This particular reflection will come in a series of about ten separate posts. This was written a few years ago by my roommate and best friend, Cherie, on her blog Goin To The Dogs of New York. Her blog is amazing and also contains many, many stories of her adventures with the dogs she walked in New York. She has gotten away from her blog due to recent health concerns and with her permission, I will re-post her story here. If you enjoy reading her writing, please let me know and I will add her as a writer on my blog.
I have read this several times and the effect on me the first time I read it was quite traumatizing. This story tells of things that have happened to Cherie, a woman I love with all of my heart and soul, so when I read through it, it causes me great pain and distress. Fortunately, she is a remarkably strong woman with more fight in her than any wild animal in any kingdom, anywhere. Posting this today is very fitting as today, Cherie is celebrating 35 years clean and sober. Keep that in mind as you read each and every post.
Now, without further ado, I introduce to you, Cherie.
“By the support and unconditional love of the thousands of people in the 12th Step Programs of Al-Anon, A.A., and N.A., from The Big Easy to The Big Apple, I have not picked up a drink or drug since July 15th, 1977. I am especially indebted to my sponsors, fellow members, and friends who went back out, used and died in the throes of addiction, so I didn’t have to end up the same tragic and needless way. You taught me so well, I would give anything to share my special day with you at my side. Instead, I am only left with my memories and lament about what could have been.
I have been asked to share my story by numerous people and have decided to post it for all to read online. It is the tale of hitting a very, very low bottom and so, not an easy one for me to tell. Recounting the years I was out there living in the problem and not the solution is an exhausting and debilitating task. But, perhaps my experience, strength, and hope will touch another and my journey on recovery’s path will have still more travelers joining me.”
“WHAT IT WAS LIKE“
“I was born to an upper middle class old New Orleans’ family. I was the first child born to my father (Jeremiah III) and the second to my mother (Gloria). My older brother’s father was married to my mother twice. He was older, abusive and a notorious womanizer. She finally divorced him for a second time when he was accused of the rape of a young woman. He died within that year of complications from alcoholism while in prison. My older brother Kenneth (Ken) was adopted and raised, as his own, by my father. Two years later we were joined by my younger brother Jeremiah IV (Jerry).
One of the most vital and influential people in my life was my maternal grandmother (Delta). She was my stability, my protector, my mentor, my champion.
A birth defect, which affected the vision in my right eye, was diagnosed when I was a few months old. As a result, I was subjected to years of excruciating treatments and exhausting procedures. I wore glasses from the age of six months. I was kept in a cocoon and treated like a fragile little anomaly. My earliest memories were my father’s blatant displeasure and disgust that his little girl wasn’t perfect. And, it goes without saying, I was the brunt of much teasing and taunting by insensitive children.
The big white house on the lakefront held so many secrets. My father travelled a great deal and when he was away we were left to my mother and her inner demons. She was bi-polar with schizophrenic tendencies. I need not mention they went untreated. She exacerbated her condition with bouts of alcoholism. My younger brother and I were the victims of her neglect, abuse, and psychosis, I in particular. Because Kenneth was years older, he was spared much of this insanity.
When my father was home life was not ideal either. Yes, we had a full-time maid, the house was immaculate and three meals of gourmet food were on the table daily. My mother’s illnesses were in check and she appeared to be the personification of a true southern lady, wife and doting stay-at-home mom. But, despite the rare and priceless gifts daddy showered on us from around the world and his wonderful laugh and outlandish humor, he was strict and an unwavering perfectionist. He demanded the best of his children and would berate and scream until you literally shook from the vibrations of his verbal tirades if you fell short of his unattainable expectations. Our intelligence and aptitude were constantly tested and the scores ranked and evaluated by professionals. I was found to excel and thus, began my grooming to become a physician from the time I was in grammar school. Studying Latin with the Carmelite nuns, while other children enjoyed summer vacation, was just one of the sacrifices I was forced to endure in pursuit of my father’s ambitions for me. One needn’t be surprised the only thing I can rattle off now is Pig Latin and only curse words at that.
When my mother wasn’t laying catatonic in her own filth, while Jerry and I went hungry and dirty, she sobbed and bemoaned her life incessantly. I once went to the principal of my school, after I was ridiculed and punished for arriving to class in an “unkempt” and “slovenly” appearance, and asked her to intervene and help my mother who was sick. This nun’s reaction to a little child’s plea was to backhand me across the face drawing blood. I was told to remember the 4th Commandment. A few years later, this same Bride of Christ and another, equally cruel and sadistic, teacher stood me up in front of the entire school assembly and went point by point, in a vicious and demeaning way, why no student should be like me. The vile laughter, stabbing sneers, and sanctioned torture by my peers haunts me to this day.
