I was born in Michigan in 1991 to a 16-year-old mom and 17-year-old dad. Both of their families were not supportive of their decision to keep me. So after I was born my parents got married and my dad joined the Army. We soon moved to Hawaii and lived on the island of Oahu where my little brother was born. We lived there for a few years and then we were relocated to North Carolina. I don’t have many memories from this time and the ones I do have are fuzzy.
Let me start this by saying that throughout my childhood I was taken care of and provided for. I have those childhood memories of playing with friends, shopping for school supplies, eating dinner with family. I don’t even think I had ever really been hit as punishment at this point because my dad would make us do military drills and exercise whenever we acted up. But elementary school is where I start remembering being exposed to an environment of drugs and sex. At one point child services investigated my parents for false abuse claims. I remember a lot of parties and people in and out of our home. I do remember excelling in school though. I loved school and learning. Eventually, my dad was discharged from the military and we relocated back to Michigan when I was in the second grade. My parents did try their best with the limited recourses they had but the stress was too much for their young marriage. They separated and divorced while I was finishing elementary school.
During this time there was an obvious shift in stability within my and my brothers’ lives. My parents were both still young when the divorce was final and there was an agreement made for custody, My dad moved to the opposite side of the state and met the woman who would become his second wife and mom also met her partner. It was a very unstable time in my life of constant changes and being passed back and forth, and I was not able to process it all properly. In my parents’ defense, the mental health system was not as welcoming and informed as it is now. They did attempt some counseling throughout the years but it was not the therapy I needed and my environment was too toxic and unstable, therefore it was ineffective.
My dad married his second wife. I liked her and she was nice to me so I wanted to live with my dad. My mom, her boyfriend, and I didn’t exactly get along. And my mom wasn’t listening to me. I rebelled against her and began to experiment with drugs and alcohol with my dad and his second wife. There was a lot of manipulation, plotting, brainwashing, and other toxic behaviors that I was exposed to throughout this time from everyone who was supposed to care for me. At one point my mom had me committed and held in a facility for weeks. Things continued to escalate and I started experimenting with sex too. It was at this point my mom stopped fighting my wishes and came to a custody agreement with my dad.
My mom kept custody of my brother and my dad got custody of me. My brother and I would get to see each other for holidays and breaks from school, and we would alternate houses (ex. one summer we would both be with my mom and then the next summer we would both be with my dad). I wish I could say that this fixed everything but unfortunately it did not. My father was an alcoholic and liked to party. This was a difficult environment for a kid to be a kid in. I had access to drugs and alcohol and was encouraged to do them. I was a child partying with adults and I saw and did things that children shouldn’t see or do. During this entire process, I also lost two grandparents (my dads’ mom and dad).
High school is where things began to spiral hard. Drugs, alcohol, sex, and parties were all a constant part of my life. Abuse and neglect had become the norm to me. I was constantly being moved around and by the time I finished high school I had gone to over 10 different schools. I was constantly bullied and had to defend myself. I had experienced several sexual assaults at this point as well. I felt unsafe and my education suffered. I ended up dropping out of high school towards the end of my sophomore year and moving to my moms’ house who had moved to South Carolina. I started my Junior year of high school but dropped out halfway through. I quickly started to not get along with my mom and her boyfriend, and I also chose the wrong friends. Within a year I was back in Michigan living with my dad.
I knew I needed to finish my education. If nothing else I wanted my diploma. I entered into an alternative education program and had to earn nearly 20 credits to graduate. I took the morning, night, and online courses to get all the credits I needed to walk that year. And I did it. That was the first time I felt accomplishments and I cried. I still have my diploma sitting on my bookshelf. Thankfully I never lost it because unfortunately, this isn’t where my life turned around. As a matter of fact, it kind of got worse after this.