Tongue in cheek

The Castle family

Happy family shot before everything went south.

The age of 13 is one of the most memorable for me.

I was being bullied by my neighbours.

My brother began his descent into drugs.

Heavy Metal music filled my head with fear.

I enjoyed alcohol.

I lost my virginity.

This was a year that fractured my soul and pushed me head first into the devil’s breast.

As a 46 year -old woman, I am now often asked why I don’t drink. Many people think it’s strange to have not touched alcohol since I was 13 years old. The usual questions are ‘Are you religious?’ or ‘Are you an alcoholic? I am none of those. I am a woman whose young life was disturbed and distorted by the effects of Jack Daniels in a mind that had not yet fully formed.


We lived in a suburban area of Melbourne at the time. It was an average Aussie neighbourhood but perhaps a little rough around the edges. There was the usual bbq’s on weekends, trips to the shopping centres on hot days to get inside the air conditioning, days at the local pool and evenings spent at the local Roller skating rink.

But Mooroolbark had a dark side in the 80’s. My brother Tallon (who was 15 at the time) managed to find that dark side and it didn’t take long for me to follow.

While Tallon found drugs, criminals and petty crime, I was surrounded by older girls chasing me around the neighbourhood on their BMX’s threatening to beat me up. It sounds so funny now thinking about having the crappers beaten out of me by BMX bandits, but at the time it was terrifying. At one point, I was so scared that I vomited all over my friend’s carpet when I realised the bandits were waiting for me outside and I had to roller skate home.

Thankfully most of it was talk. Then the day came when Tallon decided to choose one of them as his girlfriend ‘Oh, the horror”. Her name was Tracy and she was one of the ring leaders. I remember them having a ‘wedding’ on my street and they would use all of the flowers in the tress around our area as confetti. I wasn’t invited of course. I was nowhere near cool enough.

They were all older than me but went to the same school. I was so terrified of being bullied by them, that I turned into a bully to try to prove myself (more on that later) It seemed to work and the older bullies started to respect me. One day they even invited me to hang out with them on the street. I was elated.

It was during this time that Heavy Metal became really popular, as did green army jackets filled with studs and patches. Nowadays known as bogans lol. But all of my older, new found friends had begun painstakingly sewing the patches to the sleeves and pushing the studs through any place they’d fit. My band / patch of choice was Judas Priest (I have no idea why, it just happened) I didn’t even particularly like their music. I certainly wasn’t going to tempt fate and go against the grain, so my metal jacket and personality began to change.


Headbanger !

This photo is a difficult memory to look at.


During this time, our local gang met a character called Roxy. Roxy was a formidable woman. She was over 6 feet tall and built like a ‘brick shit-house’ (as was the term around those parts) She was also very much in to heavy metal, much older and far more experienced and worldly than any of us could have dreamed. She accepted us all into her fold.

Here we were, the BMX Bandits and the vomiting roller-skater, all ready to grow up into a world that was dark, twisted and very sick.

She lived around the corner in a house with her mum,  their home became my house of horrors. Roxy’s mum was a huge, odd woman who was also one of Australia’s most notorious cat hoarders. She had been on ‘A Current Affair’ on three occasions when neighbours couldn’t stand the smell of cat piss any longer.

When you walked in to their house, the smell would hit your nose and almost knock you off your feet. Now I’ve always been an animal lover, but this was insane. There were cats EVERYWHERE. Skanky looking kittens covered in fleas, the occasional dead cat, pregnant cats, cats eating, cat shit everywhere and fur … Oh the fur!!! Sometimes you’d even have cats shitting on the toilet floor while you were taking a pee.

Being head bangers, as well as army jackets, black clothing was the only wardrobe allowed. Now, with hundreds and hundreds of cats in a small house and yard, you can imagine what your clothes would look like after a few minutes inside (I still feel sorry for my parents having to wash those horrid things)

The worst part of going to this house was being offered food. I’ve always had vomiting phobias and eating at this house meant heaving at the thought. I used every excuse under the sun as to why I NEVER ate when it was offered food by her mum.

