“Perhaps the biggest tragedy in our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns.”
By Cortland Pfeffer
A patient of mine from years ago left this note after she committed suicide. I have rewritten it here.
Dear Children- I did not take care of you like children deserve. When other kids were getting ready for school, you were trying to wake me up. You had to walk to the gas station alone, with change you found scattered around so you could eat. You thought no one loved you and you were bad kids. You missed school and events because you had no one to take you. You got teased at school because you had to wear the same dirty clothes every day. I would be gone for days and you were scared. You would sit up all night wondering what you did wrong. You had no one to teach you anything. You didn’t come home to hugs, love, or even dinner. You never knew what was going to happen. You were never allowed to feel safe in this world. You were so confused when you were taken from me. I remember you screaming for me, with your hands outstretched screaming “Mommy! Mommy! Please don’t let them take Me.!” I saw your hearts break when I walked the other way. Every time the phone rang for the next 10 years you hoped it was me, and you were hurt every time that it wasn’t. I see all the pain you are in. I see the fear, the depression, and the anger. I know the torture I caused in your heart. I know I did this. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. But I understand.
Dear Mother- I know the pain I caused you. You had no one to turn to. It was your dream to be a mother and give love. I ruined your only hope in life. I took and took from you. You sat up crying at night begging God to help me. You didn’t know how to help, because no one took care of you. All you ever wanted was a family. You thought that having a family would take all your pain away. You had to work 2 jobs to replace the things I would steal. Everyone judged you for what I had done. I destroyed your self-confidence. You felt like you failed and you had to leave. I see the guilt in your eyes. I have taken your life from you. I am sorry that this is how you will remember me. But I understand.
Dear Brother- I stole from you, I took your money, your car, and I took all of our parent’s time. This left you with little time with them. You felt ignored and it hurt you. You withdrew from the world and isolated yourself. You had to grow up way to early. You became scared and isolated. I saw that affected your ability to know boundaries and how to have relationships. I see that is all with you still today. I did all of these things. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. But I understand.
Dear Sister- I took all of your toys and hid them. I ruined the toys that you loved the most on purpose. You were just a little girl that wanted love. You didn’t know why I was destroying the family. You saw me and trembled with fear. You couldn’t understand why I stole from mom and dad who had worked so hard. You tried so hard to help. You needed their love to. We missed your dance recitals because I stole the car. Your heart was broken and you didn’t understand how someone you loved so much could do this. You grew up scared. I see your pain, even if you try to hide it. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. But I understand.
Dear Father- You wanted to have a normal family. You took me places and to events all the time. You hated your job, but you still went every single day to support us. No one loved you when you were a child. You never felt love as an adult. You were lonely. You were afraid to come home. Your marriage was hurt by me. You became depressed, so you drank more. I became an embarrassment to you. My issues robbed you of much of your life. I see the disappointment in your eyes. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. I understand.
I know that this is how I will remember you all.
Dear Brother- I remember going to sporting events together, playing outside, and laughing together. I remember the time you were so scared that dad was going to punish you about the mailbox, so I told him it was me. I remember letting you stay at my house after you had nowhere to go because of your drinking. I remember the not so nice things you tried to do to me. You were scared and lonely just like I was, so I never said anything. I remember coming back from treatment and you telling me how I had ruined everyone’s life. I am sorry you forget about the times I protected you. I was in pain when I did these things, but I understand so are you.
Dear Sister-I remember holding you at night when you were afraid. I remember when you made a mistake and Dad started coming after you. I remember jumping up and doing something worse on purpose so he would punish me instead. I remember you calling me your hero. I remember you clinging to me when we were young for protection. I remember taking you to the park to get away, and teaching you how to do hair. I am sorry that you forgot all of that. I am sorry you are in pain. I understand.
Dear Mother- I remember before it got bad, when you would tuck me in and hug me. It was so safe to be with you. I remember your love. I remember trying to make you happy because you would be so sad. I remember when you couldn’t take it anymore and left, I ran down the street looking for you outside for hours. I remember praying to God that you come back. I cried at night in my bed wishing you would just call me. I promised I wouldn’t be bad anymore. I remember when I told you what dad was doing, how your heart broke. I begged God to protect me. I am sorry you forgot all the good, and I am sorry for your pain, and I understand.
Dear Father- I remember the first time you hit me. You bought me candy so I didn’t tell. When I got older, if I didn’t want to get punished I would watch your “special” movies with you. It made you happy. You cried afterwards. I am sorry for whatever happened to you, to create the person I knew. I see you were in pain. I understand.
Dear children. I love you, I did the best I could. You are angels. I just did not know how to love, and I was scared.
I always wondered if anyone noticed…
Did anyone see when Dad was punching me?
Or when he took me into the room to watch “movies” with him?
Did anyone notice me crying when Mom left, because I was afraid what would happen?
Did God hear me?
Did anyone see what those older boys were doing to me?
Or notice I would be gone for hours as a teenager and come home drunk?
Or that I took the blame to protect you from being punished like I was?
Maybe you did, and you forgot. Maybe you thought it was better me than you.
I kept thinking someone would notice and they would do something. But no one ever did. No teachers, classmates, or anyone. No one spoke up. I guess they didn’t see. Or maybe they thought it was none of their business.
Thank you for telling me I was the bad one, and the problem child. I went to treatment and I got to feel better for a little while.
Until I would come back. No one understood why I would do so well, and when I got out of treatment, I would relapse.
I’m sorry you never could make it to family night at treatment because it was “my issue,” Not yours. That you were “fine.”
Maybe now that I am gone, your problems will be gone.
If you find that you are still in pain with me gone, and start to think maybe you were part of the problem, I am sorry for your pain. But it may be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.
Now that you have to look in the mirror, maybe now you can heal. It is the greatest gift I can give to you.
I used to wonder why God would allow such evil, poverty, and sadness on earth.
Then I realized, he is the one that should probably be asking us why WE ALLOW IT.
He gave us all the resources we need to live here equally. We have enough to end poverty, and help each other. He gave us all the tools we need.
We choose this.
We allow this, not God.
I love you all.
Alcoholism and Addiction are family diseases. Not every case is this extreme. However, the addict is usually the one acting out the dysfunction and is a sign of strength, not weakness.
If you take the strongest one and heal them, and send them back to the dysfunctional system, it will not work.
If we do not start treating the system, we will continue to have an epidemic.
Will you notice? Will you speak up?
Silence is consent.