Friday, September 29, 2017

Flashback Friday - Full House and I Lose

A word of explanation and warning. Since I first disclosed my status as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the end of March of this year, I have spent many sleepless nights and many waking hours consumed by a tsunami of flashbacks to specific incidents of the abuse that have left me feeling like I was drowning. With each successive flashback they feel as if they have been piling up in my mind, heart, and soul in a way that is threatening to consume me. When the flashbacks hit it is not me remembering the abuse, it is me reliving the abuse. All of my senses are transported back to that time. I am not a thirty-seven year old man; I am a three year old toddler, a six year old little boy, or whatever age I was from the ages of three to twelve during which the abuse occurred. I need to get these flashbacks out in order to be able to detach and see these events through my adult eyes so that I can begin to heal. The only way I know how to do that is to tell the stories. If you are a fellow survivor, these Flashback Friday posts are likely to be triggers. If you are a supporter, please know that what you read on Fridays will likely be extremely disturbing. If for either reason you choose not to continue reading, I understand. If you choose to continue reading beyond the image below, thank you for validating my experience by listening to my truth.

I know it's been a while since my last Flashback Friday post and the reason is that this is far and away the worst flashback I've had and the one that keeps coming up the most. I've had a really hard time finding the strength and the words to get this one out of my head and onto the page. Thank you for your patience.

As near as I can tell, this incident of my childhood sexual abuse happened when I was seven or eight years old as we were still living in Metro Detroit and hadn't moved up north yet. I have no idea where my mother or my little brother were. For some reason I was home alone with my stepfather one night when five of his buddies came over to play poker and get drunk. While the other guys seemed to be pacing themselves, my stepfather had a much larger collection of empty beer cans in front of him than anyone. He started getting angry and losing hand after hand as he was so drunk he couldn't concentrate on the cards in his hand. Throughout the night my stepfather's buddies kept making comments about what a cute boy I was. It made me feel good that they all seemed really nice and that they liked me. I wasn't scared that my mother wasn't around because these men made me feel safe. What a naive child I was...

After countless hands of poker and a lot of beer, the night seemed to be coming to a close as one of my stepfather's buddies, a really tall guy with light curly hair, looked at my stepfather and said "You lose Chuck! Time to pay up." My stepfather pulled out his wallet from his pocket and opened it up to show the other men that it was empty and then he started laughing. I knew that laugh and it made me really, really scared. He looked sideways at me and then said to the five men sitting at the poker table, "No worries, right guys? You didn't come here for money. You came here for the tightest ass you've ever fucked!" And with that my stepfather stood up, picked me kicking and screaming under his arm and carried me over to the living room couch. He threw me down on my stomach over the arm of the couch, knocking the wind out of me, and pulled my pajama pants down, spit on his dick, and rammed it up my seven or eight year old anus as hard as he could while his poker buddies cheered.

For what felt like hours I blacked in and out of consciousness as my stepfather and his poker buddies took turns raping me over and over as I lay across the arm of the living room couch with tears streaming down my face. The pain never stopped and I was in agony as each man raped me each more than once. Eventually they all zipped their pants back up and left one by one until I was alone again with the monster my mother called her husband. As I shakily tried to stand to my feet, I could feel something running down the insides of my legs and I thought it was the stuff my stepfather put inside me all the times he raped me before. When I looked down though, there was blood running down my legs from the savage multiple rapings I had just endured.

I have a vague memory of a period of about a week where I kept putting a wad of toilet paper in my underwear to keep from getting blood on my underwear and pants. In light of reliving this event through multiple flashbacks I'm pretty sure that was right after my stepfather's poker night. To this day, I can't watch poker on television and I've lost count of the number of excuses I've made over the years to not have to learn or play the game. Even looking at a deck of cards can trigger a flashback to that night. I know enough about the game to know that a full house is supposed to be almost a sure win in a game of poker. In my case, it was a full house but I lost more that even I might ever know.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Not Mine To Carry

This week the universe decided to teach me a lesson through the actions of a man that I sit in a men's group with and thought was a friend. For whatever reason, something about me triggered this man and he decided the way to deal with that was to dump his issues on me, to make me the bad guy, and to accuse me of something that was proven to be untrue but yet he refused to acknowledge his error. I carried the weight of this for most of this week. I wondered what I did wrong, what I could have done differently. I felt guilty and ashamed. Sound familiar?

