Eighteen years ago I was a terrified pregnant teen who had been thrown out by my boyfriend and forced to move back home to the abusive parents who I had escaped from two years earlier. I had only two goals for my unborn son. The first was that he would attend college and the second was that I would break the cycle of violence that had persisted throughout my family for more generations than I wanted to admit. These goals may seem minor to some, but when you grow up in fear that at any moment you will die at the hands of your parents, and you cannot risk thinking past the present moment in order to survive, these goals are monumental.
For nine years of my son’s life he watched me beaten by two different men. He was the only witness to the painstaking process I went through as I attempted to disentangle myself from these abusive men – one his father and the other the father of his now-five-year-old brother.
For eleven years of my son’s life he watched me descend and then stay imprisoned within the dark abyss of alcoholism as I chose abusive men and the escape of alcohol over his own well-being. The biggest gift I have ever been given was becoming pregnant with his brother and the sobriety it led to. In July of this year, I will have been sober for six years and in August of this year, I will have been free from abusive relationships for six years. I was given the opportunity to spend these years with my son sober and free from abuse and the chance to ensure that the goals I had set for him before he was born would come to fruition. Not many people can say such a miracle has occurred in their life. Not many people can say they were given such an amazing second chance to heal the damage they had inflicted on their child before that child reached adulthood.
I am proud to say that I have broken the cycle of violence with my son by making the choice to never hit him, nor allowing anyone else to abuse him physically or verbally, and to openly discuss those times that he witnessed my being abused and what that meant to him and to me and what my choice to be involved in abusive relationships cost our family. There is still much work to be done to break other cycles that I have continued and we have discussed them. He understands that he has a responsibility to break these cycles and to set goals for himself and his future. One such responsibility is to go to college. I was a first generation college graduate but did not graduate until I was 34 years old. I am proud to say that on June 28th my son will begin college. One of my proudest accomplishments was to instill in him since he was very young that going to college was not optional – he was going to go! I am sad that he will be moving out in August to room with his best-friend of 14 years to begin his life as an adult, but I am very proud too.
I may have failed at many, many things when it comes to my son. I drug him to hell and made him take the slow, tortuous journey back to higher ground with me. But, I am proud of myself for sticking to the two goals that I set for him even when our world was shattered, even when everything we had worked so hard to obtain was lost in an instant. I did not give up my hope for him and the chance that one day he could live a life free from the demons that have haunted me since childhood. I have told him that I am sure he will need LOTS of therapy as he gets older for the damage I have inflicted upon him. But, it is my hope that what he has experienced in his short 18-year life has made him a stronger person as he moves into adulthood and must make life-altering decisions on his own. It is my hope that he will know, even if he makes the wrong decision, even if all seems to be lost, he can pick himself up and start again and that his mom will be there to make the slow, tortuous journey back to higher ground with him, and that no matter what has happened, making it out of hell is possible.