DeFOO! —Permanently Cutting Off Abusive Biological Relations (A Very Good & Healthy Thing to Do)
Hello my friends. This is my 2nd article written for Medium, and this time it is not a conversation excerpt, but a more traditional piece — in which I want to talk about abusive and toxic people that you are biologically related to. I intentionally do not use the word “family” in that description, because I don’t believe the type of people I’m referring to really deserve to be called “family.”
In my case, I grew up in an abusive and traumatic environment where my brother and I were treated like a burden. My parents divorced when I was 3 years old (my brother 1 year old), and they both remarried to new people. They then went on to try to build a new & improved family, a new fresh start in their life, and my brother and I were merely dragged along like excess baggage, treated like an unwanted burden and not included as members of the “new & improved family.” On both sides. In the process, they also were exposing us to new abusers in these new stepparents we had, who had little to no concern for us two “leftover children.”
My childhood was the most awful & dark time in my life. I have had a lot of bleak and sad times since then. But nothing I’ve experienced has ever been, or will ever be, as bad as my childhood (if you can call it that). I realized at a young age (around 13) that I needed to create my own value system or a code to live by, in order to define myself and my life. Because these people were not teaching me shit, nor did they care much about how I would turn out in the end. So I actually did this — I formed my own value system in life, and my own identity.
As a kid, the number one thing I longed for in life, from at least age 8 on — was becoming a legal adult, so I could go my own way. To finally finish this no-escape, prison sentence of an experience they called “childhood.” When I eventually reached that point of legal adulthood, barely making it with my life intact, I awoke to a new world. I was able to see the full potential that I had as a human being, when I was no longer being crushed under the boot of oppressors that called themselves family.
This brings me to the point of the article. DeFOOing. I found this quote on Quora from a young father named Jeff Till:
“DeFOOing is not a policy. But the concept is very moral, more so than than living or interacting with people who are abusive to you. If a husband beats his wife, it is perfectly moral and usually beneficial for the wife to separate herself. Adult children should have this option with abusive parents.” Oct 30, 2014
So to explain this, DeFOOing means to cut off from members of your Family Of Origin (FOO). I believe my personal hero, Stefan Molyneux, coined the term. It’s a word very familiar for fans of his long-running podcast and YouTube series entitled Freedomain Radio.
Now — starting in 1997 (age 18 for me), I went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. As soon as I realized how much I came alive and could see my full potential at that time, I knew that it was the very best thing for me to do to stay away from that old abusive environment as much as possible. But society exerts a great pressure on everyone to never fully cut off from their parents. It is a cherished belief by most people, that you must always remember to “honor thy mother and father.” No matter how bad it is, how bad they were — a person like me is supposed to forgive & forget. “They did the best they could with what they had” is the time-honored line.
So people like me are ostracized in society. I did feel an enormous amount of pressure from that young age, from everyone I talked to, that I needed to forgive my parents. It was pretty much impossible to find anyone to understand that I wanted very little to do with those abusers — people judged me as if I was morally wrong for not wanting to be around that environment. The worst part about it though, was that I had to go back to my hometown once a month at that time for Army National Guard drills. That’s how I was paying for school. I had no car or other place to stay in town, so I was forced to stay at either my mother’s or father’s house still for one weekend per month, and then go back to the dorms at UWM. I can only describe this as a soul-crushing experience for me. They definitely became more overtly hostile, venomous, and emotionally abusive to me at this period; because they also could see that I was distancing myself. That I was reinventing myself to be nothing like them or their way of life. They could see that I was incredibly happy away from them, and this made them feel like total shit. So they upped their toxic behavior from that point on. Even though my childhood was the worst experience in my life, I am now beginning to realize that these people were even more abusive to me after I was an adult.
So from 1997 to 2007, I always felt that societal-ostracizing pressure to try and work things out with my family of origin. I showed up for holiday gatherings, I tried my best to try to build some kind of loving relationship, and give up on grudges. I very much put my heart and soul into it, especially in those early adult years. It never worked out of course, I was only enabling their abusive behavior. I was offering myself up to their further attacks; putting myself into a negative, unhealthy, traumatic environment. For no good reason and to the serious detriment of my own mental sanity. All because society tells us that we must never, ever give up on our blood relatives.
One of the best turning points in my life happened in February of 2007, when my best friend (from a college fraternity I had joined in Madison, WI) offered for me to come and be his roommate in California. I was very excited to oblige his offer, and I made it very clear to everyone that I had no real intentions of ever coming back to Wisconsin. Not even to visit. After that, I almost never had to see these toxic people known as my parents and my brother. I did however keep in touch with them periodically, due to that never ending pressure by society to treat your parents with the utmost respect, no matter how bad they were.
Even though I physically kept my mother, father and brother at a great distance — their presence in my life was a constantly negative, toxic, and draining influence. The more I interacted with them, the more draining and psychologically detrimental effect would be had on me.
I came to realize that the chosen family — the people you choose to have in your life because you love them — is much more important than the biological family.
In 2012, I discovered the world of podcasting. A new form of media that was only made possible through the miracle of the internet. With podasting, people are able to talk freely about anything they feel is important. No corporate control and no censorship. My mind was opened up to completely new ways of thinking when I heard entertaining people who I respected talk at length on an unlimited amount of subjects. A few of the biggest ones were The Joe Rogan Experience, The Drunken Taoist, and The Duncan Trussell Family Hour. Listening to podcasts changed my life and caused a major evolution in my thinking on religion, politics, and personal wellbeing.
