Forgiving my father

A little over a year ago, I was told by my half-sister that my father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Even though he had abused me and made my life so difficult, I wasn’t happy to hear the news. I really wasn’t sure what to do with the information. Should I call him and try to make amends before he passed? Should I do nothing? What should I do? I mulled it over for a couple of months and still couldn’t come up with anything.

I called my dear, and very wise friend Gabriel and talked with him about it. He knew that even though I said I forgave my father, I was really nowhere near forgiving him. Gabe said that when Jesus was nailed to the cross, he had the opportunity to have God bring His wrath on those who had put him there. Instead, Jesus said, “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Gabe went on to say that my father couldn’t have known what he was doing, or he would have never done it. He said, “Kelly, your father wasn’t in his right mind. No father in their right mind would do that to his child.”

Later that night, as I was getting ready for bed, I kept thinking about what Gabriel said. I knew he was right, but again, I just didn’t know what to do with the information. As I layed my head on my pillow, I suddenly started thinking and repeating these words in my head, “God, forgive my father because he didn’t know what he was doing.” Over and over I repeated the words until I fell asleep.

The next morning, I felt a new and wonderful sort of calm come over me. From that day on, I didn’t feel anymore anger towards my father. God listened to me and forgave him. He also helped to remove the anger and resentment from me that I had been carrying around so long. I honestly felt like a new woman.

Three months later, my father died. When I found out, I was at peace with it. I didn’t have any unresolved problems with him, so I was able to just let it go. I don’t know if my father asked for forgiveness before he died, but that’s between him and God. I know that what I did is what saved me and that’s all that matters. It was between me and God.

Forgiveness isn’t easy, believe me. I carried around so much anger for so long, but I’m so happy that I was finally able to move on. What’s funny is that I didn’t forgive my father on my own, I asked God to forgive him. I will never forget what he did to me, but at least now I’m able to heal myself knowing that I don’t have to carry the burden of anger with me everyday.


Finding the real me

As I was going through the process of really working on how the abuse affected my life, I wrote this entry about being vulnerable and finding the real me. Because I’m in the process of writing the book, I will be posting blog entries I’ve made in the past as a means of connecting to those who are still struggling with their survival.

originally posted Sun, 21 Nov 2004

* * * * * * * * *

I’ve been sitting at this keyboard for some time now, trying to figure out how to start this entry. I have so much in my head but I’m not sure what to say. I’m angry, and sad, and depressed, and frustrated, and lonely, and afraid. I’m also hopeful that things will be okay.

I need to deal with my hidden pain. It’s hard to describe, but it’s as if I am 100 different people all trapped in the same body. No, I don’t have multiple personalities. I have just always felt as if I NEEDED to be 100 different people just to make it through life. I don’t know who I am anymore.

When I look in the mirror, it’s not me I see. I see some other woman “pretending” to be me; the face I’ve borrowed for the day. Sometimes I think I see glimpses of me, but I’m not really sure. Sometimes the me I see is ugly and angry and evil and mean. Sometimes the me I see is pretty and sexy and confident and kind. I truly have no idea if any of those images is me at all; maybe they are and I’m choosing to ignore it. Maybe I’m seeing parts of myself that I don’t like and those are the traits I need to change.

When I look at pictures of myself as a child, I don’t recognize, at all, the girl in the photographs. I know I’ve written before about my memory loss, but it’s just so hard to deal with. I really hate not remembering. I especially hate the feeling of not being in my own body, in my own skin. I wish I could ask the girl in the photographs what it was like to be her. I just want to remember again. I guess that’s why I don’t recognize myself now – I have no reference point.

I also know that my memories may be too painful to bear and that’s why they are lost. My cousin once said that she didn’t even remember me being around for family functions, etc. even though the photographs show me there. She said that maybe God was carrying me then because I couldn’t walk alone. It’s very comforting for me to believe that.

I’m not sure where to go from here. How do I find out who I really am? And what if I don’t like the person I see? It’s all so scary but so necessary. I can’t keep living this life and feeling as if it’s all a big lie. I need to find myself and my meaning in life.

I am not a victim. I am a survivor.

When I was 15

A row of dingy trailers lined the hot and dusty street in what was the bad part of town. Drug dealers, prostitutes and their “Johns” inhabited this place. Gone were the families with pleasant homes and yards and bicycles leaning against mulberry trees.

When I was 15, I used to visit my bio-dad there. He was the proud proprietor of one of the many businesses that sold sex to tourists and locals, alike. Bio-dad ran a stable of about seven girls, all skinny and missing teeth. The girls wore a variety of dirty lingerie meant to entice. When a customer came in, they would prance around and show their wares. Smile, touch a breast, make a date. Bio-dad sat close to protect his assets by any means necessary.

When I was 15, bio-dad asked me to work for him. He tried to sell me the glamour and the money, but I knew better. One look at the other girls and I knew he was full of shit.

