I am collecting childhood stories from readers, so as to share them with others. All of the names have been changed to protect the anonymity of the writers, and some of the stories have been edited for grammar. If you would like to share your story, please feel free to add it in a comment on this page. By sharing our childhood stories we acknowledge and validate the world from whence we came, as well as make a commitment to our present-day to become healthier, stronger and better able to love ourselves.
When I was a kid, I was well loved. I received my fair share of hugs and kisses from both parents, ate well, laughed a lot, had an enormous loving family and for the most part, got along with my brothers. My mother was a quiet, loving, beautiful, tolerant woman who not only adored my father, but “believed” in him. She was the quintessential doting housewife, and loving, stay-at-home mother whose whole life revolved around the care of her family. My father, on the other hand, was hugely charismatic, funny, clever and talented. He taught himself how to play guitar, banjo, drums, harmonica, and even the violin all before the age of 18. He told amazing stories, was a fabulous, award-winning sale man, wrote his own music and could answer nearly every question on Jeopardy. Trouble is, he was an addict. And his addictions were so deep and so many that they got in the way of what might have been an average, normal life.
We moved 12 times in 14 years. Most of the houses we lived in were big and ostentatious—an odd phenomenon considering that my father never exactly held down a job. None were “ours.” All were attempts to dodge creditors or loan sharks, some of whom would find us anyway and show up at our front door with guns not-so-hidden in their jackets, telling my mother, “We know where you live.” I went to seven different schools in six different school districts, had virtually no friends until the eight grade and was a very poor student–I think at one point they considered me borderline “slow” and so, I was put in remedial reading, writing and math classes. On top of my father’s addiction to alcohol, he was bipolar, narcissistic, sociopathic and equally addicted to gambling, pornography and money. He was a chronic liar and invested in every get rich quick scheme you could imagine, including pyramids and swindly deals and even sold women’s edible underwear. My brothers and I credit our distaste for red and black licorice after eating boxes of it that had been left, unsold, in our garage. There were dirty magazines everywhere when I was growing up, so I became very well acquainted with adult interests from the age of five–which ultimately later in life could have confused me about love and relationships. Finally, there is even a story told–to be believed or not–that I was kidnapped for ransom to pay back a bad debt. My life was hugely unstable, chaotic, unpredictable, and unsafe, and more than anything, my mother sent us the message (me, in particular, the only daughter) that it is perfectly acceptable to love and remain with a crazy person who’s capable of putting his entire family in danger. So, while love was indeed present in our lives, and we did have loads of “fun,” there were some pretty severe mixed messages. Bottom line: I was raised by a pack of wolves. Or, more precisely, by two avoidants, one of whom was also an addict.
I grew up in a very loving household. But could tell from a very young age my dad was a selfish person. He used to hit my mum in their room; we could hear it happening and hear mum crying but she would always tell us nothing happened and everything was fine. This was so confusing to me. Dad was in a band and used to come home late at night and never give mum much respect or attention but we kind of worshipped him and would be excited when he got home.
I grew up thinking that the man ruled the house and could do whatever he wanted and the woman was there to please him. Dad cheated on mum and she argued with him about it. And so, he packed his bags in the middle of the night and left. I watched him leave. Mum was distraught and cried every night. I didn’t know what to do to comfort her even though I tried. Nothing ever seemed to make her happy.
Mum became a different, colder person after dad left. Dad didn’t look after us financially but, instead took care of his new family. We struggled while they seemed to have everything. I still get triggered if I meet someone who is funny about money or not financially stable. Mum, meanwhile, lived her life through us. If we weren’t succeeding she would be extremely upset. There was a lot of guilt inside me if I didn’t lead my life the way I thought she wanted me to. And it still triggers me when I do something (like be single) that she doesn’t agree with or want me to do.
I am the middle child of three and the only girl; I think this is an important point to note as it often determines the roles that we take on when things go wrong. When I was six my father left my mother (or she threw him out depending on the story) and moved out of the family home. I was devastated. My Mum suffers from serious mental illness and although she never hit or abused us physically and we always had food on the table, her moods were very unpredictable and you never knew what you would wake up to. The atmosphere in the house was very tense and this was magnified by my elder brother and my mum who fought continually. I was the peacekeeper in the family. Trying to keep a sense of calm. If something went wrong and my Mum demanded to know who it was I would say it was me so that she wouldn’t be angry anymore (even though it usually wasn’t me!). Anyway, my brother eventually left home to move in with my Dad and today he no longer speaks with her. And although I wanted to go with and live with my father as well, my loyalty to my mother (because however young I was I knew she was ill) kept me where I was. This sense of loyalty remains today even though I find it very difficult to spend a lot of time in her company.
My father is the sense of calm in the family. The ying to my mother’s yang. When my home life got too bad I would sneak out of the house and go and spend some time with him (I had to lie as she would get very upset if she knew I was visiting him out of the agreed court time). He would ask if everything was ok at home and I would say yes. I didn’t want him to know what really went on. Should he have pushed a bit more knowing what she was like?? In hindsight probably yes, and therapists have told me over the years that he effectively abandoned us, leaving me and my brothers with someone who was mentally unstable. They said he should have fought more for full parental custody. And although I have disagreed with them as I love my Dad very much, I do know that my childhood has affected me and it is something I have had to come to terms with over the past eight years.
