Don’t judge a book by its cover and my relationship with my dad…

In the past few days, I have been watching documentaries, interviews, and movies about Michael Jackson and his life. His dad was abusive towards him and he grew to be intimated and extremely fearful of him. He was such a great guy and very talented. When you are younger you just listen to the music for the music. You never think about the person or their story. His story has prompted me to share some experiences I had with my dad. I can say this, I was allowed to call him dad unlike Michael…his dad made him call him by his name (Joseph). My dad wasn’t as extreme, but with me being female and emotional it seemed that way. I never had a relationship with him and I have forgiven him for his actions towards me. So, now I have the freedom to share my thoughts. I’m sorry if I offend him, but this is my truth. He was a carpenter by trade and he and my mom were married at a very young age. I think with his upbringing he had it ingrained in him that men were very superior to women. When I was a small child I remember him coming home with sawdust on him and I would untie his work boots for him. I wanted to do it and that memory was a bond I felt with him. I don’t know if it was a gradual thing, but my memories after that were just of him being drunk all the time. He worked very hard, but after work he would hang out with coworkers and they would drink. One time I remember my mom helping him get in the house because he was so drunk. This really didn’t bother me then, it was a way of life I thought. During those times, I attended a great school with great teachers. They didn’t just teach.. they loved their students. My mom also took us to church and I had plenty of exposure to good Godly things like camp, VBS, and other things associated with the church. That was a blessing, but I don’t remember the church being as legalistic as I found it to be when I became an adult. Anyway, I think all of that good exposure made up for anything he was doing at the time. As time went on I remember an instance that maybe there was infidelity in the marriage. I was in their bedroom and my dad just started beating the crap out of my mom. He blacked her eyes and next thing I knew we were at a friend’s house. Then, there was an instance when a lady he was friends with came to the door and told my mom he had been shot while at a bar. He was okay but in the hospital. After all this happened, my mom and dad eventually got a divorce. Sometimes I would go to visit him at his parent’s house. I hated it. It was cold in that house and I had to sleep with him. I don’t remember a lot about his parents. I remember a big bowl with a ladle and drinking water out of it. I don’t really remember anything else about my time there.  At the beginning of adolescence or a short time before that I was a big fan of roller skating. I spent a lot of time at the rink. My parents or someone would drop me off and I would skate my heart out. I would go to “all night skates” and I had a lot of fun. I was starting to experience with boys so you might find me in a corner making out. Anyway back to my dad, I remember coming home one night and walking in on my dad having relations with a younger lady. I was so angry at him. I pitched a fit as I usually did any time my parents had relations with other people. I hated that! By the time I started drinking I think everyone in my family was drinking which made it easier for me. I was in middle school and once I drank that was it. I was hooked because it was my escape and it made me feel relaxed and “confident.” I always did whatever I wanted especially when I was with my dad. I had a couple of friends I always hung out with and he would smoke pot with them while we drank.  He was very laid back and talkative when he was drinking, but when he wasn’t I didn’t like being around him. He was very sullen, angry, and always had this look on his face that made me uneasy. It got to the point that I only wanted to be around him while he was drinking. I would usually just get money from him and go my way. I’m pretty sure he wanted it that way, too. He gave me anything I wanted. When he was sober he would be upset if I was drinking, but when he was drinking he didn’t care if I was. I started getting very wild  by the time I was about 16ish. Drinking had become a way of life for me and it really started changing me. Some of my friends drank, but I found myself getting up in the mornings drinking to get rid of hangovers. My dad and I both got DUI’s and went to DUI school together. He would come see me when I was in jail or rehab, but he never realized he needed to be there worse than I did. One time  I spent a few nights with my boyfriend and when I got home he whipped me with a belt. I didn’t understand that because he didn’t seem to care what I did when he was in a drunken state. I became very rebellious. I just acted on impulse with everything. The worse I acted the more disgusted I felt his looks became. I had no self-worth; my behavior was very self- destructive. If I ever called my parents out on how they were acting they would always turn things around on me like I was the  one with the problem. That made me internalize more negative thoughts about myself. One time I told my dad he hurt my feelings about something; all he could say was “thanks for making me feel like shit.” I never told him how I felt again. Thankfully during those times I had a few adults that made me feel accepted. Since I have become an adult I have reached out to them with cards and letters to thank them. I felt like they saw something good in me even though I couldn’t see it at the time. My mom tried more than my dad to help me, but she couldn’t. She partied some and had relationships with men and I hated that.  I was very protective of her and we clashed a lot. She always felt like I was doing things to get attention and maybe a part of me was, but looking back why wouldn’t I? I think a part of me was, but the bigger part of me was just sick of them and angry.  