|Publisher:||Morgan James Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.50(d)|
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The Bad Gene
The year was 1985. Mom, Dad, me, and my older two brothers Chad and Derrick packed in tight in front of Grandma's fireplace for a family photo. Back then, we appeared a normal family as far as the eye could see. The trouble with this "normalcy" is that it was superficial. People can look pretty and neat on the outside, but on the inside it may be a complete different story. Little did our family know, this seemingly perfect image would soon be torn jaggedly apart. Events to come would rip through each of us. One by one, we would each face our own trials, and in one way or the other, we would each be harshly affected by one major culprit that lurked within us.
Drinking was in the blood. But this didn't sink in until its stain afflicted me. At first, the stain was faint, but after a while the bleeding would not stop. And at first, I didn't fit the profile. I was a cheerleader and a stellar student; a teacher's pet at times. My father drank Crown Royal but always managed it. My mother didn't drink in her humble beginnings. But things would change. At some point, I became aware of half-empty bottles stashed in bathroom cabinets and began witnessing outlandish mood swings from Mom. I guess no matter how you put it, for some who are bitten by this ferocious disease, it's tough to suck out the poison, and scars often remain. Some are deeper than others, and some remain hidden.
I was six years old when Mom and Dad divorced. Divorce seems commonplace in today's broken world, and happy endings seldom follow. My siblings and I were all impacted by our parent's divorce. Rumors circulated of how Dad drank plentifully after the split. They say he had a tough time, that he was deeply depressed and hid out for a while. True or not, things slowly got better for him. Life went on eventually. My mother became the hard case. Although she moved on and remarried, a chain of events soon occurred that would forever change who she was, making it tough to pinpoint the catalyst of her change.
Most people would call my mom beautiful. Luxurious, long, blond hair. Bright, shiny blue eyes surrounded with dark, thick lashes. She was homecoming queen for the class of '69 at Tonkawa High. She wore the title well and resembled Brigitte Bardot. But she stood out for another reason. Even more distinguishable about her was the beautiful person who resided within. Satisfyingly sweet, giving, and big-hearted — with every inch of her small frame, she loved graciously. She was truly an angel. And Dad thought so too. So, in 1970, he married his high-school sweetheart. They had a shotgun wedding and had three children together thereafter, each five years apart. Derrick, Chad, and myself.
Mom was artistic, too. She painted spectacular landscapes, representative of God's great earth. Old-fashioned barns lying in green, spacious pastures of the countryside, trees speckled in soft colors of the fall, all blended together perfectly by her smooth, angelic hand at the brush. While she looked like an angel, she received her wings and soared high when she was fast at work on her canvas. Her paintings brought life to crisp autumn or snowcapped mountains in the dead of winter. She loved to paint God's naturalistic scenery in all its splendor. The paintings were as much a part of her as words are to a writer or a tune to a songwriter. Her art completed her, and God revealed Himself through these beautiful paintings, just as He did through her soft, delicate features and kindhearted soul. God's presence embraced her as He does us all, but her work and her beauty made it so obvious to the naked eye.
But life wouldn't always be easy for her. One cold, dreary morning, Mom ventured out on her twenty-mile drive to work. It had snowed steadily the day before, and the roadways were not completely clear. Suddenly, as she crossed a bridge in her yellow, two-door Mustang convertible, she hit a patch of black ice. She lost control of the compact car, and it flew off the side of the overpass, tumbling seventeen feet to the ground below. The crushed car landed right-side-up with the soft top caved in, leaving Mom stranded in the jumbled wreckage. Rescue personnel had to use the Jaws of Life to free her shambled body.
Mom's best friend Vicki quickly came to my first-grade classroom at Washington Elementary. She cut to the chase. "Sweetie, your mom's been in a car wreck." How else do you break the news to a six-year-old? That is all I remember of that terrifying moment. The only thing more frightening was seeing her bruised, broken body in the dark, cold ICU room. I placed my tiny fingers around her bloodstained hands, and she squeezed my hand as best she could. I hoped, of course, that Mom would be okay. Sadly, things never seemed to be the same again. Not only for her, but for all of us.
Recovery progressed slowly as expected for someone in her condition. The accident wreaked havoc on her back and neck, and she sported a back brace for a year thereafter. The year of the accident was the same year Mom and Dad got divorced. Even still, life progressed, and Mom found herself knee-deep in love again with a pilot named George. Mom and George got married, and I lived with them. George started out flying small airplanes in Ponca City, Oklahoma. He was tall, dark, and handsome. Those features only masked the demons that eventually made their way out.