Many years later, I worked for the RSPCA. This job set off a whole trail of trauma and memories for me. Especially being surrounded by so many cats and dealing with hoarder cases. I lasted a few months and I felt like throwing up every day I went to work. Not a great option as a career.

We would spend days and nights in this hell hole listening to music, gossiping and playing drinking games. I was only 13 and had never had an inkling to drink or smoke but here I was with the cool kids, drinking almost straight Jack Daniels and smoking ciggies.

Most nights would end with all of us being drunk and me throwing up everywhere (not surprising)


I was still very much a child. I behaved like a 19-year-old, but of course, I wasn’t. I was a scared little girl just reaching her teenage years and puberty. I didn’t understand in my young brain; just how much these times would affect the rest of my life.

Tongue was an attractive, cool and worldly 19-year-old. His nickname should have sent me packing but was my first crush so I didn’t care. (He was name after Gene Simmons in Kiss with his tongue out)

He was already going to pubs and gigs to see Metal bands and he was a heavy drinker. He instantly took a liking to me. I was in love that second.


Meeting Tongue was my first foray into boys and relationships. It was the worst kind any young girl could find.

We were all at Roxy’s place one night, drinking heavily as we always did. My young brain couldn’t cope with the effects of alcohol and I was always the first to get drunk, vomit or pass out. I remember talking to one of the BMX Bandits about sex and we both said ‘No rooties’ (Slang word for sex in Australia) We giggled about it, but underneath we really meant we didn’t want to do it. Not yet.

I do not remember anything from that moment.

The next morning, I woke up. I had no idea where I was (until I could smell cat piss) I remember being pushed to the side of the cramped single bed and there looking down at me, smiling, was Tongue. He looked over the moon. I could barely move. It took me minutes to get my bearings.

I don’t remember saying anything. Just looking at his smirk.

I got out of the bed and stood up. I was covered in blood. I cried and cried until Tongue came and put his arm around me laughing ‘don’t worry, you just lost your virginity that’s all’

I remember trying to seem pleased. Trying to smile. I was still very drunk.

As I walked out of that bedroom, there were around 10 people (all 19 or 20 years old) They all stared at me. They smiled. The began to clap. They clapped at me. A 13-year-old. They cheered as I walked to the bathroom.

Once inside closed doors, I thought about the clapping and cheering. I thought it must be fantastic that I’d lost my virginity. This must be normal. This shock and disbelief must be how it feels for everyone.

I smiled and walked out. I was proud of myself. They’d made me feel like I was the coolest person in the room that day. The accepted me. They welcomed me.

I would never be sweet, young Amber ever again. I was gone.

I’ve NEVER touched a drop of alcohol again.


Heavy Metal

All in black. The caption was a sticker I’d attached to the photo. If only I knew what was to come











74 Comments on “Tongue in cheek

  1. We all have our steps in life which lead us to where we are now. I see that yours have given you the ability to write well and to inspire others to make survivor stories out of what could have been a bad road to the end. I like reading stories like yours because it shows that good can come from bad. I hope you keep writing because your stories are well worth reading. I also hope that you are doing well and I pray for blessings for you now and always!

  2. this reminds me of a show I use to watch when I was young called “the wonder years”

    but this is way more real.
    nice! and I’m going to keep reading!👌👌👌👌👌

  3. Amber, a beautiful name for a beautiful soul. Youve lived, laughed and experienced. Learned too. I SO look forward to seeing chapters of your life… They add up to a book, so there’s an idea there Amber. I send warm regards from Sunshiny South Africa. 🌺🌸

    • Wow 😮 THANK YOU for your beautiful comments. It makes me realise I need to get my butt into gear and write this book 📚
      You are very encouraging 😀😀😀

  4. Well written with honesty and integrity. There is great sadness within your story but also great strength and wisdom gained from what, to some, would have been devastating experiences. A person should not be judged on how they handle their successes so much as how they learn from adversity and mistakes we all make along the way. By speaking out you contribute to your own well being as well as to that of others by offering hope that all the bad things can be conquered. Beautiful, well done.

