Helping Through Hurts

Sometimes we are on the verge of learning a new lesson or changing something big in life and all we need is a gentle nudge in the right direction. This is a huge reason that I write so passionately and honestly. I write in hopes that if I bare my soul, my heart, and even my faults and mistakes, I can maybe have an impact on others. So in that style, here goes…

Many people know, but in case you are not aware, October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. I have my own personal story of domestic violence and feel blessed to not be in that situation anymore. I would rather be single than to ever have to endure abuse again.

When I was 16, my mother did not like not being able to control what I did with my newborn. When we butted heads when my son was 3 weeks old, my mom kicked me out. Shortly after, I got a call one day saying she wanted to talk to my son’s father and I. When we arrived, she told me that she didn’t want to be legally responsible for me anymore and so she was going to sign for me to get married when I turned 17, “If you want to,” she said. There was never a real choice though, and so wedding planning started.

I was young, I was stupid, and I knew getting married wasn’t the right thing to do, but one week after turning 17, I did it anyway. I got pregnant again right away, when my oldest was just 4 months old. I was terrified but so badly wanted to just live adult life already. We were poor and we struggled in many ways, but it wasn’t so bad at first. My oldest was the easiest, most happy baby in the world. Being his mom meant everything to me, but I had no idea though that life was about to seriously go downhill.

My next child was a difficult baby and I felt like a failure of a mom. I was only 17 and married with a toddler and an inconsolable infant. Life was hard and my husband was not helpful. We were just kids trying to be like grownups and we didn’t have the life tools yet to be successful. Add a few more years, a few more kids, an opiate addiction and alcohol abuse on his part, and then the death of our youngest… this was the perfect recipe for things to take a turn for the worse.

The abuse started out as mental and emotional. Calling me names, making me scared, telling my kids awful things about me (as they were just toddlers and preschool age). Then I endured horrible, ongoing sexual abuse that I won’t lay out the details of. Then he began trapping me in rooms, holding me down, shoving me. I had a few scary moments where I thought he was going to kill me. I’ll never forget scrambling across the rough concrete of my driveway on my hands and knees while drunk as he was turning his truck around in the yard to come after me. It was very rare for me to drink at all in those days, and to be inebriated and suddenly terrified of him was more fear than I would ever wish for anyone to feel.

I was isolated, I had no friends, and no close relationship with my mother. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn. To make matters worse, my now ex-husband lost his job and lost his CDL. We had no way to pay bills, and we were going to lose our house. We were going to have to move an hour away to move in with his family. I didn’t want to. My only option was to ask my mother for help. I was scared because she’d told me when I moved out at 16 that I would never be allowed to move back in. I asked anyway. I told her that he was abusive and that I wanted to get away. I asked if my children and I could move in until I got on my feet. Now, I don’t remember clearly if it was in this moment or another that she said it, but in my memory, my mother told me, “You’ve made your bed and now you have to lie in it.” Either way, this was her line of thinking and I was told no.

We moved and life went further downhill. The abuse got worse, the drug use was worse, and I was miserable. I was able to attend community college though and made a friend. I quickly came to trust her and opened up to her. I knew my life was bad and that I was on the verge of disaster. One day, I was sitting on my balcony telling my friend about whatever recent abuse was going on and she said something that would forever have an impact on my life. She said, “If in 20 years, your boys treated their wives like your husband treats you, how would you feel about that? Or what if in 20 years, your daughter’s husband treats her like your husband treats you?” I felt horrified even picturing it. She went on to say, “This is the example of what marriage is to your children. You are teaching them that this is okay.” I knew I had to change it.

This conversation was the beginning of the end. Shortly after, there was another fight. My husband was throwing furniture across the room. I was scared and my kids were scared. I tried to get them into the car to leave, but my husband disabled something in my car so that I couldn’t start it. For the first time, I had the courage to grab the phone. This time, a report was made. Not only was a report made, but the courts put a no contact order into place. I truly believe this saved my life. No matter how much my feelings softened over time apart and I began to miss the old good stuff, I was not able to have that order dropped. It gave me time to think and realize that this was my chance, it was time to get away from him.

