Hope For A Better Tomorrow: Matthew Gorzik’s Story
Hello, my name is Matthew Gorzik.
I’m a 19 year old from Missouri, recently liberated from my parents and my homeschool. I was taught via the curriculum offered by Alpha Omega Academy, a YEC-oriented set of curricula which taught the wrong things and didn’t even teach them well. I learned that Pi = 3, that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that the *only* way fossils could possibly exist is if a great flood happened. It also tended to use History class as indoctrination, and tried to teach 9 and 10 year olds that they should only vote for Christians in elections because ‘otherwise, we’d have to live by Man’s law, and not God’s.’ All of this, of course, paled in comparison to the largest problem this caused.
I was completely isolated from civilization for most of my life, with the exception of the internet.
My parents were extremely sheltering, to the point that they demonized things like public school. Because of this, I only knew my family. I knew some of my extended family, but only got to see them on a monthly basis. Otherwise? I didn’t know a single person that I did not share a blood relation with.
And my family? They were not nice people.
My father was emotionally abusive, constantly reminding you that everything you had was his, that he could take it away at any time. He would threaten to kick me out of the house for speaking against him, and would openly say to my mother that I was lucky that he didn’t slap me into submission. My mother, of course, was a parent of the same vein. She would use my father as a mouthpiece when she didn’t want to get her own hands dirty, and would basically lie you into doing what she wanted. If the lies didn’t work, she would basically say “I’m the parent. I run barter town. You don’t get to question me, you get to do what I tell you to.” Failure to comply would result in having things taken away from you, or being slapped if you didn’t apologize for daring to question her authority.
I lived in the belief that this was normal.
I lived thinking it was normal to obey your parents without question. I lived thinking it was normal for someone of my age to not even be considered a person in their own home, thinking that it was normal for a parent to be nothing but a fear-monger to the child, demanding respect and complete obedience under threat of physical abuse or being kicked out. It drove me to a deep depression for a time, to the point that I considered myself completely without worth.
Then the internet found me, so to speak.
I had been online for a few years at this point. I had made friends – good friends. Friends that still stick with me to this day. They helped me realize that life wasn’t meant to be full of fear, and they helped me find a voice for myself. They helped me find my own personality – something that I would be completely lacking without their influence. I didn’t realize, though, the true extent to which they would help me. I found a forum for a site devoted to poking fun at the overtly religious and downright insane people of the internet. My boyfriend poked me into showing them some of my schoolwork, and telling them about my family.
They did not like what they heard.
My family situation, and their anger about it, escalated to the point that they banded together, raising $1,000 for a rescue operation. One of the members of that forum literally drove out to MO with a friend and picked me up in the morning without my parents even noticing until I called, I even got out with most of my belongings. We then drove for three days straight into Salem, OR.
Nowadays? I’m living with the family of the member that saved me. They have done more for me than anyone could possibly know, and they have been more of a family to me than my own. I’m going to a community college – trying to get my GED – and they’re doing everything they can to help me make up for lost time.
Where my life before was left empty — and I wondered if I would ever amount to anything more than just another person forgotten by time — my life is now filled with hope. Hope for a better tomorrow and, with the fact that the word is getting out about this kind of behaviour, hope that nobody will ever have to suffer my yesterday.
Do you ever question how parents get to be this way? I mean, how do they get the idea to isolate their entire family from the world, control every aspect of their kids’ lives, and enforce their will through spiritual/psychological/physical abuse?
What drives them to do this?
Thanks for sharing your story, Matt. I’m glad to hear that you’re getting the healing and support that you need.
let me know if you figure out the answer to what drives parents to do that
I never questioned that grown children weren’t fully people, either… But yay you, going to college! Congratulations and enjoy the summer 🙂
Wow, well written. Read “Conservatives Without Conscience” by John Dean. It really opened my eyes about where a lot of that behavior comes from.
Thank you for sharing your story. It’s so awesome that your friends did that. I can relate because I was also extremely isolated and controlled as a home-schooler. The internet was the life preserver I clung to until the lifeguard showed up. It helped me find my voice and kept me sane, maybe even alive because I had severe depression throughout my teen years. Now, it did have significant negative effects as well, but that was fundamentalism’s and my fault, not the internet.
Very well written Matthew. And may I say I deeply admire your impressive courage in fleeing with the help of your friends. Even though it was a hopeless and abusive world, I suspect it was the only one you knew. People in such extreme circumstances are often too afraid to escape. I line in Salt Lake City, where a similar scenario in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart is coming into focus because she is finally able to speak more publicly and freely about her captivity.
Our stories differ on a lot of details, but are similar in larger ways. I was raised by extremely abusive Mormon fanatics. I was lucky enough to attend decent public schools, so I had some friends. But I was (am) gay. I was so terrified of that secret, especially because of the savage homophobia of my church, my family and my community that I mostly isolated myself for fear of discovery. Because everyone I knew in every circumstance was Mormon, I couldn’t see a life for myself. Couple that with the crushing boredom of life as a young Mormon, and things were pretty bleak.
But, at 44, I’m still here. I have completely cut off my family. Think of it as divorce. Why stay in a terrible and abusive marriage? Just get out and move forward. I have a boyfriend of 15 years, an amazing career, and more friends all over the world than I can count.
So, as for a little deconstruction of your experience, here is what I can offer from mine and the many years of unpacking I have done since: The conservative mind, whether innately constructed or learned in early life is a fearful one. It is terrified of change or tribal differences. There are plenty of peer-reviewd studies backing up this obvious and observable claim. Take that mind, and turbo-charge all it’s worst impulses with fanatical, irrational religious beliefs and there is no good way for that story to end. Then on top of that twitchy, paranoid, fearful mind haunted by iron-age hob-goblins the presence of a child in their lives passing through the normal journey of adolescence in a fallen world, and parents in that hallucinatory state of mind can become truly insane and perpetrate great harm. This is what mine did, and it sounds like yours did too. As is the case with many survivors of abuse of all kinds, the abused tends to feel responsibility for what they suffered. Bullshit. Your parents were acting completely outside of sane and perhaps legal behavior. Their minds are clearly disfigured by their self-inflicted mental and spiritual wounds. Your only, and best option was to flee. I suspect that, as with my own life, your path to happiness is a straight line leading directly away from them.
As you move forward with what seems like a remarkable support system, I strongly suggest you resist the urge to return or directly communicate with them as long as possible. The only weapon a person in your circumstance has to cause change in such a terrible scenario is your absence, use it. Maybe the newfound and unexpected quiet in their empty house will give them space to reflect on their offenses against their own child, and maybe they will come to you some day with real contrition. And if not, you’re a free man, who like the rest of us, never got to choose who are parents are. Congratulations on your courage and all the best in your new life!
I used to dream about getting taken in by a nice family.