"I need to be healed," *Eric's email began. "I want to stay in the fight, but I'm tempted to turn back. I want to forget what happened, to ignore the problems, and lie to myself that everything will be all right if I turn my back on the healing process."
Eric went on to say he was worn out trying to overcome the struggles, the pain, and "my own shame and failures." He wrote to me because he said that the struggle doesn't end for him. "The shame eats at me from the inside, and I feel like a failure."
We emailed back and forth five or six times, and on one of them, he wrote, "This remains private. I can't tell anyone."
"That may be part of your problem," I replied. "You probably can't do this alone. If you had a tumor, wouldn't you consult a surgeon to cut it out?" I tried to point out how much all of us hurting survivors need to connect with others who have the same background.
The first time I spoke publicly to a group of six men, I told my story with many tears—but only after I heard theirs. For the first time, I knew I wasn't the only one. Certainly other boys had been molested and I knew that intellectually. I didn't realize their pain and struggles were like my own.
In my last exchange, I reminded Eric that he said, "I need to be healed," in his first email. "If you realize your need to be healed, please face it. Get help. Don't try to do it alone."
His last email to me said, "I need to be healed. I'm determined to do it alone." I never heard from Eric again. Twice I emailed to ask how he was doing. He never responded.
I share this downer account because not everyone recovers. Not every man has the courage to keep fighting through the threshold of pain. But to those of us who do, we know we did the right thing to keep on.
I wish every survivor would keep on. As one friend said, "I tried to pretend that everything would be all right if I just stopped struggling. But it doesn't go away. This is going to be a lifelong journey, isn't it?"
And yes, it is a lifelong journey.
And it's worth it.