Read an Excerpt
The Re-Making of An Addict
By Cheryl Thacker-Brown
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Cheryl Thacker-Brown
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSOME THINGS YOU NEVER FORGET
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9
I was born March 8th, 1967 at Morrisiana Hospital in The Bronx, New York. I was the fifth child of my mother, and the tenth child of my father. I don't remember much about Crotona Park, where I lived for the first two years of my life, but I remember 544 St. Paul's Place. (My being able to remember all the way back to two years old is a miracle in itself, but I'll explain that later.) I can remember the day the moving van brought our furniture to our third floor apartment. They brought in the long sofa first, then a smaller one. The third piece was curved, as it was part of a sectional sofa. The long piece was first, the curved piece next, then the smaller sofa. But, all my little mind could conceive was that the moving men had bent my Mama's sofa! I started hollering and screaming, as though the world would end. I just couldn't understand why Mama wouldn't "make that dumb ole' man take that dumb ole' couch back, and get us a new one!" And I told Mama so, too. I wasn't ashamed to say anything back then. I knew Mama would let me get away with anything – except temper tantrums. I guess I was a little bit crazy from the start because I threw them anyway. My behind still remembers the butt whippings I got from throwing temper tantrums. Some things, you never forget.
My oldest sister, who was sixteen years my senior, had my niece, Ressie, when I was two. Mama worked as our sole provider. She worked a lot. My Dad was never around much, so my big sister took care of me. She gave me baths and washed my hair, taught me my alphabet and how to count, took me to the park and played with me, put me to bed at night, and literally acted as if I were her own child – until Ressie came. Then, I was kicked to the curb. We couldn't play games like chase in the park anymore because we couldn't run off and leave Ressie. I couldn't sing as much around the house anymore because I would wake Ressie. I couldn't sleep with my sister anymore because Ressie took my spot. Ressie, Ressie, Ressie! That's all I ever heard, and I was pretty darn mad about that.
I came into the world on my parents' seventeenth wedding anniversary. Mama was thirty-eight and Daddy was thirty-nine. Daddy was very dark-skinned in color, but Mama had a light complexion. All my older siblings have my Mama's complexion, but I'm dark like Daddy. Ressie looked almost white, and she was as adorable as a baby doll – and I hated her. She took my place. I was no longer the favorite around the house. Nobody told me how cute I was like they use to before Ressie came. Nobody made a big fuss over me anymore, and at a very early age, I developed a very low self-esteem.
As we grew older, my brother started calling me Aunt Jemima. She was the lady on the pancake box. The box was bright yellow, and Aunt Jemima was so black she looked like an ink spot. Whenever Ressie and my brother wanted to make me mad, which seemed like all the time, they would call me Aunt Jemima. And oh! How we would fight! I use to hate to look at myself in the mirror. All I saw was what Ressie and my brother told me I was – a black, ugly girl whom nobody could stand. Around four or five years old, I got the notion that Noxema, a skin cleanser, would make my skin lighter. So, every night I'd cake it on my face, hoping to wake up in the morning looking like everybody else in my house. After months of this, I finally said, "What's the use! I'm just black and ugly!"
In the Word of God, King David says in Psalms 51:5, "BEHOLD, I WAS SHAPEN IN INIQUITY; AND IN SIN DID MY MOTHER CONCEIVE ME". The Bible lets us know that because of one man's disobedience, sin entered into the world and it is natural for man to sin (Genesis chapter 3; Romans 5:12; 7:14-23). The events of my life have caused me to understand that the Devil (Revelation 12:9), the adversary of God and His people (1Peter 5:8), starts early in the life of a person who has been ordained by God to do great works for Him. Rejection and low self-esteem are the tools he used on me.
I can remember thoughts of hatred and feelings of rage racing through my mind and I began to be mean. I would take my anger out on my niece. No one ever suggested that I be mean to her and nobody ever used the word "hate" in my house. It wasn't allowed. At no time did my sister ever tell me that I was not loved or loved less once Ressie was born. In fact, as I look back, everybody tried to make me feel special once they saw my jealousy of Ressie. But, it was all to no avail because I hated her and everybody knew it.
Where did this fierce hatred come from? Where did this low self-esteem and rejection come from? From the one who, for twenty-seven years, tried to keep me from walking in God's plan for my life: Satan (Job 1:6). He is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44), and he will say and do anything to try and stop God's purpose in our lives. If he can convince us that we are worthless and that we'll never amount to anything, then sometimes, it's difficult to believe anything else.
