Gentle Recovery

Hope and Inspiration for Overcoming the Damaging Effects of Child Abuse and Rape

The Strength of Gentleness

Posted by A Write to my Voice on April 20, 2009

“There is nothing stronger in the world than gentleness.” Han Suyin

Growing up in a strict religious Jewish home, I learned very young, God was harsh, demanding and to be feared. We were taught if we didn’t submit and obey His commands we would be punished and punished severly.

In our house, there were tons of rules to follow, – rules for everything.
Entering our house or any room in the home, we had to kiss the mazuza, a
small case that contained scriptures from the Torah attached to the doorposts. Rules dictated when we could answer the phone or doorbell, or what days we could or couldn’t drive the car . Tons of rules centred around food. We had two sets of dishes and cutlery; one for dairy and one for meat products. At Passover, we had to hide those dishes and had two more sets because those plates had to be strictly free from having any leavened bread touch them. Everything we ate had to be ‘kosher,’ blessed by a Rabbi. Specific foods were considered ‘unclean,’ like pork and shell fish. These were forbidden.

God to me was mean, demanding, punishing. My father held high positions in the synagogue. He was greatly respected and given honors, but at home, he yelled and cursed and beat my sister and I so badly. We were nothing more than scapegoats for his frustrations. I was terrified of him and he represented God to me. Once I failed a french test. He beat me so badly, smashing my head over and over against the wall until I passed out. He told me later, it hurt him more than it hurt me. I never understood that. Many times he told me I was to obey and respect him, no matter what he did. That was God’s will.

The rapist was well respected in his religion, but like my father, he terrorized the vulnerable and weak. He forced me to sit cross legged and unmoving for hours in a cold dark room listening to tapes of him. Then he raped me. He told me he owned me. He said God gave me to him because of his religious devotion.

I’m not sure how God convinced me of His gentleness. Everything I lived taught me He was cruel. But from the moment He freed me from the drugs, I felt the presence of His gentle Spirit.

I fought with Him, screamed at Him, dared Him to kill me…
But He waited, waited until I calmed down, waited until I could hear His gentle whisper. Then He drew me close and showed me what I had been taught was deception. Lies. Deceit.

I discovered God is nothing like I had been told. He is not a series of strict rules nor is He cruel and hard to please. The gentleness of His love frees me, heals me on the inside.


Posted in Gentle Recovery | 7 Comments »

Telling the Truth

Posted by A Write to my Voice on April 15, 2009

“We know the truth, not only by the reason, but by the heart.” Blasie Pascal

For years, I refused to tell the truth of what happened, even to myself. For some reason, I was afraid to admit it, to believe it took place. My body knew though. The shame and fear lived inside me. It made me sick. It made me want to hurt myself, throw up, hide. And my body hurt in weird ways. I walked around feeling like puking all the time. My head itched from a rash that refused to go away and I had terrible migraines that forced me to spend even more time alone in darkness.

Truth – how could I not know or admit the awfulness of what took place? I minimized, I said it wasn’t so bad. I said the abusers were only doing the best they could, that they didn’t mean to do what they did. But I couldn’t look anyone in their eyes. I knew if they saw into mine, they would see how bad and awful I was. They would hate me and be disgusted, so I hid. The shame tormented me. For years I tried to dance around it. I pretended what happened didn’t really take place or it wasn’t that bad.

Then someone told me the rapist’s son killed himself. I learned of the brutality of what was done to him. It reminded me of what had been done to me, how I fought to get away from him with no one to help me. I survived. That boy didn’t. And something in me knew I needed to tell. No one protected that boy. No one helped him. My sister returned from overseas. She called me everyday telling me the abuse was horrific that we suffered as children.

It felt like God was giving my head a good shake. When I was a child being beaten and bullied, I lived in a make believe world. I told myself if I were good, very good, my parents would stop hurting me. I told myself if I helped them, they would love me. I tried really hard to be what they wanted, to give them whatever they needed. I became really good at reading them, focusing all my attention on being there for them. The problem, – in doing that, I cut myself off from me. I became lost and it took years to find my way back.

