NOTE: Commentary is made as a private citizen and not as Regional Coordinator for Silent No More or Leader of Rachel's Hope, unless otherwise stated.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

In the Hills of Malibu - A True Story

One of my favorites
My son, bless his pea-pickin’ heart, has a habit of reminding me from time to time how I was before I got sober. Thankfully, most of the stories he brings up are humorous.
His favorite is the time my ex-husband convinced me of the existence of "dry-land tuna"... fish that lived in the hills of Malibu sans water (I'm turning red already).  My beer brain grabbed on to that little piece of Animal Kingdom trivia, and my slurred motor mouth shared it with family and friends.  It was only after I revealed my gullibility to the masses that my ex told me the truth...while he, my son and step-sons laughed hysterically. I was mortified at first but very quickly became infuriated and humiliated and yes...felt betrayed ....which totally justified my downing a beer or twelve then lashing out in retribution.

I learned early on in rehab that one of my biggest problems was I took myself too seriously. I wanted to be in control every minute, and heaven help those who stood in my way.  In time, I was able to give myself a break.  I found that laughing at myself actually brought me a sense of joy ... and peace.  God wants me to be happy, and I know when I laugh at myself, He's laughing right along with me.

By the way....did you know there's a man in Wyoming that sells jackalopes?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Prisoners of Choice

I've shared this experience before, but thought it was appropriate to repost.

Three of us stood at a bulletproof window separating us from an armed, uniformed receptionist.  She slid a sign-in sheet and black pen through a small opening and asked us to sign it and exchange our driver's licenses for a visitor's badge.  All the while I thought back to what I heard in orientation:  In the case of lock-down, visitors will be escorted out; however, under certain circumstances, they may be required to stay until the situation is resolved.  What was I getting myself into?  Maybe my husband was right, and I should have declined the invitation to co-lead one of the post-abortion healing retreats Rachel's Hope takes into the local women's jail. 

The metal door opened and for security reasons, we had to go through one at a time.  I was first, and as the door thundered shut behind me, I faced another.  Being claustrophobic, I started breathing heavily in this little portal, even though it was only seconds before the second door opened. 

The chaplain and biggest supporter of bringing post-abortion healing to incarcerated women waited for us on the other side.  The retreat was being held in the library on the opposite side of the facility.  Curious eyes followed us as we passed the high chain link fences that enclosed small yard areas outside each dorm-style cell.  From my viewpoint, the cells were absent any form of comfort or hominess; only bunk beds and bare walls.

We arrived at the library and began to set up, making the room less institutionalized and more inviting and calming; something that would help the participants forget for a while where they were.  Open flames were not allowed, so battery operated candles were scattered around the room.  The chaplain provided pencils the tiny ones used by golfers because larger ones are potential weapons.  We brought in a variety of snacks, a special treat for participating in the program and one more way to make the women feel special.

I expected to be faced with cold-hearted criminals, smacking gum and sneering at the “church ladies,” but as the seven women entered, I was taken aback.  Although displaying pleasure with the d├ęcor and practically drooling over the snacks, they were visibly anxious, nervously chatting amongst themselves.  *Ann told me later she, as well as the others, avoided approaching “the ladies” in fear of saying something stupid or wrong.  In addition to their anxiety, their faces displayed defeat, sadness, and pain. 

The first activity involved going around the room and sharing our abortion stories, with we three co-leaders going first.  As we spoke, the women nodded their heads and exchanged knowing looks.  Although I was the only co-leader that suffered from alcoholism, albeit sixteen years sober, and institutionalized for depression, we all had demons in our past.  While we shared, the women were heard whispering, “Them too?”

