When I ‘divorced’ my parents at seventeen, I decided to move from Lanesboro, Minnesota to Arden, South Carolina to start my new life. With the help of a caseworker I was able to discover I had an aunt here in Arden, who was willing to take me in and give me a place to live while I went to community college.
After everything I’ve been through, Minnesota was the last place on earth I wanted to be. The idea of escaping the cold, blistering winters for warm and sunny beaches in South Carolina was a hell of a lot better.
You’re probably wondering why I divorced my parents rather than just sticking it out and finishing up high school there, then be on my way to an independent life, away from my mother and father.
Most people might think I was some rebellious child who didn’t want to have to be told what to do by mommy and daddy. But trust me, I would rather be living in a house with loving parents, who set rules, make me do my homework, and eat my vegetables, while trying to deal with normal teenage attitude and rebellious behavior.
Believe me, that was so not my life—not even close.
I divorced my so-called mom and dad—if they even deserve to be called that—because they were drug-addicted, abusive assholes who made my life a living hell.
Even when I think back to my earliest childhood memory, there are no happy memories. I’ve had to deal with abuse and neglect from the moment I entered this world.
My father was a ragging alcoholic, who couldn’t control his temper no matter how hard he tried. My mom was never home. My dad was too busy drinking himself into oblivion in front of the television to care. So, I spent my entire childhood alone, fending for myself. I used to watch the Matilda movie over and over again on the tiny television I had in my bedroom. Like Matilda, I always wished I’d one day be saved from a loveless home and get my happily ever after.
Sadly, that never happened.
Whenever my mother did finally come home, she would just lock herself in her room doing god only knows what. By the time I started high school things with my parents began to intensify. They went from pretending I didn’t exist, to then believing I was the reason for all of their problems. As they slipped further into addiction, my situation became worse.
The mental and physical abuse I was enduring on a daily basis, soon became apparent to teachers at my school. They noticed how withdrawn I was; how what little clothes I did have were ragged and didn’t fit properly. But it wasn’t until my father began to slip up and leave bruises in visible areas that something was finally done.
One day I was pulled from class and taken to the guidance counselor’s office where I met the school’s child therapist. Over the course of a week, they talked with me and jotted down details I gave them about my family life.
I guess even though it seemed like a little too late and the system failed me by not helping me sooner, it could’ve been worse. I could’ve been one of those kids who slipped through the cracks and never get the help they desperately need.
A few days after speaking with the councilor and therapist, I was greeted by a case worker from Child Protective Services, who informed me that I would not be returning home after school. I’d instead be going straight to a temporary foster home.
I was grateful to be placed in a nice home with an elderly couple who lived near my school. Things were going good; my grades were improving. Then everything changed. One day my case worker showed up at my foster parent’s home to inform me that I would be returning back to my parents.
I was in complete shock. I never in a million years thought I’d be going back there. But I was informed they had completed rehab, were attending narcotics and alcohol anonymous. They took parenting classes and were doing better. Both even holding down steady jobs for the last three months.
The thing is my parents could tell me they were better and all that shit, and preach to the world that they had received the wakeup call they needed when I was taken away from them. But I wouldn’t believe it until I saw it with my own two eyes.
I was only back home maybe two months before things started going downhill again. They’d put on a show for the case worker every month when she came to check in on us and follow up. But slowly all the changes they had both made became a thing of the past as their old habits reared their ugly heads.
My father began drinking again, and my mother was gone all the time working, and then off somewhere scoring drugs after work. Once she came home, she passed out and pretended that her life wasn’t a shit show all over again, since she had ‘worked so hard’ to move past her problems to better herself and her family.
I thought that the constant verbal abuse and beatings were the worst things I would ever go through. Boy was I ever so wrong.
After six months of me being home, and a few months shy of my seventeenth birthday, my life finally hit rock bottom. My dad was laid off and my mother’s drug habit was taking up what little money we had. If it wasn’t for the food stamps we received from the government, we would’ve starved. More than a few times we were close to having the power turned off, but somehow mom always managed to come up with the money just in time.
So many times, I wanted to speak up to our case worker, tell her that this happy family act my parents put on for them was nothing but a joke. But I knew it was a waste of time. I’d be removed long enough to get settled in somewhere before they were all better again, and I was back in this hell of a life all over again.
