Living With Scars

Sometimes I look at the life I have today and say, wow, I’m truly blessed to have it all: family, friends, etc. You couldn’t ask for much more. I’d sometimes even get to the point where I would romanticize my whole life, especially my past. But there’s nothing romantic or funny about parts of my past, especially when I, at times, come face to face with it.

October is Domestic Violence Month, something I know a little about, not because I was a victim but because I was a batterer.

Yeah me! Don’t look so shocked. I think I’ve mentioned a few times that I was no angel back in the day. I hurt women, mentally and physically. Bully, monster, coward, all that and then some.

Why? I don’t know. Why would anyone hurt someone they say they loved? I could make excuses. I could tell you how, for years, I watched my stepfather beat my mom day after day, night after night. This man who claimed to love us and yet was sleeping with another woman when our house caught fire. Who grabbed me by the throat at the age of 10 while I was trying to protect my mom. (He wasn’t so lucky at 16.) Or the beatings and bullying I took from the rest of his family.

I could tell you about all the girls who broke my heart at school, who left me for other guys. I could tell you about the anger and rage that built up inside me because of my anger toward my mom, and that’s why I hit women. I could tell you about the drug and alcohol-fueled rages, the blackouts, the promises to never do it again, the split personality defense, the fact that my daughter died.

I can blame it all on my childhood, my drug use, mental illness. But all that would just trivialize what I did. There’s nothing trivial about what I did. God, I can remember trolling around on trains and buses to see if I could find my exes, to make another excuse, to break another promise.

My son’s mother was terrified of me when we were together. No one should be afraid of someone they love. I knew better, no excuses; and did these things in my life, which I mentioned, affect me? Maybe, but I had choices. I chose violence. No excuses.

Yes, I’ve changed. I grew up, But the things I did left scars. Not just on my victims, but also me. Just because you become a so-called beloved figure and a leader doesn’t mean you get or are even entitled to be forgiven. It took a long time for me to accept that.

“Look at me, I’ve changed” doesn’t always cut it with the people you hurt, no matter how much time passes. Like the kid I pass nearly every day who looked up to me. Today, all he can remember is what I did to his mom nearly 40 years ago, or the ex who, when I looked her up on Facebook, blocked me, or my daughter’s mom, who walks by me as if she doesn’t know who I am. Or the son who can’t stay out of jail. They all have to live with their scars. And I have to live with mine.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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