Their offenses were primarily drug and alcohol related; possession, possession for sale and some cases of theft and assault. All but one in the group had obtained multiple abortions, including *Susan, who had over ten. They had either been encouraged to abort by parents or a significant other; felt it was best due to their living situation or as Susan candidly disclosed, “used it as a form of birth control.”  They tried to maintain a sense of “being cool” while sharing their stories, but it didn't take long before the dam of pain and remorse broke, releasing torrents of tears.  Regardless of the circumstances surrounding their pregnancies, they were not prepared for the havoc their “choice” would wreak on their lives.
Substance abuse is common among many women trying to deal with the emotional turmoil from abortion.  It's a perfect, but temporary, way to forget or minimize what we have done; however, the negative feelings continue to surface which leads to more and more self-medicating.  Dependence increases to the point of desperation and total loss of control.  These women were all involved with drugs and alcohol at some level, and when hearing their accounts, one phrase entered my mind: "There but for the grace of God, go I."  As I said earlier, I am a recovering alcoholic.  Abusing alcohol was the method I used to forget my two abortions. I drove drunk all the time, but luckily never got caught. I could have very easily caused an accident resulting in injury or death to another and ended up attending this jail retreat instead of co-leading.

While drugs and/or alcohol are used to numb emotional pain, they also disclosed other self-destructive behavior, such as promiscuity.  None served time for prostitution, but they all admitted to numerous sexual encounters. Again, the same applied to me, in fact, I had a nickname back in the day:  Pass around Patti.  Sex is a weapon to combat self-loathing. We are duped by the misguided notion that sex equals love, so the more love, the better.  Eventually, we come to our senses and end up demoralized and ashamed.  In an attempt to “settle down,” we try to become monogamous and end up in multiple unsatisfying or sometimes abusive relationships. I've been engaged too many times to count, entered into several affairs with married men and am on husband number three.  Due to a distorted self-image, we feel undeserving of being truly happy and “settle,” thus adding more misery to our already fragile emotional state.

Assaultive behavior can be attributed to suppressed feelings that can no longer be controlled and subsequently escape in the form of physical violence. The pain is transferred to another, and the relief is so great, it mimics a chemically induced “high”.  Just as with drugs and alcohol, however, the “high” eventually dissipates, and the need for relief returns.  For me, I resorted to verbal assaults, lashing out at loved ones for no reason, and the pain I inflicted left emotional scars as ugly as any physical ones. I spared no one in my family or circle of friends.

When discussing destructive behaviors and consequences, every one of these women disclosed something that had not even crossed my mind. In an odd twist of fate, their self-destructive methods of dealing with the emotional turmoil of abortion(s) eventually resulted in losing custody, temporarily or permanently, of the children they chose to keep.  But even then, it happens on the outside as well.  Self-destructive behavior does not always lead to illegal activity but threatens the well-being of children. As for me, I never lost custody of a child, but I did purposely lose the ability to have one.  I convinced a doctor to give me a tubal ligation at the age of thirty, and I know of other women that have been compelled to do the same.

All behaviors, illegal or otherwise, are not only a way of coping but reflect a form of self-punishment. In fact, three of the inmates admitted to having thoughts of suicide at one point or another, a permanent solution to end the pain and anguish.  Their admission brought back memories of the darkness I experienced before being institutionalized for being suicidal and my telling the psychiatrist I was already dead inside and just wanted to finish the job.

As the retreat progressed, we grew to love these women, and by the time it ended, we hated to say good-by.  Although we weren't supposed to have physical contact, hugs were in order. 

When I walked through those metal doors, I expected to find a significant difference between “them” and “us.” What I realized is we are all sisters in suffering that fell prey to the pro-choice rhetoric.  We experienced the same pain, remorse, and regret and exhibited the same behaviors, just to different extents.  We used whatever means necessary in an attempt to find peace and regain control of our lives. 
The abortion industry uses the feminist movement as its primary marketing target by promoting “my body; my choice” as a source of empowerment.  To be empowered, a woman needs to be comfortable in her own skin; confident and at peace. Once a woman has an abortion, empowerment slowly slips away, leaving nothing but a gaping wound in her soul, back-filled with pain, self-hatred, guilt, shame, and remorse. 

The number of pro-life feminists is growing, and in all actuality, should be the rule rather than the exception.  They are the ones not only fighting for the rights of the unborn, but for the well-being of women. They are exposing the lies perpetuated by the abortion industry; the lies that lead women to believe that choosing abortion over life is a source of empowerment and has no ill-effects.  Really?  Take a walk with me behind that metal door. 

Note:  I am not claiming incarcerated women who have had an abortion(s) are there because they aborted their child(ren).  They are incarcerated due to their actions.  However, the psychological effects their "choice"  have on them could very easily exacerbate other contributing factors.