The only thing helping me through each day was knowing I only had one more year until I graduated and could get the hell out of that house and town.
I never thought in a million years my life could get any worse. Until the night my innocence was torn away from me.
I was sitting in my room trying to do homework and drown out the screaming match going on outside of my bedroom door with the radio sitting on my bed stand beside me.
Suddenly the screaming stopped as I heard the voice of someone else entering as the front door slammed shut with a loud thud, causing the entire house to shake. I thought maybe my mom or dad had left and I’d actually get to fall asleep without the sound of their argument pouring in through my bedroom wall. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. No, instead my worthless piece of shit parents were still there. No one had left, instead someone else arrived at our house. The second he appeared in my doorway I recognized him. I’d seen the man a few times come by when we were strapped for cash. He’d disappear with my mother into her bedroom and come out a few minutes later, would fill my dad’s hand with a stack of cash and then be on his way. I was sixteen, I was far from naive, so I knew exactly what was going on. My mother was sleeping with him for money. It was sickening to think my father not only approved of it but encouraged it.
I didn’t think they could sink any lower until that night.
That night the little piece of innocence I had left was stolen from me and I never once received a single ounce of remorse from either one of them. What I thought would be a onetime thing, turned into a weekly occurrence. The first time he raped me I fought back, and got a black eye and bruised jaw because of it. I learned quickly it was better to lie there, let my mind drift off to a safe place and wait for it to be over, rather than try to fight it.
Slowly I began to slip into a dark depression. I hated school because I had no friends. I couldn’t focus on the curriculum because of all the shit going on in my life, yet I got up every morning and went because it was my escape from the hell I was living. Even if it was only for a few hours.
Things got so bad that I became suicidal. The thought of living there for even another day, let alone one more year was too much. I would rather be dead than have to live one more day in the hell my parents had created for me.
I went into school one day, locked myself in a bathroom stall and downed an entire bottle of pills I’d stolen from my mother. I sat on the floor, propped against the door and slipped into what I thought would be the last sleep I’d ever take.
I guess a teacher discovered me in there while checking the bathroom for smokers after the bell rang. I awoke hours later in a hospital room, with a tube down my throat and monitors hooked up to my body.
The doctor said a few more minutes and I would’ve been dead. When I started to cry, they thought it was because I was relieved that I was still alive. In reality I wept that day because I didn’t die. I wasn’t free. I was so close to escaping the pain and the abuse, only to fail.
All thanks to fricking smokers and teachers with nothing better to do than hunt them down and send them to detention.
I spent a week in the hospital recovering from my overdose. While there I was visited by my social worker, Mrs. Hart, who for the life of her couldn’t understand why I would try to kill myself rather than go to her for help. I had nothing left to lose, and knew there was no way in hell I was going to allow them to send me back to my parents’. So, I decided to tell her everything. She sat quietly, tears streaming from her eyes as she watched me cry while I unloaded everything on her. Along with the reasoning as to why I never asked for help.
My life finally changed for the better at that moment. Mrs. Hart promised me I’d never have to go back, and spent the next few hours sitting beside my bed, explaining the process of emancipation to me.
She agreed to help me become emancipated from my parents, if I promised to seek professional help with my depression and talk to a therapist about everything I’ve been through. So as soon as I was discharged from the hospital, I was admitted into a small rehab facility for teens. I lived there for six months, where I was home schooled, attended therapy sessions daily, one on one with a psychiatrist, followed by group sessions with other teens like me each day.
The day I left the treatment center I set out on the path to gaining my freedom.
Mrs. Hart helped me get back into the same foster home I was in before. Mr. and Mrs. Brown were happy to have me back with them, but understood it was only temporary. They were simply a stepping stone toward my independence. Soon after moving back in with them, I earned my license, got a job at the small grocery store a few blocks away, and spent the next four months saving up every dime I made while working on graduating a year early.
By June, I had my diploma and enough money to travel to South Carolina to live with my aunt. The final step was getting legally divorced from my so-called parents. Thankfully they knew I was never coming back, and would sit in the foster care system for a few more months until I was legally released into the world as an adult. So, with little fight, they agreed to grant me my emancipation by signing the papers and finally giving me what I’d wanted for as long as I could remember.
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