*Warning: this post discusses my early experience of childhood sexual abuse by a step-parent. I do not go into graphic detail, however, the subject itself is disturbing and the detail I do go into may be triggering or traumatic for readers. Please practice self-care and self-love and do not read past this point if you feel you may risk your mental, emotional, or spiritual health in continuing to read.
I had a grand plan to face and confront my past and achieve “true” healing and recovery from the codependency and self-harm of compulsive eating behaviors. I created a schedule of groups, therapy appointments, and processing work with spiritual and secular programs which serve people who have experienced abuse and neglect including domestic violence and sexual abuse and who experience PTSD and/or substance abuse issues. Six and a half weeks into 2014 and I’ve wound up cancelling more often than I have attended, for a variety of reasons (multiple episodes of upper respitory viral infections for Luna) and excuses (fear-based activation of physical symptoms associated with the fibromyalgia, depression, and codependency).
That being said, I have been in daily attendance at online meetings of Overeater’s Anonymous and have kept two therapy appointments, attended five group meetings, and followed through with two sessions with Davonna Livingston of Changing Perceptions to work on writing through my story of childhood abuse and neglect. The latter things have brought up some incredibly disturbing and intense realizations for me. Realizations I have been in denial about for at least 32 years.
My codependency is rooted in my experience of being sexually molested by my mother’s second husband.
My experience was not overtly violent or obviously traumatic – at least not to my understanding and recognition. It was indidious, emotionally and psychologically seductive and manipulative. The manner in which I was groomed and inculturated into sexual relationships between myself and men by my stepfather was foundational to my first domestic violence relationship with the sexual and social predator who became my first husband and father of my my first child at 17 years old.
My mother met and married her third husband by the time I was six years old. I don’t really remember what he was like or my interactions with him. I do remember pictures of me, dressed in pink, smiling and happy at their wedding and reception held at his parents’ home in what must have been late Spring or early Summer during my sisth year. If memory serves, I was happy and excited to have a daddy and grandparents. It looked like we might get to have a home and stay in one place for a while. “John” was going to be our hero and stabilizing force.
He moved into our apartment. He bought me a puppy that Christmas. He was an adorable little dog that looked like a miniature Lassie with a curlycue tail. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have my own bedroom and that I slept on the sofa in the living room. I had a puppy and life was good.
We were living in Houston at the time and there were reports of “streakers” in the news. Men going around town wearing trenchcoats and exposing themselves to people, especially kids. It was the era of latchkey kids and kids being free to play, explore, and congregate wherever they could to play and have fun. We didn’t have child care providers, we had babysitters who would sometimes not be home right on time to let us in when we arrived after school, but that was okay and we knew she’d be right back.
It was during this time period my initial grooming began. At six years old I was educated about sex, good touches, bad touches, and that even family members weren’t supposed to touch me in ways that were uncomfortable or in my private areas. All in the interest of teaching me how to stay safe and take care of myself.
Then, John got transferred to help open a new Picadilly Cafeteria in the rural town of Longview, TX. For some reason, we moved out in the middle of the night, leaving behind a filthy, disgusting mess of dirtied newspapers from my puppy, and discarded items we either didn’t have room for in the moving truck or didn’t have time to finish loading. I’m not really sure which. I just suddenly remembered this detail and recall feeling icky about the mess we were leaving behind.
When we got to Longview, we lived in a motel for a little while until John and my mom found us a place to live – a two-bedroom, single-wide mobile home in a mobile home park. That Summer, mom found a church and she and I started attending. She joined the choir and helped teach Sunday School. I attended my first ever Vacation Bible School, learned that Jesus loved me, and got saved. Mom got a job as a part-time school janitor/part-time school bus driver while John worked on hiring kitchen staff and organizing the kitchen he was the head cook/chef in.
I wound up spending more time with John than I had with my mom because of her work schedule and my school schedule. He helped me with homework and tried to show me how to cook. One day, he brought out the porn comics to share with me. I was excited to be treated like such a grown up and have a grown up secret to be trusted with.
One Sunday night, George C. Scott was on the television portraying Patton. Mom was in the kitchen while John and I were on the sofa in the living room. I don’t remember what John said to me, but I wound up agreeing to go to a slightly hidden corner of the living room, the entry alcove, and try oral sex on him. The sense of danger and excitement of possibly having my mom come out and catch us loomed large. It wasn’t forced and I wasn’t upset about it, that I can remember. I don’t actually remember any of this, I just know these are the facts of what happened.
For the next year and a half or two, John continued to invite and persuade me to become physically intimate with him. Each time there was a sensation of pain, he would stop and go no further. Nothing was ever fully consumated because my body wouldn’t receive it. I was left feeling inferior and inadequate. I know there were times when I chased after him pleading to be allowed to try again because I somehow felt like I was causing him disappointment and not loving him the way I was supposed to.
Then, he transferred jobs again and I had turned ten years old. We moved back to Houston and the attention stopped. I was feeling abandonded and desperate for the affection and love which had inexplicably stopped happening. My best little Lolita efforts didn’t have any effect except to be pushed away and ignored in disinterest.
I have recently realized that the way I can’t handle Keith’s silences when he’s angry or upset, or really being shut out by anyone I love when they are unable to share their thoughts and feelings with me, is reawakening that lost, desperate, lonely, and unloved little girl who has been inside of me all along.
At this point, I can recognize a response and reaction for what it is and where it comes from, knowing what it means to the me I used to be who still wants to drive the me I am now. But each and every time I’m triggered in this way, it’s like I’ve never been anyone other than that emotionally bereft and abandoned little girl with a completely distorted sense of self-worth and value tied up in my sexual performance or lack thereof. I can choose to act as if that is not who I am or how I feel, but who I am and how I feel on the inside still is what it always has been.
Maybe, one day, that won’t be the case. I can hope.