Friday, May 29, 2015

Doing It Alone

"What helped you the most in your healing?" a radio host asked me.

"Two people listened when I told them," I said without reflecting. "They didn't condemn or belittle me."

As I said the words, I knew they were correct, and I stand by that statement. Here's how I see it. As long as we keep silent and try to fix ourselves, we get nowhere. There is no resolution.

But once we open up to at least one person who hears and affirms us, we're on the healing journey.

We can't do it alone.

For me, the most significant reason was my need for compassion and understanding. I didn't know how to love myself. My thoughts condemned me and showed me no mercy.

I had to receive tenderness and acceptance as a gift from someone else. In my case, it started with my wife and my best friend. I'm not sure if it matters to whom we speak as long as it's someone who will show us kindness and sympathy.

We can't do it alone. We need others. A therapist, pastor, or friend. They can give us what we can't give ourselves.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

To Forgive Myself

(This blog post comes from Chris.)

I am a 43-year-old male and a survivor of sexual molestation by my older brother and another male at my foster home. My story must be told to help me heal.

It started at age 5. I remember that it felt good but wrong at the same time. This went on until I was about 14 years old. I was their plaything, and when it was happening to me I felt numb. When they were molesting me, I blocked everything out. I didn't want them to be upset with me.

I didn't tell my foster parents because I was scared of what they would think. In my teenage years, I was angry at the world. I had trouble finding a girlfriend and I had a hard time finding or keeping friends. For a time, I thought I was a homosexual but never really felt feelings toward men.

I got married at the age of 20 and had a daughter. I struggled with what my brother and that guy did to me when I was young. I hated them and I hated what they did to me. I became what I hated the most.

On March 15, 2009, I was sentenced to 5 to 10 years for molesting a female child. I felt like a monster, a pedophile. I didn't crave children, but my victim was very dear to me. I lost everything!

I believe God forgave me, but I couldn't forgive myself. I still have a hard time forgiving myself, for I know how much damage I've caused that little girl and her family and even my own family. I am slowly forgiving myself for the harm I've done.

I've been out of prison for six years. It may take the rest of my life to forgive myself. I have a great support team that helps me when I fall, and now that I have briefly told my story the healing can really begin.

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Response to "It Just Takes Time")

(This response to May 15th's blog post comes from Roger.)

I remember in 2007 when I first discovered a web site that dealt with survivors. I had become desperate to deal with the hurts that I was experiencing. I was on an emotional roller coaster and suddenly able to access the thoughts, struggles and victories of other victims was overwhelming. I knew my marriage was in trouble and I was a mess so I decided if getting into recovery for this would help then I needed to fast track it and heal right away. I threw myself into reading, writing, counseling, weekend retreats specifically for survivors and was emotionally overwhelmed. This did not help my marriage or my emotional stability. There were times I would become so angry and times I just would hide and cry my eyes out.

Someone later told me that you heal at your own pace. You heart knows what you can handle and you have to let it guide you. There are times you will climb and times you will plateau and that's ok. He was right. As I settled down and just began to absorb what I read, process the truths I would come across and let them become part of me, I began to heal. He was right, there is no fast track to healing. I did not get here overnight and I will not heal overnight. My marriage did end because my wife could not take the drama and did not want to deal with what had happened to me to make me this way. I understood and as bad as it hurt to give up 20 years of marriage to a woman I loved I let her go feeling she had suffered with me enough.

It has been a long bumpy journey but I am here now and in a much better place. I have begun to help others in their journey and perhaps that is what helps me the most now. Am I healed? I don't know but I do know I am more at peace with myself and content with my life than I have ever been and I guess that is a lot more than I expected.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

We Were There

Many of us were groomed by our perpetrators by their showing interest in us and paying attention to us. They lured us by making us feel loved.

They deceived us.

Those who sexually assaulted us didn't see us with eyes of love and compassion. We weren't truly individuals to them. Despite their use of words like "You're special" or "I love you," they lied. We were targets for them to satisfy their lust or addiction.

If we hadn't been available, they would have found some other vulnerable child. That last statement is crucial to our healing.

We were there. We were needy and they took advantage of us. We weren't special. In fact, the statistic I've read in several places is that pedophiles abuse up to 200 kids in their lifetime.

We were there. We were available.

Now we have to learn to forgive those who targeted us and stole our innocence.

Friday, May 15, 2015

It Just Takes Time

An old joke goes that a therapist told a man that he'd need to come back once a week for about a year. He said, "Could I come three times a week for four months?"

The joke, of course, is that the man didn't understand how inner healing works. He wanted to rush through the process; there is no rushing through. It takes time. And effort.

For us survivors, we want the healing now and we want to put it behind us. Why wouldn't we? Who wants to keep hurting? Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that our abuse took place long ago and the poison permeated every aspect of our lives. We heal, but slowly.

I'm still learning and growing. The good news is that the pain eventually lessens. And my life is far more joyful and contented than it's ever been.

It's worth taking the time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Good Gardener

(This encore post comes from John Joseph.)

An ancient story tells of a gardener who came across a tree that wasn't bearing fruit. He had two choices. He could cut the tree down and plant a new one in its place or do what he could to help the tree become fruitful.

He chose the latter, dug around the tree’s roots, fertilized it, watered it, and waited. After a time, the tree became lush with fruit and the gardener was satisfied with his labor.