While there is so much more to this story, the important part is where my friend had the courage to gently nudge me in the right direction. I didn’t suddenly change everything that day, but it made an impact on my life and forever changed our lives. If you are enduring abuse, this is me nudging you with my story. It doesn’t get better, abuse only gets worse. Please, seek help. These days, we have Google and there are infinite resources available at your fingertips. Reach out. It gets better when you get away.

Much love,
Moonshine Niki

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No Means No

I wrote this on the Moonshine Niki Facebook page a year ago today. I will never forever the event that happened the night before that made me feel so much fear for my own safety. I got myself out of that situation because I wasn’t going down without a fight, but I have no doubt that the guy that scared me so much felt he didn’t do much (if at all) wrong. 

Read it and know it, my friends.

Her Rapist’s Eyes

***Trigger Warning, I’m going to discuss sensitive topics including rape in this post. If that makes you uncomfortable, please do not read further.****

I was conceived in a prison. That’s right, you read that correctly. My life came into existence because my mom was incarcerated (unjustly in my opinion, but that’s another story) and my biological father was a prison guard. In short, I was conceived in rape.

There was no clear, out of the blue moment I remember being told this, it’s just something I’ve known my entire life. In fact, I do remember a moment when I was 5 years old that I wanted my mother to clarify for me what the word “rape” meant. It was understandably a confusing concept to me as I barely understood where babies even came from—and the only reason I knew that was because I was a very bright child and demanded to know how my sister got into my mother’s belly when I was 4.

Rape. It’s an ugly word. It puts a bad taste in one’s mouth. If you’re like me and it’s something you’ve endured yourself, it might be a word that makes your breath quicken and your heart race. If you’re fortunate enough to never have been closely impacted by this act, even then, it’s likely a word that makes you squirm in your seat a little. It’s no easy topic, but it’s one I feel has to be talked about for many reasons. One big one is because people (yes, people, not just women, not just children, all people) that have been victimized deserve to know that it’s okay to talk about it. There is healing in talking and telling one’s story. If we as a society walk around whispering it like it’s a dirty word, it makes it that much harder for those that have suffered to find peace. It’s not the “f bomb,” it’s real life; it doesn’t need censored.

Now, my mother has never been fond of talking about that time in her life and I understand that, but there came a point for me where I really started to question what had gone on and I wanted answers. This became especially true when I got married and my mom gave me my birth certificate and for the first time, she explained to me that I could not lose it. She told me that when paternity was established in court, my birth certificate was revised to add “him” to the father line, but when that happened, they (whoever “they” are) also changed my last name on the birth certificate from the one I was born with to his last name. She told me that she never went through the court system to change it back; therefore, if I lost my original and had to purchase a new one, it would have his last name. This really sparked my curiosity.

After that point, I started really considering finding him, but I was afraid. What all did he know about me? Did he want to know me? Did he have other kids? Did they all hate me because of my existence disrupting their lives? Would I be shunned? Would he ever face me? What if………?

When I started wondering these things, it was before the Internet was as easy to use as it is now. I started actively looking and calling phone numbers in 2002. I knew only his first and last name and a couple of states that he’d lived in over the years. I had no success and so it was put on the back burner for a long time after that, and yet, it was always in my mind still. 13 years passed before I decided to try something to find him again. I paid a private investigation company to find him. I gave them the details I did have, gave my debit card info, and then waited. Within days I had an email. I was given what the company thought was his address, the names, addresses, and Facebook account links  of his 3 children, and the phone number for his youngest child.