    • 🙏🙏 thank you soooo much. This means the world to me. It’s time to get it all out on paper . I’m loving writing it and next step will hopefully be a book 📚
      Wooo hooooooo 😀😀😀😀😀😀

  5. That poor sweet girl you were. Even now, I’d like to kick the crap put of them! Alas…the lessons we learn from our experiences, both the good and the bad, contribute to the people we become. And, it is those negatives that often the very things that create the greatest positive changes.
    I admire your strength and your bravery to tell your story. 💕

    • Thank you soooo much Laura 🙏🙏
      It’s an incredible feeling being able to embrace exactly who we are with all of our trauma 😀😀
      I think what scared me when I was younger, was watching so many turn bitter and twisted about life. I never wanted to become that.
      It’s lovely to ‘meet’ you and I lol forward to reading your blog xx

  6. I am glad to read that you never touched alcohol after that terrible incident. All of us were 13 once. We all have made less-than-stellar choices. The important part is that you can forgive yourself for bad choices you made as a kid and live the life that is right for you NOW. (Of course, losing your virginity at 13 was not your choice.) Your article was raw, honest, and compelling. Beautifully written!

    • Hi Laurie,
      Thank you so much 🙏 I really feel for young people going through puberty. Such a tough time ! It’s a big moment once we embrace every part of ourselves.
      Lovely to ‘meet’ you and i look forward to reading your blog ☺️☺️

  7. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Laurie. There is a lot of talk about peer pressure, but I don’t think we realise what an impact it has. Great writing.

  8. This is the first I have read of your writing. Thank you for following my poetry. You survived those years. There was and is always hope. I pray you will continue to write, (as in your comments above, that book). You are honest, transparent and raw, just what is needed.

    • Wow 😲 thank you for your beautiful message. You’ve spurred me on to keep writing 🙏 I look forward to getting to know you via your blog 😀😀

    • Hi Anna ☺️ thank you so much 🙂 I’ve survived and thrived ❤️🥰 life is great 👍
      Looking forward to getting to know you via your blog 🙂

  9. There is much I’d like to say but there isn’t enough time in the day. Some of the comments almost hit the mark, but unless you’ve been through something like this you really can’t understand. There are bad choices and then there are BAD choices and they aren’t really choices. Sometimes you have to deal with the effects you’re entire life. But they do make you who you are today. The strength it takes to change, and dealing with it at 13 is mind-blowing. How did your brother fare? What did your parents do? Surely they smelled the alcohol. My descent into hell didn’t start until I was 18 and I fell in headfirst into drugs. I still got married and divorced and married and divorced and married and have 2 kids and 7 grandchildren. There has been nothing “normal” about my life. And I’m glad even though I ended up with hep c I got in my 20’s and a liver transplant 6 years ago. I’m 64 with a crapload of medical issues. Clean ( mostly) for 30 yrs – except the drugs I have to take now to get out of bed – and I don’t drink. But I like who I am and I don’t let anything stop me, or give up, or have any fear of a challenge. Yes, when you do crazy things and live to tell the story you acquire a wisdom that enables you to understand the pain others are in. I have 2 blogs. The other one is where my work is. For 13 years I’ve held up a man in prison, and that is what my book is about. ( Not published yet – writing second draft) Physically, on the outside we can look okay, it’s about how we deal with the mental. For him it is the deprivation of solitary confinement. Grief and loss, and how does one live when he gets out when he has never lived outside as an adult.

    My story is a long one, as is yours. It takes strength to tell. When we do, it helps us understand why we HAD to go through it. It might have happened at 13 but it didn’t at 13. We did NOT make the choice to go through it. We had to go through it. That’s another long story. There was no choice to say no. That’s the law of karma. The law of cause and effect. If it wasn’t that it would have been something just as devastating.

    • WOW, just WOW ! What a fascinating life you’ve had. Thank you for being such an open and brutally honest person.
      I’d DEFINITELY buy your book 📚
      I’m going to read through your work over the next few days 🙂
      Thank you again for your beautiful and heartfelt comments ❤️👌

      • Thank you. Let me know what you think. Because everything happens for a reason, had I not gone through the things I did I don’t think I’d be able to understand what I do today. We can find the positive in every negative situation.

