You Are Always On My Mind

I feel like talking about my dad today.

I think I have to point out that he was a good provider when he wanted to be. We had nice things like music and movies, which is where Luke and I get much of our interest in it from, my mom always had a neck and fingers full of nice jewelry, we had nice vehicles, we lived in nice places. All of that being said, it came at a cost.

My dad was the kind of guy that was the life of the party. Funny, a good entertainer, and vivacious. People were drawn to him in every arena and he was always the one ready to party and have a good time. The problem was that he never knew the fine line between fun and fury. As grand as he was is as atrocious as he was. He was a Jekyll and Hyde of the drug and alcohol world. He was vicious.

My dad has had several wives and there are six of us kids all spread out between the marriages. Not a one of us has a close relationship with him. That wasn’t always the case, though, as I spent many of my fragile childhood and young adult years putting his needs in front of mine. I fostered his demand for acceptance, love, and encouragement well beyond the call of duty, especially for a child. I spent well over a decade trying my best to instill the love I had for him that I could only wish he had given me. It was never enough and for a long, long time it made me believe that I was not enough.

Experiencing rejection from a parent is an incomprehensible blow to a child of any age but as a young girl who desperately wanted her father’s approval, it completely broke my spirit. To watch him replace me with his insatiable thirst for a world I couldn’t understand, yet hated, shattered my expectations of ever having a normal relationship with him. Drugs became his new wife; alcohol became his new children; addiction his new career. His soul was a vagabond on the precipice of defeat more often than not. There has always been a good person underneath those layers of skin that hold his hatred, shame, and guilt like a cloak of failure.

I cringe when I hear the phrase, “I’m just going to sit this one out…” because that’s what he told me when I was two weeks away from my wedding day. After having spoken to him about the most important day of my life and making plans for over a year, he had promised me he’d be there. I foolishly believed that he would be but he wasn’t. It was then that I knew I could no longer allow my father to hurt me. I was about to start a new life as a married woman and I refused to allow the turmoil my dad poured all over my fragile heart for the first quarter century of my life affect my marriage. So when the phone rang the morning of my wedding day with the word “Dad” across the screen, I simply ignored the call and that was that. Easy? No. Necessary? Absolutely. Regretful? Never.

I had to realize that I have to be OK even if he is not. I have to make good choices even though he has chosen not to. I have to parent our kids in the ways that he chose not to. I refuse to be the insufficient source of love, protection, and acceptance that I was aching for as a child and sometimes even today. Walking away from a parent is not easy. The comments that have been made to me are bewildering. As if I hadn’t already thought about the repercussions of living a fatherless life would bring.

This hurts me every. single. day. Especially at times where I wish he was here, like right now as we struggle with the idea of sending our girls home to their mom. And speaking of mom’s…how unfair is it that my mom has had to shoulder the weight of two kids and two parents? Did they not create this family together? Why should she have to be the one left standing? It doesn’t seem fair. She has experienced her own trauma at the hands of a man who could be so loving, yet so damaging. What a toxic and confusing way to live. It was awful.

Today, I am free from my dad’s presence but I am not always free of his emotional stronghold. All I can do is keep moving forward and reminding myself of the exceptional reasons I choose to live and be happy. I wish I could have seen him do the same. What a sight he would have been.

xo,

a

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Messy

I’m feeling exceptionally emotional about the girls today. I think this is probably because we got some information yesterday that leads us to believe they will be gone very soon. In fact, the wording was specifically “very soon.” I don’t have to tell you how extremely sad this is. I’m selfishly thinking of how this makes me feel right now instead of how exciting this must feel for their mom. Just let me get this out. I promise not to stay here but if I don’t say this here then it’ll stay inside, and I can’t let this fester.

I guess I’m worrying and it’s highly likely that it’s unnecessary. One of the hardest parts about being a foster parent for me has been the emotional triggers it brings from my childhood and young adulthood. These triggers are the reasons I have chronic PTSD in the first place. When I think of them going home, I’m scared for them to wonder why they don’t see us anymore. I’m afraid and physically cannot bear the idea of them wondering where we went and I couldn’t possibly pray any harder that they won’t wonder if they did something wrong and that’s why they don’t see us anymore. That very idea feels like it’s literally slowly killing me.

And why would such a thought be so triggering? Well, maybe it’s because I know what it feels like to be left behind by a parent. I know how it feels for a parent to be there one day and gone the next. I have felt the ache of wondering what I did wrong, why I wasn’t good enough to stick around for, and what I could have done differently to make them stay. These are all feelings I cannot even begin to imagine my girls knowing because I know that if they stayed here they’d never know what that is like, and now I worry if I will make them feel that way when they don’t live here anymore. I don’t want to be the person that fades in and out of their life, like my dad has done to me. It’s far too much of an emotional mountain to climb.

I thought, “Maybe if I show him I love him enough he will change and things will be okay.” No matter how much we love these girls, the fact is that they are not ours, they do not belong to us, they are not staying here. So the correlation between trying to love my dad enough to get him to stay and trying to love the girls enough to get them to stay is the same stabbing feeling of getting nowhere and treacherous sadness, and I have to constantly remind myself that neither of those situations were ones I had control of. Maybe that’s the hard part, knowing that I have no control, but only that I can control how to respond rather than how I react.

Watching a parent be an addict is hard, to say the least. Playing second fiddle to an addiction is not a feeling I would want anyone to know, but sadly, many can identify with. I am the first person to acknowledge that addiction is an illness. What may seem like a choice is actually a cry for help, a way to escape, a way to stay alive for people who have been through trauma but have no resources to properly heal. I get so outraged by the stigma of mental health in our world today. If we addressed it and made it accessible then maybe there would be less addiction, less loss, less trauma, and the cycle could break. We are not there yet, and frankly, we are so so late.

Even though it might not be true, I feel like my dad chose his addictions over me. It can sometimes feel like it’s easier to love the high than it is to love me. When you’re made to feel that way for so long it’s easy to start believing it and when you believe something so tragic, you start to push anyone away that loves you, compliments you, celebrates you. It feels like people are just saying nice things to be nice, not because they truly feel that way. Surely they can’t possibly love me, especially if they knew that I’m really not the person they think I am. Then one day someone asks you why you think so poorly of yourself and you can’t even figure out why because this is all you’ve known, because the way you were treated made you feel as if you weren’t good enough or important enough to love. It’s because the actions of one of the most influential people in your life that are supposed to love, support, care for, celebrate, and protect you is prioritizing their addiction or has disappeared without a trace instead of choosing you.

All of this all leads to not feeling like enough. Had I been a good enough daughter, maybe my dad would have stuck around. Had I been worth loving, maybe my 13 – 19 year old self wouldn’t have had to fight tooth and nail scouring the internet for 7 years to find him. Maybe if I love the girls enough they can stay. Maybe if I fight tooth and nail to advocate for their best interest they’ll get to stay. These two subjects are very closely connected and painfully triggering.

As hard as this all is, it’s good for me. I knew I needed to start going to counseling and I aligned it with the same timing as becoming a foster mom. I knew both would be hard, I knew both would be a lot of work, I knew that through these experiences I would be able to heal. I wanted to be able to love others in the ways I wished to be loved. I wanted to love myself the way some people in my life love me. I knew I couldn’t do that if I didn’t do both of these things. While some may see this as me breaking, this is me healing. I am erupting from a pile of disappointment, shame, uselessness, heartbreak, and trauma. Everything is flying around in the air but it is no longer holding me underneath its heavy pile. It’s progress, not perfection, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.

xo,

a