On a Small Boat in the Ocean

First, I’d like to say thanks to Melanie for asking me to guest post. I am going to touch on what it was like to grow up in house with a father who was fueled by domestic violence and alcohol.

When you grow up in a house where there is domestic violence, it’s like being on a small boat in the ocean. You know it’s unstable, dangerous, and eventually going to tip. You just don’t know how or when. So you learn to always have your guard up. You compensate for the ebb and flow. You prepare for the worst.

I learned to watch for cues. For instance, some of the ones I learned to watch for were the time of day- the later it got, especially after dinner, the better the chance my father would come home drunk. I learned that if he came home drunk it would be hell on Earth for my mother. I learned to watch my mother’s actions and emotions. If she was fidgety and nervous, I knew she was also watching the time and waiting to see what would happen…

Another was holidays or special occasions- my father would often find fault with something my mother or a family member did, and this would result in him starting a fight to either not go, or to make us leave early. I still to this day can remember how embarrassed I would feel.

You grow up not knowing who you are, because you are not able to be who you are. You can’t grow up in that environment feeling free to express yourself or feelings. You don’t want to do or say anything that may trigger the abuser. The triggers for my father were pretty much anything my mother said or did. You can imagine how tenuous that environment was.

I learn to go inward. I kept what I thought, felt, needed, and wanted inside. I had to, I was on a sinking ship in survival mode. I learned crisis management very, very early. Knowing how to manage or avoid the violence happening became a key to my everyday existence.

As you get older, by older I mean 6,7,8, you learn new techniques. You are now able to read and write at least somewhat. You have seen and tested what works and what doesn’t so you have a new set of skills to help you survive.

Quite a few people will tell you that children don’t always know what’s going on, or that they have a “child’s perspective”. While that is true to some extent, it is also hugely false. I grew up knowing that what was going on was not right. I didn’t know how wrong it was, but I knew it wasn’t going on in everybody’s house.

The moms that volunteered at my school didn’t have black eyes, fat lips, or bruises. They didn’t jump out of their skin if they heard a loud noise. I learned something was way off at our house. Hell, I knew that before kindergarten!

I was a great secret keeper by the age of 5. I had to be. I was afraid of what would happen if I told. By afraid I don’t mean being taken away from my parents or my father getting in trouble (that probably wouldn’t have happened back in late 70’s/early 80’s when I grew up) or the worst fear… Having to watch my mother get her ass kicked and handed to her over and over and over again.

My father, to this day, is still an alcoholic. Maybe not as violent because he is getting older. He still has a nasty, violent temper when he gets started. Let’s just say the leopard hasn’t changed his spots…

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7 comments

  1. thank you so much for sharing. I can not imagine going through that as a child, and you have just made me feel so much better fro leaving my abuser and saving my kids from experiencing that. Thank you.

    1. no matter what you may think at times, no matter what anyone tells you. you have made the BEST decision for YOUR CHILDREN. i know there will be times, you will doubt yourself and there may even be times the kids get angry at you, but LET ME STRESS, it will pass! as they grow up and begin to understand more about life and relationships, they will thank you for saving them. because that’s what you did. YOU SAVED THEM!
      Don’t ever, ever forget that.
      also, thank you for your comment. i often wonder if what i say really reaches people or is helpful at all. i know blogging has helped me, but i also want it to help others. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. thanks so much! Please believe that your blogging is helping others people.

  2. Oh how I can relate. My father didn’t get drunk but he had a nasty violent abusive temper and there was constant fear. Walking on eggshells never knowing when he was going to rage or what would set it off. None of us could do anything right. I had to shutdown. The mother is completely shutdown to this day and he’s still vicious. Sorry you lived like this too.

    1. well, Zoe, at least we can support and empathize with each other. who knows if we’d be able to do that if we hadn’t gone through what we have. You know i am here for you ๐Ÿ˜€

      1. Very true, it’s good not to feel alone! Thank you and same goes me being here for you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. […] This post originally appeared on October 22 […]

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