Once my elder brother moved out I took on a much more of an adult role to my younger brother. I had to do a lot more around the house, a lot more peacekeeping and I kept a lot of things hidden from the outside world. My “escape” as a teenager was to sit in my bedroom reading romance novels, sometimes two a night. Reading over and over again how love was difficult and a struggle but the man always came to the rescue of the woman in the end and everything always had a happy Hollywood ending. This helped me forget what was happening at home and made me hopeful for when a man came into my life. My first instance of loving someone from a far [torchbearing?] was when I was about 13, just after my brother moved out. Was I trying to further escape what was happening by replacing him and focusing on someone else?? You can’t help but think so when you look at the timeline. This “fantasy love” lasted four years, even though he only ever once said Hello to me.
My parents were divorced by the time I was one , and I was an only child. My dad was an alcoholic, my mom a narcissist. I never felt a bond with my mom and felt that she never really liked me. If I didn’t act the way she thought I should, I would get the silent treatment, and she could go for weeks completely ignoring my existence. When I was five, that’s when I started spending every other weekend at my dad’s where he lived with my step mom and her two kids. My step mom verbally abused me as she frequently raged at all three of us and she physically abused her own. It was a very chaotic household and continued to get worse until my dad died when I was 23.
At my mom’s, life was different, she re-married when I was 11 and had my baby sister when I was 13. Before then it was just her and I– a very silent and cold place to be. I fell in love with my sister the moment I laid eyes on her. At 13, I was already sneaking out of the house, smoking cigarrettes and marijuana, and refused to do anything my mom said to do. My sister’s birth and my relationship with her kept me from really going off the deep end. Yet, I felt lonely, worthless, ugly and unwanted. I was fearful most of the time as living with either parent was never predictable. A family member began to sexually abuse me at age 10, and my self-esteem plummeted. I bounced from house to house until my dad finally drew the line and made me stay with him until I was 18.
I did listen to my dad and felt he hung the moon in the sky. Though, I always felt second to him and wanted to be first. I was fighting with alcohol to get his attention. I felt I deserved it, as I was his only child. This began my love and relationship addiction, which was the foundation for all of the others. There’s a hunger for love inside of me that never really goes away. My addiction has taken me to places I never thought I would go, do things I never imagined I would do, and am working on forgiving myself for the things I did for love. My dad died when I was 23, my baby sister when I was 34. I am a single parent and have been married and divorced twice. I ended up extremely depressed, homeless, addicted to drugs and the men that did them. I had been beaten, broken, and almost gave up. I’m now three years and 38 days in recovery and my love and relationship addiction is the hardest one. I’m aware that IT is what I’ve been feeding for many years. I’m just beginning to understand it and this site has helped me a lot. I have struggled with panic attacks since I was 10; today they aren’t as debilitating. I was so unaware of the coping mechanims I naturally did as a child to protect myself. They had become serious issues as an adult.
I was the fourth child born to my father. The second to my mother. My father had been married to another woman before he married my mother, and had my first three half-siblings with her.
My father was the pastor of a small church. The way he was at church was not how he was at home. He was a complete narcissist. People “loved” him, but he was usually not nice at home. All of us kids, and my mother were basically ignored. It was all about my Dad and his world of being “worshipped” by his “followers.”
My memories of my mother were that she was very stressed out, trying to please and keep my father happy, which was impossible. We all had to look good and be good to please him. What was actually happening at home was completely opposite than what happened at church. He was usually mean and controlling, but at church super charming and charismatic.
When I was 10 years old my father took my mother on a fishing trip out on a lake in a small boat. She never returned from that trip. She drowned. He claimed she fell overboard and claimed he couldn’t find her. There were no witnesses and since this was the early 70’s and it was a small town, there wasn’t much of an investigation. And, because my mother’s death was never investigated, my father was never held accountable.
As an adult, after my father died, I researched what all happened and so did my older brother. We discovered my dad had been having many affairs with many women leading up to my mother’s death. I have spoken to one of the women who, at the time of my mother’s death, was only 18 years old. She too was afraid of my father and to tell anyone about their affair.
We moved the next year to another town and he was pastor of another church. He remarried when I was 15 and continued to ignore me and my other siblings. He was caught up in his world of being “Mr. Wonderful Pastor” and also trying to keep his new wife happy. His new wife was only nine years older than me. She was horrible to me and my little sister and very abusive. When I was in 10th grade (15 years old), I was sexually assaulted by the principal of the high school I attended. This happened repeatedly until I graduated at the age of 18. I was afraid of this man, but also confused. He told me he loved me, but he also controlled me and threatened me if I told anyone what was going on. Most of the abuse happened while I was babysitting for him and his wife, on rides to and from babysitting.
I finally left and went off to college. I was pretty messed up, as you can imagine. Lots of trauma in my life that has contributed to a lot of my problems now. I turned to addictions for comfort as a kid. I see that now, and I’m working to understand myself and break free. And while I’m finally coming to terms with some of what happened, it’s still a long journey.
I was one of two girls in my family. My mum married an alcoholic. I think he hated me for not being a boy. My Mum was always very busy studying, so our dad would pick us up on weekends and we’d stay there. I was a depressed teenager, was abused by my uncles, and emotionally abused by my narcissist, egocentric stepdad. At one point, even my mum started drinking. Suffice to say, we did have a nice granny who loved us. But eventually things got so bad, I ran away and remained in a different country for 10 years. I am now single with two kids, and was able to get away from a man I married who gambled, lied and abused me. I am trying to rebuild life for me and my kids. But, after another two failed relationships, it’s not going well. Today, I hate men.