If 2007 Could Be Different

If I look at my past as a case history, I see some possible predisposing conditions for addiction developing, but I don’t see them as powerful enough to make it happen.

Trauma is a part of life. An estimated 60% of men and 50% of women will experience trauma at some time in their lives.

Maybe It Will All Be OkayAs part of my life’s share, I experienced being unable to have children as traumatic. I asked for help and was in weekly therapy pretty consistently in the late 80s.

I experienced the end of my first marriage in the late 90s as traumatic. I developed chronic back pain and a sleep disorder. Again, I sought weekly therapy. I became a member of a first, then a second therapy group, a support community, and a spiritual community. In the early 2000s, my professional career as a teacher began to wane, but I still felt reasonably successful.

The unresolved issue of my life was my relationship with my mother and a further decline in her ill health in early 2006 gave me an opportunity to return to my hometown of Blacksburg and address it. I found a counselor before I left Tampa. Extreme physical training had finally provided relief from 10 years of back pain and eased the sleep disorder, and I had an appointment with a personal trainer set before I arrived as well. I felt well-prepared and well-protected when I returned to my hometown in July, 2006.

The very next month, in August, 2006, Morva’s act of community violence shook me, as did Utin’s September arrest for three decades of child molestation. I had tried to seduce Utin myself when I was in my teens when he was the manager of our pool, sensing some kind of availability on his part, and experienced a slight wound to my nascent womanhood and sexuality by his rejection. Learning decades later that I had tried to involve myself with a sick person rattled me. But I was handling it all.

In February, 2007, a kid pushed me off balance in my classroom. Something about the safety and sanctity of a classroom shattered for me. I felt stripped and skinned and ashamed. The kid was suspended for 10 days and put in a different class but I saw him in the halls daily after that.

In April 2007, in the class that witnessed my humiliation, I was in lockdown all day when Cho shot up our world. (I cannot type that without weeping, even after all these years.)

In September 2007, while I was passing out papers, a kid in my class stood where no one else could hear him and said, “I’m going to shoot you.”

Would he have ever thought to say that without Cho? Regardless, I came undone. He was suspended and I think moved to another class, but I saw him in the halls daily. I remember sobbing almost on my knees to my principal to let me go. My last day as a teacher was November 7, 2007.

I think Morva > Utin > kid > Cho > kid could have happened to some people and they would be okay. But those felt like blows, not incidents, to me. I did not have sufficient resilience to handle that many blows in that quick of a succession.

Up to 75% of women with substance use issues have trauma in their stories.

I am among them.

I can’t change what happened in 2007. But if I could change what happened after what happened, this is what I would have asked for.

> The kid who pushed me would have been removed from school and given a job as an apprentice with a boss who wanted to help the kid succeed and his family would have been given sufficient – not miserly – public assistance to help them with their struggle with adequate housing, food, clothing, and medical care.

> When I called the office for assistance for help with the kid who threatened to shoot me, the assistant principal would have sprinted up the stairs and down the hall to my classroom, then he would have spoken into his walkie-talkie and six armed and helmeted members of the National Guard would have come to my classroom and escorted that kid to jail. Because that should not ever happen to any teacher ever.

> After the shootings, Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger would have jointly broadcast to the community everywhere, “We know from the research that we’re all at risk for community violence-related trauma! Come to the drill field tomorrow! We’ll set up booths and everyone can go from one to the other and get help! We’ll f*ing invent our futures! We’re not going to let this get us! We can do it!”

And Ron Rordam with his big white mustache would have sat in a chair like Santa and I could have stumbled up to him and sat in his lap and he would have held me like a child and said, “Oh, Anne, I’m so sorry. That was really hard, wasn’t it?” And just held me. Truly, I think just a few minutes like that would have made all the difference in the world.

. . . . .

“Maybe It Will All Be Okay” sidewalk art created 8/15/2014 after having needed to write this for 7 years and having written it.

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Comments

  1. Wow. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Anne. Your words move me. I’m sorry that you’ve suffered so, and admire your strength in handling it and moving forward.

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