It was always the worst, though, when my mother’s moods swung the other way out of proportion. We would be taken to bar after bar with her. “They’re restaurants,” she said, “I have to talk to my friends on business.” But, I remember and I remember well. The endless flirting of the tall, beautiful and vivacious woman was how each occasion started. The indignation, snubbing and rejection by her to the advances of the men she had teased for drinks for hours on end was how it progressed. I remember because it was me who had to pay for her salacious actions. How many times was a little girl under the heavy weight of an angry, drunk, retaliatory man my mother had whipped into passion only to turn over to her young daughter? I still see her watching through the rear view mirror at what was happening. I still see her doing nothing to stop the vicious rapes she, in fact, had orchestrated.
Satanic and Ritualistic abuse was prevalent in the wealthy community in which I was raised. In fact, prior to Hurricane Katrina finally obliterating the evil home I grew up in, such practices still occurred there and in other neighboring houses in the area. As a member of “Believe The Children” in later years, I helped expose a well-established coven (day care center) and aided a mother in the safe escape of herself and three children to an underground network.
The inverted cross was branded on the base of my scalp when I was an infant. I was made to witness hideous and horrific acts of cruelty to both animals and humans alike, including the butchering of an infant and murder and draining of the blood of a man. I was sodomized and voraciously used sexually from the time I was six weeks of age by men and women alike in the various rituals of black magic and Satanism. These individuals were friends and acquaintances of my mother and all upstanding and honorable members of New Orleans society. My father knew absolutely nothing of this abomination. (Despite denouncing them and fighting to be released, in one way or another, I was still held within the clutches of these cults until I finally broke free and moved to New York City.)
I was, primarily, alone in the nightmare of my childhood and the only true light in the darkness was my grandmother. For the most part other adult figures had long ago betrayed me and, more often than not, used me for their sick and demented fantasies. Mama Delta was my friend, my companion, my savior. She defended me when she could and comforted me when she couldn’t. At the age of ten, my dear grandmother lost her battle to cancer and I lost my battle with maintaining any semblance of sanity. I remember at her funeral having to be pulled out of her newly dug grave site and pried off of her lowered coffin. My soul had long ago been murdered. I was already dead. Why couldn’t I be with her? Whereas, I probably split prior to this, it is with this trauma Cherie’s survival personalities became more pronounced.
I began drinking and drugging with the urging of an older woman. She lived across the street from my family and I was babysitting her children. I was fourteen and very sheltered and naive. Barbara knew so many fantastic people. She had even met the Beatles, when they played at City Park. And if I listened to her and did what she said, she was going to introduce me, me of all people, to some of them. I was as much as star struck.
The lights in the bar were blinding and the music was deafening. We walked into the French Quarter night spot and all eyes were upon us, especially me. Instantly, a glass of champagne and numerous kinds of pills were in my hands. “They will make you beautiful,” Barbara said, “Everyone will adore you.” I gulped the bubbly and popped the colored capsules without hesitation. She was right and, within what seemed like seconds, I was surrounded with the most gorgeous men and women I had ever seen. They were stroking my face, fluffing and smoothing my hair, twirling me round for appraisal. Not one was rebuffing or ridiculing me, no one demeaned or denigrated how I looked. All were lavishly praising my appearance. All were smiling, laughing, hugging and kissing me. Me-Cherie. Me-The Ugly Duckling. Barbara, my Fairy Godmother, had performed a miracle with her magic potions and pills. I was now a Swan.
It was not a hard choice for me to make between the loathsome days of constant taunting and torture at school with my mean and malevolent mates and the wondrous times of blissful exuberance and unbridled pleasure at the Row with my new friends and devotees. I was there every chance I could get and soon on a constant basis with school falling heavily by the wayside. Needless to say, my drinking and drugging escalated because I believed the only way I could continue to flourish in this new-found land of fun and frolic was to take my magic elixirs and those special pills and tablets, that were given freely to me.
But, soon a price was to be paid and reimbursement fell to moi. I watched Barbara talking with the manager of the band. He handed her money and a small envelope. “They will be recording a new record in a few days. Take a ride with him and just maybe you can play tambourine,” she suggested leading me to his waiting Cadillac. Two women were next to him in the front seat, I climbed in the back. When he pulled over and let them out and three men jumped into the car I knew something was terribly wrong. For the next four days and nights I was raped and beaten repeatedly by this group of individuals non-stop. I didn’t know in actuality what they were doing to me because of my naiveté, but I knew if I didn’t heed their orders never to tell I would be killed and my family’s name would be ruined as they warned. I was found bloodied and dazed on the railroad tracks by some gay guys who knew me from the bar. They cleaned my wounds and returned me to the Row at my insistence. I was ripped from one end to the other, covered with bruises and cuts, but I damn well shook that tambourine.