  10. Methinks many of us went through growing up woes and not understanding the consequences later on. You survived it and are a better and more experienced person because of it.Thank you for sharing your story and it’s nice to meet you. Thank you for following BrewNSpew. 🙂

    • Hello and thank you 🙏 if only we realised the impact it would have. But then our lives would be far less interesting ☺️ nice to meet you and I lol forward to reading your blog

  11. Great post! I wanted to stop by and say thank you for the follow on I Write Her. I do hope you enjoy my thoughts as much I have enjoyed yours! 🙂

  12. I feel life experience is biggest learning for Life….in young age we experiment ….but best thing is that when we learn what is right for us….thanks for dropping by. Regards, Anjali❤️

  13. Pingback: Blogs & Bloggers Thursday! – All The Shoes I Wear

  14. Keep writing Amber. So good for unraveling the tangles of life. You know I’m a fan.

  15. Hi Amber! I am so glad that I took the time to read your article. It was quite interesting to read. At the age of 13 you’ve experienced fear, anxiety, confusion, rape, alcoholism, hate, rage, and so many other disorders. You didn’t mention going through any therapy or self-help organizations to overcome the hellish life of a 13 year old. Did you find religion to help in some way? How did you walk out and away from it all. Is there a part two to this story? If so, I most definitely will be waiting to see how this lifestyle ended. Did you put the alcohol down and suddenly the lights came on inside of your head? I am curious to know? Where is Tongue now? Has he been prosecuted for rape? Anyway, thank you for reading my blog article and for following Jeanie Shepard Ministries. I hope that you will find strength and encouragement to help you in dealing with your current health problems. If you haven’t met Jesus I pray that He will give you a desire to know Him. He will help you recover from your past and restore you to health physically and mentally. God bless you. Have a Merry Christmas!

    • Hello 👋
      My apologies for late reply ! It’s been a busy end of year 🙂
      Thanks so much for your beautiful response. I really appreciate it.
      Buddhism has helped me greatly over the years but I’m generally a pretty happy and positive person despite the trauma 🙂
      I’ll look forward to reading your blog.
      I’ll be writing more in the new year x

  16. Wow! That’s an epic retelling of most of our youths. My brother was the cool one, in my case. Now he’s an alcoholic because there is always a price…

  17. I think it is very brave of you to speak of your experiences so openly and on a global platform. I wish you a wonderful year ahead and be proud of who you are! Lots of love and hugs!❤️
    From India🖤

  18. Only 13! That is so sad. My youngest child , a sweet boy, is only 13. I can’t imagine someone doing that to him. Life can be so cruel. I was only a bit older but still, 13 is just a baby. As for the cats, OMG. I have a relative who had the cat house and the smell was horrible. We did not go inside. Thankfully she for some reason gave up the cats and now is a tattooed video game addict. Nice meeting you!

    • OMG this comment gave me a giggle ! Thank you 🙏 I think cats may have been better lol
      Yes, I look at 13 year olds now and am reminded that they’re just children 😦
      I’m sorry you were only a little older. Looking forward to reading your blog

  19. I just read your story and am sorry for what happened to you. Alcohol does happen to ruin lots of lives. But 13 is a young age to have been drinking to be accepted by your older peers. Rape ate 13 is not good at all but you crawled out of that life style at the cat house and became a great person. I hope that your story helps someone else’s 13 year old to not repeat what happened to you. God bless you with happiness for life. I am following your blog and thanks for following mine. You are a strong lady now.

    • WOW, thank you so much. Life is fantastic nowadays. My trauma hit me hard in my youth but I’m glad I came through the other side. Looking forward to reading your blog 🙂

      • I am glad you came through the other side alright. Please let me know what you think about my blog. Have a great read or more !!

  20. I don’t know if I’ve commented before (my memory is shot!) but I just wanted to say that you write so well, you should write a memoir: you have a real talent for words

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