We Did Not Know What We Were Missing

 I need to say something.

I need to say this:

My story is not all that unusual.

I am sad to have to write these words

but it is true.

There are more people than we can possibly imagine who grew up like I did.

There are more people that we can possibly imagine growing up



Just like I did.

When you grow up in a totally dysfunctional family

you really don’t know any different.

You really don’t.

There is some salvation in that.

You DO know that there are things you

Just Don’t Talk About

in mixed company.

You grow up;

You go about your life;

and that is all you have.

In many ways,

depending upon how you play it,

you are stronger for it.

When you grow up like I did;

like so many of us did

and are





I want people to know that my story is not only my story.

Lots of us know this drill.

Lots of us grew up in totally dysfunctional homes

and you know what?

We get by.

We did not know what we were missing,

We really didn’t.

I thought the Brady Bunch was some

 Wild Ass

Made Up

Crazy Show.

I really did.

I guess what I need to say is this:

We are OK.

We got by and we are getting by.

I can tell my story in a fairly dispassionate way.

I can do that because I lived it

and it is done.

“Just the Facts, ma’am.”

Thats me.

Sure, an awful lot of us

became addicts or

alcoholics  or

developed Eating Disorders or

turned to crime or

joined gangs or….

You bet we did.


an awful lot of us

Came Out the Other Side.

I don’t want to scare anyone.

I don’t want anyone to pity me.

I just want to tell my story

which is really the story of so many of us.

I just want to


I want to Stop

“Just Don’t Talk About This”

I want to stop

Keeping Family Secrets.

These are not only my secrets.

These are  universal family secrets

and they must be told.

Someone you know,

Someone you know, who looks totally normal on the outside

is living the life I did.

I want to stop keeping family secrets.

I just needed to say this.

I am OK.

I Came Out the Other Side

and I am stronger for it.

Someone you know…

I hope they find their way through too.

I really do.

Peace, Jen

~ by Step On a Crack on March 3, 2012.

25 Responses to “We Did Not Know What We Were Missing”

  1. There are no new stories from any of us, but there will always be someone who needs to hear what we share at this moment. Someone for whom it makes a difference.



    • Dear Nancy!

      Thank you!

      It helps me to hear the stories of others in ACA meetings. I still need to hear them.

      I really wanted people to know that pity is not the thing here: it was what it was. Do you know what I mean?

      It is sad in one sense, in another it is long gone and I am stronger for it.

      I hope it does help someone else!

      Thank you for being here!

      Peace, Jen


      • So sorry Jen – that wasn’t what I saw in your post, but it is there. What I read was the need to tell the stories (which is also there too). Both are important messages.

        Thanks for that repost on the family hero – I really enjoyed it.


      • No Problem! I was writing about the importance of telling stories! I just don’t want people to feel pity for me.
        It is a tricky thing to get across: when you grow up in weird, destructive families, you do become numb in a way as a way to cope. I wonder if your husband can relate.

        I am very glad you liked the Family Hero…

        I am very grateful you are here…

        XO Jen


  2. I love your poem and totally agree with it and what Nancy said. Dr Phil mentioned this week or last that 100,000 girls born in 2012 would be raped by their fathers!!!! who knows how many other perpetrators there are out there? It is important for each of us to remember that our experience matters. we can light the way for the next woman or girl by sharing our truth.


    • Thank you very much.

      I sometimes wander the halls of my sons very small school and walk with those statistics in my head. Incest, alcoholism, domestic violence, physical and emotional abuse, drug addcition….

      on and on and on….

      Stats can be manipulated but based on my experience, the stats we are talking about are accurate if not low. These stats cover all socio economic backgrounds.

      Some kid my son knows is dealing with one or more of these issues.


      Time for a change.



      • My mother-in-law got away with child abuse for years because no one believed she could do something like that. Even now, the denials continue. It came up again at my father-in-law’s funeral several years ago when neighbors and relatives took my husband and his siblings to task for their lies.

        My husband and I were 17 when we started dating and I saw it for myself. I know it wasn’t made up.

