This piece was written for and published by Life After Hate earlier today.
This piece was written for and published by Life After Hate earlier today.
“Do You Remember?
“1. In 1968, Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed…By a Muslim male.
“2. In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and massacred…By Muslim males.
“3. In 1972 a Pan Am 747 was hijacked and eventually diverted to an Arab country here a fuse was lit on final approach and it was blown up shortly after landing…By Muslim males.
“4. In 1973 a Pan Am 707 was destroyed in Rome, with 33 people killed, when it was attacked with grenades…By Muslim males.
“5. In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over…By Muslim males.
“6. During the 1980′s a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon…By Muslim males.
“7. In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up…By Muslim males.
“8. In 1985, the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked and a 70 year old American passenger was murdered and thrown overboard in his wheelchair…By Muslim males.
“9. In 1985, TWA flight 847 was hijacked at Athens, and a US Navy diver trying to rescue passengers was murdered…By Muslim males.
“10. In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed…By Muslim males.
“11. In 1993, the World Trade Center was bombed the first time…By Muslim males.
“12. In 1998, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed…By Muslim males.
“13. On 9/11/01, four airliners were hijacked; two were used as missiles to take down the World Trade Centers and of the remaining two, one crashed into the US Pentagon,
and the other was diverted and crashed by the passengers. Thousands of people were killed…By Muslim males.
“14. In 2002, the United States and Canada and others fought a war in Afghanistan…Against Muslim males.
“15. In 2002, reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and beheaded by—You guessed it—Muslim males.
“No, I really don’t see a pattern here to justify profiling, do you? These 15 incidents are merely coincidence. So, to ensure we Americans/Canadians never offend anyone, particularly fanatics intent on killing us, airport security screeners will no longer be allowed to profile certain people. Absolutely No Profiling!
“They must conduct random searches of 80-year-old women, little kids, airline pilots with proper identification, secret agents who are members of the President’s security detail, 85-year old Congressmen with metal hips, and Medal of Honor winner and former Governor Joe Foss, but………….. Leave Muslim Males alone lest they be guilty of profiling.
“Have the American/Canadian People completely lost their Minds, or just their Power of Reason?
“Each opportunity that you have to send it to a friend or media outlet……..do it!
“Just the facts……better add (and continue to add….)
“16. In 2012 … US Consulate in Benghazi…..Muslim males.
“17. In 2013 … Boston marathon bombers….Muslim males.
Of course Internet memes like this are used to justify political opinions, racism, and plenty of other things. They appeal to raw instincts and base emotions, without allowing the time to process or to put things in context. So to put things in context I have created my own list of horrible acts:
Do you Remember?
In 1963 President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed . . . by a white male (as were Presidents Abraham Lincoln in 1865, James Garfield in 1881, William McKinley in 1901, not to mention multiple attempts on Ronald Reagan and others—by white males).
Also in 1963 four young girls were killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama—a church—in what was considered an act of racial “terrorism” perpetrated by—you guessed it—white males.
In 1966 seventeen people were killed and thirty-two wounded by a gunman in the bell tower at the University of Texas. The killer was Charles Whitman, a white male.
In 1968 civil rights and peace activist Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated . . . by a white male.
In 1969 several people (at least seven or eight) were murdered by the followers of Charles Manson (a white male). His followers were white males and white females.
In 1978 more than 900 people died by suicide at the urging of their leader, the Reverend Jim Jones, a white male.
Between 1978 and 1991 at least 17 men and boys were killed by Jeffrey Dahmer, a white male.
In 1984 a gunman opened fire at a McDonald’s in California. He killed 21 and wounded 19. He was a white male.
In 1989 five people were killed and many others wounded in a school shooting by Patrick Purdy, a white male who hated Asians. Those killed were four of Cambodian descent and one of Vietnamese descent.
In 1995 a bomb rocked the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, including nineteen very young children in a domestic terrorism incident perpetrated by two white males.
Between 1996 and 1998 two people were killed and more than 150 injured by bombs set off by anti-abortion and anti-gay activist Eric Rudolph—wait for it—a white male.
In 1999 the nation was shocked by a massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. 13 died. A couple dozen were injured. They were shot by two young white males.
In 2011 a man killed 77 people in two separate attacks in one day in Norway, the first with a bomb, the second with guns on an island that was inhabited mostly by children. He was a white male.
In 2012 six people were killed and several others injured at a temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin when a white supremacist (male) started shooting right before the weekly service.
Also in 2012 was the Sandy Hook shooting. The gunman was a white male.
No, I really don’t see a pattern here to justify profiling. Do you?