I immediately checked out his kids’ Facebook profiles in search of at least a picture of him. I couldn’t see much info, and so I started thinking about how I should reach out. Should I Facebook message them? Should I send a letter? Should I call? What should I say? And it was in that panic of not being sure of what to do that I let that info just sit for almost a year. It was only just over a week ago that I finally decided to just send off a Facebook message and see what would happen. I said:

“Hello, XXXX,

I hope you see this message in your “other” box. I’ve had your Facebook contact info for almost a year but I’ve been afraid to reach out. I’m looking for information (especially medical history) and hopefully some pictures of XXXXXX. He is my biological father, making you my half sister. I’ve never had any real info and I’ve been nervous to ask. I don’t want you guys to shun me or shut me out. I’m extremely nervous sending this, but figure tomorrows are never promised and I might as well try. Please feel free to contact me here or email me at XXXXXXXXXXXXXX..

Thank you.”

I sent the message knowing it would be difficult for them to see it because of the settings with messages from strangers, so when I knew the messages hadn’t been read by the time I’d left work that day, I knew I was going to use the one phone number and just call. I stopped by the liquor store and decided it was totally appropriate to have a shot of whiskey before taking a deep breath and dialing.

Two rings, “Hello?” I felt sudden panic and was shocked at someone actually answering an unknown number (I didn’t even know other people still do that these days).

“Hi, um, I’m not sure how to really say this, I don’t know if you’re aware of me; I’m XXXXX’s daughter.”

There was some shock on the other line and lots of “Um’s” in the middle. His son explained to me that he was indeed in shock, but aware of me and asked to call me back. I totally understood his being blindsided by this and told him to go ahead and process and call me back later.

“But wait, can you tell me really quick, is he still alive?”

“No, I’m sorry, he passed away last year.”

I cried. I started crying before I even got off the phone. I hung up and cried hard. I cried body shaking sobs over this information. I felt instant grief. Not grief over my loss as one would feel over the death of a parent he or she knew, but grief over this missing piece of my personal puzzle. Grief over the fact I never got to face him. I never got to ask him any questions. I never got to hear his side of the story. I never got to know if he was sorry for what he put my mother through or the impact it had on me. I never got to know if he was sorry that he never reached out to me. I never got to look into his eyes and ask anything at all.

I walked back into my house after I hung up and poured another shot and then stood in the kitchen just holding it and bawling. My poor teenage boys had no real idea what was going on. My children, whom are extremely connected to me and my emotions, jumped into action and immediately came to me. My oldest hugged me tight for a few seconds while I proceeded to cry harder. When he let go and I was still standing there doing the ugly cry, my younger son then came and grabbed me with such intensity, I was surprised, He held on even tighter while whispering comfort in my ear.

I was shocked at my own reaction. I had no idea I’d feel so intensely. I had no idea it would hurt me to my very core. I had had a feeling when I was driving home from work that night that I was going to find out he had already passed away as I knew he was in his late 70’s, but I was unprepared to hear it for certain. I literally cried without stopping for more than an hour. Then, for the next several hours, I cried at the drop of a hat. And just when I thought I’d pulled myself together, my biological brother called me back.

We talked for 30 minutes and in that first phone call, I could tell that I liked him already. He was open, honest, and tender. He told me facts I’d been wanting to know my entire life. He told me that he thought that his (our) father had had an affair with my mother. We discussed how even if it was consensual (a claim my mother adamantly denies, and I believe her), the law is very black and white on this topic. When being employed as a prison guard, it is illegal to have a sexual relationship with an inmate. Much like a “willing” teenager with an adult, it is considered rape, and for good reason. It was then that he told me something that was incredibly dear to me; he told me that no matter what the circumstances were, he was embracing our newfound relationship and that he is there for me. I then cried some more.

That night on Facebook I wrote, “Those moments. . .those moments that knock the air from your lungs. . .the moments that punch your heart with the force of a Mack truck. . .the moments that hurt so intensely you don’t know when you’ll come up for a breath between sobs. . .I hate those life moments. I feel a MAJOR blog post coming on.” That blog post I spoke of is this here.

