Thursday, July 7, 2011
PART 2 OF 4
Twenty-one years after marrying George, Joan was listening to a radio program about the Twelve-Step program. She made a phone call to the number that was given, and the person at the other end of the phone said, “Where do you live?” When Joan replied that she lived in Oceanside, the woman said, “I’m going to my Oceanside meeting tonight if you’d like a ride.” Joan agreed, and so she attended her first meeting. She remembers being told, “For your own sake, you have to come back.” To Joan, that sounded like her mother, so she obeyed, getting rides whenever she could for both herself and her five-year old son, Rick.
That was in 1971. Fortunately for Joan, she lived on Long Island, where public transportation allowed her to attend a 10 a.m. meeting that she could reach by bus. Joan says, “I was still dealing with constant seizures, and with Ricky, who was only five at the time.” She ended up telling the bus driver about the possibility of her convulsions, and he said, “If anything happens, I’ll take care of you.” So off Joan would go every Wednesday morning, taking Ricky along with her to the meetings. She says there was always more than one child playing in the corner. Having children in the meetings never bothered anyone.
Joan says, “In those days, it wasn’t that easy to get an Order of Protection against someone, but I did. “ In 1976, George started attending Twelve-Step meetings, but his abuse continued and actually worsened, so Joan was getting one Order of Protection after another. Over the years, George was issued five all told.
Recognizing that Joan was in turmoil, a Twelve-Step friend named Patty told Joan after a meeting that if she ever needed a place to sleep, even in the middle of the night, to call her. Not two weeks later, Joan was in trouble with an episode of drunkenness and domestic violence. The police were contacted and they arrived quickly.
“George was naked and stoned, but the police couldn’t do anything because our Order of Protection had expired,” Joan recalls. “After the police left, the kids hastily got dressed, and we shot outside to hide under the bushes. I had no car because of the epilepsy, and I really didn’t know what to do.” Suddenly in the darkness, the police car reappeared. Joan and the kids came out from under the bushes, and the officer asked if there was any place they could go. He drove them over to Patty’s house, where they arrived at 2 a.m.
One time, after George had been banned from the house, Barbara ran away at the age of 16. “I was due to go to a Step Meeting that night, so I called the gal who drove me to let her know I couldn’t go (Barbara was my babysitter). I was told that I had to get to the meeting -- that I needed meetings -- so I went. The group took one look at me and changed the topic to Live and Let Live. I did not share that night, but they directed the meeting to me. I went home, and I went to sleep. Barbara came home a few weeks later.”
Tom and Rick were very close. Joan says, “They were like Siamese twins, and they started getting involved in the Twelve Steps themselves because this is a family disease.” The boys and Joan shared a lot in common because of all they were learning in their Twelve-Step meetings. The boys had seen the abuse that came from drinking, and the abuse continued, even after George had been in the program for three years.
As if there was not turmoil enough in the home, now Joan’s son, Johnny, started being verbally abusive to Rick, who was now ten years old. Joan heard on the radio about Protective Services, so she called, and they came. “After hearing my case,” Joan remembers, “they suggested that I get an Order of Protection against Johnny. I did.”
Johnny was issued an Order of Protection the same week his sister, Barbara, got married. So they both left, and George was already out of the house, so Joan found herself with just the two youngest boys. It was 1977, and now young Rick began expressing his rage through violence -- throwing things and punching holes in walls. Program people encouraged Joan to leave him alone and let him work out his anger and frustrations. She did, and Rick did keep attending his Twelve-Step meetings faithfully. Still, there was a lot of damage and wreckage in the home. Several weeks after his outbreaks, Rick came home one night and gave Joan a different kind of hug and kiss. He looked around the house and said, “I’ve think I’ve got some work to do around here, don’t I, Ma?” Joan says, “He repaired every bit of damage he had done.”
To be continued next week...