You’ll never hear me say, “Oh I had such a terrible childhood.” That is so far from the truth. My sister and I grew up very privileged. We had everything and more. I can say that that privilege did come at a cost. My parents worked very hard (especially my mother) to keep us in a nice upper middle class home, to keep us in designer clothing and to pay for vacations.
When I talk about my childhood (late elementary school/junior high age) I normally say that my parents got into that late 80s/early 90s trap of working as hard as you can to make a lot of money to just spend it on things. They were suburban yuppies (you may want to google that if it was before your time). When you have a child whose primary love language is quality time and you work almost continuously disaster is inevitable.
This is the easiest part of my story to tell because I was young. It reminds my of the Maya Angelou quote “when you know better, you do better.” But as a mother of a 13 year old, this part of my story is the scariest.
Before I continue, I want to say that the “when you know better, you do better” quote also applies to my parents. I admit I’ve carried around years and years of bitterness towards the decisions they made while I was a child, but being a mother (of a teenager) I have fully understood grace. Even perfect parents have decisions that they wish they made differently. To to make one thing perfectly clear to you - I have zero plans to claim to be a victim of my parents decisions. The stories I am about to tell were things I DID - I had the ability to change my actions - I had the ability to take a different path in my life, but I did not. My parents did the best they could to maintain their lifestyle and raise two strong willed daughters.
I also have many great memories of my childhood, just not that many during my teen years, which I plan to share with you today, but they were still there. We still had family gatherings. I still hugged my daddy and he still loved me through all of this. My parents would have never wished this for their daughter, but I think they just did not have the tools to get me out of the mess I am about to share with you. And they hurt for me, my mother endured medical problems including a ulcer trying to get me through these years. Also, I will be sharing things today that they don’t even know about - so please pray for them as they read through this. I just want you to know (which you probably do) that I love my parents so much and forgiveness and grace comes as I heal from my teenage years.
It’s funny that I am deciding to share this at this time in my life. A time when quite a few of my close friends didn’t have sex before marriage (including my husband) and many more of my friends have had only one maybe two sexual partners. I’ve never had so many friends likes this - I think it’s the benefit of being surrounded with people who were raised with a strong faith. I’ve never wished I was someone more (and I know I shouldn’t think that way). I would love to understand that feeling of being with the same person you gave that precious gift to.
|Not the best picture since I had to cut out the boyfriend, but this is how young I was.|
I was fourteen when I gave my virginity away. Fourteen - it was the summer before I started High School. I was as mature as Shelby is today - that is frightening.
Before I get into how that feels and where that leads you in life, I want to share a little bit on how I got there. I am hoping if you have a teenage girl that maybe you’ll use these things as warning signs - oh my…I’ve become a warning.
When I was twelve a decision was made to move from North Texas to far South Texas. I say far because if you look at a map of Texas and find the furthest part at the bottom of the map, we moved just to the right of that. I was raised on South Padre Island and when I tell people that, they say “oh wow, that would have been a blast” to which a think “not really.”
Without going into all the details (not sure if I will later) I experienced what you might call reverse racism (forgive me if I am wrong with that term). I was a very fair complected, red haired girl in a very small school that was at least 95% hispanic. I stuck out like sore thumb and was reminded that every day. It got worse when boys started to notice me and I became the target of bullying due to the attention I was getting. When I was in the seventh grade an untrue rumor was spread about me performing oral sex to a classmate (in the seventh grade! My stomach hurts right now just typing that). It was so untrue, but it so gave me a reputation that I thought I had no way of repairing. I closed in - I hated school and after school I would stay in my room eating my feelings. I quickly gained a good twenty pounds which just added to my self esteem issues. I had a few friends, but those relationships just led to backstabbing and the normal junior high drama. I was so depressed. I remember thinking, I just want to go home (to North Texas).