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In the time that has passed since that first day, I’ve had so much on my mind. I can’t help but think about what my mother went through. My heart hurts for her. I can’t imagine it’s easy for her knowing that I’ve reached out to his family. I know that she just wants me to have peace. I can also imagine that me revealing what I’ve done to get in contact with them has probably also brought up old feelings for her. Unfortunately, I don’t really get to know what she is thinking and feeling because we’re not very close and we don’t talk much.

Because of the situation surrounding my conception, we never bonded like normal mother and child. She remained in prison after I was born and I went off to foster care. The first 2 years of my life are something I know almost nothing about. But even once my mother was “free,” she was never really free. She endured hell and then had a child to take care of in the center of that. I love my mom, but her entire situation was damaging and had an impact on everything about me. The foundation I had in life set me up for failure–and oh boy have I failed (there are plenty of old and future blog posts about that, so I’ll skip over that here). But I don’t blame my mom. She lived through a really shitty situation and she came out of it the only way she knew how to. She chose to give me life even when the prison tried heavily to convince her to have an abortion. She kept me and later told me that it didn’t have to matter that I was conceived in such a manner, I could be just hers. Sadly, it did matter, it still does, and it will matter the rest of my life.

Through all of this though, I have a newfound respect for my mom. One of my first requests of my brother was to see pictures of “him.” I was simply curious to know what he looked like. Because I look so much like my mother, I never thought there would be any physical resemblance. Within a couple days, my brother sent me some emails with several pictures. I was totally unprepared, and when I opened an obviously old photo of his wedding, I found myself staring at a male version of my own face. It took my breath away and tears again sprang to my eyes (for like the millionth time in the last couple weeks) because I was looking at my own eyes in this old photograph. Once I’d gotten over the initial shock, I again thought of my mother. This woman, this incredibly strong woman, raised me as best as she could, she loved me, and she disciplined me–all while looking at a child, her child, who has her rapist’s eyes.

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Side note: When I started writing this blog post two weeks ago, it was meant to be about “him” and I. It’s turned into a complicated post, but more about my mom than anyone else. My mom is exactly where I get my strength from. She is where I’ve gotten my independence, my strong will, and my courage. Ladies and gentlemen, my mother is a regular badass, and I’m proud to call her my mom.

Thrivin’ Survivor, That Is Me

*Repost from old blog site*

You’d think that knowing that I am strong, plus surviving some of the hardest things one could experience in life would automatically make me fearless, right? Wrong.

I’m facing a breakup. Lord knows that isn’t easy. After almost 3 years of dedication, 2 sets of children, and 1 combined household, I’m pretty much dreading “the talk” happening. How is that though? How is that so scary when I have been through so much—and survived?!

I’ve been sexually abused multiple times since I was a kid. I have had children as a teenager, gotten married a week after I turned 17 to a man that turned into a raging, abusive drug addict, and endured several years of mental, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse during that marriage. I have watched my then husband overdose, almost die, and recuperate—only to watch it happen all over again. I have battled chronic pain more than half my life that is at times crippling. I have held my infant daughter as her life support was turned off and she took her last breath, battled CPS, and pieced my life back together after meth. I have gotten through being homeless, jobless, and broke. I have battled court systems. I have battled people that wish me harm. And I have battled my own inner demons.

Nothing quite feels as terrifying as one’s husband hitting her in a rage, making her fear and know her life is in danger. Nothing feels as heartbreaking as laying one’s child on a hospital bed and turning away knowing one will never get to pick her baby up again and smell her scent, feel her warmth, nurture her at her breast, or hear her sweet cry again. Nothing is as hard as having to fight for one’s children against a government agency with a vendetta. And yet, I’ve been through all of that and survived and come out on top. I’ve not just survived, but I have thrived!

Even with that being the short list, I’m reading back over it and now sitting here wondering, how the hell am I afraid of a little breakup??? I need to just face it head on. Ready, set, go. 3, 2, 1, takeoff. Get it done, woman. There’s no way in hell that this is what suddenly breaks me! I am STRONG! I am powerful! I am woman—HEAR ME ROAR!!