When it comes to recovering from childhood sexual trauma, our souls are the tree and we are the gardener. Often our lives are fruitless because of the damage we’ve suffered. Like the tree, we stand in the garden of life with little to show for our existence. Just as trees were made to blossom and be fruitful, we're made to enjoy our own being and relationships with others. When we're barren, we experience frustration and often choose to cut ourselves down in one way or another.

There is a better way.

The gardener in the story did four important things. He dug around the roots, watered, fertilized, and waited. If we are to see growth and fruitfulness, we must be like the good gardener. We must choose to give the tree another chance.

Digging around the roots is hard work. It's the painful shoveling out of the old, diseased ways of thinking and behaving. Sometimes we have to dig deeply to replace the rocky dirt with fertile soil.

After we’ve dug, we water our souls with truth, beauty, and purity. We fertilize with knowledge and wisdom from many sources.

Then we wait.

Waiting is the hardest thing. Our penchant for immediate gratification often undermines our soul’s growth. But after we’ve done the work of digging, watering, and fertilizing, our part is to watch and wait, to let the soul blossom once again.

Friday, May 8, 2015


(This encore post comes from John Joseph.)

You may be familiar with The Serenity Prayer. It's been used by recovering people for decades as they sought sobriety. Tens of thousands, if not many more, have gained some measure of peace as this prayer helped refocus their thoughts.

Pray it now and then I want to share a few thoughts about it.:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change,the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen. 

First, let’s consider the word acceptance. Almost innocuous at first glance, the word is easily dismissed. It seems somewhat weak, banal, and could be taken as a sour grapes or a who-really-cares kind of attitude in the face of horrible abuse in our past.

True acceptance of what we’ve endured as sexual-abuse survivors requires almost Herculean effort on our part. Acceptance isn’t for the faint of heart. Acceptance means we can look our abuse square in the eyes and really own it for what it was.

To come to terms with the reality that our innocence was stripped from us demands the bulk and brawn of an Olympian. Acceptance isn’t the weak resignation of a victim but the brave choice of an overcomer who decides they will be a victim no more.

The courage to change the things that we can in our present life is as rigorous a demand as accepting the reality of our past. Change is one of the most difficult things we face because change equals letting go of the familiar behavior that bring us comfort.

In my case, that ranges from self-pity to acting out in destructive ways. Change equals pain and no one wants to experience pain. To change destructive patterns means launching out into the untested waters of living in new ways and of letting go of the things we’ve trusted.

The truth is that those “comfortable” attitudes or behaviors haven’t brought us anything but destruction. To keep doing what we’ve done will only bring us the results we already have. When our current behavior brings intolerable results, we're ready to change.

And then there’s wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to use the knowledge we have to achieve the results we desire.

Wisdom is choosing the celery over the cinnamon bun. It’s deciding to take a walk instead of a nap. It’s making an effort to forgive instead of allowing an old wound to fester. Wisdom enables us to heal from the past we’ve accepted and to make the powerful changes that we need in the present.

Serenity is the sweet effect of acceptance, courage, and wisdom.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Irrational Comparison

(This encore post comes from John Joseph.)

Many men never graduate from the eighth grade. That's usually the year competition begins in earnest between boys, especially in the locker room. We're discovering our bodies in new ways; puberty is raging, and the comparisons of everything from push-ups to penises set the hierarchy in the schoolyard.

I was never going to be the alpha male, of course, and bore the brunt of ridicule for being smaller, uncoordinated, un-athletic, and downright sissy. Eighth grade was hell.

The unfortunate thing for me as a survivor of childhood sexual trauma is that my abusers were like the bigger boys at school. I couldn't measure up to them in any way.

That sick comparison has stuck with me throughout life and has made me miserable. I've constantly compared myself to other men and always come up wanting. My comparisons aren't ever accurate, but the result is always the same: I can never be as good, as strong, as muscular, as sexy, or as secure as any other man I encounter. They always win.

The only way I’ve found to counteract such an irrational comparison is to recognize that, at its root, it's nothing but envy. I want to be as big, strong, muscular, successful, and handsome as they are.

Forgetting the fact that I just may be similar to them in many ways, envy blinds me to my good qualities I may have, and causes unwanted anxiety and depression.

My body works just fine, no matter how big or small it is. To want what someone else has is a sin against myself and even my own body. To recover means to be thankful for who I am and for what I have, even if I still can’t do many push-ups.

Friday, May 1, 2015

"It Happened Only Once."

(This post from Cecil Murphey first appeared at

Occasionally a survivor of sexual assault says, "It happened only one time," as if that made the offense and agony less important.

To that, I answer, "It's not whether molestation happened one time or fifty times, you were still molested." Here's a good first question to ask: How did the abuse affect you?

I've talked with a few men who say they were abused and not damaged by the assault. That may be denial or their words may be true. Some individuals just don't hurt as easily or as deeply as others.

Regardless, many men who say it didn't happen a second time were so traumatized, they struggled with the same issues as those who reported abuse that went on for years.

We need to remind ourselves that our innocence was destroyed the first time someone assaulted us. And assault is the right word. We were defenseless children and someone usually bigger and older did something to us without our consent or our being old enough to know they were harming us.

There doesn't have to be a second or tenth time. The damage occurred and our innocence was shattered.

"How did the molestation change your life?" is a good second question. Most of us struggle with the issue of not being able to trust others. If a person we should have been able to trust betrayed us, how can we trust anyone else?

To heal from that abuse means we finally must take a risk. We have to trust someone enough to tell our story. The healing happens when we relate what happened to us and sense the listener understands. That exchange validates us and the healing process begins.

One time. Five hundred times. Ignore that, and focus on the hurt so the healing can take place.