The abuse came out of nowhere — completely unexpected. Like a raging bull, he stampeded through our lives, making it hard to recall any good from my childhood. Abuse is indeed a powerful element, and I learned a lot from that time in our lives. Images of George relentlessly beating my mother — and her fighting back the best she knew how — remained fresh in my mind for a long time. I have since chosen to block out those stark images. They are of no use to me anymore; I revisit them only in an effort to help someone else.
When I was eleven years old, George got a job with Continental Airlines and was transferred to Oahu, Hawaii. Although the abuse hadn't stopped, Mom and I moved with him. My brothers remained with Dad in our hometown, Tonkawa, Oklahoma.
Now we were stuck with the violent attacks, miles away from home. We were essentially deserted on an island with no place to escape. The cycle of George's abuse continued. We lived in Aiea, Hawaii, in a pink apartment complex. It was very pretty on the outside, but that was overshadowed by the ugliness inside apartment 306. Loud screaming matches shook the building. One particular day, I broke down. I couldn't take the fighting anymore. But there was nowhere to turn but up.
I buried my head in my tear-soaked pillow and cried out to God. "Please, please, make it stop! Help us, God!" Although the situation did not get instantly better, I knew He was with me. And He carried me through that moment.
That summer George's son Tom came to visit. Tom and I stood in the living room, listening to George banging Mom's head up against the shower. She was screaming frantically. Tom began to laugh. I was now just as disturbed about him as I was his dad. So many times through that summer, I tried reaching for the phone, but George instantly threatened me. Finally during one episode, I did call the cops, but George slammed down the phone. They came later that day, but Mom told me to tell them everything was fine. Mom's drinking became obvious somewhere around this time. I went to third grade in Hawaii for almost a whole year before we returned home to Oklahoma.
How or why, God only knows, but two summers later, Mom and I were off to the Big Island again, this time without George. Nonetheless, trouble still lurked around every corner as we were often without a home and without money. I recall Mom drinking and acting crazy this time. What had become of her? Was the car wreck to blame for all this outlandish behavior? Or was it the abuse? Perhaps it was a combination of the two? I don't know, but one thing is for sure: The alcohol only hastened her demise.
As we left for Hawaii that summer, Dad mourned my departure. It was a bright, sunshiny day outside, but inwardly our hearts were pouring rain. Grandma picked me up at Dad's house in Tonkawa to take me to the Tulsa airport. As I loaded my belongings in the car, Dad put his head up against the Buick LeSabre and began to cry. Once again, his little girl was leaving him to reside so far away. That was the first time I ever saw him shed a tear.
Part of that summer, Mom and I lived with a guy named Roberto. We came and went from that house frequently. He was an odd duck. One evening, as darkness invaded the house, I crept toward the kitchen, only to find Mom sitting on a chair in the middle of the living room, her pretty head tilted back with a bottle to her lips. She was chugging. Something was obviously wrong. But I never knew specifics — perhaps I wouldn't have understood. I did know, however, that I wanted to go home to Dad's, in Oklahoma. I hadn't even talked to Dad for the whole summer. Then, finally it was a few days before school started, and he called out to Hawaii to ask if I was coming home. I was happy when my return was arranged.
Threats of a hurricane on the island stalled my flight home, but the threat quickly dissipated, and I was on my way. I arrived back home to Tonkawa one day late for sixth grade — but I made it! My second day of school, I was still shook up from the whole frightening experience. Friends remarked, "I bet that was nice getting to live in Hawaii for the whole summer." I remember thinking quite the opposite! But I kept my mouth shut. Who would understand?
After Hawaii and throughout my teen years, I lived with Dad in Tonkawa. Mom continued to move around a lot, and after my junior year of high school, she vanished altogether; our family couldn't find her. That part of her life remains a mystery, and that's the way it's meant to be. Mom was fighting her own battles. She re-occurred at my high school graduation, though. She would win the battle in the end, but not the way we expected. She won the way that God wanted; and God knows best. He wanted to take her out of the pain she was in, to a better place. I only wished that I could have been more help to her. I will always remember the time Mom and I shared in Hawaii, although it wasn't always the best of circumstances. For a brief moment in time, we connected.
I share with you this part of my story to show how drinking can be a family affair in addition to being a disease. I hope to help you understand that, to everybody's story, there just might be a reasoning for how they behave. It's called "learned behavior." The solution is that we simply need to educate each other. We must be aware that our actions greatly affect others, especially our children. The wreckage of abuse, drugs, and alcohol can cripple children and loved ones for years. I am living proof of that. But I am also here to proclaim that life goes on! And it can get better! I could not imagine back then ever living fearlessly, or even being happy, for that matter.
