Tag Archives: addiction

Forgiving your Mengele

Forgiving your Mengele

Don’t get me wrong–I’m no revisionist claiming that the atrocious acts that this notorious doctor perpetrated didn’t happen or were less disgusting and assaulting to the human beings it was done to. No. I watched a film on Youtube called Forgiving Mengele. At first I thought that this incredibly noble woman was alone with her plight, as are all Holocaust survivors. But then I got to thinking all survivors of any abuse have our own suffering, often inflicted by a kind of Mengele in our lives. For me that’s the hardest aspect of living now–finding ways to stop hurting.

According to Eva Kor (the focus of the film) the only way to heal one’s self is to forgive your worst enemy. In her experience, carrying all that hate was toxic and making the rest of her life excruciatingly difficult.

What blew me away was that other survivors in this film disagreed with her concept of forgiveness, saying that to simply say she forgave Mengele for the murder of her twin sister (he conducted unconscionable experiments on twin children, often dissecting them alive after injecting chemicals just to see how they affected the body) was hollow and impossible for them. Some of the victims even raised their voices to her saying that she was wrong to feel the way she felt! It was very powerful.

As a youngster when I was being sexually abused it was so easy to hate. Therefore I thought it was the correct way of feeling! I hated everything and everyone, reserving my most acerbic disposition for men. I hated my father, male teachers, even any male friends I had in school. They were all evil. That is until I felt the security of a man who got in my corner and said “If I ever find that guy, I’m going to nail his nuts to a post and kick him over.”  That’s a direct quote from my very first boyfriend. He loved me and was appalled at how nothing was truly done to mitigate all of the insidious abuses done.

See, it didn’t start out with a full on sexual assault. No no. It was much sneakier than that. Much more devious. I was in the kitchen in one of our family homes that we had over the years. He had asked me for a drink of Coke. Being a nice little Italian girl hostess I jumped up to get it. I got a glass for myself as well. He drank his fast. It was a hot day. I drank mine as well. The glasses were sweaty. So was he. I kept moving away from him on the couch, but he kept squeezing closer. He said that my bum was big enough and I didn’t need more pop as I got up to get more. He forced me to sit back down because he was so close to me now. He kept telling me to sit. Bear in mind that I was 13 years old, maybe 120 pounds and he was the same age but well over 200 pounds. He easily intimidated and kept me sitting, sweating. I remember needing to go to the bathroom so bad. I waited until he was gone before I got up. That was the first time I ever felt so trapped and afraid. It would become familiar for two years while the violence and intimidation escalated.

After everything came out–all the gruesome details about what happened to me and I was still reeling from how to deal with what happened, I found out another interesting piece of the puzzle. My abuser had been forced to watch pornography and the actual sex act between his parents. This had been going on since he was about five years old. Knowing that, it made it a little easier to understand why he might choose to act the way he did. Don’t misunderstand–it was his choice to do what he did. He didn’t have to. He could have chosen to find out that what had been done to him by his father was also wrong. But for whatever reason, he didn’t. It just passed through him onto me like an electrical current.

Of course, I’m at that point in my life where I’m interminably frustrated, even tormented with the concept of forgiveness. I’d love to forgive. But knowing something intellectually is not the same as knowing it emotionally. I tell this to my psychiatrist every time I see him. “How’s it going?” “Intellectually? Fine. Emotionally? Shit.”

I think that’s why I love hand quilting so much. Every stitch, especially in an echo pattern around a Dresden plate, gets you further and further away from the centre. It’s like drinking scotch. “Forget the pain for now.” I want the pain to be forever gone, but this is all I have for now. I do believe that forgiveness can help someone’s recovery, but so far I’m just not that noble. I would, if called upon, go to court and testify against this guy with a vengeance. They’d have to pry me off of the witness stand. I can only hope that he gets caught taking his violence too far. I believe it will happen. I hate knowing it but it seems likely. He’s a Mengele. He seems possessed by his need to hurt women.

They say Mengele used to shout for twins when cattle cars were unloaded at Auschwitz. Every train load “Zwillinge! Zwillinge!” Only my Mengele didn’t shout for me or for any other victims. He simply found us and used us up.

Stitches are steps

Stitches are steps


Music and Meaning

Concert Tee!

Concert Tee!


Fess up–as quilters we are natural hoarders. It begins with fabrics and thread, different needles, pins, machines, thimbles, interfacing, machine feet, you get the idea. I have another collection that my husband hates anew every time we move house: my records and record players.

just some of the records

just some of the records

This is not all of the albums. I have other nooks and crannies and boxes with albums. I started collecting when I was 15. Nobody thought it was cool then. People ask me “why are you a collector of a dead format like vinyl?” My answer: economics. I used to come across the odd $20 spending money at that age. One CD used to cost about $25 in those days. So I could scrape together the money for sales tax and get one CD, or I could be smart and get almost 20 records–they averaged about $1 apiece at the flea market! I also got records for free at the market because I was a good customer.

The habit starter

  The habit starter

This is the lovely Philips HiFi that I got from my Gramps in 1996. Today it serves as an aquarium stand. Our reef tank sits up there–30 gallons! This machine is an interesting piece and I’m so glad I still have it. It started out as a stereo in 1946–the year Gramps went into the Royal Navy. Of course, it was oak covered in a mahogany veneer. Can you believe they covered actual hard wood with plastic veneer?!