Oh, and let’s not forget Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and other white male world leaders who have killed massive numbers of their own citizens.
The point is, you can take any group of people—gay, Asian, white, black, Muslim, Catholic, etc.—and find incidents where members of that group committed heinous acts. If you are racist you can then extrapolate from those examples that all members of that group behave the same way and deserve our enmity. But you would be wrong. Why don’t we create lists of the good that people do? Why don’t we try to see beyond generalizations and find ways to get to know each other better and make the world a better place for all of us? That is the way I want to move through the world. So no, I do not see justification for profiling. I see it as racist generalizing that does nothing to move our world forward in a positive way. You can call me a liberal, pacifist, or whatever you want. I know you will—because all you can do is generalize and hate those you don’t understand.
Several Wisconsin organizations have partnered to put together a one-day conference on surviving childhood sex abuse that will be held at the Sheraton Hotel in Madison on Thursday, June 20.
Sponsored by Solidarity with Child Sex Abuse Victims/Survivors, Rape Crisis Center, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA), OutReach Inc., Family Sexual Abuse Treatment, Canopy Center, Proud Theater, and Friends of the State Street Family the day-long conference will focus on healing and survival, particularly among male victims, an often underserved population in the sexual assault advocacy community.
The conference will start with an introduction by Kelly Anderson, Executive Director of the Rape Crisis Center at 10:00 a. m. on June 20 and will culminate at 6:00 p.m. with “Dare to Dream”, a program of MaleSurvivor that includes the film “Boys and Men Healing”, followed by a panel discussion led by MaleSurvivor’s Executive Director Christopher Anderson. MaleSurvivor is a nationwide organization based in New York City that is committed to preventing, healing, and eliminating all forms of sexual victimization of boys and men.
In the morning there will be a breakout discussion for survivors facilitated by two survivors and an introduction to survivorship led by Stephen Montagna of WCASA. The afternoon will close with a community discussion on responses and ways to help Wisconsin survivors that will be led by Kelly Anderson, Executive Director of Rape Crisis Center; Jude Edmonds, Oasis Clinical Director; Chuck Stonecipher, Executive Director of Family Sexual Abuse Treatment; Pennie Meyers, Executive Director of WCASA, and Nic Dibble, Education Consultant with the Department of Public Instruction. There may be a couple more panelists added at a later date.
Afternoon breakout sessions include:
• “Ten Things You Should Know About Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse”, by Christopher Anderson, Executive Director of MaleSurvivor.
• “Healing Families: When Sexual Abuse Hits Home”, by Chris Wirth, LMFT and Rainbow Marifrog, LMFT, therapists at Canopy Center’s Oasis program for the treatment of sexual abuse.
• “Choose Your Difficulty: Survivor Activism as a Path to Justice and Healing”, by Peter Isely, Midwest Director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
• “Healing through Creative Expression”, by playwright and Proud Theater/Milwaukee Artistic Director Callen Harty.
Harty initially decided he wanted to bring “Dare to Dream” to Madison after seeing an e-mail about it from MaleSurvivor. He approached Anderson at the Rape Crisis Center and together they decided to expand that idea into a mini-conference on survival. He then contacted other organizations for sponsorship and support and several decided to partner to put on this important event. Harty, Stephen Montagna of WCASA, and an adult survivor who prefers to remain anonymous comprised the planning committee.
A benefit concert was held in March to help raise funds to pay for the conference and individual donations were also sought. All the involved organizations are non-profit so funding is still needed to ensure it is all covered. Donations may be mailed to OutReach, Inc., 600 Williamson Street, Madison, WI 53703. Checks should be made out to OutReach but must be marked for Paths to Healing to ensure the funds go to the right program.
Cost of the conference is $30 in advance or $40 at the door and covers all of the sessions and lunch. For more information on the conference go to the Facebook page “Paths to Healing: Conference on Child Sex Abuse Survival” or to the WCASA website (www.wcasa.org), and click on the events link. From the Paths to Healing page click the link for registration to sign up for the event in advance. A limited number of scholarships are available and can be applied for at the time of registration.
For additional information or questions contact Callen Harty at (608) 469-6686.
– 30 –
Addendum: Further information on breakout sessions
Session 1A: “Ten Things You Should Know About Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse”, by Christopher Anderson, Executive Director of MaleSurvivor.
This presentation touches on ten essential points to be mindful of when working with a male survivor of sexual abuse. Presented from the point of view of the survivor himself, this presentation is appropriate for both clinical and non-clinical audiences. Informed by his own personal experiences, and the insights of therapists and other survivors, this talk will help attendees better understand the unique challenges and pressures felt by male survivors. In addition, participants will leave with some concrete suggestions for how to more effectively communicate with and assist male survivors in the “hard work of healing.”
