Hello. Thank you for opening and reading my blog for Punk Rock Saves Lives. My aim with this series of entries is to be as vulnerable as possible and write from my heart. I am hoping to show how punk rock saved me and to let people that have experienced similar hardships know they are not alone. My first entry will cover my early childhood and my struggles growing up in an abusive home. Sound good? Well ok here we go.
My name is Michael Michael. Yes you read that correctly, first name same as the last. For the first 13 years of my life I lived in Perry, Iowa. My old man struggled with alcoholism and my mom struggled with meth addiction. I don’t remember much from my early years, but I do remember my parents were incredibly abusive to each other. They were always fighting. My dad drove a semi back then so he would be gone for a week at a time, and I hated being alone with my mom. She would abuse me under the guise of teaching me. I vividly remember her placing my hand on the stove to teach me it was hot and burning me with cigarettes when I wouldn’t leave her alone. Then one night when I was 5 or 6, she dragged my brother and me out of bed and announced we were going to my grandpa in Ankeny, and that my dad was there waiting. When we got there, I remember my dad's truck wasn’t there. She pulled us out of the car and pounded on the door until the porch light came on. Then she left without talking to my grandpa or saying goodbye. I didn’t see her again until I was in my teens. As an adult I realized she chose meth over being my mom, though as a kid I was simply confused and scared.
My grandpa was incredible. He took us in and my aunt Mary went and bought us McDonalds. Fairly sure that was my first ever happy meal. My grandpa and aunt looked after us until my dad got home from the road. I don’t think he was happy to see us. That summer we lived with my grandpa and aunt while my dad was on the road. It was the best summer of my life. My grandpa taught me to fish and my aunt took us to garage sales on the weekends. It was the first time I felt safe. At the end of that summer my dad lost his job and he took my brother and me back to Perry to live with his new girlfriend.
As time went on my dad sunk deeper and deeper into alcoholism. The worse that got, the worse the abuse got. Spankings went from his hand to his belt to his fists. I started going to school with visible signs of abuse. Black eyes and bruises on my bum and back were common. My dad had convinced me that if I spoke to my guidance counselor about it that they would take me away and I’d never see my brother or the rest of my family again, so I lied when asked about it. Then one day when I was 10 or 11, I went to school with a broken nose and swollen face. That was the final straw and I was placed in foster care while my dad went to jail and treatment.
The first foster home was deeply religious and used scripture as punishment. I would spend hours in a closet sitting at a desk copying the bible word for word for minor things like forgetting to put away the dishes or not doing well on a test in school. To this day I can’t pick up a bible without having a panic attack. I was treated like I was a horrible child when in reality I was just scared and lost.
After about 6 months I was placed back into the custody of my dad. He’d successfully completed treatment and had quit drinking for about a year. Slowly though he sank back into the bottle. As he did, the abuse started right back up where it left off. Belt then a paddle. Now though he rarely used his fists and made sure he didn’t leave any marks that were visible. On the rare occasion that he did leave a visible mark, I’d lie and make up excuses because I was so afraid of being placed back in a foster home.
Around sixth grade I started acting out in school and quit caring about my grades. I went from a bright outgoing kid to a loud, rebellious, and scared preteen. I started to walk down the railroad tracks that lead out of Perry instead of going to school. I’d spend the days alone smoking cigarettes and weed that I would steal from my dad at night when he’d pass out. Eventually in seventh grade I got caught bringing weed to school. I was placed in a juvenile detention facility for a week and expelled from school.
After I finished my stint in juvie I was sent back home to my dad. The day I got home would be the last day I would be in his custody. That night he got blind drunk and called me downstairs from my bedroom. As I got to the bottom of the stairs, he hit me in the face harder than I’d ever been hit before.My mouth filled with blood. His second blow broke my nose for a second time. I remember falling down and him kicking me until I lost conscious. The neighbors must have called the police because when I woke up two days later, I was in the hospital. Apparently, I had a severe concussion and swelling on my brain. Once I was healed up enough, a social worker came to my hospital room. She told me my little brother had been placed in a foster home and I was going to be sent to a group home for kids like me.
Well that’s my story of growing up in an abusive house. I truly hope by reading this it helps someone as much as it helped me writing it. My next entry will focus on my experience in group homes and eventually being placed in a foster home with amazing loving parents that cared. Oh, and my discovery of punk rock and the subculture that came along with it. So stayed tuned!