A Teenager’s Journey, by Richard Pelzer, is an inspirational yet saddening true story about a young child and his unfortunate journey through childhood with his abusive mother. After Richard's older brothers escaped their mother’s persecution, Richard was the next target in his mother’s raging abusiveness.
Richard had four brothers that lived with him when he was a baby. The oldest, Ross, was the first one to experience their mother’s rage. When Ross was eighteen, he moved out to escape the horrors of Mom. Once Ross had left the abusive home, the next oldest son, David, was the scapegoat for Mother’s wrath. David was the next target. He was abused as a child from the age of five to thirteen. When the violence went way overboard, David reached out to his teachers for help. CPS rescued David and placed him in another home where a family could finally love him. Little did Richard know that he was next in line for the abuse.
As a child, Richard’s mother, or as he called her, Mom, physically abused him since he was eight. She would beat him with ironing cords, a belt, and even her fists. She would starve him until mere death. She would force the younger brothers participate in the abuse to cause emotional damage to Richard. As Richard grew up and got bigger, he knew his mom could not physically abuse him anymore. She then started to abuse him emotionally and mentally, which was extremely worse than the physical abuse according to Richard.
When Richard was fifteen his mother decided to move her “family” to Sandy City, Utah. The reason she made the decision to move was because she saw that Richard was becoming content with his strange life. She saw that he was becoming sort of happy with his trouble making friends in whom they would go out a lot and partake in drugs, alcohol, and sex. She knew that once they moved far away that he would become more isolated and then she could abuse him at her leisure.
Once they moved to their new house in Sandy City, Richard started to befriend two married couples down the street named John and Darlene Nichols, and Josh and Judy Prince. Richard easily connected with the two families and actually felt loved by them. They were his mentors growing up. Once Mom had found out that Richard had been using all his time to hang out with the couples down the street, she intervened. She called their house telling them bad stories about Richard how he is a bad influence on them and their children. Richard became so embarrassed, that he stopped going over their house because everything that Mom had been telling them was true. He desperately wanted to keep his secret life of drugs, sex, and alcohol away from the couples.
When Richard was cut off from the couples, he started to experiment with heavier and heavier drugs. This lasted for almost three years when he knew he needed help and to get away from his mother. He was told about a program, Youth Development Enterprises, which helped teenagers who were subject to substance abuse to get the help they needed by treating the underlying causes.
While in Hawaii, where the program sent him, he opened up to the guidance counselor there. To his surprise, the guidance counselor did not believe him and thought he was making everything up about his mother. This led him to make worse decisions while at the program because he felt like nobody would listen and believe him.
Once Richard turned eighteen, he moved back in with Mom. He was there for only about a couple months before he joined the Army. He was stationed in Virginia for three years. On his arrival back, he found out that his mother had become a little more dysfunctional. She had forgotten half of the past; she forgot about all the abuse and torment she had afflicted on her kids. Richard felt angry and pity at the same time.
Richard knew he could not live with his mother anymore and with all the bad decisions he was making with his “friends.” He wrote a letter to the Nichols family, who moved away to Richmond. He asked if he could stay with them for a little bit until he got off his feet. They agreed that he could come under one condition; he would have to be drug free.
Four years went by living with the Nichols family. Richard had learned so much from their family. He learned how a real family was and how love should feel. He learned many important life lessons and morals through his experiences with the family. He was finally drug free and matured so much spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.
Once Richard moved out and was living on his own, he had realized that he needed to “grow up.” He knew that he could not let go of his past and stop being that little red headed child that was constantly abused. He decided to write a letter and would send it to his mom. He sat down and wrote about all the abuse his mother had afflicted on him and the siblings. He wrote about how he truly felt towards his mother. The day he was going to send the letter, he had gotten a call.
His older brother, Ross, called him and said that their mother had passed away last night. After he received some details about the funeral, he hung up. He was overwhelmed with emotions. He could not express his true feeling for his mom. He felt in a sense that she had “won.” After the funeral, in the morgue, he asked if he could burn the letter he had written in with her when she got cremated. He had finally grown up and overcame his fear of being that abused child.