I realized after a few days that whatever the cause of the rift between my friend and I, it wasn't my fault. He has his own issues to work through and tried to make them mine. But his issues aren't mine to carry. The confusion, fear, guilt, and shame I carried are his and so I gave them back to him and set myself free from the burden. It seemed like such an obvious and simple response in this situation. Why then is it so hard to apply to the past?

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I have carried the secrets, guilt, and shame of the abuse for over thirty years. On one level I know that these are not my burdens to carry either. They belong to my stepfather and his friends who sexually assaulted me for years and ripped away my innocence. None of that can be laid at my feet so why am I the one left feeling guilt and shame? Why is it so easy to let go of what is not mine to carry in one instance and nearly impossible when it matters most?

All I can think of is that because I have carried the guilt and shame of my abuse for so long that they are familiar and feel like they're mine, but they aren't. From the day this past March that I finally broke my silence and revealed all of the dirty little secrets that I have been keeping for him, I have been on a journey toward letting go of the guilt and shame, of returning to his ghost what is not and was never mine to carry...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I'm Still Standing

There has been a voice in my head for my entire life telling me that I am worthless, weak, pathetic, and unworthy of respect or love. When I was sixteen months old my father took his own life. From the ages of three to twelve my stepfather and his buddies made me their living sex toy. When I was sixteen I left home and never went back. When I was twenty I was shipped off to a conversion therapy camp by my church where they tried to electrocute the gay out of me which resulted in me following in my father's footsteps and trying to end my own life. That voice has been a constant companion. I must be worthless to have no one save me from these things as a child. I must be weak and pathetic to continue to allow myself to be abused again and again.

When I was twenty-nine I had enough of feeling bad about myself for my sexual orientation and came out of the closet. At thirty I started college. At thirty-five I completed my Bachelor of Science degree. At thirty-six I let my walls down long enough to trust a group of men called The ManKind Project and disclosed my childhood sexual abuse for the first time in my life. Shortly after the memories of my childhood hit with a vengeance. For all the strides I felt I'd made in my life the past few years; the memories, nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks left me feeling once again weak and pathetic. Reliving my worst experiences brought me to my knees begging for it to stop. Until last night.

Last night I got rocked by yet another full sensory three hundred sixty degree flashback to an incident of my childhood sexual abuse. Once again I let it hit me like a freight train. Once again I let that voice tell me how worthless I was, how weak and pathetic I am. But then it dawned on me, I'm still here. After all of the nightmare shit that life has dished out, after my own mind forced me to relive the worst of it, after trying to end my own life, and being told again and again how weak and pathetic I am; I realized that I'm still standing. I'm. Still. Standing. How can that be? If I really am worthless, weak, pathetic, and unworthy of respect or love then how the hell am I still here? How have I made it this far? How do I have this desire to move forward? How do I have this fire in my gut to make the world a better place? Maybe, just maybe, the reason that I'm still standing is because the voice that tells me I'm weak is a fucking liar. Maybe, just maybe, I'm still standing because I'm strong!

Friday, August 18, 2017

It Turns Out There Are People Who Care

Nearly a decade of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of my stepfather and his friends was a living hell, but what hurt nearly as much was that no one came to my rescue. I have spend my entire life feeling like I was worthless, that no one cared, and that no one could be trusted. That led me to a very isolated and lonely adulthood. That led me down a very dark road of depression.

It's come to my attention that it is obvious that I have been letting that darkness creep back in lately. The big difference this time versus in the past is that when I walked that dark road before no one seemed to notice or care. Since joining The ManKind Project, Adult Children of Alcoholics and Other Dysfunctional Families, and sharing my journey here with other survivors; something has shifted. For the first time in my life I have people asking me if I was okay, offering an ear or a shoulder, checking in, and showing up in my life in ways that astonish me. It turns out that there are people who care in this world.