        My daughter shared a locker with a little girl whose step-mother was abusing her. I carefully questioned my daughter as to how many other kids were there when she told them what happened (to make sure it couldn’t be traced back to me), then spoke to the school principal about it. He acted on it and got her sent back to her mother. I didn’t tell my daughter about it for years, but I was glad she said something to me. I’m not sure the mother was a better solution, but the step-mother was clearly the place for her either.


      • YOU are a Hero! What you did for that young woman is beautiful beyond words. I admire your courage and your willingness to REALLY step up and care for another person who needed help!


        It never ceases to amaze me how deep family ‘secrets’ can run and how tight some hold to them! I am consistently astounded by the denial that pops up and the THICK walls that are built.

        I have grown to despise family funerals. I did not have one for my mother. She was a recluse without friends and the thought of having to go through ANOTHER ritual rife with denial and heavy drinking just turned my stomach. It would have been a very small group of active alcoholics gathered to talk about why it was NOT alcohol that killed my mother.

        I am so sorry you and your husband had to go through this. It is heartbreaking.

        Thank you, as one mother, for helping to make a difference in that young woman’s life.

        XO Jen


  3. When the Old Testament said there’s nothing new under the sun I believe it. BUT, how do we know when others don’t share? Secrets create isolation and that perpetuates the abuse. Any abuse, addiction and pain. I’m with you, sweetie, tell your story! Yes, you’ve come out the other side and I really believe you’re helping others too. xo


    • YES!

      I hear stories in ACA meetings all the time. BUT that is in an ACA meeting where we are all working on these issues.

      We DO need to share. We DO need to talk it out so that others will feel that they are not alone, or strange.

      I bet you hear these stories all the time.
      There is healing in the telling.

      “nothing new under the sun…”

      Sad but true.

      XO Jen


  4. I love you more each day i know the woman i met many years ago. We were children. We NEVER EVER EVER asked for pity EVER. In fact i know you were not a happy clam, and you never, ever told me about your upbringing: I knew, because I “knew”.

    All of us who grew up this way made a life for ourselves. Some sunk. You and I rose like cream or (creme) ?

    We DID pull ourselves by those fucking bootstraps. We grew strong, we grew loving, we grew helpful …

    BUT we say worked hard to fortify ourselves … and now we say, STOP making it a “rite of passage” through watching our fucked up family evolve!

    Life should be lived as oxygen is permitted — not as if we should say, shhh, be quiet, mommy and daddy are not well …

    All I ask, and i’m sure Jen agrees please OPEN EYES. Don’t be afraid to look at your neighbor, or your friend and recognize something that’s not quite right. Be brave with yourself, and stretch out … and know when to let go. Try. Fight for those you love.

    This i can say, if you don’t fight, you will watch people go and it will be hard to have a “Happy Attitude” about it.

    Be kind, and be tough in love,

    Love mel



      OK Missy. I am working on a post about US!

      You were the first person I ever KNEW who was honest and open and real about this STUFF!

      You informed my walk my Love and you continue to.

      We are yanking our bootstraps damn it! AND we will not stop!
      (well, I DO get whiny and stuff from time to time. Must be when my bootstraps are in the wash….)

      How about this Mel? How about this!?

      You are dead on: reach out. Say something.

      ‘Be kind and Be tough in love’

      See why I love you SO much??!!

      Love, Jen


  5. I should never re-read fast-drafts. SMILE. mel


  6. Dr. Alice Miller, a true Saint, says that childhood trauma leads to compulsive behavior, grandiosity and substance abuse as an adult. Dr. Drew, not a fan of his insatiable quest for celebrity but he does possess a lot of knowledge, says that childhood trauma is the petri dish for substance abuse and mental illness as an adult.

    Having been on both of those battlefields (abuse as a child and substance abuse as an adult) I agree with the doctors assessments. I know that I am blessed to have survived. Blessed to have the love of family and friends that carried me through early sobriety. And, I am blessed to have had the economic means and benefits plan to have spent a fair amount of time with a very gifted Psychologist.

    What you speak of is so true. And the generational cycle of child abuse repeats and spawns a fresh batch of humans that will drink and drug to numb the pain that is largely a mystery to them and may never be revealed.


