It was all very confusing. I remember isolating on the playground, watching all the other children laughing and playing and smiling, and not feeling like I could relate at all. I felt different. I didn't feel as if I was one of them. Somehow, I thought, I didn't fit in."
This was the reading we based our shares off of in today's meeting. I was called on to share, and suddenly I found myself opening up in ways I hadn't anticipated. I went well past my 3 minutes, and still didn't get to share everything I wanted to or was feeling inside. So this is where I will share the rest.
I can remember second through 5th grade in elementary school. I'm not sure why I don't remember our house in Taylor, Michigan very well. I remember bits and pieces and even less of our house and life in Gibralter, MI. Unlike the story above, however, I do have a distinct starting place in mind where in my eyes, my life changed forever. I preface this by saying that although I do not remember the details, nor do I remember what happened that required us to uproot our lives in the middle of the night, I do remember my mom coming to wake my sister and myself up in the middle of the night. She only told us that we had to leave. When I asked her when we were coming back, she looked at me and said, "We're not, Tinks". As I sat in the back of my dad's Thunderbird as we pulled out of the driveway, I wondered if she was right. Would I never see my home again? (I never did) Could every part of my life simply be uprooted that easily? (I've learned time and time again since then that yes, your life can be pulled away from you over night.) I remember looking at my home for the very last time as we pulled out of the driveway and drove away to our "new life".
Since I don't remember too much about our next home, I'll skip that part (for now). In between finding a house in Taylor and our sudden upheaval overnight, we lived in a motel. My mother did her best to make it a game for us, so we wouldn't be scared. It must have been during the summer, as my sister and I didn't attend school the whole time we stayed in the motel. Every day my mom and dad would get up, we'd clean up the motel room and then my dad would go to work and my mom would load us into a car and we'd go house hunting. I remember looking at a few places with mom, two places in particular. One was a two story house. I was SO excited; the idea of living in a house with a staircase was exactly like something you would only see in the movies! I envisioned Christmas mornings; my sister and I running down the stairs to be greeted by our parents standing in front of a well-dressed Christmas tree with mountains of brightly colored and perfectly wrapped Christmas presents waiting for each of us.Looking up at my parents as I unwrapped my gifts and seeing the joy and love on their faces as they watched my sister and I open box after box of toys and clothes. I knew that this was the perfect house for my family, that if we moved in here, things could go back to how they used to be. Nope.
The second place I remember going to look at with my family was actually after we were already living in Taylor, and we were about to make our big move (although I didn't know it at the time) to Romulus, MI. I can only look at that double-wide trailer as a place of sadness now; too many horrible memories, fights, tears shed, my pleads to God that I thought had gone unanswered (I know differently now). Each day as my sister and I would walk home from the bus stop, our steps would get slower and slower and slower as we approached our home. Even worse, some days mom would be waiting for us at the end of the driveway. Funny, looking back now, I can see I always started to gauge how the evening was going to go based on the location of my mother. If she was on the porch having a cigarette and talking on the phone or if someone was there visiting her, we knew we were safe for a couple of hours. If we started walking home and saw that her car was not in the driveway, we would flat-out run to the house; we wanted to take advantage of the time she wasn't there and we did not want to waste a minute of it!
Ok, that was a bit of a tangent. I'll redirect myself so the rest of this entry pertains more to the passage up top. Everyone thought I was so weird; I LOVED school...every single part of it. When reading books about sleep away camps or schools that the kids stayed at, I was so envious, and would make believe that my bedroom was part of the campus and that I only took a bus to school because the campus was so large. From as early as second grade I can remember wishing for another life. Any life, as long as it was not my own. If I saw a TV show that had a big, loving family I would pretend what it would be like to belong to that family. What my life would be like if I could grow up with them. I'm not sure when I became aware of it, but I would soon realize that not everyone else grew up like this. And the moment I realized this, I became different from my peers. I was on the outside looking in, and without anyone telling me, I knew my home life was something I had to keep secret. If anyone knew, they would know what a terrible child I was. They would feel sorry for my parents for having to deal with me, wouldn't blame my mom for beating me and my sister almost every night. After all, if you had me for a child wouldn't you have done the same?
I never was able to identify that the feelings I had inside of me were ones of longing, jealousy, hurt, frustration...why did all the other kids have such an easy life? No one else counted the hours until it was time for them to return to school. No one else had to deal with my life...why? I didn't understand that I was feeling all this inside. All I knew was that I had to be great at school. Had to. It wasn't bad enough my sister and I would get yelled at if we brought home anything less than an A. But school was my safe place; if I didn't do well there, I felt as though I didn't have the right to be safe there. I had to earn my place. Of course, all of this manifested itself in various ways, but I ended up the social outcast. Made fun of very early on by my peers for being a "nerd, dork, freak, four eyes,poor kid, buck-toothed beaver"...you name it, the kids called me it. I took it, convinced that I was losing my special place at school. That slowly, just like at home, I was becoming a "bad kid" worthy of all this ridicule and punishment.
I was miserable from such a young age; but what I didn't realize was that all these pent up negative emotions inside of me was truly just a longing to fit in somewhere. I'm not sure where it was exactly I thought I belonged, but as early as second grade I knew it wasn't with this family. The isolation, lonliness, longing to be loved and valued by someone...I took all of that on as my own fault. If I could just "be a good kid", then my mom would love me. I would stop being the black sheep of the family.
I believe that that's why drugs and alcohol held such an appeal for me. From the minute I took my first drink or hit...feeling that welcoming warmth creep over me, it was the closest I'd ever felt to belonging somewhere. The people I was drinking or using with...they became my best friends. I didn't have to hide anything from them; they were just as messed up as I was. Soon, being high/drunk was the only way I felt comfort. I tried huffing, ODing on sleeping pills and allergy pills, pretty much any kind of drug you could think of as long as it would get me high. Alcohol produced the same effect. When I was drunk or high or "medicated", I could interact with others, try new things, not care what people thought about me. It was such a welcome feeling. I simply thought that this was how life was supposed to be. At least for me.
When I walked into the rooms, I looked around and immediately began sizing everyone up. I assumed because I was dishonest and still in active using, that so must be everyone else. This couldn't have been further from the truth. I went into the rooms to get my drinking and using "under control". What I found was a family and a program that would teach me how to live.
I'll close with this thought that I heard in today's meeting...something that really clicked with me and quite literally brought tears to my eyes. "I was the black sheep of my family, but when I walked into these rooms, I the rest of my flock".