"I'm really not feeling well. Can I put my head down?"
"Sure, darlin'. Come and sit here, you can be by yourself." I motioned to a seat next to my desk.
As I sorted through papers, she raised her face from her forearm. A red imprint of her cable sweater was visable on her cheek. Her voice was barely above a whisper, and I moved my chair closer to her as she spoke.
"I was awake all night. My parents were fighting. My stepfather hits my mom when he gets drunk. I'm afraid to go to sleep. She might need me to call 911 or something. I really want to move out of there. Part of me can't wait. I'll be 18 in July. But, I don't want my mom to be left alone. My dad was an alchoholic too. He's in prison now. I don't know why she puts up with these men. I wonder why we don't just leave."
I only half wondered. This conversation was a little close to home.
I've lived with alchoholism in a household. It is shameful, painful, and eventually destroys the people who live alongside it.The families of alchoholics often feel like they have something wrong with them. They must deserve the life of embarrassment and dysfunction. It is hard to break away. Just like the drowning man will pull his rescuer under the water, the person who thought they would save the alchoholic can become a victim of the disease.
Disease. Damn it.
Why did the medical profession decide to call alchoholism a disease?
How do you save yourself, when the only way to do it is by walking away from a sick person? The guilt is unbearable. The scars are slow to heal.
The physical abuse issue is much harder for me to comprehend. I was hit once by a boyfriend in college. One time...that was all it took ...I was outta there. No apologies, no begging, no tears could bring me back. That kind of anger scared me way too much. It is very hard for me to even listen to the stories of some of these women sometimes. I find it way beyond my understanding.
The bell rang, signaling the end of the class period, and as my student stood up to leave she said, "Maybe I'll be able to sleep when I get home."
I certainly hope she can.