Interviewer: What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Pat: Seeing my life in hindsight and realizing I held a lot of false beliefs that I used to make some stupendously bad decisions. It brings tears to my eyes when I realize I chose to marry someone who was so unhealthy. I chose him over my kids and my future grandkids. There was a part of me that knew I wouldn’t be able to have a close relationship with them and still be with him. Having to admit that about myself is devastating. I’m not proud of it, but it’s there, and it is something I had to come to terms with about myself. I was as addicted to Rael as any addict is to their drug of choice. He was my addiction, and I did the same sort of things that an addict would do. I made poor choices, and I didn’t allow myself to look at how those decisions would affect the rest of my life.
The blessing in all this is that after it happened, I gave myself permission to look at my stuff, and while I am still vulnerable my intent is to choose wisely in the future. Had I not done this self-analysis, if I had jumped into another relationship in order to heal the pain of the last one, I am convinced I would have not only repeated the pattern, but also tenaciously stuck it out with someone else. We humans tend to re-create a situation over and over again until we finally learn the lesson that experience has to offer. Hopefully, the choices I made about King are evidence that I am teachable.
Interviewer: How hard was it to go through the old e-mails and journals to recount the details of this story?
Pat: It was most painful to go back and reread the e-mails that Rael sent me early in our relationship and all the way through to the time when I left for South Africa. Actually, reading the ones he sent me telling me how much he loved me while he was involved with SJ were the most painful. Changing the names, especially my husband’s, helped make him less personal, more like a character in a story I had made up. I never knew SJ, so I didn’t have to fictionalize her. She was already a vague character for me.
Interviewer: You say SJ is a vague character, yet you seem sympathetic to her. How do you feel about the woman who stole your husband?
Pat: Grateful. Exceedingly thankful. As I said in the main part of the book, she did for me what I could not do for myself. She liberated me from the prison I had created. I do feel complete sympathy for her because I know how trapped she is, both physically – since she is taking care of Jacob by herself – and emotionally, because she has the same addiction I displayed with Rael. He told me she was abused by adults as a child, so she has the classic background that is typically attracted to narcissistic pedophiles like Rael. She’s caught in the same vicious cycle I was in, of trying to heal those wounds from her past.
My concern for her is that she will never get out of that cycle. Either she will stay with him when he gets out of prison, or she will find someone else who fits that MO. It takes an awareness of why you are attracted to a sex offender or someone who abuses you to break the cycle. I fear that women who fit that description aren’t any more aware of what they are doing than I was. And I had read the research. I knew that sex offenders don’t get well, but I convinced myself that Rael had. That’s what women who grew up in those kinds of dysfunctional homes do – until they realize what they are doing and why. Even then, because the core beliefs are so strong, it is hard to not get repeatedly sucked into the cycle.
Interviewer: She needs someone to intervene in her life like she did in yours.
Pat: That was my main motivation for writing this book. I want to help people see how easy it is to get trapped in limited thinking. Throughout the writing of this book, I struggled with my own transparency – how much to reveal about my motivation in pursuing the relationship with Rael; how much of my family background to share. My ego did not want to show all of my warts, but I also knew that I had to be honest with myself and with my readers. It was the only way I would learn from the experience and it was the only way I could convey the message of the book.
I created the situation I was in. After Rael told me about his pedophile history, no one forced me to date him, but I did, and I had to show why. What about my background primed me for that situation, what drew me to him? Every person alive does the same thing. We create our lives based on what we believe about ourselves, what we think we deserve. Daily we make thousands of decisions based on our beliefs about our worthiness or our lack of value.
My prayer is that my readers will recognize the areas of their lives where they have limiting ideas for with that awareness comes the option to address it. They (we) can stay in victim mode, or we can shift to creator. It is a daily, even minute-by-minute, choice.
Interviewer: You said that SJ had been abused as you were as a child, yet you do not say that you were sexually abused in the book. Were you?
Pat: I have no memory of being sexually abused. Knowing my father, it’s hard to imagine that I wasn’t, but maybe I had enough chutzpa as a kid to deflect any advances he made. Mother has told me a number of times that I was the one person in the family who stood up to him, which makes it kind of ironic that I used him as a model for whom I would pursue in a relationship – both in high school, when I was engaged to David, and then Rael.
