Lying in bed aged seven, I wouldn’t know what time but the traffic had been quiet for a long while, I would be wide awake staring at the gap of the door, my heart pounding, paralysed by fear, waiting for the bogey man … some forty years later I caught myself lying on the kitchen floor maybe three o clock in the morning on a week night. I was trying to lift the washing machine with one hand and look and scrape underneath with a bit of cardboard. I was sure some drugs had fallen there.
Everything should have been fine but I was constantly tearful. ‘Don’t cry or I’ll give you something to cry about’ was my father’s mantra. Now middle aged I hadn’t cried since I couldn’t remember. Emotions were for others, the weak if I’m honest. They weren’t allowed. I’ve since learnt that stopping the child from expressing their feelings helps protect the abuser, keeps them cloaked. Suppression of my feelings was engrained.
I’d accepted that I had a compulsive, addictive personality. It was a curse, my cross to bear. I had dragged it around all my adult life. If it wasn’t alcohol it was drugs or gambling, or all. I had learnt to hide and deny. It was under control, according to my delusion. There would be periods when I wouldn’t function, I’d go down into the abyss. The voice of my addiction could change and adapt so as to speak to me, the best way, the direct way, the subtle and powerful way, but always a constant in my life, my loyal companion.
I’d hit a wall. I wasn’t joining in anymore, constantly tearful. I was back to sitting inside quietly threading beads when the other children were out playing in the sun. No matter which way I looked forward there wasn’t a way through. The World was doom, the life was hopelessness but my companion was there, my companion who took its’ toll. It took my integrity. It chipped away at it. The sacrifice of my integrity took with it my conscience, my real connection to others and so it took my soul. I didn’t know that and I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to hear it and I wouldn’t accept it. I had to numb at any cost.
The white hot cauldron of hate, of anger, of resent, of self-loathing: the darkness of doom, of angst, of despair, of hopelessness were the feelings that would rise up and overwhelm me, suffocate like a python. I had to escape being me. I had my companion, my addiction.
But now I’d hit a wall. I was constantly tearful. I was leaking. My companion wasn’t working anymore. A close friend had hung himself; this was his choice and an option I had wrestled with many times, an out which was okay with me. Seeing the pain it caused I figured I’d try and carry on no matter how hard the python squeezed. Then an older cousin died and I grieved so much. I grieved and grieved too much, more than I could understand, and I couldn’t numb out anymore.
I felt a new inner voice trying to speak to me.
The sun was shining through the blinds. I adjusted them and was cast back to my twenties when I went to visit that cousin, they had the same blinds. Then it made sense. I had a moment beyond a clear thought, more a halting realisation. When I was a small boy he, who grew big quick, used to stay with us at Christmas and sleep in my room. It was the only time I felt safe you see. Safe from the bogey man. Safe from my father: my abuser. My cousin’s death took away what little sense of safety my inner child had.
From an early age I was abused by my father. I was also abused by a man at the swimming baths. The abuse stained my soul with confusion and fear. I was alone.
The abused child is traumatised and cannot process, speak out, understand, prevent. The child is suppressed and manipulated and becomes an object of shame, a feeling which possesses them all their life. The World is no longer wondrous. It is only a World of fear from which the child has no escape. The child can only suppress the fear and shame and guilt they feel and bravely carry on in this hopeless frightening World because they have no choice or voice. The child learns to survive. Learns to numb.
Childhood sexual abuse is an international epidemic. As many as one in four females and one in nine males suffer childhood sexual abuse. Consider the scale of this. We are now recognising its existence. Not just recognising, but realising its magnitude and the harm it causes. An abused child is damaged for life from the moment it happens unless dealt with. The harm can create addiction. The need to numb. The need to escape that caldron of feelings that bear so heavy. Addiction is part of the survival. It is the companion that many survivors like me need.
We have shone a bright light on childhood sexual abuse. We need to talk and talk about it. We see it as a darkness in society that we previously ignored: we turned our backs on it and let the survivors suffer in silence. But no more. That light must get brighter. We must understand the effects of abuse on the child and the effects throughout their lives. Together we will find the ways to stop Childhood sexual abuse.
The survivors? Those courageous people who live in continual torment. Those that have found a way through. We become overwhelmed with despair, with doom, possessed with anger, self-loathing, shame and guilt believing the abuse was in some way our fault, and often we become addicts. We live a half-life because a full life without the companion of addiction is too much to bear.
I’d hit a wall. The old behaviour pattern of numbing stopped working and there felt like no way forward anymore, only total self-destruction.
That new voice was mine. My child within. It was time to listen to him and feel what he felt. So began my Odyssey to recovery …
If what I have said talks to you then I will tell you clearly: you have made it this far and so proved you have the strength and courage to take that journey. You owe it to your inner child. That child who survived.
The python weakens. It let’s go. The voice of your addiction fades. You get to choose, no longer compelled to numb.
Reach out. Say what happened to you. You are not alone. People will listen and believe you. You will realise that you are a survivor. You are a warrior. You have an undefeatable indefatigable spirit.
Light will come into your life and you will feel peace.
You will love yourself because you are beautiful. A beautiful pure soul lives within you.
It’s time to rescue your child. Go through the journey. Feel and feel and feel until you are totally exhausted and feel more and the light and peace will come my friend. I know, I have seen it, I have felt it.
Self-love and joy of life will possess you.