I was a kid. I felt like I had no one that understood how everything happening was making me feel. Anyway, me and my dad never had a healthy relationship. Fast forward to 2010, I am a married adult with 3 children and fate has it to where me and my family live with him. He is still an alcoholic and smokes pot. He still has the same angry disposition when he is sober. I am still very much intimidated by him except I am 11 years sober and 41 years old. I had given my addiction to God, was on a new path and had experienced miracles in my life. I was taught to believe in God, but at this time I knew God was very real to me. However, living with my dad was very hard. When he came home drunk he would talk and be nice, but the next day he was the same angry person. The whole time I lived there I felt like a huge dark cloud was in my brain. I couldn’t escape the child in me that had become so intimidated and fearful of him. I still felt like he was disgusted with me. I thought it was because maybe he had been taught that a woman is “less” than a man, but I would see him interact with female cousins or other females and he was nice. At one point, I tried to make amends with him and take responsibility for my actions as a teenager. He just shot me a look and pretty much said that my kids was the only good thing I did. My dad is very prideful and likes to be right especially about religion. A few years before we moved in with him he found out that I made my peace with God and was attending church. He started coming at me hard with his religious beliefs. He would tell me I was going to the wrong church and what I was being taught was wrong. If the subject or anything about God was brought up he would become very angry. It got so bad that one time I just got in the closet and prayed that God would help me. I prayed He would let me know what I was experiencing with Him(God) in my heart was right. Well, God did that in a special way so I would know I was okay. Our preacher at the time, (Rich) called right after I prayed. He said he felt compelled to call. I just broke down on him I was so hurt by my dad. During the time that I lived with him I became very depressed and burdened. Even though I was surrounded by a husband and children that love me dearly, I also had become “religious” myself and was experimenting with fasting. My perception of God was very distorted and I felt like I had to do so many religious things to be right with him. It got so bad that it broke me and I got in some realm of what I thought was spiritual and it landed me in an institution. I was struggling with a lot of mental and emotional issues.  It was in that hospital that I received a big breakthrough in my life. It was 2012, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (this disorder is characterized with religious tendencies or whatever you are deeply involved in at the time) and I had Major Depressive Disorder. The medication not only saved my life; it changed my life. It gave me a lot of insight on some of my past behavior and the years I was drinking I was self-medicating. I also found out that my dad’s mom had mental illness and had been hospitalized more than once. Unfortunately, back then they didn’t have the medications and treatment as they do now. For those of you that are skeptical of mental illness educate yourself. You would take insulin if you had diabetes and the brain is an organ, too. Mine is sick not “crazy’ and I don’t have time for people like you anyway sorry. Even though I was finding ways to mange my illness and continuing to get better each day my relationship with my dad didn’t change that much. We continued to live with him until October 2017. My dad started attending church a couple of years ago. He has changed A LOT  He still has an occasional drink and stuff which I believe he is self-medicating for a mental illness. I am not a Dr. though. As of today, he has softened up as a person. I think that happened during the time my daughter was very ill and the severity of that shook him up a lot. I don’t know my dad really. I know  he is a very hard worker and he helps people out if he can. He has always helped me out and given me things; that was his way of showing me love I guess. My brother told me one time I should talk to him and get to know him. I feel like that came easy for him because he never lived around him or with him like I did after the divorce.  He never developed the fear or intimidation I had regarding my dad and he wasn’t a female. I still think my dad is clueless to how his actions affected me. I am okay with that now. I have come to realize that even though I felt like I was treated unfairly I had made idols out of him and my mom. I never saw them as two imperfect people and I didn’t realize I was starving for their approval. I felt different than everyone else especially my brothers who I felt had their approval. I am SO thankful I no longer feel the need for their approval. I am confident enough in who I am as God’s child. Since we moved away from him I have never felt so much freedom. I have embraced myself more than ever. I have really grasped that God fully accepts me and there is NOTHING I can do to change that. He has shown me that Jesus in me is perfect and I never will be. I don’t have to be religious or fulfill religious duties to make Him love me any more or any less. He loved me all along, all my life He was there, and all He ever wanted from me was for me to trust that He loved me. He loves everyone that way including my dad. It took a lot of retraining my brain and I still have setbacks, but now I am secure in His unconditional love for me. I never felt that from my parents because of the way I reacted to life and dealt with things, but I know that each of them have their own stories. They were brought up in a different time than me and had stuff ingrained in them as well. I never really heard their stories in depth, but I do know I have accepted them for who I think they are inside. They are good people. They were just doing the best they knew at the time. I believe everything I have been through has made me who I am today. I am thankful for all my blessings and mistakes. I call my dad sometimes and we talk about stuff. It’s a very “surface” relationship, but it’s okay. Sometimes I think about how him and my mom were raised back then and how their generation probably just told them to suck it up and move on if life hits you hard. That’s not who I am though. I have always been a sensitive person. I feel things deeply. I cry when I am sad and I feel my emotions. I like deep relationships and for people to bare their souls, but that’s just me. I am not telling my story to shame my family or my dad, to get sympathy, or attention. I tell my story because that’s the way I do things. I like to be real about my life and I hope someone is helped by things I have overcome and that they receive light and hope from it.  People may hurt you, they may leave you, or “disown” you, but God never will. He is always there. He is there in your pain and He is there in your happiness as well. In closing, PLEASE try to learn as I am….do not judge people…”do not judge a book by it’s cover or by the chapter you walked in on” (anonymous). Everyone has a story.

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