Session 1B: “Healing Families: When Sexual Abuse Hits Home”, by Chris Wirth, LMFT and Rainbow Marifrog, LMFT, therapists at Canopy Center’s Oasis program for the treatment of sexual abuse.
Is it possible to find healing when abuse shatters a family? This workshop will focus on the treatment of male victims who have experienced sexual abuse within the family. Using real case examples it will explore the impact of incest on family dynamics, including issues related to guilt/shame, powerlessness, family alliances, sexuality, and grief/loss due to family separation. In the context of best practice models it will look at prevention, reconciliation, and the special healing necessary when the perpetrator is a family member.
Session 2A: “Choose Your Difficulty: Survivor Activism as a Path to Justice and Healing”, by Peter Isely, Midwest Director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
It’s difficult for survivors to keep silent; it’s difficult to speak. While there may be no choice about the difficulty, each survivor does get to choose which difficulty to embrace. For survivors who have chosen to come forward and speak, organized public action, activism and service with fellow survivors has created a powerful path from childhood trauma to personal healing and social change. For two decades survivors of childhood sexual assault by clergy and religious authority figures have waged a highly visible and successful public campaign to hold clergy sex offenders and religious institutions accountable for the sexual abuse of hundreds of thousands of children around the world. Survivors in Wisconsin have faced a particularly daunting task with a network of state laws and court decisions which have explicitly granted legal immunity and protection to ordained child molesters and their supervisors. Yet, survivors and their allies have succeeded in prosecuting dozens of Wisconsin church child molesters, forced the release of tens of thousands of pages of secret church files detailing decades of criminal activity and cover up, and assisted thousands of survivors, not just of clerical sexual abuse, to come forward and press for justice, including a large number of men abused as children, the latter forever changing how society views child sex abuse with reference to gender. This presentation will tell the story of these intrepid survivor activists, the lessons they have learned over the years, how they have organized and succeeded against great personal odds and social obstacles, and the work and change that still needs to be accomplished, particularly in Wisconsin.
Session 2B: “Healing Through Creative Expression”, by playwright and Proud Theater/Milwaukee Artistic Director Callen Harty. Harty is the author of more than 20 plays, including Invisible Boy, a drama about surviving childhood sex abuse based upon his own experiences growing up in southwestern Wisconsin. The presentation will examine the healing power of creative energy using examples from his own writing experiences, as well as other artists who have used their art as a mirror to look into their own souls and find their voices and ultimately healing from writing, painting, and other forms of artistic expression.
I wish I had the courage to face my mother’s dwindling years without the fear of losing her.
I wish I had the compassion to make her remaining years about her and not about me and my fears.
But it is difficult (as, I guess, most things that matter are). I love her, and it hurts to see her forget things that she should remember. It hurts to see her frailty. It hurts to think about her failing health, both mental and physical, and that some day I will get a call and she will be gone. I have raced to the hospital so many times already.
It hurts to know that I am too often too selfish to put aside my fears to honor her needs. I am not sure I know how to do that, or if she will even know it if I do.
I want to remember her as the vibrant young woman who cared so deeply for me and my siblings when we were children. I want to remember the woman I bragged about to friends as being the most beautiful woman in the world (although I must admit she is still so beautiful–just in a different kind of way). I want to remember staying up half the night with her playing Yahtzee and laughing and talking deeply and just enjoying being with her, this woman who loved me no matter what. I want to remember nights under starlit skies on the front lawn, sitting in silence and awed by the vastness of the universe, or both of us getting up in the middle of the night to stand at the window watching a thunder storm and feeling safe beside each other in the dark. I want to remember her kicking up her heels in dance or her laughter or her joy. Especially her laughter, complete with snorts, that always made me laugh, too. I want to remember.
I am ashamed that I am not a better son, that the older she gets the more I distance myself–even though I know I shouldn’t–because I want to remember her as she was when she was fully herself and because I am scared. Visiting her or calling her now leaves me mostly sad. I will do that today, but with reluctance and with that horrible fear that this Mother’s Day could be the last (or there could be ten more or who knows). I will tell her I love her, because I do, and I will hope that today is a day when that has meaning to her. I will hope that her mind is in a good place and she doesn’t repeat herself too much. However it goes this will become my most recent memory and that is my fear.
I am trying to remember now some other moments from days past. I am thinking of the dinner table, with all the plates turned over and treats hiding underneath. It’s a happy memory. It’s not about the treats, but the thoughtfulness and the love behind them.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.
On Saturday I made the time and was rewarded with a visit to a unique museum that left me with conflicting feelings.