Then it started to happen. I took what others were saying and started to believe it, all. I thought I was ugly, but boys thought I was pretty and that made me feel good. I believed the rumor about myself that I was “easy” so I started experimenting with sexually un-pure things. I quickly discovered that if I did things then boys want to hang out with me.They wanted to spend time with me and if you know anything about the Five Love Languages I was quickly having my love tank filled. But you see the thing is (and I’ve had these discussions with Shelby), no one really loves when they are thirteen. I was getting the attention that I so longed for at home, but it lead to nothing - to hurt.
That summer before high school, I started to believe Love Equals Sex. And since it did, me having sex with a guy would make him love me forever. If you are an adult reading this you know the error in my thinking and your heart is probably aching as much as mine is at this moment. If, by chance you are a teenager, let me tell you that outside of a committed marriage sex NEVER equals love. (also if you are a minor reading this please go talk to your parents now - this is something that needs to be talked out based on your family’s faith).
So I looked for love from boys. Which is an untrue statement. My first to sexual partners were legally adults while I was very much a minor. Four years is a big age difference when you are 14 and sleeping with 18 and 19 year olds (again, my stomach is hurting for that child).
I always know that I’m giving you all my soul when I have to stop and cry while writing. Man, these words are hard to type. I just want to hug that young child and tell her that she didn’t want to do this. That what she is doing would effect every relationship for the rest of her life. That even twenty-three years later it would be so hard to not associate sex with hurt.
Pretty quickly after starting to have sex, alcohol started. I remember being in Mexico when I was fourteen drinking - does that scare the mothers out there? I was stuck in a vicious cycle of needing to be loved, hoping my actions would cause love, not getting what I wanted and drinking to fit in (and to calm the pain). My girlfriends and I would skip school and spend the day cleaning out my parents liquor cabinet. My parents barely drank at the time so they didn’t notice that their vodka was water and the whiskey was Dr. Pepper. A trick I’d later use in high school as I drank to get through a day of school.
I entered high school in a town that about 30 minutes away from South Padre Island (where all of my bullying took place a year or two before). It was a good school for me, but I was still sexually active and drinking. Then a decision was made to move back to the island, back into the horrible school with the kids who already labeled me a “slut” years before. Let me tell you, they didn’t forget the redhead and that totally sucked.
As I ended my Freshman year in high school alcohol lead to drugs. What started out as smoking a little pot led to ecstasy, which led to acid, which led to cocaine which ultimately would lead to meth. Have you ever heard the story of the frog in boiling water? You see if you just try to toss a live frog in boiling water then he will jump out, but if you put in a pot of cold water and slowly increase the temperature he’ll never realize he is being boiled. It’s crazy how quickly it happens, but it is so slow that you can’t see how fast you are falling. (Am I making sense?) I know in my heart if you asked that 14 year old girl if she would be a drug addicted by the age of 16 she would say no.
I quickly got myself into relationships that would make drugs something that was gift given to me or payment for services rendered. Did I just type that? I have a few years in there (15 to 17) that I guess weren’t that eventful because I don’t have stories - wait yes I do.
My second boyfriend and I had an on again/off again relationship which lasted until I was 17 (so we were together about 3 years which meant I would grow old with him, right?). Well, this is a guy my parents didn’t agree with at all quite possibly because I was sixteen and he was 20 or 21. Anyway, I first became a run away at 16. I’ve blogged about it before. I just woke up one morning and never went to school. I was gone a good three or four days before my father found me walking down the road in the middle of the night. Of course I felt my life was over since I couldn’t be with my boyfriend. I left home again and again until finally they gave up and let the relationship happen. I moved out of my parents house when I was 17 and dropped out of school during the second semester for my junior year. The boyfriend’s father was wealthy and got us an apartment. It was all great - my happily ever after.
