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Grapevine : December 2011
Y ou never knew if my father was going to explode. It was like watch- ing a ticking time bomb. Once, at a family gathering, my cousin ran off crying after playing too rough with me. My father saw him crying, and in a drunken rage, beat me, then wrapped a clothes line around my neck and attempted to hang me. I couldn't breathe, but he didn't care. I was 13. I guess he forgot that I wasn't a child anymore and he couldn't quite lift me up. None of the 40-some people tried to stop him, because everyone feared him. I swore that I would never turn out like him, so I stayed away from al- cohol. At that age, I recognized part of the problem as alcohol, but later, in the midst of my disease, that would elude me. A child who isn't allowed to be a child learns creative ways to escape reality. I couldn't laugh, cry or even giggle out of fear, so I shut down. There was television; reading; col- lecting baseball cards, comics, and beer cans; playing sports, and a lot of drawing---all fueled by a deep-seated fear. I lost my trust in people and in life and let my imagination take me elsewhere. Eventually, I didn't watch televi- sion any longer, as it was too painful when my father walked into the room, changed the channel and lay down on the sofa as if I didn't exist. I stopped collecting things as it was impossible to share that collection with friends--- it was too dangerous to bring anyone into the war zone. Playing sports in- cluded other people, so I was left with drawing and reading. Isolated from people and life, I'd draw and read about new worlds and powerful, fearless people, until I was 17, when, instead of watching my father pound the life out of my mother again, or take the brunt of it myself, I punched him back. I had had enough. I was shocked when he just crumbled in the corner like a broken gingerbread man. My mother was also shocked and begged me to apologize. I did not. Nothing happened for the next two years. There were brief moments when the fear subsided, but it was forever instilled inside me. I moved out to go to college and rediscovered alcohol---liquid courage---the fear kill- er. I was invincible. While I was out drinking, it was my new best friend, I believed. I was in denial and thought that everything was going to be OK, but soon after I got a 4 A.M. phone call. My mom was in the hospital with a damaged kidney from "falling down the stairs," and my little brother was scared and crying because the hospi- tal was full of police asking him too many questions. When I got there, the doc- tor showed me the giant three-foot welts across my brother's back from a broomstick when he became her aagrapevine.org 33