Every time they punched or slapped me, threw something at me that left my body in pain and with big black bruises, every verbal assault that told me how bad, stupid and wrong I was, every fist in my face forcing me to eat even while I threw up,-in my child’s mind, I believed they were good people. It was me. I was bad, wrong, undeserving. I defended them, stood up for them if anyone said bad things against them.

God waited until I could talk. He waited until I was strong enough. He waited until He knew I would tell. Last year, when that boy committed suicide and I knew no one had helped him, I promised God I would tell the truth. If telling what I went through can help someone so they don’t have to live years lost in darkness, – then I want to do that.

At first telling the truth hurt. I felt like I was falling apart. I retreated into the woods. I spent most of my time running through the forest, hiding in its safety. There God comforted me. He told me its ok now to tell the truth. It’s ok to admit what happened. I felt His presence. I heard the gentle whisper of His love. I came home after running and wrote. I struggling in writing. I didn’t want to say everything. God nudged me. I saw that boy in my mind taking his life. I wrote the truth.

Funny thing about speaking the truth. My body felt better. The migraines have gone. That rash on my head, isn’t there anymore. I feel lighter, better, freer. Someone once said, if we don’t scream, our bodies will. Someone else said, “and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Posted in abuse, child abuse, faith, God, shame, truth | 14 Comments »

The Art of Breathing

Posted by A Write to my Voice on April 6, 2009

“Breathe DEEP!” The Snuggly Fabric Softener Bear

For years I walked around holding my breath. I was pertrified of being hurt so I learned to hold myself rigid, on guard, on edge… waiting.

I spent hours hiding – crouching in the dark, in a corner in the basement, under the balcony, in the closet – staying very still, quiet – not breathing…. I needed to hear, to be aware of every sound, to be ready. If I was ready, I could take it, I could handle whatever happened. I waited for hours like an animal being stalked by its prey. The waiting made me sick. My head hurt, I threw up. I bit my arms until they bled… to force myself to stay vigilant, to stay strong.

I grew up and continued to hold my breath. I lived on the edge. Reckless, wild. Life hurt. It hurt really bad.

A few years after God touched me, I went to see a Christian counselor. She looked at me and said, “you’re not breathing. You’re holding your breath. Breathe! Let go!” Her words made me afraid. To let go meant to trust that I would be safe. I went home after seeing her and threw up and cut my arms. I couldn’t let go. I couldn’t trust. Experience taught me the world was not safe. To let my guard down meant I might not survive.

Time passed. I continued to see that counselor. She kept telling me it’s ok now to breathe. In the quietness of my house, in the darkness, alone – I let go. I let myself breathe. I survived. I went back to see her and told her. She asked me to show her, right there in her office – to breathe with her. To trust. I did.

I know God led me to that counselor. He used her to bring me out of a place that I had gotten lost in. She taught me to trust. She helped me feel safe, something I had never known before…. Safety. Feeling safe… helped me to breathe again.

From the moment God touched me, I trusted Him. How could I not? He cut the chains that wrapped around me, choking the life from me. He freed me. He took away the drug addiction. He took away the needles, the dope …the highs that made me crazy and the lows that made me suicidal. They held me a prisoner for fourteen years, shooting up three and four times a day. He broke their hold over me so I trusted Him. He led me to others like that counselor. He wanted to help me learn to feel safe in the world. He wanted to help me learn to breathe again.

I was 12 when I started the drugs. By 14 I was shooting up. Life was dark. Ugly. The police, the courts, social workers sent me to jail, to hospitals, to rehab. Nothing worked. Only God. He did what nothing else could. He broke the hold of darkness and taught me to breathe, taught me to feel safe, helped me connect first to Him, then to myself, then to others.

Posted in breathing, child abuse, Christianity, faith, fear, God, trauma, women | 2 Comments »

Taking A Stand

Posted by A Write to my Voice on April 1, 2009

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controvery.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Taking a stand and speaking out when we see or hear an injustice being done takes courage. It’s not easy to get involved, to have our voice – it’s so much easier to walk away; to kid ourselves into believing we didn’t see, we didn’t hear, we didn’t really know…….

