“Raised by an alcoholic mother, I was abandoned at age five and temporarily taken from my mother to juvenile hall. Throughout childhood I acted out and got in trouble, going back to juvenile hall at age 12. I suffered from panic attacks and became phobic and unable to drive the freeways for 23 years. I was an alcoholic mother, married with three wonderful children, then divorced, then homeless. I became a prostitute for 17 years, earning money to raise my children. I lived a double life.
In my personal life I looked for love in all the wrong places. I was a mess. I just needed love and was willing to do whatever it took to get the love and attention I was starved for. When I said ‘I love you’ I was really saying, ‘Do you love me?’
‘When the student is ready the teachers will appear.’ And they have. I’ve been sober for 27 years. Through the help of teachers and therapists I can drive the freeways. I am happily married and have a wonderful relationship with my children. I have a successful caregiving agency.
I now love myself and have transformed my life. I want the same for you!
Telling the TRUTH released the shame as I set myself free!
We all have a story. We have all been damaged at some point in our childhood, taking us down a path of self-destruction. All that matters now is how we get back up! And I say, the sooner the better! How long do you want to wait? 5 days? 5 years? 50 years? I say, do it now. I didn’t speak my truth until I was in my 50s. Why wait as long as I did? Remember, time heals nothing. It’s what we do with our time that matters!”
After speaking her truth to them in 2009, Patty wrote her three children this letter that began a path of healing her family:
A letter to my three children.
When I was 23 years old I wanted to have children more than anything in the world. I thought I would raise you perfectly and that we would have a perfect life together with so much love and everything I didn’t have when I was growing up. Little did I know then that I was still a little girl myself and that I was in no way ready to raise children. I brought you into this life not prepared to give you what you needed.
I was lost in so many ways. I was an alcoholic. I had phobias, panic attacks, deep insecurities, feelings of unworthiness, shame, and of not being good enough. I was way out of balance and immature. I never felt like I fit in or I belonged. I didn’t think I was smart enough or good enough.
And at the time I didn’t even know these things about myself. They were buried deep inside of me. I was damaged by the experience that I endured being raised by a mother that was just as damaged and out of balance as I was. And I believe she, like me, didn’t know it either when she decided to have children.
I know that I put you all in terrible situations, confusing you like I’d been confused during times of great joy and happiness, when things must have felt good, safe and normal. Only to thrust you into situations that were horrible. You needed to feel loved, safe and secure. Instead, because of me, you were victims of my reckless behavior that I had developed over the years as a product of the same abuse, neglect, and shame.
I have not been the mother that I thought I would or could be. There were times when I thought I did a wonderful job, only to do something to mess that all up.
I know what it feels like to be ashamed of your mother. I know what it feels like to want to get away from all of it. And I know what it can do to you. I know how it can destroy who you were meant to be. I know how it can change you, how it can damage you, causing you to want to reach for things to numb your pain and find ways to escape whenever you can.
I thank God that through it all each one of you has found love in your lives.
I believe we all have a calling in life and a gift to bring to the world. Over the past 12 years or so I have been able to do a lot of healing with the help and love of therapists, teachers and a remarkable community of friends.
I was able to grow and heal and I continue to grow and heal with the love and support that I have from my husband, who is also my spiritual partner. I know each of you will need to heal in your own way and in your own time. I know there is no way to rush this. Just this last year I was finally able to return to love and understanding with my mother. For me this was enormously healing.
Whatever path you take, whatever timing you choose, I want you to know that I get you. I get your pain and your shame, and I get your anger and frustration.
So when you need me to be there for you I can now. I can help you from a place of love, understanding and compassion. I won’t try to rush this in any way. Just know that I’m here for you whenever you need me.
I know through it all we still have love. And because we still have love we can still create miracles.
With deep compassion and love,
Patty Tierney tells her story in her soon-to-be-released book, For A Good Time: Surviving Sex Work and Addiction To Become The Mother I Was Meant To Be.
Photo: Mary Lou Sandler