I was born in Mulhouse, northeastern France, in a working-class suburb renowned for its Violence. My childhood memories are of violent disputes among families in the area. In our family, women were looked down on and rarely consulted by men. I was taught that a woman’s place was in the Kitchen, looking after the men and the children.
My childhood was not easy. When I was ten, my father died as a result of his alcoholism. Five years later, one of my older brothers Committed Suicide. The same year, I witnessed a murder during a family feud, and I was deeply shocked. Family members taught me how to use knives and guns and fight whenever the occasion required it. A disturbed young man, I started to cover my body with tattoos and to drink.
By 16 years of age, I was drinking between 10 and 15 bottles of beer each day, and before long I started taking drugs. To pay for my vices, I sold scrap metal and resorted to theft. By age 17, I had already done prison time. In total, I received 18 sentences for theft and violence.
During my early 20’s, my situation worsened. I smoked up to 20 marijuana joints a day and took heroin and other illicit substances. Several times, I nearly died of overdoses. I started dealing drugs, so I was constantly armed with knives and guns. Once, I tried to shoot a man, but fortunately the bullet ricocheted off his belt buckle! When I was 24, my mother died, and my range increased. Frightened pedestrians would cross the street when they saw me approaching. Because of fights, I often spent my weekends at the police station or in the hospital having my wounds stitched up.
Joseph, His wife and the only Daughter
At 28, I got married. As you might expect, I do not treat my wife with respect. I insulted her and beat her. We did not do anything together as a couple. I thought it was enough just to shower her with stolen jewelry. Then, something unexpected happened. My wife stopped smoking, refused to accept any more stolen money and gave me back her jewelry. I was furious. I would blow cigarette smoke in her face at times. I also ridiculed her throughout our neighborhood.
Joseph posed for picture
One night, in a drunken stupor, I set fire to our apartment. My wife saved me and our five-year old daughter from the flame. When I sobered up, I was riddled with guilt.
After the fire, we moved in with my wife’s parents.
Within a month, I decided to quit drugs and alcohol. I soon felt war had erupted in my body! I suffered from terrible nightmares, headaches,cramps, and other withdrawal symptoms.
Joseph and the Wife in the Kitchen
My attitude towards my wife changed. I started to show her more respect and to say “please and” ‘thank you’. I also started being a real father to our daughter .
Even some of our former neighbor who heard about my transformation, were amazed. They thought that I would probably have died from substance abuse or have been killed in a fight “.