Sexual abuse is horrible, but I don’t think it is any worse than emotional and mental abuse because a person’s self-worth is at stake with any form of abuse. Emotional abuse is harder to diagnose because there are usually not specific incidents. It’s a slow, insidious breakdown of a person’s psyche. And the most debilitating damage doesn’t truly manifest itself until a person starts making unhealthy choices in adulthood or when she/he starts to interact in intimate relationships.
Interviewer: What if SJ had not shown up when she did? How would your life be different now?
Pat: Because I was so committed to the relationship, I’m sure I would still be married to Rael and raising his son, since I believed Jacob needed me. But I am sure I would not be happy. Writing this book has given me a more objective viewpoint, and I see now how unhappy I had already become, although I did not allow myself to admit it. I would have progressively grown less and less content. Eventually, I would have left, but not until a lot more time had passed, or something like the events of this book catapulted me out of the relationship. Of course, I’m glad it happened like it did because it obviously is easier to heal from a short-term marriage versus a ten-year relationship that eventually ended.
My real regret in this situation is what has happened and will happen to Jacob. Children are the victims of their parents’ dysfunctional relationships. How the kids interpret the situation they grow up in and what they come to believe about themselves and others based on that analysis is what they take with them into their adult lives. What will Jacob grow up thinking about himself, his dad, and my part in his childhood? Will he remember me as someone who cared about him or will I become one of the mother figures that moved through his life? Will he emulate his father in a desperate attempt to heal his wounds? I hope not.
Interviewer: You cover a lot of issues about relationships and self-care throughout Too Much Gold to Flush. If you could boil this whole experience down to one piece of advice, what would that be?
Pat: In every aspect of your life, stay aware of whether you are in your victim mode or creator mode. There may be areas of your life where you feel very much in charge, but there also may be parts that don’t feel so great. As I look back to when I knew Rael, I’d have to say I was doing okay in most arenas, but when it came to intimate relationships with a man, I definitely fell into the victim category. I didn’t want to fall back into old, negative core beliefs about myself, but I automatically went there. And the scary aspect of this is that it happened before I knew it, and I was so entrenched in my victim mentality that I felt powerless to change it. So if you realize you are operating from a victim position, try to shift your thinking to, “What are my options?” Little by little try to see what you have the power to change.
I love Skip Downing’s book, On Course. It’s a college textbook, but anyone could read it and get a wealth of ideas about changing their life for the better. Knowing information versus acting on it is the real secret. You have to put the ideas to work. Downing has an activity called the Wise Choice Exercise that is ideal for moving out of victim mode into creator mode. It is a six-step process: 1) identify the problem, 2) state the ideal outcome, 3) own the power to change the situation, 4) look at the options, 5) speculate on the probable results of each option, and 6) create a plan from the best options and make a commitment to stick to it. Like I said, it works – if you do it. That’s what has moved me from victim to creator – taking the steps that put action into owning my problem and taking responsibility for dealing with it.
One of the key things that all of us can constantly accept responsibility for is our attitude, how we see the situation: positive or negative, grateful or grumbling, thankful for the lessons available in every situation or complaining about being dumped on – again.
Interviewer: Now that you’ve gone through this great catharsis of processing this experience and worked through all you did, what are your thoughts or feelings about Rael?
Pat: I feel a great sadness for him and for everyone associated with him. I’d like to believe he could change, but that takes me back to the mentality that got me in trouble in the first place. Studies show that sex offenders do not get well. My prayer is that he realizes what he did to others and holds himself accountable for that, but that would take some heavy-duty awareness, which I’m not sure he is capable of.
Occasionally, I catch myself fantasizing about him showing up at my doorstep and telling me how sorry he is for what he did, but that’s just my own addiction rearing its ugly head. My little girl still wants Dad to come through for me, which is not going to happen, and if Rael did offer up an apology it would be part of the game. Sadly enough, I believe that Rael never thought he was manipulating either SJ or me. At least that is the lie he told himself. And, believe me, I know how convincingly we can lie to ourselves. I’ve certainly done it.
Interviewer: If a person realizes they are in a toxic relationship, what would you tell them to do?