It is important to have a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He teaches us God's will, guides us into all truth, and will show us our future (John 14:26; 16:13). My mother loved God and she took us to church. She wanted all of her children to live as Christ wants us to live, and we did, but only when she was looking. She worked a lot to keep a roof over our heads and my father was never home. Whenever he was, he seemed very mean. He smoked cigarettes and he drank. Pretty soon, so did my older three siblings.
With Mama being gone so much, our house seemed like the neighborhood hang-out spot. All I saw and heard was drinking, smoking, and cursing. The house always smelled of marijuana, music blared from the record player all day, and it would be filled with people who looked and acted strangely. We would peek through the keyhole of our bedroom door to see what was going on because we weren't allowed around the grown-ups. When people knocked on the door, my sister would say, "DISAPPEAR!" After a while, as soon as we heard a knock on the door, we'd be gone before she could say it.
Having to be "hidden" all the time aroused my curiosity. So, I would lie at times and say I had to use the bathroom just so I could get out of the room. Once, I got to the bathroom door, and it wouldn't open. I knocked on the door, and then I started to bang because this time, I really had to go. But, there was no answer. I yelled for someone to help me and my sisters came running. Some man was in there, but he wouldn't answer when they called his name, and he wouldn't open the door. Another man came from the living room and finally, he pushed open the door, breaking the lock. The toilet was right next to the bathtub. There was the man, sitting on the toilet with his pants around his ankles, slumped over the tub with a needle sticking out of his arm.
That image has never left me.
Some things, you just never forget.
I was six years old.
Chapter TwoLEARNING TO LIE
"Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts" Psalms 51: 6a
Those early days on St. Paul's Place taught me how to lie and to lie well. No matter what, we never told on each other. My brother, my niece and I would do all kinds of crazy stuff, things we knew we were not supposed to do, and when we got caught, our famous answer to the question, "Who did this?" was "I don't know!"
"Who broke my shoe?"
"I don't know!" – That was me and Ressie. When my sister would fall asleep after drinking all day, we'd play dress-up.
"Who was in my room?"
"I don't know?" – That would be my brother in our oldest brother's room. He would sneak peeks at my brother's "dirty books", as we called them. Of course, he'd bring them out to show us, too.
"Who keeps knocking on this bathroom door?"
"I don't know?" – That would be all of us. We'd take turns knocking on the door and running.
No one taught us to lie. It was natural. Isn't it annoying that you have to be taught how to read and write – something that will help you to be successful – but sin, which will send you to hell, comes naturally? We were taught to always tell the truth, but all we did all day was lie. Then, we learned how to take things without asking, which was stealing. Oh, sure, even at seven, I knew it was wrong to steal, but I sure got a kick out of it. My sister was mean to us when she'd drink. She would yell at us and curse so badly, and we were terrified of her. To pay her back, I would take her things and move them around – anything to aggravate her as much as she aggravated me. Remember – this was the sister that took such good care of me until Ressie came.
Once my niece was born, I noticed that my sister would sleep a lot. Not get in the bed and sleep – she'd be talking to us and all of a sudden, she'd nod off. My other sister did this often, too, and we would laugh because they looked so stupid! If they heard us, they would pop their heads back up and we'd shut-up real fast so as not to get beat.
We got beat a lot. For every little thing. For not flushing the toilet. For playing in our hair. For talking when we were told to go to sleep. For playing. What kid gets beat for playing? Isn't that what kids are supposed to do?
From a young age, I was absent-minded. I forgot everything and my mind would wander all over the place. But I could always think up the most foolish things to do. The beatings we got were merciless. You would think that those beatings would cause me to walk the straight and narrow path, wouldn't you? Well, not me! I was a daredevil. I knew the risk of getting caught, but I'd try it anyway.
One time, I saw a commercial of this beautiful white woman sitting in a beauty salon on television. She started out with long hair, then, she had a short hairstyle. She looked even prettier with short hair and all her friends on the commercial said so. So, I decided to cut my hair! Maybe then I'd be beautiful to everyone, too. Mama and my sister always kept my hair in three pigtails, two on each side and one on top. I had shoulder length hair, and I cut the pigtail on the left. It was braided and I cut it all the way to the beginning of the braid. I was so proud! I ran into the living room holding my braid in my hand, excitedly saying, "Look, 'yall! Ain't I bootiful? I cut my hair!" – and the room grew absolutely silent. Ressie and my brother whispered a low "Ooooo!", and my sister jumped up and wore my little behind out!
I couldn't understand why I was getting a spanking. All I was trying to do was be pretty like everybody else. I tried to explain in between hits, but I was told to shut-up. When my sister said shut-up, you shut-up. I could never explain myself. None of us could. We were told all the time that children were to be seen and not heard. And I began to grow angrier. The devil had planted a seed of rejection and low self-esteem had taken control.
