The Road Not Taken is the Path to Home

I don't share this story often, hell some of you I consider friends, and I've not shared it with y'all. I've learned to keep it secret, not everyone can bear the weight of it, and it makes many uncomfortable. My earliest memories are of my older half brother who was stabbed to death at a 4th of July party when I was three. My dad, not knowing the impact it would have on me, took me with him to go identify the body. I remember that night in 1987 quite vividly. Afterwards I was sent to live with my mother where I had nightmares and bed wetting for years. My mom, lived with her own PTSD from a father so abusive that he once broke her legs between bouts of sexual abuse. She dated him in various forms after leaving home. Needless to say I witnessed years of domestic abuse. Then I witness the sexual abuse of my sister by my mom's 3rd husband, and had my life threatened if I told. We testified against him and he was sent away for 15 years. Just as soon as that violence died down, my sister was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and when she was manic, it was psychotic mania. She would beat my mother until she passed out or she would chase my new stepdad around with a running chainsaw when she wasn't running with gangs, shoplifting, and threatening to have them shoot up our home. We moved often, but her problems always found us. 

I needed an escape. I found that in movies. They were the first manifestation of my addiction. I could be anyone, anyone but who I was. Then I added food to the mix and I ate and I ate and I ate. I could control it. I could find some solace in chocolate, cheeseburgers, and cheesecake...alliteration not intended. Needless to say I gained a ton of weight. I was an overweight child who talked with a lisp and waddled...obviously the captain of the football team...not. I was bullied relentlessly at school and home was anything but peaceful. Finally, my sister got pregnant and was married off. I thought I'd finally be able to catch my breath. But my mother was unable to live a normal life. She's always been abused and now, no one was there to abuse her. She began abusing herself. Pain pills and benzos were her best friends. She'd often send me to the medicine cabinet to retrieve them. I knew the sames of several pain killers: vicodin, soma, Lortab, and codeine just to name a few. I've never had any desire to take them. She'd get so wasted on them that she would forget to leave a key for me to get in after work so there were many nights I sat on the porch for hours waiting to get in. I didn't have a cell phone nor would she give me my own house key. That would disturb her using. I'd often put out lit cigarettes and drag her to bed when the benzos left her nodding out. 

In high school I worked at a movie theater. I loved that job. Movie theaters are exempt from overtime pay laws so I easily worked over 60 hours a week during the summer and Christmas breaks. I never saw a dime of that. She always took my checks and punished me if she found I'd cashed one. The weirdest thing about our relationship, something I discovered in years of therapy was that it was one of emotional incest. My mom put me in the role of her spouse...she came to me with all of her problems and I would talk her through how we'd fix them. It was very damaging to my psyche and my emotional growth as a child and young adult. As I reached high school graduation and she realized I'd be leaving...that she'd be losing her emotional partner...her addiction went into overdrive and her behavior towards me became the most abusive. She wanted desperately to keep me but was doing everything she could to push me away. She threw me out twice during the last few weeks of senior year. Once, because I was late from our choir banquet, and the other because I allegedly rolled my eyes at her. The second time I was walking the streets of Baytown without shoes, without a phone, and without any money to call anyone. I literally begged for change...there weren't many willing to give up the 50 cents needed to call for help. I lived for days in a motel until she asked me to come home. Things didn't get better. I was discovering my own sexuality and attraction to other men and began dating someone. She'd blare John Hagee, the venomous TV pastor, hoping to drive out the demons she accused me of possessing. Eventually it was just too much for me. I put everything in my car and slept behind the restaurant I worked at. I'd make just enough money sometimes to get a cheap motel room and I'd sneak a plate from the buffet of the restaurant I worked at. I should've been in college, but there was no way that was going to happen. As I got my own place and started attempting to take care of myself, the family pathology reared its ugly head. With no one to abuse me, I began abusing myself. I let men take advantage of me emotionally and physically. I began engaging in incredibly self-destructive behaviors, that, initially, felt wonderful.   That was the first time in my life I felt like I could accept me and the first time I'd felt any kind of power or self esteem. But they rapidly sucked away any small successes I had. Those behaviors led to the downfall of my relationship, got me sick several times, got me into an inpatient treatment program, and forced me to move to a different city away from all my friends. I wish I could say that I've gotten it under control, but it haunts me often. I am in therapy twice a week and I've begun writing again. Writing has been my outlet since I learned to pick up a pencil. My brain is constantly moving at fiber optic speeds and just getting a few of the words out is more relieving for me than popping a Xanax. This year has led to a wake up call though. I've often felt too unworthy of telling my story or that I'd have to wait to find out how my story ends in order to tell it. Cause that makes a ton of sense. My higher power has told me in so many ways, through various people that my story deserves telling. I've given you the abridged version. I'm working on compiling the long version into a memoir told through a series of vignettes. Brene' Brown says, "story is our way home." My goal, this year, is to find my way home...or at least the home I've never had or known. Thanks for allowing me to share.

Paul Vasquez

Nikki Hune