The happiness ended when he was drunk and trapped me in a corner during an argument. This quickly escalated to my first experience with physical abuse. As I type this I can give thanks to God that there were other people in our apartment that day. He was pulled off of me and I forgave him believing it was alcohol induced anger. No less than a week later I angered him again as I sat on our kitchen counter talking to my friend. I was pulled off the counter by my hair, dragged in to our small bathroom and throw into our bathtub all the while enduring punches. It took three guys to get him off of me that time and I was done. I left and I have told that story with such “look at the strong woman I am” gusto so many times, but to be honest I broke that relationship off that night and then found myself in bed with one of the guys who helped save me. Because he loved me right? Um, yeah, not really.
In a span of a week I was on to another relationship this guy helped with my homeless status and I lived in his station wagon on the beach. He also helped me fall further into a drug addiction and experimenting with things like opium. I quickly became part of a drug ring. Not selling, but just a girl that hangs out (read into that all you want because it’s probably all true). I went from the station wagon to living on a top level drug dealers sofa. I saw more than I ever should about that world of drugs and I can just say that God had a protective bubble over me during that time. I attended far too many funerals during my teen years.
I’ve lost so many days between January (moved into apartment) of 1995 until May of 1995 all the while I lived more life in those 5 months than many people. I wish I could say I lived it traveling and see the world, but I didn’t. I really can’t remember a lot of it. I do remember being dropped at my parents house with alcohol poisoning after spending an entire day in Mexico. My poor mother was probably beside herself since I looked (and probably was) near death. I did things during those four months that I wish I didn’t remember, things that haunt me at night.
It all came to a head when I was wrapping up a weekend of entertaining drug dealers from Michigan. I felt betrayed by my best friend who was going through this journey with me - she was just as messed up as me - our brokenness kept us together. I had just had a bad trip on acid that a dear friend (a guy) had to come and nurse me out of. Station Wagon Guy (who was still around) was fed-up with me. He created (or laid out or whatever) a line of cocaine on the coffee table. I said I wasn’t really feeling it to which he said “do it or get out of here. You have no friends here. There is no love for you here.” He was right. There was no love - there never was.
I stood up, left behind any of my belongings and walked (a good two miles) to my parents house. I walked in the door and said “I am ready to go home.” My mom knew exactly what I meant, didn’t ask any questions and the next day I was in a car headed to North Texas. My Meme, probably unbeknownst to her, was with me during detox and she showed me the grace I needed. That summer when I was 17 was when our bond was formed. She showed my Jesus, she was Jesus to me and was exactly what I needed to start my healing.
I wish I could go back in a say I saw God working here or there while I was experiencing this (before I went back to North Texas), but I didn’t. I had nothing to ground me during this time. I had no hope. I had no redeemer. I knew about Jesus, but had zero clue about being saved or how that related to sin. And grace was what my Meme said before holiday meals. I remember asking my parents when I was sixteen if i was going hell and they both just looked stunned. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but also knew nothing about forgiveness.
That poor girl needed help, real help. I needed drug and alcohol counseling and probably some counseling for self abuse. I lost friends. My best friend, who I mentioned earlier, suffered a heart attack shortly after I left. She survived. People who were my friends are now in jail or are fried from their drug use or sadly escaped South Texas, but still saw an early death. It’s all so sad. There were so many of us - so many girls like me. So many that I wish I could just hug and say “you are so more than this.”
As I was writing this today this song played on my Pandora channel. Let me tell you I cried and raised my hands up to Heaven. I have felt every one of these lyrics.
You cry yourself to sleep
Cause the hurt is real and the pain cuts deep
All hope seems lost with heartache your closest friend
And everyone else long gone
You've had to face the music on your own
But there is a sweeter song that calls you home, saying
You're not alone for I am here
Let me wipe away your every tear
My love, I've never left your side
I have seen you through the darkest night
And I'm the One who's loved you all your life
All your life
Thank you for hanging with me through this - it was a long one. I am sure more pieces will become clear for me and I will get deeper into my writing about these three years. Man, three years - that’s it?