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Was it just me?

By Tom ~

I am a 48 y/o male who was raised in Ohio in a very strictly religious home. My mother was raised Wesleyan Methodist. My father was agnostic, so the recipe for disaster already existed. My parent divorced when I was 4 and I did not see my dad until I was about 8 or 9. Most of what I know and can remember all starts when my mother married my stepfather. I was 8 and for the first time I would have a father figure. But something happened that to this day I do not remember, but my sister told me about recently, that I believe started everything.

left aloneApparently when I was 8, I had slammed a door. According to my sister, my stepfather nearly beat me to death over it. This abuse continued until I left home. We were never allowed to have friends who were secular; they had to be believers. We were not allowed to listed to rock music, because it was devil music. Most of my early years we had no TV because it was satanic. Our life revolved around the church.

Like so many others who have been through a similar life, we were poor. Some times having only tea and crackers to eat, but the church always got it's money. If church was open, we were there. Revivals, prayer meetings, vacation bible school. You name it, and if it had anything to do with religion, we were there.

After the abuse started I became a rebellious child. All I wanted was to be normal. I wanted to be like all the other kids I knew. I wanted to be able to go to the movies, to listen to MY music on the radio. I wanted to be able to read comic books, to go to school dances and everything else that made childhood a fun experience. But, according to my mother, all of these things were satanic. As I grew into a teenager I began to think for myself. How can everything in life that is enjoyable be satanic? How can so many things be evil? I began to question everything I had been raised to believe.

During this period of time, my mother tried everything to control me. She had me in counseling sessions with youth group leaders and pastors, but I did not change. In fact, I became worse. There were several times my mother made me pack my clothes and she would drop me off at my dad's house and tell him to raise me. he would take me back to my mother's. The last time it was in January. We lived just off of Lake Erie, so it was extremely cold. She never even checked to see if my dad was home. She just pushed me out of the car and left. Once again, my dad took me back.

I often laid awake at night and wondered how a compassionate, loving god could allow kids like me to be treated the way I had. What was I did that was so wrong? Why did my mother hate me, and allow my step father to abuse me? Why did she not want me? Why did my dad not want me? I often thought of suicide, but my religious upbringing always got the better of me. I did not want to burn in hell for that. At the age of 17, I dropped out of school and joined the U.S. Navy. I decided I was going to take charge of my own life for the first time.

Joining the Navy got me out of the frying pan and into the fire. I went from one extreme to the other. From super religious, strict home life to no rules, no barriers and access to all sorts of drugs and alcohol. I cared for no one and certainly not myself. I didn't care who got hurt as long as I felt good. One issue I did have was that I was afraid to be alone. I would seek out parties that I could go to and be allowed to crash overnight. Usually this meant a night of drinking and drugs. But I didn't care. As long as I had those things, the hole in me was filled, or so I thought.

A couple of years after I joined, I met a girl who seemed to care for me. This was the first time I actually felt like someone loved me. I never wanted to lose that feeling, so we got married. We had a daughter, and after 3 years we finally split. My ex-wife disappeared and it would be another 24 years before I would finally meet my daughter. I spent the next 6 or 7 years on a drunken, drug infused binge. I had a good job, and made a lot of money, but spent it all trying to feel numb. I was in and out of relationships. Looking back, I was the problem, and not the women whom I blamed. It was not fair to them that I treated them as I did.

Recently I came to the realization that a lot of my personality traits are directly related to what i went through as a child.As I was approaching the age of 28, I finally realized that my mother was still controlling my life. By holding onto all the negative feelings she instilled in me I was in fact still under her control. I had bottomed out from all of the drugs and alcohol and decided to take control of my life. I quit drugs, and cut back drastically on alcohol. Instead of a binge drinker, I became a social drinker. Shortly after I made these changes, I met my current wife. We had similar backgrounds, but hers involved a mother who loved and cared for her. I began to see what a normal life could be like. I wanted that life. My wife was the person who could provide the strength I needed to move forward and make the life I wanted.

We have now been married for 19 years. We have two great boys who only know of some of the scars I carry. I have raised them outside of religion. If they have asked about it, I have told them it is something they must choose for themselves, I cannot and would not make that choice for them. When they ask about god I tell them it is a personal thing and they have to decide for themselves what they believe.

Recently I came to the realization that a lot of my personality traits are directly related to what i went through as a child. I was not even aware that I had some of them until I spoke with my sister. She was sexually abused by my step father. She had undergone counseling and was much better and had shed a lot of the baggage from her childhood. I have since started seeking counseling, but have yet to find a counselor who understands what I went through. I still carry that burden, and hope to someday be rid of it.

I am an atheist. I cannot, and will not believe there is some invisible super powerful being who is so egotistical that it requires me to put myself through self deprivation and torture just to make it happy. If there turns out to be such a being, then I want no part of it. I want to live life as it is supposed to be lived. Free, enjoyable and happy. To share my life with those whom I love, and love me. Some day I will be rid of my baggage, and finally have those things.