Thursday, June 30, 2011

God Can!

Another Story of Twelve-Step Recovery
This is a painting by Veronica Benning, whose work is awesome. Google her!
As with the last time I posted GOD CAN in a series of blogs, feel free to contact me if you get antsy and want to read the whole thing. I can e-mail the full manuscript, which is under ten pages, or you can just wait on pins and needles for the next installment. Here goes with the first of four:
Joan’s Story - Part 1. Joan has been in Twelve-Step recovery for thirty-nine years now, but it took her almost as many years to find her way into The Twelve-Steps. For most of her life, she says, “everything was jet black” -- especially as her husband’s alcoholism spiraled into violent abuse. Joan’s story is full of frightening and dangerous experiences. She is living proof of something she very often says: “Out of every bad comes a good.”
Her childhood was uneventful enough, born in 1931 to parents who lived in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn, New York. Joan says she can’t remember too much about her childhood. There is a hint that things weren’t altogether wonderful, because when she recalls meeting her future husband, she says, “All went well. I really liked his family -- they were very warm -- not like mine.”
She had met George while working at AT&T, after graduating from St. Brendan’s in 1948. The two were married in 1950 and moved into a furnished apartment for which they paid $65 per month. Both Joan and George were working for the telephone company, and after being married for just six months, managed to buy a house in Oceanside, Long Island. Joan’s first pregnancy had been a miscarriage, so when she became pregnant again, she stopped working and stayed at home. Son Johnny was born in 1952.
According to Joan, “All was well for four years -- in fact, it was terrific until exceedingly stressful events surrounded the birth of our second child in 1955.” Apparently this delivery involved some “high drama” -- including false labor -- before the baby, Barbara, finally arrived.
Two weeks later, Joan had her first epileptic seizure, which threw her into a convulsion while she was ironing. She ended up hitting her head on the ironing board with the iron on (and it ended up burning a hole in the brand-new carpet). Fortunately George was home when this happened, so he was able to prevent what could have potentially become a disaster. Unfortunately, however, Joan’s epilepsy emerged ferociously, with convulsions that were severe and constant. She was having five to ten seizures every day, this with a two-year old and a brand-new infant in her care.
George, quite understandably, was a wreck. The town in which they lived was really quite far into the country on Long Island and a lengthy distance from the hospitals of New York City. Joan says the medical situation sent George into anxiety. “He asked me if he could have a beer, and I said ‘Sure, why not?’ but that opened the door. I had no idea what alcoholism was.”
George became more than an occasional beer drinker as he was receiving some relief from the beer. And then alcoholism crept in. George would often say, “I do not want to turn out like my Dad.” But he became not only increasingly active in his drinking, but also what Joan describes as “very controlling” and abusive in physical ways. Most of the abuse was sexual. She was trying to say no, but her husband was not taking “no” for an answer.
In between Barbara’s birth in 1955 and the birth of their next child, Tom, in 1962, there were plenty of miscarriages. One occurred when George knocked Joan down the stairs (she lost that baby at six months). By the time the fourth child, Rick, was born in 1966, Joan had been pregnant ten times. Altogether, she had ten pregnancies. Four produced living children; one baby was lost after she fell down the stairs; the other five were miscarriages. Joan says, “I became extremely thin from the stress, and George took to weighing me once a week. Every Monday, he would weigh me.” She didn’t know it at the time, but she was dealing with an increasingly strong spirit of control.
Joan says she received a great many “whack-arounds.“ One time, she was beaten in her sleep. At this point, she started having seizures while driving with children in the car and decided to stop driving. This was not a good situation with an abusive drinker in the home.
Joan says, “In my day we didn’t have 9-1-1 or shelters. I was trying to say no, but George was not behaving well. On the outside, we looked like the picture-perfect couple. Our house was spotless inside and out. We put in a cement driveway -- we did a lot together -- but it was the darned drink. It changed him to be forceful and refusing to take no for an answer.”
Perhaps the most vivid example was right after Rick was born and a seizure hospitalized Joan. George, however, kept forcing sex. “He was forcing me the day I came home from the hospital. I had just had a baby. But when I tried to express myself, George would say, ‘Will you stop complaining!’” Joan say she would get really stern when she tried to say no. Her words: “I was falling apart.”

To be continued next week...

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