I am sitting with such immense gratitude for those people. My brothers in MKP, my fellow travelers in ACA, my fellow survivors, and the family of choice that is forming from them all are changing the way I see myself and changing the way I see the world. There is a lot of dark, twisted, fucked up stuff going on in this world; but there is so much love and support that I never dreamed existed. In isolating myself from people to protect myself from more pain, I couldn't see that there were people like me out there. There are people who have experienced the pain that this world offers and who choose to love and support others instead of following in the footsteps of the abusers and evil people in this world. I so want to be, and feel that I am becoming, one of those caring people. If you are reading these words, if you are following this blog, please know that there is love, support, and hope in this world. As terrifying as it is to risk being hurt again, there is so much healing to be found in letting caring people past your defenses and into your life.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Voices In My Head

As the late Chester Bennington said, "The space between my ears is a bad fucking neighborhood that I shouldn't be left alone in." Nearly a decade of childhood sexual and emotional abuse left me with the clear message that I was absolutely worthless. If I had any value as a human being then I wouldn't have spent my childhood as a living sex toy for my stepfather and whoever he felt like sharing me with. I've been around long enough to know that we all have voices in our heads. Bits and pieces of messages that we picked up along the way that we internalized. A grandfather's advice, being shamed in public by a parent, being ridiculed by peers. The good, the bad, and the ugly all informs how we see ourselves and how we talk to ourselves. The messages that I received as a child resulted in some pretty fucked up voices in my head. The overwhelming clear message I have carried well into adulthood is that I am worthless and don't matter and will never make a difference. That I will never be more than a pathetic victim. Those are the voices in my head that scream and rage and sound so fuckingly, devastatingly familiar.

Something is beginning to shift however, there are new voices in my head that are telling me a different story. I have shared here in this blog that I have spent the past few months since I disclosed my childhood sexual abuse finally asking for help. I am surrounding myself with support in the form of The ManKind Project and the Adult Children of Alcoholics 12 Step Program. It's taken a while to sink in, but I am starting to notice that the support, encouragement, and love from these amazing new people in my life is slowly restoring my faith in humanity. Their words telling me that I am a good man, that I am brave and strong, that I am compassionate and loving; these words are slowly sinking in and competing with the old voices in my head. Right now it's a bit chaotic with the old voices and the new at war in my mind and spirit. The thing that gives me hope and keeps me moving forward is that I think the new voices in my head are winning. There are times that I don't feel worthless anymore. There are times that I think my life has value. There are times that I feel like I might even be able to make a difference. And you know what? That feels pretty damn good!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Tired of Wishing I'd Never Been Born

So in case you didn't guess from the post title or the image, today is my birthday and I'm not exactly happy about it. That being said, today's post is going to be equal parts trip down sad memory lane and affirmations for my life and birthdays going forward. Thank you for being here and coming along for the ride.

Just four months after my first birthday my father took his own life. I spent the rest of my childhood being sexually abused by my stepfather and his friends and feeling more like an object for their pleasure than a human being. At sixteen I ran away from home, got emancipated, and never went back. I didn't enter into my first serious relationship until I was almost thirty. All of this resulted in me feeling just as isolated and alone as an adult as I did a child. When my birthday rolls around each year, it is very difficult for me to look at my birth as something to be celebrated. To be honest, most birthday rituals center around me cursing my mother for the day she brought me into this world. Hell of a way to spend nearly forty years on this earth, huh?

If you've been following along on this blog, and thank you if you have, then you know that my life started changing in many ways this year. I joined The ManKind Project, disclosed my abuse for the first time, started attending Adult Children of Alcoholics 12-Step meetings, and started blogging about my recovery from my childhood sexual abuse. That's a lot for only eight months of my thirty-seven years of life. When yesterday came around and I began to feel those old self-pitying emotions beginning to bubble up, I entertained them for longer than I care to admit. When I look back on my life, most of it sucked. There's no denying that my life up until this year was mostly a living hell. The question is do I want my present and future to be a living hell too?

The answer to that question is a resounding HELL NO! I have wasted too much of my adult life and the freedom I could have had allowing my stepfather's legacy to keep me stuck in the past and dead on the inside. I know that I still have a long road of recovery in front of me. I know I'm not done revisiting my past, but that doesn't mean I have to live there anymore. The gloom and doom I wallowed in yesterday marks what I hope will be the last pity party I ever throw myself on my birthday. I'm tired of wishing I'd never been born. 2017 is the year that I have begun to transform myself and my life for the better which makes this birthday one to finally be celebrated!

Flashback Friday - Full House and I Lose

A word of explanation and warning. Since I first disclosed my status as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the end of March of this yea...