At birth, Tyler was addicted to drugs and also diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome. His mother became pregnant by accident and while she did not believe that abortion was a moral choice, she did not want to have a child. Her response to this dilemma was to smoke, drink, and use illicit drugs throughout her pregnancy in the hopes that she would lose the baby.
When Tyler was quite young his mother left him with his father and moved out of state. He wouldn’t see her again for almost twenty years. His father, overwhelmed with suddenly becoming a single parent, did not respond well to the additional stress. He was a commercial fisherman by trade, and so spent long periods of time out on the water. During this time, Tyler was frequently left in the care of his kind grandmother. Spending time with his grandmother was a blessing, because at home he received beatings more regularly than he did dinner.
When Tyler was 12, he witnessed his grandmother’s death as she was run down by a drunk driver. Already a heavy drinker, Tyler’s father quickly devolved into full blown alcoholism. This greatly increased the frequency of his physical abuse, adding to it an emotional component. When Tyler’s father was drunk he always referred to his son using insults rather than his name. Despite the abuse, Tyler learned to drive at the age of 13 so that he could drive his father home from bars in an effort to keep him from getting arrested or hurt while intoxicated.
When Tyler was 14, his father kicked him out of the house in response to Tyler attempting to advocate for himself and put a stop to the abuse. In high school at the time, Tyler became homeless or stayed with various friends. Tyler told no one, angry and ashamed about his situation. He began getting into fights at school. At one point he was detained by the police at school because, after witnessing a boy hit his girlfriend, he beat the boy so badly that he ended up in the hospital.
During his teens, Tyler also started using illicit drugs. Eventually this evolved into dealing them as a way to support himself through homelessness. At 17, he moved back into his father’s house by necessity during a particularly cold winter. This resulted in a fistfight with his father, one of many.
By the age of 23, Tyler had dozens of scars as the result of the severe physical abuse and from accidents due to extreme neglect. Miraculously, he got clean and sober. He found a part time job and began working on anger management skills. Today he has maintained a healthy, committed relationship for almost two years, and has not lost his temper once in three or four years. He moved out of that town, but does attempt to maintain contact with his father, stating he is the only family Tyler has.
While Tyler’s story is extreme it also representative of many issues survivors of childhood abuse face. Struggles with drug and alcohol use, problems controlling anger, mental health imbalances--all of these are unfortunately common in adult survivors of abusive trauma. The consequences are often greater than people realize, most especially because they may never speak out about being victimized.