    • Hello there! Thank you for stopping by…

      YES! The Drama of The Gifted Child heavily informed my therapy. She is amazing and has done some ground breaking research.
      I have seen that book alone turn peoples lives, first upside down, and then all the way around.

      It is a blessing isn’t it to have had the resources when they were needed? In the midst of my intense therapy I had a very good job and could afford to see my amazing therapist, get massages, seek alternative healing, blah blah blah… Until you stopped by I had not considered how much harder it would have been to get clean and sober and whole without a good income. AA and ACA and the 12 steps were and are a wonderful resource. For me, a very good therapist was probably more important as my addictions directly stemmed from my childhood and my family of origin.

      This raises a great question: What about people who do not have the means? I used mental health clinics when I was young and they helped BUT it is NOT the same as seeing a very good therapist who deals specifically with childhood trauma; it just isn’t.

      How do we, as a culture, break the cycle of abuse if really good treatment is not available to most of us? How do we begin to help kids in schools BEFORE they get sucked into addictions and self medication as a coping mechanism?

      MY goodness! You have given me a lot of food for thought! thank you VERY much for being here!
      (I just might post something about Alice Miller….)

      Peace, Jen


  7. Yes, I too, am convinced the stats are low. Some stats are non-existent because they’re too hard to get, such as the effects of alcohol on minors. I had to smile that you’re OK and coming out the other side. You are right. But you’re more than OK, you’re being used so much to tell the stories. Thank you.


    • Heidi, I love your avatar by the way….

      I think about this a lot: HOW to get real numbers? How do we get a real sense of how much harm is being done by alcohol? I have been doing research and I am finding the Liquor lobby with their hands all over studies. THIS makes me furious! I worked in DC and I know a bit, sad to say, about how the system ‘works’: Lobbies buy our representatives and then do the Lobbies bidding.

      People are dying. People are suffering and alcohol is just a totally accepted and ENCOURAGED part of DAILY LIFE. I don’t want to go Prohibition on anyone, I just want REAL numbers and REAL information about the damage alcohol rains down on our culture.

      I think that the coroners and doctors NEED to begin putting Chronic Alcoholism on death certificates as cause of death. We need those numbers. I really think it is fear that stops them: who wants to look at this REALLY!?

      OK I am done ranting for now anyway….

      XOXO Jen


  8. By the way, my mom believes in the sanctity of family secrets and I’ve done the best I can to own my truth without upsetting her. It’s caused us some tense times and I haven’t really begun to talk, yet. Timing is important so that I don’t cause her even more pain. I’m going to wait.

    She doesn’t try to read my blog or ask me anything and I think that’s because she’s ashamed of my being an alcoholic and a little afraid of what she’d find out.

    Secrets are dirty. They just are.


    • I am so sorry you can not share your AMAZING recovery and your Walk with your Mom! SHE is missing out!

      It makes me so sad to read ‘I think that’s because she’s ashamed of my being an alcoholic’

      You are a gift to all of us. Your path informs ours. Your healing encourages our healing.

      She should have nothing but pride for you, her amazing, gifted daughter!

      Secrets ARE dirty and they keep us stuck. YOU are so not stuck and I deeply admire you for that.

      I am very grateful for your blog and for you and, yep, for your alcoholism. Your path is helping strengthen mine.
      Thank you….

      XOXO Jen


  9. AMEN.


  10. You are right Jen, stories MUST be told, the TRUTH must come out, if there is to be change & progress. No shame, no sweeping under the carpet, no pitying required. Guilt & secrets only isolate & insulate, forcing people into unintended disengagement from life. Education is paramount from the days of early learning to the day we find ourselves moving on from this life.

    Such a great post Jen, thank you my dear friend, Sharon xox


  11. Blogs like this one are helping to reduce the number of people who have to survive situations like you did. Awareness is Key!


  12. … [Trackback]…

    […] There you will find 60687 more Infos: step-on-a-crack.com/2012/03/03/1792/ […]…


  13. Thank God for stories, hard and soft. Thank God for coming out on the other side. Thank God for finding your voice, so others know they’re not alone, and that they can make it too. You’re so right, Jen, we all have our stuff! XO ~ Paulann


  14. […] We Did Not Know What We Were Missing […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: