I always knew growing up that if I made the wrong move, said the wrong thing or did not please those around me that I would pay the consequences with pain. A spanking there, a slap here, words of degradation were what I thought was normal. How could I consider it abnormal when I was flawed and it was par for the course when I messed up, which I seemed to do so often.

While I must admit that I always thought that I was broken, that I was bad, that I deserved to be “strengthened” with physical reinforcement.

I finally broke as a person when I was around 14 years old. I had been exploring with smoking. I was in my bedroom and I had a pack of matches in my pocket and was lighting and blowing out the flames out of boredom. I blew out the last match and looked up to see my father looking in my window. When our eyes met, he took off in a run around the house. I knew I had it coming. I unlocked my bedroom door and sat on my bed waiting for him to arrive. When he did, he was red with rage. He stared at me for a good two minutes before he took of his belt.

He stood two feet in front of me with the belt doubled up, snapping it to create loud SNAP’s. I knew what was coming and started to shake. He told me to take my pants off. I did not respond in the acceptable time. He started hitting me with the belt and then stopped. He reiterated his request for me to take of my pants. I knew that it was going to be bad and that the more I held my pride and refused, the worse it would be.

I took off my pants and then my underwear at his instruction. I stood in front of him with nothing on. I started to cry as he told me to turn around and bend over. I obeyed his demand. As he hit me with his belt, I curled up into a ball. He told me to take it like a man and rolled me over and started welting me with his belt all over my body, each blow getting stronger.

At that time he told me that if I would roll over and take it on my behind that it would be over faster. I obeyed him, but as he beat me, I curled up again in the fetal position. I remember looking down on myself, removed from my body, as the beating continued. I couldn’t feel it, but I saw every blow, every look of satisfaction on my father’s face.

Finally my father lost his steam and left the room. I remained in a ball and sobbed. I still know what had happened was wrong. I still knew that I was okay. I had just messed up and “played with fire”. I had it coming. I would be better.

I was still in a ball two hours later when my father returned to the room with tears streaming down his face. He told me that he had been wrong and that he was begging for my forgiveness. I didn’t respond. I was still looking down at myself from above.

He told me that he had made a mistake in beating me and that I needed to return the infliction to him. I remained in the fetal position as I was told this. Of course the tears on his face tugged at my heart and I was finally able to get up to try to comfort him. Once I was up, he insisted that I take the belt from his hand. Next he took off his shirt and instructed me to beat him back. When I refused he when through his usual spiel about “this was harder on him than it was for me”. Eventually he took the belt back and started beating own back. I could see that he was sincerely remorseful for what had happened in the previous hours, but for some unknown reason, this was the time that I turned my heart away from him and started hating him. I don’t know why this particular time my heart broke. Beatings were not that unusual in my childhood.

The next few months are a fuzz for me. I remember refusing showers at my high school for gym class. There is no way I could have explained the X marks all over both sides of my body that were left by the welts that were a result of the belt. I sank into depression. Stopped eating and withdrew from everyone. I started smoking cigarettes on a regular basis and pot. I lost my faith in God.

Flash forward 4 years, I turned 18 in the September of my Senior year in high school. The day of my birthday, I packed up my few belongings and left the house. My father tried to bar me from leaving. I was told “things would change”, that “if I walked out that door, I would no longer be his son”. I remember having to physically move my father from in front of the door. I no longer wanted to be his son.

My Senior year was pretty painful. I had to work every night after school and on the weekends in a convenience store to pay for shelter over my head. I had to hitch- hike to school each day (I had moved out of the country into the “city” so I could be close to work and get an apartment). Some days I made it, and some days I didn’t.

My mother worked at my high school and had her own sort of breakdown. She told the entire staff that I was gay and that I had ran away. There were a couple teachers that reached out to me, and for that I am grateful. Of course it was all done on the DL as they were afraid of my mother and for their jobs. I asked several teachers if they could pick me up for school since they drove in from the city, and all refused out of fear.

After graduation from high school I went to a trade school and worked to build a career. I also took more drugs to cope with the dead part of myself. I entered a relationship with a liar, drug dealer, manipulator and verbal abuser. That lasted for 7 years.

At the age of 26 I decided that either I face my demons or I quit life. I decided to face my demons and started therapy. During this period, I had no contact with my family, except for the occasional time spent with my brother. I spent a lot of time inside myself and eventually came to the realization that I had no control over what happened to me as a child, but I do have control over my future. That was a big “a-ha” for me.

I quit drugs (although to this day, I can’t seem to shake the smoking habit). I worked at rebuilding a relationship on my terms with my family. It was painful and there were times when I would visit my family when I just had to get up, walk out the door and drive away.

25 years later, I have a loving relationship (14 years and counting). I do not take any type of illegal substance into my body. I still don’t trust too many people, but have those in my life that love me and I love them. I have a strong career and no longer worry about taking care of myself.

Really, the bottom line is this: It will get better. Hang in there. Don’t let anyone push you into anything that you don’t want and you will not end up running from anything. Now I know when I have challenges that I was the one to make the choices in my life which resulted in things that I must work out . I can no longer blame my choices on what happened to me as a child.

For me, breaking the chain involved breaking down my life and then rebuilding it. I don’t have children and do not beat my pets. This is a choice that I have made for myself and while at times, I really want to abuse someone, I don’t. I am in control, not my father, his father or my grandfather’s father.