I love my mom. She was a beauty, inside and out. Why that set of circumstances happened to her, I'll never know. Like with many of life's curveballs, it's not meant for me to understand. But I can learn from it. What misery she must have been facing while here on earth. Who knew I would be next in line to face the same misery that brought her down from what she once was. My older brothers were consumed by alcohol and drugs as well. One by one, the drinking took us all down. But for all of my siblings, that same misery would be our greatest blessing, and we would recover. And ultimately, Mom had it better than us — she escaped it all and moved to heaven.
Mom died in 2006, from cancer. Her body could no longer withstand this cruel earth. There were better things in store for her up above. A better place awaited her in heaven, and she was ready. Now she could be happy again. And for that, I am happy. Her words still ring true to me today: "Dreams are what we're made of, and I'm working on yours." Indeed, she is.CHAPTER 2
A Social Affair
In high school, I was determined to be my best. Being exposed to violence andamissing mother throughout my teen years had made me tough. I did not feel the need to rebel at first; rather I felt the need to excel. I would stay in my room many nights studying exhaustively for tests. Journaling, writing — soaking in anything to further advance myself. My major downfall was my need to please others. I liked people and wanted to please them. I tried to make everyone happy, at my own expense. I had no boundaries, and I was yet unaware of my acquired alcoholic gene. In my life, my family, my hometown, alcohol was accepted and overlooked as any potential life-threatening illness. But I was specifically chosen by God for a unique position. In the end, the Almighty One is glorified. And at our life's conclusion, that is all that matters. The devil may use alcohol and drugs as deadly weapons, but God is greater.
My first drink consisted of a wine cooler. Harmless, you might think. But the simple act of drinking that wine cooler would prove the killer. I was easily deceived by the need to fit in, a common problem of many teenagers. I fell prey to curiosity, peer pressure, the need to feel accepted. But I was the odd duck. I had a gene just waiting to bud. All it needed was a little feeding. Still unaware that I had acquired this gene, I went on tempting the poisonous snake. It soon spat its venom at me and reached out earnestly for its prey; it would stop at nothing to possess me. From then on out, the only effective source of help would come from God Himself, at which point the master plan would be revealed.
Witnessing violence and abuse as an adolescent forced me to grow up early; my innocence was destroyed. This could have worked to my benefit — but when it came to peer pressure, I gave in every time. The older crowd intrigued me, and I was introduced to new adventures such as booze cruising. I soon became another face in this unruly crowd. At the time, I thought the escapades were harmless. But my desire to please people was soon overshadowed by my need to feed the hunger. Twelve- packs of Bud Light became thirty-packs; dirt roads became an escape to ease my weary mind. Cruising intently down the sandy roads, we would blare our favorite Def Leppard tune, chugging beer after beer and singing at the top of our lungs; "Pour some sugar on me!" But when it rains, it pours; and these old tracks would soon become covered in mud and cracked beyond repair.
And so the party continued. As a high-school cheerleader my junior year, I became a regular partygoer. I cared more about the bottle than boys. Awkwardly shy at first, I entered the room with my black miniskirt and long, brown hair, beer bottle in hand. I was ready to blend in with the others, so the tippling began. After a few toddies, the shyness dissipated. I was now suited up with confidence. But it was a fake sense of confidence, blanketing the miles of insecurity road mapped inside. Soon life's big party replaced extracurricular activities and began taking precedence over everything. And the great fall began.
Despite many wild nights with the drinking crew, my life and my license were spared. After a while, I could handle my own — in other words, I could drink a load of booze. In one instance, my best friend Carrie and I stopped on a dirt road to finish off our gallon of Jose Cuervo. We had Aerosmith cranked up and oozing out the windows. Steven Tyler was singing, "Crazy." There couldn't have been a better song to fit the moment. We managed to finish off the Cuervo, and then I went blank. I blacked out. My last recollection was flipping cartwheels across the dirt road, assuredly falling on my face. Petite Carrie carried me into her grandmother's house.
"You threw up in your sleep; I turned you over," was the first thing Carrie said when I woke up. "I told Grandma you ate something bad," she went on. If Grandma would have known how bad, how dangerous some of these drunken splurges were, perhaps the pursuit of recovery would have started much earlier. Sadly however, for many alcoholics and addicts, the pursuit of recovery never occurs because the need for help is never exposed. Some hide it. Others are unsure it's a problem. Others, family included, are in denial. And some enjoy sugarcoating. The lucky ones who escape death may only wake up when they hit the bottom. Although everybody's bottom is different, it is in this pit where many victims finally cry out. Their plea for help and perhaps their desire to quit is the strongest, the most elevated at that point. I would soon reside in this dark place, but I would first travel though many more diverted paths. And although the decisions I made were my own, these mind-altered thoughts were highly encouraged by a deep, dark side that came out to play with just a single thirst of alcohol.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Anonymous No More"
Copyright © 2015 Alisa Massey.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
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