Anyway, by the time I got it the veneer was crumbling and making a huge mess. When I stripped off the veneer with a heat gun (truly toxic work and I should have worn a mask, but hey, I was a kid) the wood was revealed and was nice but only in places, so I decided to paint the piece. I used lead based white house primer and mallard green paint that was so old it didn’t stir properly, so it was streaky. I coated it with about three coats of high gloss polyurethane.

It stayed green for years until I met my husband and we moved into our first home that we bought together. The green didn’t go with our furniture. So I brought out the red! So it’s been red for the past decade or so.

Another question I get about it: Does it work? Answer: it needs new tubes and the turn table needs a new belt. The AM radio does work–picks up stations as far away as Seattle, which is quite a distance from here. But with the aquarium on top, the lid obviously stays closed and it serves as a stand.

I used to sit in front of this hifi where those circles are (the spots where the speakers are covered by rough fabric) with my open bottle of vodka and I’d line up my codeine tablets on the salmon coloured carpet. I used to play songs like “I can’t make music” “My little town” and anything by Art Garfunkel, James Taylor or Carole King and cry. There was a great deal of sadness in life back then.

I had developed borderline personality disorder but it was completely unnoticed, not monitored, and I was twisting in the wind. I had tried to seek help for myself but everywhere I sought it followed the belief system that because I was still in active addiction I was unable to be helped. I would have to quit drinking, which would be the easy bit, and quit those pain killers. Not so easy. I still have to make a conscious decision every day to not allow any minor discomfort to be an excuse to take pain killers of any sort. But regardless of the latter, there is something condemning about telling someone in dire straits that they are, essentially, unhelpable. It makes the addiction take an even firmer grip–at least, it did for me. I wouldn’t quit opiate pain killers until 2004, when my choices were to move on to heroin because of my high tolerance, or death.

I started hearing the same music differently after I was released from the detox facility in August, 2004. I found that my entire music collection was vinyl– a very physical format. One has to remove the disc from several layers of plastic and paper and then place a needle on it. And then you have to be careful around the stereo because you don’t want any skipping. Also you can’t go too far away because the record only plays for about 17 minutes on one side. I used to stack my albums on one of those steel spindles that drops the records down. Kind of like an in-home juke box set up. But I put too many on there once and broke the spindle! 😦 Big sad emoticon!

I still love records as a mom, wife, quilter, etc. And I love having my collection swaddling me in my home along with all my other stuff–mounds of fabric, threads, journals, books of poetry, CDs, paints, canvas, beads….But I’m so glad that they have more meaning now. It’s kind of like whenever I hear the lines at the end of “A Song For You” which was written by Leon Russell but made famous by the Carpenters in 1972: “And when my life is over, remember when we were together/we were alone and I was singing this song for you/we were alone and I was singing this song for you.” Karen Carpenter died at 32 in 1983, and this is why many fans listen to this song and wonder over it’s prophetic meaning. But I hear it and think about my old life and am glad that it’s dead.

Now the trick is keeping myself alive–and keeping the desire to stay alive. I’m older than Karen was, and most people in highschool thought I’d be the first to die, and I’m not. Katherine passed away from cancer. I need to reconcile the old labels I got: “crazy” “reckless” “dangerous” “unhelpable.”

Wish me luck.




Quitting Coffee



I love coffee. I love tea. I love them as sweet as me.

But I need to quit drinking caffeine. I am on day two of no coffee and it is as grueling as a marathon. I’m sensitive to light, as though I have a migraine. I feel nauseated because I ate food for breakfast instead of a bowl of coffee. It’s crazy!

I was just at the psychiatrist’s office a few days ago explaining how our society practically forces us to drink coffee and at a feverish pace. I pointed out the window “there is a Starbucks right there!” (And there actually is.) And it’s not just cups of joe coming out of there–the phenomenon of the “coffee drink” is insane in our North American, “if-you-can-cram-sugar-in-it-by-God-do-it” culture. So now it’s gone from a venti dark roast into a “venti white chocolate mocha with an apple fritter please” at the drive thru. We can’t even get out of our cars!

So you may be asking “Well why are you quitting, then?” The reason: blood pressure. It’s not high at all, but the doctor does worry about my heart. It also wouldn’t hurt my pocket book if I quit. I mean, $7.50 every morning, sometimes twice, adds up pretty quick. Even if I do it at home in the Tassimo it’s still about $1.25 a cup.

Back in the day I used to smoke, and that was significantly easier to quit than this. Probably because I only smoked in my car. So I stopped driving that car and the cravings went away. I didn’t suffer any physiological symptoms, strangely.

I think it’s a lot like dieting. Food is around us. Caffeine is around us. Alcohol is around us. The lottery is around us. All are addictive but they’re not necessarily deadly unless taken to extremes.

Normally right now I’d be in my office working on a quilt top. Instead I’m sitting on the couch under my massive sampler that I’m still quilting to keep from shivering and feeling too crummy.

Now I just need to wait patiently for tomorrow when my blocks of the month come out from Craftsy and Amy Gibson’s Sugar Block Club. I love making quilts. That is something that I keep focusing on for a mantra.

Have a good week everyone!