At the age of 14 when I was raped, the world had taught me another life lesson…who really were my true friends. From that point in my life, I started to view people and the world a bit differently. I was now 16, starting Sophomore year, still living with my dad and we had just moved again. So what seemed like a normal routine for me, I headed out into my new surroundings to tread on unfamiliar territory to conquer some new friends. Luckily, I was a social butterfly and it didn’t take me long to find a new group of friends to hang out with. Also, this is were I had the most fun in my teenage years and still cherish those memories today. My new group of friends and I would always find something to do. Whether we were going to the forest preserves (playing tag football, drinking or just hanging out); walking to the mall (it was far too); hitting the carnival when it came to town; hanging out at the local arcade or just going to see our friends band play, which then after the show the road crew and I would go hang out at Denny’s… I actually think this is were my coffee addiction started! I eventually ended up going to three different High Schools, dropping out in my Junior year, going back Senior year but not finishing. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I just went and got my GED.
Now so much had happened up to this point in my life that things are a little scattered in my mind. Plus the older I got, the more I would try to forget my past so I could stay strong and keep moving forward. So excuse the scattered timeline. I really didn’t feel like a typical teenager and I had always felt like the black sheep of my family. My mom wasn’t around much and my dad and step-mother really didn’t give me any strict parental guidance or rules to follow. I’m not sure if my dad was either really lenient, trusted me that much or maybe he didn’t know what kind of guidance and rules to teach me because he didn’t have much of that growing up himself. I know that his mother was an amazing lady, she raised me when I was younger and I am grateful for her morals and principles she instilled in me! She also tried her hardest raising her kids and teaching them those same morals and principles. As for his father, I know he was an alcoholic and I don’t remember much of him. I know that he died when I was around 7 and I only heard stories about how he was as a husband and father from my family. As far as my mom, she had a step-sister who I hardly saw, her father pretty much disowned her and I only recall seeing him three times in my life. Her mother was a nice woman who would always take us fishing, to church and then out to eat, but she was an alcoholic as well. Us three older kids did like spending nights at my gram’s house but we were shown at an early age, the effects of alcoholism.
Also at the age of 16 is when I started experimenting with drugs. There was this one time that my sister-in-law (who went to high school with me) said one day she came over and was laughing her butt off at me. I said why? She said, “I was sitting in front of the TV and laughing my ass off!” I said, “What’s wrong with that, I was high?!” She said, “The TV was off Debbie!” Yeah, I can see that as being funny! I can honestly say that after high school I stopped smoking marijuana…well, until I was in my late 20’s and visited Amsterdam. After a few days there and getting high, I remembered why I don’t do it anymore (laughing). Another drug I experimented with was called Rush. It was this liquid in a bottle that you would sniff and it would get you high. My friends and I would go to this place called The Ropes, I think it was in Indiana. We would get high off the Rush and swing on the rope and jump off into the river. I don’t remember that drug having such a great effect on me but it was the last time I had tried it. Sometimes I look back at that point and think to myself… what the hell was I thinking? It wasn’t so much trying the Rush, it was more so of me jumping into a murky river that had water moccasins in it! One of the most obtuse times I can think of when I experimented with drugs was when I got into Cocaine. I had met this guy who would just give me 8 balls for free. I remember working at this toy store and on break, I would go into the bathroom and do a line of coke. There was also one night, that same guy, my friend and I got so wired on cocaine that we went and got his Cessna aircraft. Yes, we were wired on coke, but decided to go fly… he was flying the plane, my friend was in the co-pilot seat and I sat in back. At the time I thought it was so cool! We all had our head phones on and I was jamming to INXS while we were flying over Lake Michigan over-looking the Chicago skyline. Looking back now… that could of ended up so wrong… but luckily it didn’t. The things I did as a teenager… on drugs. Crazy and obtuse.
Now my younger sister was still living at my gram and Aunts house and there were at least 8 of us kids sill living at home. This is were conflict was starting with us older kids and my step-mother. I think it was because she wasn’t that much older than us (only 9 years older than me) and it was hard to take her seriously as being a parental role model. There was one time were my step-mother was about to hit me (not sure why) and my older brother stepped in and said to her, don’t you even think about hitting her. I always did appreciate my older brother having my back because I always looked up to him since I was little. At this new house, us three older kids lived upstairs and my dad, step-mother, and all my half-brothers lived downstairs. I remember not too much longer when we moved to this house, my older brother had moved out (think he was actually kicked out). Many years later he had told me that he took off to Florida and lived under a underpass for a week! Eventually, I’m not sure what the circumstances were but my older sister moved out too. She ended up moving to my moms mothers house. After they had both been gone from the house, they would periodically tell me that I was next to be kicked out. So with that weighing on my mind and not knowing if it was true or not…I would periodically plan my getaway before I got kicked out too. With my older brother and sister gone, I felt like I had no one to protect or defend me anymore. I remember there were a few times that when I would close my bedroom door to get dress, my half brothers (all under the age of 10) would try to open it. I would be pushing on the inside of my door trying to close it and they would be on the outside pushing on it to open it. There were a few times that one of them eventually got their fingers caught in the door. Well, I think one time was too many because my dad got pissed off, ripped my door off the hinges and threw the door out! I ended up putting my tall dresser in front of were my door use to be, that kept them out and I just started getting dressed in the bathroom.
Around this time too, I also got a glimpse of a different side of my dad I’ve never seen before. One day he got so upset that he grabbed his gun and took it to his head and started screaming, “I’m going to kill myself.” I’m not sure what was going on with him but this was the first time I ever seen him do that or had and inkling that he was possibly depressed and/or suicidal. It was so confusing for me because I had been dealing with depression since I was 7-8 years old. I had always seen him as a strong person and to see him act this way threw me for a loop. This was the last time I had ever heard him say that he was going to kill himself…until decades later.
As time went on, I would always think about what my brother and sister had said to me, “Your next.” I was only 16 years old but started to process my exit on how and when I would leave before I possibly got kicked out too. I was also starting to feel as if my teenage life was spiraling and I was not in control of it. I was becoming more rebellious, staying out late, drinking, smoking pot, started skipping classes and when I did go to school I spent a majority of my time in detention or in-school (which is all day suspension in the basement of the High School). And to add to all of this spiraling confusion, my mother was telling me that if I didn’t get my act together, she was going to send me off to boarding school. So my exit consisted of this… There was this guy that I had briefly dated, him and his family were moving to Southern California. So I had this idea of moving out there and being with him. I had no plans of how long I’d be out there for, where I would stay or even a job lined up. I was being a teenager, a rebel and my Gypsy blood for unconventional adventure was kicking in! A few friends of mine had helped me out financially to get a one-way Greyhound ticket to Southern California….with $5 in my pocket (yes, $5), I was on my way! It was such an exciting time for me because I was going into an unknown adventure but it was also scary. I had no clue what the real world outside of Chicago was like or what the world was about to teach me. On my bus ride out to California, I had a biker chick try and get me to go to Seattle, WA with her to join the bikers. Then there was this old guy trying to get me to go to a hotel with him. Luckily I didn’t do either.
When I got older and would tell this story of when I ran away from home, I always joked and reference the Poison’s Fallen Angel song! Why? Because that video was pretty much like that moment in my life for me. I also use to have conversations with my mom and older sister regarding that time and I’m still stumped… I have no clue how I survived with hardly any funds or the fact how something horrific didn’t happen to me… 16 year old girl traveling by herself. I think I had some great angels looking out for me, that is the only way I can justify surviving that time.
“Until you step into the unknown, you don’t know what you’re made of.” ~ Roy T. Bennett