Whether it’s standing up for the rights of a child to be free from harm, or a nation to be free from unjust rule, or a cause that we know we cannot look away from – taking a stand tells the world we will not be silent, we will not allow wrong to be be perpertrated – whatever the cost to ourselves.

I have struggled recently with family members who knew my sister and I were being abused. They said they didn’t know how bad it was, but they admitted they were terrified or our father and that many times they pulled our mother off us when she was beating us so badly. And finally they said, “we didn’t want to interfere in someone else’s family problems.” So they walked away and left. Left us to fend for ourselves against adults who bullied and terrorized us.

Then they said we should have asked for help. They blamed us. They said we didn’t reach out. It’s hard for me to understand their reasoning. We were children who had no voice. They said I was quiet, that I never talked, never spoke. I had no words. No voice. How could I have asked for help?

To protect myself, I tried to disappear, first in my head, then through drugs, throwing up and cutting myself. I willed myself to not be present. Once, while at the park, it started raining. I ran to the store to look for my sister. She wasn’t there. I ran back to the park. Everyone had left. Alone in the rain, thunder and lightening, I ran home. As soon as I got in the house, my mother attacked me – punching, kicking and slapping me. She put her hands around my throat and two of my aunts grabbed her and pulled her off. I slipped away and made it to the bathroom, locking the door. I dropped to the floor, soaking wet. Her screams filtered through the door. I closed my eyes and forced myself to pull away in my mind until I couldn’t hear her anymore.

I became lost. I never talked. Teachers told me I was the saddest child they had ever seen. But nobody did anything. Nobody helped.

When God wrapped His gentleness around me, poured out His love – I knew I needed to be a voice for those who had no voice. I couldn’t do what my relatives had done, look the other way and walk away from anyone experiencing any form of injustice or cruelty.

I went back to school. Got my degree. For all the drugs I did, the many times my head was bashed against the wall, for all the times I was called stupid, retarded, garbage, an idiot, I somehow managed to get on the Dean’s Honor List.

God empowered me. He gave me my life back, then my voice. I will never keep silent again. I will stand up and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. I will not turn away. I will be a voice for the vulnerable, the weak and those unable to stand up for themselves. I want to make a difference, regardless of the cost to myself. With Him in my corner, I will not be silent anymore.

Posted in abuse, Christianity, courage, faith, free, God, injustice, rape, silent, speak, voice | 4 Comments »

Real Strength

Posted by A Write to my Voice on March 28, 2009

“It is the support and care and love you give yourself that gives you the real strength to care for and love others.” Oprah Winfrey

I want to make a difference. I want to impact others in positive ways. I know it has to start with me. – Taking care of myself, honoring the life God blessed me with; embracing all of who I am; the good, the bad and the ugly. Accepting me just as I am. That is a tough thing to do some days. For years I berated myself for not being good enough. I did to myself what those who hurt me, did to me. I called myself names when I couldn’t do something. I hurt myself to try to stop being afraid or when I felt vulnerable and weak. I refused to eat and threw up when I did because I believed I had no right to exist. That’s what I was told. That’s what I accepted.

The cult of deception: – lies I believed. Lies that almost destroyed me. Lies that kept me in a cycle of pain. I lived my life based on those lies. The lies made me sick. I had persistent panic attacks. Simply walking down the street triggered them. My stomach hurt. I felt dizzy, lightheaded. My perceptions became distorted and my heart raced. I felt like I was losing control and was powerless to stop it. I obsessed about the fear of being seen. Being seen meant getting hurt – I spent a lifetime hiding.

But amazingly God touched me. Broke the curse of deception. Cut the cords of despair. Filled me with a joy that bubbled and overflowed. The self-destructive behaviours continued. My need to hide persisted, except now I felt I wasn’t alone in the dance anymore.

I started reading the Bible. I discovered its power of truth was able to dispel the darkness. I read and reread and learned I was made in His image. I found out I was the apple of His eye. I learned He wanted to set me free.

I moved with caution, but at least I moved. For every two steps forward I was thrown one back. I became frustrated, angry, overwhelmed. But I sensed His Spirit whispering encouragement, prodding me to keep taking a step, then another, and then another.