Most of the time, I would think to myself, "I'm just ugly and stupid, and ain't nobody ever gonna' like me anyway, so I'm just gonna' hate them, too!" I would do stuff just to get even with my sister. I couldn't take my anger out on her, so I took it out on Ressie. I'd stick my foot out as she walked by. I'd break her toys and lie and say I didn't do it. I'd pick fights with her all the time. She was a bit chubbier than me, so we'd fight like cats and dogs. One thing about it – she never let me get the best of her. She stood her ground no matter what.
As I write this, I realize how severely I could have damaged her self-esteem. I've asked her forgiveness many times for the mean way I use to treat her back then. I had no idea what I was doing. Maybe if I had someone who was able to hear from God at home with us more often, a lot of things could have been avoided.
Mama had no idea what went on in our house all those many hours she was gone. My sisters would burn incense to kill the marijuana smell, and they'd open up all the windows to air out the house before Mama came home. We were never crazy enough to tell on any one of them. Once, after getting beat for something that I can't even remember, I threatened to tell Mama when she came home. My sister grabbed me by the arm, lifted me off the floor, and beat the mess out of me. She said I'd better not tell Mama anything about what goes on while she was gone. If I did, she said I'd get a worse beating than the one she gave me for just saying I was going to tell. So, telling Mama was not an option.
My sisters drank all the time, and they smoked marijuana even more. What I didn't know back then was that they also used heroin. That was the reason they would nod all the time. Once, as we were taking a nap, I awoke, having to go to the bathroom. All I heard was music from the front room. Ressie and my brother were still asleep. I knew we weren't alone. We never were. I eased out of our room, tip-toed to the living room, and saw my sister and two other people sprawled out on the sofa, fast asleep. I tipped my way into the bathroom as quiet as I could be. I was scared to flush the toilet because I didn't want to wake anybody. I'd get in trouble for that. I also didn't want to get in trouble for not flushing the toilet. As I was trying to figure out what to do, the door eased open. My heart jumped into my mouth. I knew I was in for it, now! I started crying, just knowing it was my sister with the belt. I often wish it would have been.
A man with white hair and a white beard, who was a regular in our house, appeared around the bathroom door with his finger up to his mouth.
"Sshh, don't be scared, Cherie. I'm not gonna' hurt 'cha", he said. I was relieved. I thought my behind was going to be beaten for sure. He picked me up and hugged me, and I felt safe for a minute. As I said, my Dad wasn't around much, so I didn't get hugs from men. As I saw him all the time, I thought for sure this man would never hurt me. But, I began to get scared again. Even though he was telling me that I was pretty and that made me feel good, his hands started reaching under my skirt. He was breathing heavily in my ear and his breath smelled like alcohol. I was trying to squirm out of his arms, afraid of his hands intruding my lower body, also afraid to yell. He kept saying I'd get beat if I woke my sisters up, and that they wouldn't believe me if I told them what was happening. I knew he was right on both counts, so I held my screams in as his fingers went inside of me. But, something in me said the heck with getting a beating. This was a million times worse than any beating I ever got, and I bit him. Hard. I don't even remember where I bit him. I just bit him, he dropped me to the floor, and I got up and ran back to my room.
I never said a word to anybody in the house about it.
I told you – I learned how to lie and lie well.
Chapter ThreeINFLUENCED BY DEVILS
"For I know the thoughts I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end" Jeremiah 29:11
As I look back at those early years, I realize that there is no greater power than God. Satan targeted me for destruction from birth, but God ordained His purpose for me long before the world began (Romans 8:29-30). God knew me before He formed me in my mother's womb (Jeremiah 1:5). He kept angels around me (Psalms 91:11), so that the enemy could not completely destroy me. But oh, how he tried to stop God's plan for my life.
Those early incidents caused me to feel like I was nothing. I felt ugly and dirty all the time and I didn't think anyone could or would help me. I was scared around the house even more now, and I didn't dare tell anybody. I felt like it was all my fault. If I'd had just said that I had to go to the bathroom, then, just maybe "it" wouldn't have happened.
Anyone who says that children are not tormented by demons has not been well informed. The devil talked to me quite often. At the age of seven, not long after the bathroom thing, I began to see and hear strange things. Already feeling unloved and not liked, I would hear voices that said that I was just an ugly, useless, black nothing. Accepting Satan's lies as true, I began to act according to how I felt. I rarely remember myself just smiling.
Excerpted from The Re-Making of An Addict by Cheryl Thacker-Brown Copyright © 2011 by Cheryl Thacker-Brown. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.