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What: Book signing event
“Is Your Man Good For Your Health? Unleash Your Inner Courage to Make Positive Choices in Your Relationships”
Who: Sunny Atkins
Where: Placerville News Co., 409 Main St., Placerville
When: Saturday, April 23, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Information: 530-622-4210, pvillenews.com or SunnyAtkins.com
Huddling and shivering on a frigid, snow-laden Colorado New Years Eve, a woman found herself hiding, crying and praying. Her head was bleeding, her scanty clothing was wet and she was freezing.
Sunny Atkins had escaped from her drunken, violent husband’s rage. But she couldn’t go home and she had no where to go. In those secretive days, Atkins was too embarrassed to seek help from her neighbors. There were no women’s centers, no hotlines and no cell phones.
All she could hope for was that her husband would be passed out when she returned. Fearing hypothermia, she went home. When she saw that her husband was still awake, her survival instinct prevailed and she went to her neighbor’s home.
She also chose to tell her story.
“Is Your Man Good For Your Health? Unleash Your Inner Courage to Make Positive Choices in Your Relationships” is a provocative title, but it is also a story for everyone.
“It is my hope to reach others in similar situations. I want to show them that they are not alone … I realize that relationships are more than a man and a woman. I also know women are not always the ones abused. However, this is what I know, so that is what I am writing about,” Atkins explained in her dedication.
The book encompasses care, concern, compassion and tools for change. Atkins will sign her helpful, evocative and encouraging book at the Placerville News Co., 409 Main St. in Placerville, this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
This is not a “woe is me, I’m a victim” tale, but a memoir full of hope, triumph, understanding … and forgiveness.
To look at Atkins today, one would never know the extent of the struggles in her journey.
At 53, she is beautiful and poised. But she knows what it is like to walk on egg shells, to feel scared, trapped and hopeless. She knew it as a child and she knew it as a wife.
Back in the day, Atkins would never have imagined the life she has now, including her marriage to Rick Atkins of Placerville.
“Thank you to my wonderful husband of 20 years, Rick, for allowing and insisting that I be myself” Atkins wrote in her awknowledgement. “You have taught me how to have a healthy, equal and loving relationship. One filled with trust and tranquility.”
Through writing the book and through volunteer training at the Center for Violence-free Relationships, Atkins is proactive in helping others to recognize that they do have choices and can make positive changes.
But help for Atkins came unexpectedly. She can’t remember the woman’s name, so Atkins calls her Grace. Probably seeing the despair in Atkin’s eyes, Grace gently gave her a book, “The Erroneous Zones” by Wayne Dyer.
“Dr. Dyer said we have choices. Now, this may seem like a simple thing to most of you … but I did not know this. I also learned that I am in control of my thoughts,” Atkins said.
It still took some time for Atkins and her children to make their escape, but Grace and Dyer planted the seed.
Atkins still has a hint of vulnerability. The self-doubts that she has overcome stem from deep agony, fear and lack of love and self-esteem, which started in childhood and was exploited by her Colorado husband, who knew he could bully her.
Not a unique situation
Her stories are awful and sad, but Atkins realizes that her traumas are not unique, and that others have suffered even more. What’s more, she forgives her oppressors. With some five brothers and three sisters, Atkins knew that her mother did the best she could do. But besides living in fear of her stepfather and lacking any confidence, another thorn in Atkin’s childhood was having a strained relationship with her biological father.
For a sensitive child like Atkins with a mean stepfather, feeling that her own father didn’t love or care for her was tragic. Their meeting when she was 13 was not a happy one, either, and did not pave the way for further communication.
Nonetheless, Atkins says that if you are a parent and are not in contact with your children: bridge that gap. Take the step and get in touch with them.
It is utterly painful to feel unloved, unimportant and not to know your real mom or dad. Whatever the circumstances, one can at least acknowledge the child’s existence. Some parents and custodial parents fear that the children will experience further hurt and abandonment, so Atkins urges responsibility and commitment.
Breaking the cycle
Atkins’ daughters kept her going. She felt that she was protecting them, and they were away, staying with their real, decent father on the weekends when the worst events occurred. But they could not avoid hearing the verbal abuse and sensing their mother’s depression and terror.
For this reason, Atkins says that she was a “good, but not great” mother. Her daughters, Delia and Desiree, 35 and 32, are grown now, are healthy and successful with children of their own.
“I love my children,” Atkins said, “and I never realized I’d be this hooked on my four grandchildren. They wear me out, but I love them.”
Atkins and her daughters broke the cycle.
“That’s why I wrote this book. If I can help just one person going through hard times, it’s worth it,” Atkins said. “Yes, it was hard to write — I had to go back and relive a lot of painful memories.”
During training at the Center for Violence-free Relationships and other experiences and reading, Atkins learned that she is not alone. Looking back, she recognizes that the isolation she felt is part of the cycle of abuse.
Somehow, abusers are so controlling that they isolate one from family and friends. Atkins learned that her former husband’s kindness and repentance after abusing her is known as the “honeymoon” stage wherein many men and women believe that their partner is really going to change and be sweet.
Today, women and men have more choices and more support. Atkins discusses practical tools as well, advising escape plans and suggesting modes and reading for positive change.
Each page of the book has the number 1-800-799-SAFE at the bottom.
Not only does Atkins relate her personal experiences, she includes stories from others, including a rape victim.
Atkins provides information and suggests ways to “live your life the way you choose.”
There are many types of abuse, she acknowledges, but she did not want to use the word “abuse” in the book title.
A happy ending
Atkin’s journey was not an easy one, but it has a happy ending. She has grown and changed herself, and even had enough confidence to get her pilot’s license.
Throughout the pages, Atkins does not blame anyone, and even discusses her own role in allowing abuse to happen. But the main thing is that she forgave everyone, including her ex-husband and her now-deceased biological father.
Forgiveness was the key to help her to empower herself.
Atkins believes that everyone has the power to learn to make positive choices. As a counselor at the Center for Violence-free Relationships, she takes a proactive stance. Her experiences, training and knowledge aid her in being non-judgemental and compassionate.
Other than looking for a job in the accounting field, life with a great husband, personal growth and helping others has become more meaningful and fulfilling than Atkins ever imagined.
With this book, Atkins can touch many lives with a powerful and healthy message.
It’s a good read for everyone, and it can be a quiet way to support the concept of non-violence (proceeds from the book aid the Center for Violence-free Relationships and the National Domestic Violence Hotline) and giving the bookt to someone just may save a life.
An abused mate may need to hide the title, but if they read it, they can see that change is possible. Like the book by Dyer that opened Atkins’ eyes, this quick read may help someone in distress and to help others understand how it can happen to anyone.
“I really look forward to seeing everyone at the booksigning this Saturday at the Placerville News Co.,” Atkins said. “Together, we can all impact the world with positive changes, forgiveness and understanding. You can also visit my Website at SunnyAtkins.com.”