In 2014, I discovered the most valuable and paramount podcast I have ever heard. The aforementioned Freedomain Radio (FDR for short) with Stefan Molyneux. #1 philosophy show on the planet, possibly in all history.
However, a few months before discovering the show, I was forced to move back to Wisconsin and stay with family members. To bring you up to speed on that — I finally graduated with my bachelors in business administration in Texas, May 2013. The very same day of graduation commencement, I was flying out for a 6-figure salary contractor job in Afghanistan. I worked that job from May 2013-April 2014, then was layed off due to US operations drawing down in that area. Then tried living in Florida where one of my best friends from active-duty Army had a place for me to stay rent-free. Coming back to the States, I found out that the job market was dead, college degree meant nothing. The best I could get was minimum wage jobs in all-Cuban non English speaking factories for a temp agency. Burned through all my savings and could barely make my car payment. The place my friend let me stay at had the power turned off because he couldn’t keep funding that. So I lived in that apartment in the Florida summer for a week with no lights/power, no AC, drenched in sweat, cold showers in the morning before work.
My next option was to either live in my car or go back to Wisconsin to stay with abusive & toxic family members. So I was not quite ready to live in my car yet. I made a road trip up to Wisconsin (actually sleeping in the car the entire journey because I could not afford accommodations). I knew it was doomed from the beginning. I went from my brother’s, to my father’s, and finally my mother’s house. Each of them took great pleasure in basically having me at their mercy, and kicking me when I was down, in my time of need. Abusive and toxic to the max. My basic strategy was to keep my mouth shut as much as I possibly could — just allow them to verbally attack me, emotionally abuse me, just endure it and try to keep a roof over my head until I could find some sustainable employment. Each of them kicked me out one by one.
The following is a Facebook status update from around September 2014, to give an idea of what kind of head space I was in, while keeping my head down and my my mouth closed, like a prison sentence. This is when I was at my dad’s place:
I love insecure, posturing pieces of shit who feel threatened when another man (a better man in this case) is in their territory. They deserve to have their asses savagely & violently beaten. My brother kicked me out, so now I’m at my father’s house — the absolute Last Place On Earth that I want to be. Both of them are insecure, posturing fucking cunts. Feel the need to try to humiliate me as much as they possibly can while they have me in this vulnerable position. I don’t want to kick their ass, but I would laugh my ass off & thoroughly enjoy it if I witnessed someone brutally kicking the shit out of these fucking twats.
So that’s just an example of the seething rage and anguish I was feeling every day, while being subjected to daily verbal & emotional abuse, and intentional sleep deprivation under their roofs.
The third of the 3 main places here was my mother’s house. This is also when I was just becoming a fan of Stefan Molyneux. He consistently talks about the idea of not keeping abusers in your life. He does not tell people to cut off from their family members. Stef rather encourages them seek therapy, first and foremost. But then it is the individual’s decision after much soul-searching on whether or not they should keep abusive & toxic family members in their life. I relate to Molyneux better than any other podcaster or speaker I have ever heard. I feel he is more committed to the truth (on all topics) than anyone I have ever heard. And what’s more he is never afraid to speak on any subject, no matter how controversial or taboo. He reveals the truth — backing everything up with reason, logic and evidence.
So I was introduced to this term of deFOOing from Stefan Molyneux at the same time that I was going through this absolute rock-bottom experience of moving back in with abusers. But as you can see, I had been contemplating this for 17 years minimum (since 1997). I knew it was time to permanently cut them out of my life, every fiber of my being wanted it for a very long time. The following is a text message I sent to a close friend in the beginning of November 2014 (I was at my mother’s house):
I’ve been thinking today about cutting my mother out of my life. My father & my brother are officially cut out forever. After this, if my mother kicks me out of here to go to a homeless shelter — I am thinking about possibly cutting her off forever. She has always been an awful mother, and got worse after I became 18. I will wait until I get kicked out of here, then I am thinking of permanently cutting her off. She has been emotionally abusive my whole life, she has bullied me every chance she got, she has neglected me, she has seriously mistreated me as a human being, and above all else she always treated me as an unwanted child or a mistake she made. I am right now thinking about how I want to word it to her if/when I cut her out of my life. My family has damaged me more than any terrible experience I could ever go through. And being forced to stay with them is always rock bottom.
As you can see, I did not take the decision lightly. I thought about it since 1997 when I was 18, and I was still seriously thinking it over at this time in November 2014. She eventually did kick me out. Gave me a deadline of December 12th to get out, but I left early on December 5th. This is Wisconsin in the winter time. That particular winter it was regularly 20 degrees below 0 Fahrenheit. They didn’t care if I had a place to stay or how cold it was. And I no longer will ever feel compelled to communicate with them again for the rest of my life. I lived and slept in my car for a solid month and half for that freezing Wisconsin winter one year ago. Every day. And I felt a million times better than I did when I was in their households. For me, risking my life living in the car was a much more positive & happy experience, like a weight had been lifted from off of me. But that’s a story for another time.
Above all else, I never want for my children to be exposed to these toxic people, if my wife and I are lucky enough to have our own kids. I am nothing like my family, and the endless cycle of traumatizing children has got to end. It is our most critical responsibility.