I’m a student, I’m a hell of a mother and I’m a positive role-model.
I’m not a piece of trash, I don’t deserve to be thrown away, and I didn’t deserve all of the things I went through.
There is a lot to my story that I’m leaving out, because there is a lot that I am still unable to share. However, I’m finally understanding that it wasn’t MY fault all of the things that happened to me as a child, happened. I made my own decisions as an adult, and I won’t say those weren’t influenced by a lack of self-worth, because they were, but I made my own poor choices. Now, I choose to be better. If you’re reading this and you think that a bad situation makes for a bad kid, you’re wrong.
If you think that every kid from a bad situation is going to be able to overcome by pure willpower and be a better person, you’re also wrong. If it weren’t for the support of a few close friends I consider family and my uncanny ability to bullshit my way through any situation, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I do have to say, my life experience has made me a pretty tough business-woman and an excellent conversationalist. If I hadn’t learned perseverance and been forced to grow up way too fast, I might not be as self-sufficient and determined as I am today.
I am currently in the process of becoming a foster parent; I feel that I can use my experiences to help children who may be going through the same things. I was never “rescued” from my situation, but I know I can be that for someone else. My story has a happy ending.
I am just one of the lucky ones, and I choose to remain anonymous.
My letter to a Foster Kid:
Dear Foster Kid,
Keep your head up. Life sucks, but guess what? You ARE loved. I want you to know that you are worth more than diamonds. There are people on this earth who would lasso the moon for you to show you what an awesome being you are. I know, I am one of those people. I want you to feel loved. You are you. You are beautiful. You are full of greatness. Don’t let your situation determine who you are, you determine who you are and someday you can change your situation. We all take on a human experience, and you chose this one for some reason. Some of us were just made to handle more than others. You are strong. You are a warrior. You have the soul of a fighter and you can overcome anything. Go to school. Let go of any negativity you hold inside of you, it’s cancerous and it will eat you away. Fill those spaces with light and positive thinking. Don’t let someone else have your control; you have more power than you know. You are wanted. You are the future. You can make it or break it for everyone else. Feel that. Know it. Be empowered by it. By the way, bad choices don’t make you a bad person. If you’ve made bad choices in the past, you can always make better ones. I’ve been there. I know. It might sound stupid, but I’d love to give you a huge hug. The biggest bear hug you’ve ever had, maybe you’ll cry? I’m cool with that. Maybe I’ll cry! I hope you’re cool with that, too. I want to be your friend; I want to be your mentor. I want you to be able to talk to me, I want you to feel safe and know that you can bring any problem you’re facing or any situation to me and I won’t judge you. I want to be your haven if you can’t find that anywhere else. I want to open my door to you and give you harbor. Foster Kid, “you da best”. Don’t you ever forget it!
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” –Dr Suess