“You mean you don’t have sex with your father?” asked Donna Mae DePola of some childhood friends. Fortunately for her, they all laughed and she was able to cover it up, but as she pointed out, “I just thought it was normal for fathers to have sex with their children.”
“And why not?” she asked. “If that’s what your father teaches you in the guise of loving parent, how do you know any better?”
And that was what her father taught her practically every day of her life under his roof from the time she was five until she moved out at 17.
Her father died in 1987. Shortly after his death, she opened a stash he kept above a drop ceiling in their home. In addition to guns and ammunition, there were twelve ‘reel-to-reel’ movie canisters.
When she saw them, she suspected what was on them, but didn’t know for sure until she could find an old fashioned projector.
“It’s amazing that he was able to tape all this stuff,” said DePola. “That old movie equipment was complex and needed a lot of light and space so it must have taken him sometime to set it up and take it down. I honestly don’t remember.”
When she finally found an old projector she was able to prove to the world and to herself that her father had done these things and no one had protected her.
Understandably, the constant sexual abuse from such an early age took its toll in the form of the addictions she acquired to ease her childhood pain.
“I started using drugs around age 9,” she said. “They did what I needed. They masked the pain of all that trauma. We know why many people abuse drugs. They seem to work – if only for a little bit.”
“When I finally stopped using them I had to deal with the traumas I was chemically blocking from my awareness, ultimately to the tune of a $4,000 a week habit.”
“Even though I was using a lot of drugs, I was able to pass,” she said. “I was able to function, do my work, and people didn’t know I was using anything.”
Donna Mae DePola is in her early sixties. She is an out and open lesbian living and working with the love-of-her-life, Dona Rae Pagan.
“People often ask me, ‘Are you gay because you had trouble with men?’ If that were the case, millions of women would be gay.”
“I did not necessarily want to be ‘gay,’” she said. “I had no choice. I was born gay; it just took me until I was fifty-six to embrace it.”
DePola is a successful addictions specialist and a recognized, award-winning leader in the field of substance abuse and substance abuse education. She has worked in the field of addiction for over twenty-five years.
She is the founder of The Resource Training Center (TRTC) with five locations in New York. TRTC, the largest school of its kind, provides the training required to become a credentialed alcohol and substance abuse counselor (CASC) in New York. They also provide the mandated New York State Drinking Driver Program required of people convicted of driving under the influence.
DePola is also a survivor. She survived 12 years of sexual abuse; she survived over 25 years of addiction and wild living; she survived a drug-induced stay in a psychiatric hospital and she has survived breast cancer.
She is most recently an author. “I hadn’t intended to write an autobiography,” she said. “I thought no one would believe it anyway.”
But then there were the twelve tins: twelve testimonials to the abuse she suffered at her father’s hands; twelve reasons to write the book people now could believe.
Twelve Tins can be purchased in a self-published book ranging from $15 to $32 at donnamaedepola.com. It is also available from the Kindle store on amazon.com.