Instead of love, father,
you taught me the ugly
contorted face of rage.
Instead of kindness,
you taught me how
to criticize, belittle, and pick-at.
Instead of moderation,
your drinking taught me how
to be irresponsible with a substance.
By your example, I learned
how to use food as a crutch,
and how to numb myself with it.
Food medicated my constant anxiety
and compulsive spending
became a way to purchase self-worth.
Instead of learning to speak
to others with respect,
you taught me and devastate others
with words when I am cold,
hungry, tired, or stressed.
Instead of serenity,
your drinking and violence
created emotional chaos for me.
Instead of stability,
you left me a legacy
of battles and temporary truces
between you and Mom.
Instead of self-respect,
you taught me
self-sabotage and self-hatred.
Instead of peace,
your violence taught me
to fear others and
to worry constantly.
Instead of tranquility,
your wrath toward mother
made me afraid that you
would turn on me next and destroy me.
Instead of equality and partnership
between men and women,
you taught me that men
had all the power and that they
had the right to mistreat women
whenever they chose.
I also learned to fear domination
and control by men
and how to avoid intimacy.
Instead of self confidence,
I learned to feel "bad"
for surviving unbeaten,
and "guilty" for wanting to live...
while others I loved suffered your rages.
Instead of sleeping peacefully,
I sleep lightly, fitfully,
and in a constant state of vigilance.
To this day, I suffer the consequences
of traumatic shock.
I awaken with a start
in fear of mortal danger
and ready to flee in an instant ~
from even the most innocent
of noises in the night.
Instead of closeness, teamwork,
happiness and fulfillment with a spouse,
you showed me how
to exist unhappily for decades
and how not to do anything about it.
Instead of conflict resolution,
you taught me how to
accumulate pain and stuff my anger.
Instead of teaching me
many other good and noble and gentle things,
you created a part of me
that hates and that rages
~ and then turns these things inward on myself.
Instead of love,
I feel an enormous hurt,
a profound emptiness,
and I feel very, very sad.
©1992 by Barbara Corry
Used with permission of the author