That was the first time I had the courage to say “no.” I said no to a man who had already killed someone for their refusal of him. I said no to a man who had spent the better part of my life raping and torturing me. I said no.

When I was 15, my life changed.

Can I talk to you as a friend?

— “Of course, we are friends.”

“Yeah, but we used to fuck and I don’t want that fact getting in the way.”

— “Of Course. What’s going on?”

“Well, I’m really struggling with my sexual addiction lately and I just don’t know what to do.”

— “How are you struggling?”

“I’ve been horny for days. I can’t stop thinking about sex and I joined one of those ‘adult’ sites where you can find other people with the same demons as you.”

— “Well, there’s nothing wrong with that. Have you met any of these people?”

“Yes. Just one, but I have plans to meet three others next week. What the fuck is wrong with me? I know that I’m potentially putting myself in dangerous situations, but I just feel as if I don’t have any control.”

— “You could say ‘no.'”

“Right. When have you ever known me to say no to sex? Remember, we used to fuck.”

— “Right, but you still have the power to say no whenever you want to.”

“That’s the hard part for me. I just crave the ‘connection’ so much. I crave the attention, and the feeling that someone wants me, and the rush of the danger I’m putting myself in. It’s like playing russian roulette everytime I meet one of these guys.”

— “You’re right and I do worry about that for you. You know I can hold your hand through this, right? I’ll be there whenever you need me.”

“I appreciate that so much. I mean it’s great that you’ll be there, but you can’t be there all the time. I need to learn to control this shit on my own. Fuck, I know what I should do, but it’s just so hard.”

— “What do you think you should do?”

“Instead of holding your hand, I should hold the hand of God. I need to reconnect with Him. I need to lean on Him for the strength I need. What sucks though is that the pull of the addiction is so strong and my mind is so fucked up about it, that it’s hard to take hold of His hand and just say ‘ok, guide me.'”

— “I understand that, but Kelly, if that’s what you believe will make things better, just have the faith that you can do it. You’re a strong woman and you don’t have to be defined by your addiction. Re-label yourself and let God take the reins in your life.”

“I know dammit, it’s just so fucking hard. I have to get my head on straight with what I’m doing. All I’ve ever known is sex. That’s how I connect to people. I know it’s the wrong way to do it, but I just haven’t discovered what else I’m good for.”

— “That’s a bunch of crap and you know it. Kelly, you’ve come so far in your life, after facing years of abuse, rape, divorce, death, etc. You are a strong woman and you can do it. Yeah, you’re afraid, but you’ve faced much harder and worse situations. What makes you think you can’t win this?”

“Maybe that’s all I think I have. Maybe I think I’m only good for sex. That no one will want me for anything else. I’m afraid of what I’ll be if I’m not a sex addict.”

— “Just take the ‘sex addict’ label out it for a minute and let’s see what we have. You’re a great mom, you run your own, very successful business, you’re a great friend, a great daughter, and you have talent coming out of your ass if you’d just take a minute and use it. You are a lot of other things that don’t have anything to do with sex.”

“It’s nice to hear. I guess I just need to start believing it myself.”

— “Yes you do. No offense, but quit acting like a fucking victim and get your shit together. You’re better than this but you’re letting fear guide everything right now. You’re letting the fucking asshole who molested you rule your life. You are better than that. Fuck, you piss me off sometimes.”

“Ha ha. I know. You’re right. Fuck I hate feeling weak and vulnerable.”

— “Vulnerable? What do you think you are everytime you go to meet some stranger you’ve met online? That’s vulnerable and just plain stupid.”

“Fuck you. I mean that in the most agreeable way possible, you know? Seriously, thank you for putting me in my place.”

— “You’re welcome. And fuck you, right back.”

Sometimes after talking to yourself, you realize you’re the best friend you have.

There is Hope

Those of us who have been abused as a child can either spend our lives being victims of the abuse, or we can go on to survive and become strong inspite of the abuse. I chose to survive.

Believe me, it wasn’t easy. I received therapy, cried a lot, had flashbacks, was angry, cried some more, then learned to cope. I’m doing pretty well, but still carry some of the baggage with me today. Certain scents, like a particular cologne, or the way a man’s hand is shaped will make me tense. The feeling goes away relatively quickly, but it’s still a reminder of what was done to me. I try not to let the abuse be the label I carry around with me because doing so lessens the work I’ve done and how far I’ve come in my battle to be free of it. 

I had to accept that I had no control over what was done to me, but I do have control over what I do with it. I had to be able to look myself in the mirror and know that it’s okay to be me, warts and all. And I did.

Yes, we are forever changed the second someone takes our childhood in their hands and betrays our trust, but there is hope for a better future. It just takes a little hard work and determination to not let them control you any longer.

You can do it. Don’t ever let anyone tell you any different.