His touch empowered me. He poured His love into my broken spirit. Somehow His gentleness made a difference. There were days I was so consumed with self-hate that I raised my fist in the air and screamed at Him, daring Him to kill me. Amazingly, instead, He whispered words of peace. The presence of His love walked me through the lies and the pain – He taught me new ways to cope – running, nature, friends, His Word.

I want to partner with Him to help others find freedom. I live with tremendous gratitude.

Posted in christian, deception, depression, empower, God, healing, lies, life, Oprah, peace, recovery, spirit | 5 Comments »

Opening Your Heart To Others

Posted by A Write to my Voice on March 25, 2009

“The less you open your heart to others, the more your heart suffers.” Deepak Chopra

For years I lived with the fear of being seen. Having been beaten and bullied as a child by both my parents and later held in a cult for six months and raped, I lived in fear, trusting nobody. In my mind, people were to be avoided. I saw everyone as an enemy that wanted to hurt me. I hated them and I hated me. The people in my world taught me, – I was bad, wrong, good only to be used, abused, hurt. I became angry, very angry, a fighter. Having nowhere to put that rage, I turned it on myself.

My body became the battleground for my self-loathing. I tried to make myself disappear by becoming so thin I could hardly stand without feeling dizzy. I was freezing all the time. I dressed in black, covering my entire body even in the warmest summer weather. I cut my arms and legs until I couldn’t stand the pain. It was a way to numb out and not feel, except then, I cut myself again to feel, to know I was still alive. I felt nothing. Only anger. Only fear.

Then something happened. One day, God broke the chains that held me so tight in their grip. I don’t know why He chose me. Some of my friends died by their own hand or by accident. I lived on the edge like them. Their fate should have been mine. But He touched me. Freed me. Poured out His grace, His favor in such a gentle way – I was no more deserving than they. Sometimes I wonder, why me? Mostly now, I’m just grateful.

God showed me I need people. Safe people. I need them to heal. They mirror who I really am. They help me grow in self-confidence and freedom. They reflect the healing power of His love to me. All the abuse took place in relation to others. In the same way, I have learned healing comes in relation to others.

From the moment He touched me, I felt safe in His love, His presence. I opened up to God. I trusted Him. Then He asked me to open my heart to another, and then another and then another…….

Opening my heart to others wasn’t easy. I resisted. I struggled. I felt His patience, His gentleness, the warmth of His love prompting me, reminding me I wasn’t alone.

Sometimes I still experience the fear of being seen and the need to hide. I get ansy being with people too long, especially when I’m tired.

I will keep opening my heart to others. Something magical happens everytime I do. The fear of being seen diminshes a bit more. The need to hide isn’t as great.

Posted in child abuse, fear, God | 4 Comments »

The Impact of Kindness

Posted by A Write to my Voice on March 20, 2009

“Forget injuries. Never forget kindness.” Chinese Proverb

An act of kindness never goes without it having some impact on the recipient. During those years I lived on the street, there were a number of people who reached out to me and whose thoughtful actions, I have never forgotten.

One such person was a bank manager. I walked into a Royal Bank, completely stoned and asked to speak to the manager. He came out of his office dressed in a three piece suit, looking so professional. I, on the other hand, wore tattered faded jeans and a short sleeve tee, extremely thin, dark track marks from the needles running along the inside of my arms, the pupils in my eyes wide, like green smarties. Regardless of what he saw when he looked at me, this man treated me with respect. Ushering me into his office, he asked how he could help me. Feeling a bit sheepish, I asked for a $100 loan.

I can still see him, – standing up, reaching into his pocket, pulling out his wallet and handing me the money. I promised to pay him back and I did. When I got my cheque, I went back to see him and paid him the $100.
That became a monthly ritual for the two of us. Mid-month, I went to see him, asked for a loan and just as he did that first time, he always handed me the money, no questions asked. At the beginning of every month, I went to pay him back until I ended up in the hospital. I never saw him again after that.

I don’t know why he did what he did, but I have never forgotten his act of kindness, his generosity or his acceptance. He impacted me and helped to shape who I am today.

God’s angels. I want to be like that bank manager. He taught me a valuable lesson. In my world, at that time, I had experienced no kindness, only brutality. It was not the $100 he gave me, but the lesson, – that every human being has worth. I have never forgotten him nor his act of kindness.