My mother didn’t comment on my appearance. She stared at me vacantly and withdrew into her depression. But, infection had set in and I was sick from the attack. I was in a perpetual state of intoxication trying futilely to stop the pain wracking my body and mind. The person I was a mere few months prior was unrecognizable at this point. My older brother put in an emergency call to my father in Paris.
“What have you been doing,” he bellowed. His face was contorted with rage. I tried to explain, but what could I say? I really had no concept of the gravity of all I had been involved in as of late. I watched the knuckles on his hands, griping the table, go white. “You’ve been fucking around and hanging with fruits and dykes,” he screamed. I had no idea what he meant. I didn’t know what those words were. He repeated his accusation. I, then, tried to tell my father, in detail, what had happened to me in that car and how my new friends in the French Quarter helped me. I can only imagine that hearing the tale of the debauchery of his only daughter drove my father into madness. He leaped from his chair and came to me and punched me squarely in the face. (He had never lifted a finger to me before in my life.) “I will destroy you so no other man ever wants you again,” he cried, as he pounded me over and over and over again. My mother came out of her stupor for a moment to plead, “Stop. No.” Then, just as quickly, whimpered, fretted and turned a blind eye to the ongoing attack. Finally, Kenneth pulled my father off of my broken body. He was still ranting. “You have defamed our family. You have ruined our reputation. You are not a Leahy. You are not my daughter. Go to your queers. You are not welcome in this house.”
He called his lawyer, who in turn called the authorities. “Tell me who got you into all of this,” my father demanded, “Was it that bitch across the street? Tell me and I might go easier on you and not prefer charges.” I refused to betray her. I still believed despite what she had done to me, that she loved me. And that in loving me she had helped me blossom into who I really was meant to be. No matter what, I was a swan.
I was handcuffed and shackled. I had spent over a month in a youth facility mainly in isolation because I was vulnerable to assaults and had already been jumped and beaten to a pulp a few times. I was going to court and would soon be with my parents and out of the barred cell. I was so scared and would do anything to get home. I had learned a hard lesson and would never do it again. My ears rang when the gavel came down. I was guilty of the runaway charges of U&U (Uncontrollable and Unruly) and sentenced to a year in Our Lady of the River Reformatory. I was led away by deputies to what would be my Hell for the next 10 months.
I was cut down and the rope was removed from around my neck. I couldn’t drink or drug. Suicide was my only option now that crawling into myself and withdrawing from my surroundings wasn’t working. *They held her down and screwed her viciously with the broken bottle. She fought and yelled but it was useless. She died within minutes.* *They took the small gaunt girl out of the closet after over a day of confinement in its darkness. She was unconscious and barely breathing. She had clawed her face and neck and it was a mass of bloody streams. She stopped screaming after a while or maybe I stopped hearing her. She never returned to the dorm. I wonder did she ever return to normal.* *One after another they disappeared over the gate. The shotgun boomed. Was freedom a bullet in the back or drowning in the quicksand in the swamps?* *Black fists, white fists came from every direction. Kneed and kicked until I begged the last contact would mercifully kill me. No staff to defend me, they too would teach me that just because I was a little rich girl I was no better than anyone else.* *And what were those noises I heard at night? The moaning, the panting, the cries? I’m not like that. I’m not. Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me. Please don’t touch me.* *”Good Night and God Bless You,” the nun making rounds whispered and sprinkled the holy water on me as I lay in my bed each night. Was that the same God whose name she cried out in ecstasy when she was molesting us?*
“If you mess up in any way, shape, or form you will serve five years with no parole in an even tougher place. You hear me,” the Judge menaced from his bench. I nodded and, literally, bowed walking backwards with my attorney out of the courtroom. I guess a few months later this same Juvenile Magistrate didn’t consider I (a minor of 15) would be “messing up” when he tried to seduce me after plying me with liquor and hash at a well-heeled party I was attending.
I tried, I really tried to fit in at the boarding school, but my stint in Puppy Prison was the talk around the classrooms. I was the tough, wild girl, which was so far from the truth, and all the trouble makers flocked to me. I was so terrified of getting in with the wrong crowd and being re-incarcerated I returned to the only other crowd I knew. Within months of release, I was sneaking back to the French Quarter, where I felt safe.
To Be Continued…
~by Cherie Leahy Smith