Pat: That’s too broad a question for a blanket reply. If there is physical abuse going on, I’d encourage them to leave. Too often people are emotionally abused, and they don’t know it. My mother was in an emotionally abusive relationship for fifty-four years, but if you had asked her if my dad beat up on her emotionally, she would have denied it – because she blamed herself for his obnoxious behavior, not him. That’s one characteristic of emotional abuse – the victim believes they are at fault. In their minds, it is their inadequacies that cause their partner to criticize and say demeaning things to them. Typically, emotional abuse feeds itself to the point that the victim works as hard as the perpetrator at keeping the walls of their prison intact. It is a huge piece of their identity. Without the relationship, they feel they would be nothing. I’ve lived those thoughts throughout my life.
Once someone leaves a toxic relationship, they should take the time to see what brought them there in the first place. It did not just happen to you. You made the choices that landed you in that situation. Too often people go from one dysfunctional relationship to another because they never realize they are creating their lives. I call that “playing the victim.” If we take ownership of our lives, we can change them. But if we never take responsibility for the choices we make and the scenarios we create, then we never give ourselves the power to change them. We remain victims of our negative core beliefs about what we deserve.
Interviewer: Most of the chapters of this book include Family Reflections. What purpose do these serve in the telling of your story?
Pat: It allows me to relate my childhood to the reader without doing a lot of backstory and explanation. I wanted the reader to see what prompted me to make the choices that I made. They are intended to connect the dots between my early training/conditioning and my behaviors as an adult. And, as memories tend to be, the childhood reflections are the events or behaviors that stand out in my mind and had the strongest influence on me.
I can’t share the events that probably affect me the most, not because I don’t want to, but I’m unable to because they are outside my conscious memory. Somewhere in my brain, all of my experiences are recorded on a deep, deep, primal level. I am still reacting to them, but for whatever reason, whether it is me taking care of me, or it’s something I blocked because it is intolerable to “know” about – I do not remember them. Those are the things I’d like to know about – not so much for the thrill of knowing, but to have the opportunity to see the event for what it was, put it into context and perspective, and by doing so minimize its power.
Interviewer: Another feature that you include in most chapters is Nuggets of Gold. What was your rationale for this aspect of the book?
Pat: I needed to organize the truths I had gleaned from this experience into words. I struggled with whether to compile them into a chapter at the back of the book or whether to include them at all, but because I wanted the reader to see what I learned along the way, I decided to document them in the order that I got them. Ironically, I ended up moving some of the lessons from the first of the book to the later part of the book when I saw by the events I recounted that I had not, in fact, learned the lesson until further down the road. They are the key things that I got out of the experience.
Interviewer: You include a number of quotes and lines from movies throughout the book. Why?
Pat: I love quotes. They often capture in a few words a concept that would require pages and pages to fully explain. And I love movies. When I watch a good movie, I become totally enthralled with the characters. If it is an intense movie, I have to remind myself that it is not real because I become so connected with the characters and what is happening on the screen. For me, a famous line from a movie does the same thing as a quote; it conveys a wealth of information in a concentrated format. Another reason I included movies was that Rael and I attended quite a few together. He was also an avid movie fan, so that feature seemed to fit.
Interviewer: If this book inspires the reader to want to help women and children in shelters, what can they do?
Pat: Volunteer at a local shelter. You will meet good people – the people the shelter serves, the other volunteers, and the people who run the shelters. Get involved in the various programs they sponsor. Some volunteers work directly with the people who live in shelters and some volunteer jobs support the shelters by generating money, like the resale shop where I volunteered.
Go to my website (www.patgrissom.com) and donate to one of the shelters listed there. Buy copies of this book and give them to your friends, family, or coworkers. Use them for gifts. Half of the purchase price of every book goes directly to a shelter to support the programs they offer to help women turn their lives around. If the purchaser does not designate a particular center, the donation goes to a general fund split among the centers using Dedicated to Empowering Women (DEW) as a funding resource. We only work with shelters that have 501(C)3 status, so the amount that goes to the shelter is tax deductible.
Live an exemplary life. Practice being a creator every minute of your day. Model for your friends, your spouse, your kids, and your grandkids what it looks like to live in creator mode. Give yourself permission to see what it feels like to take charge of your life.