I want to be like that bank manger to whoever is put along my path. I want to convey what he had shown me; – each person has worth. We are all made in God’s image. I have learned that just simply by looking at someone’s outward appearance, we don’t know what has happened or is happening in their lives. To walk in gentleness, to move in love and be His vessel to bring about peace and healing is my deepest longing.

Posted in faith, God, healing, kindness, respect | 6 Comments »

Posted by A Write to my Voice on March 17, 2009

“Not to know the past is to be in bondage to it, while to remember, to know, is to be set free.” Dr. Sigmund Freud

Nobody knew. I never spoke about it. I never told anyone. I carried the shame, the terror inside. I couldn’t face what happened so I pushed it down, way down, deep inside. I didn’t want anyone to know. I thought everyone would think I was disgusting and horrible.
The years have gone by. Last April while sitting at my computer, thoughts of what happened popped into my mind. Just like that. Out of the blue. Closing my eyes I could see it as if it were happening all over again. I became ill. I stopped eating. I sat in the dark for days.
I hadn’t thought about it for years. Why now? I started to write. I wrote in the third person, as if it happened to someone else and not me. As I wrote, I connected with people, – people who knew, people who told me he had gone to jail for some of the things he did, people who said I could still lay charges.
Last summer I went back to that house where he held me, a prisoner, for six months. That big black iron gate surrounding the property was gone. It was replaced by a small one in front of the house. It shocked me to see how close the neighbours had been, yet no one heard anything, no one came to help. I went through every room of that house, like a holocust survivor returning to face the camps. I needed to put it to rest. I needed to let it go.
Running through the woods, I can feel my hearting pumping hard, my breathing strong, my body one with nature. – Here in the midst of God’s creation, I feel free, alive. The whispering of His voice in my spirit gives me a deep sense of peace. I survived. Now I can tell. Now I can speak about what happened. Somehow God empowered me. He reached through the terror and shame – He set me free. Because of what He did, I want to tell. I want to say what happened. For His glory.

Posted in Gentle Recovery | 3 Comments »

In the Eye of Deception

Posted by A Write to my Voice on March 14, 2009

Soon to be Pubished: Book – In the Eye of Deception

No one knows what goes on behind closed doors. Raised in a middle-class family, from the outside everything looked good, but inside our home, I lived in fear and terror from the volatile rages of my father, and from the constant criticisms and name calling of my mother. As a young girl, I learned to hide and to feel ashamed of who I was. I came to believe I had no right to exist. Turning to self-destructive coping behaviours; a fourteen year drug addiction, an eating disorder and self-mutilation, I sought to punish myself for just being alive. In my late teens, I was pulled into a cult where I was confined for six months and raped.

This is a story of coming to faith in God but continuing to live less than a victorious Christian. It is a story about becoming whole through facing the pain of child abuse, confinement and rape and learning to trust God to provide freedom from the crippling effects of shame and fear.

This book is one of hope and faith. The message is clear, – no darkness is so black, no valley so deep, God cannot redeem it for His glory.

Posted in abuse, addictions, christian, courage, faith, God, healing, recovery | Leave a Comment »

I Keep My Ideals

Posted by A Write to my Voice on March 14, 2009

“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Anne Frank

For too many years I lived with anger, hating those who hurt me and wanting revenge. The rage burned inside me. I took it out on myself, numbing out with anything destructive I could think of. I believed I had no right to exist, no right to life. One amazing day, God touched me. He broke the chains. He poured out His love. I stopped hating. I couldn’t anymore. His love was too great. I learned to forgive. It wasn’t easy. A part of me still wanted to punish those who hurt me so bad. And then I began to realize, at some point in their lives, they too were hurt. Someone did to them what they had done to me. Maybe it was done in different ways, but they were victims too. I want to strive to be part of the solution of healing.
There are days I am consumed by what happened. It makes me want to hide, to disappear and I have to remind myself, what happened does not define who I am. And just maybe what they did to me, doesn’t define who they really are too.

Posted in addictions, christian, eating disorder, faith, God, healing, recovery | 2 Comments »