WELCOME DONALD DEMPSEY
DONALD DEMPSEY with son, GAVIN
Don Dempsey experienced childhood abuse and neglect first hand, but went on to have a fulfilling family life as an adult and to own his own business. “If you’re lucky, you make it to adulthood in one piece,” says Don. “But there’s no guarantee the rest of your life is going to be any better. Abused kids are often plagued by fear and insecurity. They battle depression and have trouble with relationships. In the worst cases, abused children perpetuate the cycle.” But Don is living proof that you can overcome a childhood of abuse and neglect. “You start by letting go of as much of the guilt (yes, abused kids feel guilty) and as many of the bad memories as possible. At the same time, you hold on to the things that helped you survive. For me, it was the belief that you can make life better by working at it and earning it. It helps to have a sense of humor, too.”
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Overcoming a Difficult Childhood
I can only speak from personal experience when it comes to overcoming a troubled childhood, and I do so cautiously. I’ve heard every cliché over the years, but the fact is no two people really wear the same scar. Siblings who suffer the exact trauma often emerge very differently from the turmoil. One might be able to go on and build a normal life. Another might become mired in the pain, making one mistake after another, until it feels like there is no escape.
For me, it was suppressed rage, a determination to outwork my perceived destiny, a sarcastic wit, and fear. I was terrified I would wind up like my mother. Even worse, that I would be a man like one of the disgusting string of bums and predators she allowed in and out of our lives. For most of my early years, I lived in one of two perpetual states: I was either afraid, or I was angry. I believe I was around forty years old before I actually began to find peace, to come to some sort of agreement with the tortured child within me.
I’ve learned something from watching the struggles of my brothers. I’ve learned even more from some of the haunting messages I’ve received from readers. How does a girl who was brutally raped again and again by her own father survive and mature into a loving mother and devoted wife? She never speaks of her pain, choosing to choke down her shame and guilt and hide behind a picturesque smile. While her abused brother chooses to drown himself in alcohol and drugs, never getting free, tormented and abused forever.
I’m sad to say I don’t have an answer. I believe I did things the hard way. I’m good with who I am today – stubborn, flawed, but as open minded and considerate of others as I can constantly remind myself to be. Religion remains an abstract concept. I don’t particularly like to be referred to as “lucky,” but I do consider myself blessed. I still often wake up in the dead of night and roam my den, looking at the pictures of my children covering the walls, amazed at my good fortune and wondering how I managed to deserve the life I have.
Hesitantly and humbly, I offer a few suggestions to overcoming the demons of a difficult childhood. Accepting the problem is a great place to start, understanding that the guilt and pain are the byproduct of trauma you didn’t deserve. Unaddressed, the problem will often lead to substance abuse and anger issues. Many find ways to cope with or squash their pain, concentrating on their work, or raising their own children. I’m one of those people. Most of us who manage this type of self-therapy still have our issues, but we find ways to dull the pain. We do whatever we have to.
But if you’re one of those who can’t find the balance required to move forward, please understand that life is too precious a gift to waste. Seek help. Accept help. No matter how overwhelming and hopeless it appears, please try. Take small steps. Start with talking to a professional or maybe a loved one you can trust. Break down and tackle issues separately instead of trying to take them on all at once. Try to shed the guilt and push forward. Try to understand you deserve peace and healing. Do anything it takes to end the cycle of abuse and not pass it on to those you care about and love.
ABOUT THE BOOK
In the tradition of Frank McCourt and Angela’s Ashes, Don Dempsey uses Betty’s Child to tell the story of life with a cruel and neglectful mother, his mother’s abusive boyfriends, a dangerous local thug who wants twelve-year-old Donny to burglarize homes and deal drugs, and hypocritical church leaders who want to save young Donny’s soul but ignore threats to his physical well-being. In a world where it’s “fight or flight” at every turn, Donny uses his street smarts and sense of humor to guide him. He usually makes the right choice, but whenever he makes a wrong move, he pays the price. Some of his experiences will make you recoil in horror, but you’ll want to keep reading because Dempsey manages to maintain a sense of humor while sharing the gritty details of his story. In the end, Donny does everything he can to take care of himself and his younger brothers, but with each new development, the present becomes more fraught with peril—and the future more uncertain.
“Heartrending and humorous. In scene after vivid scene, Dempsey presents his inspiring true story with accomplished style. Dempsey’s discipline as a writer lends the real-life tale the feel of a fictional page-turner.” Kirkus Reviews
Publisher: Dream of Things (March 26, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Print Length: 438 pages
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