Upon entering the building you step into a light-filled glass entryway and see a floor with a pretty tiled mosaic by H. D. Tylle called “Men At Work.” The mosaic depicts several trades embedded into the floor. There is a foundry worker, blacksmith, miner, farmer, and textile worker. You get the idea immediately that this place represents a celebration of labor, a paean to working men and women everywhere. Standing on the mosaic you look up to see a brightly colored ceiling mural that shows Vulcan at his forge alongside Venus and Cupid. Elsewhere on the mural are depicted some of the world’s great thinkers (Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, and Leonardo Da Vinci among them). After touring the entire museum and upon further reflection it strikes me as interesting that the gods and the thinkers are portrayed along with angels in the heavens above and the workers–whose labor is supposed to be celebrated here and whose labor helped those great thinkers achieve their places in our earthly pantheon–are on the floor beneath the feet of those who enter, symbolically trod upon as they strive to make the world a better place through their labor. Perhaps I read too much into things when I look at them critically, but there are similar paradoxes throughout the museum. In some ways it enthralled me. On the other hand there were some unsettling thoughts I had as I toured, so I explored the benefactor and the museum further after visiting and ended up with some additional concerns.
As you go through the three floors of exhibits and the rooftop sculpture garden you find that most of the work is Eurocentric, with a heavy concentration of German artists represented. Given that Eckhart was an immigrant from Germany in the early 1960′s this makes sense. Among the occasionally well-known names such as Peter Van Brueghel (the Younger) and Frederic Remington, most of the works are by unknown or lesser known artists. Art critics may have an issue with the quality of the work but again, given the focus of the museum on men at work this, too, seems appropriate. Most of the laborers who toil day after day in factories and fields do so in obscurity while the captains of industry who employ them gain money and notoriety, so representations of laborers by obscure artists seems like an excellent egalitarian choice. But the choice is ultimately much more pedestrian than that. In an article on the opening of the museum in On Milwaukee (October 30, 2007), Eckhart is quoted: “I’m in the foundry business,” he says. “I have a nuts-and-bolts background. I buy art based on subject matter, not who painted it.” His intention is to show the evolution of work through his collection, not to showcase great artists (or perhaps even great art).
The museum does show men (and occasionally women) at work throughout history. While the artwork depicts laborers at their various trades one has to keep in mind that the workers are not memorialized in the museum’s name. Instead it is named after a German-American industrialist from Milwaukee who made his fortune off the backs of those laborers at an aluminum casting plant and other businesses in the Milwaukee area. The entire collection was purchased over many years by Grohmann. In a January 3, 2008 article in the Wall Street Journal he talks about watching workers at his grandfather’s quarry when he was a boy. “I loved to watch the guys,” he is quoted as saying. In various articles he talks about his fascination with the men who labor. And the Wall Street Journal article notes that “Dr. Grohmann never lost his respect for hard labor.”
Then again Grohmann made a fortune off of that hard labor and in negotiations with the men whose work ethic he supposedly admired the love seemed to get lost somewhere along the line. According to the website “Immigrant Entrepreneurship, German-American Business Biographies, 1720-to the Present” (http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/) “his relationship with his over four hundred workers quickly deteriorated in disputes over working conditions, wages, and benefits.” The article goes on to state that his foundry “gained a reputation among some in the surrounding South Side communities for its low pay and dangerous working conditions. Union organizers claimed ACE/CO’s wages started at $5.85 per hour ($8.37 in 2010 USD), with many ACE/CO employees making $10 per hour ($14.30 in 2010 USD) or less. Grohmann strongly refutes these wage claims as little more than union propaganda. Contrary to the claims of union organizers, Grohmann asserts he did not run a sweatshop operation, but maintained tremendous respect for, and dedication to, his workers, compensating them accordingly.” The article goes on to describe how a new union was voted in and Grohmann refused to recognize it or negotiate. According to the website the National Labor Relations Board later found Grohmann and his company guilty of several wrongdoings during the election of that union, “including denying workers their annual wage increase, giving preferential treatment to anti-union workers, and expressing its ambition ‘to do everything possible’ to remain union-free in its employee handbook.” In my mind, that sounds more like a man out to protect his own interests. Perhaps he only loved those laborers who were willing to do his bidding without complaints or demands for economic justice.
According to the Wisconsin Democracy campaign Grohmann has donated very little of his money to candidates for office ($2,500 between 1993 and 2011), but what he has donated has gone to several of the more well-known anti-worker legislators in Wisconsin, including Mary Lazich, Alberta Darling, and Scott Fitzgerald. This does not reflect a deep love for workers or worker justice.
But there are many indications that Grohmann’s love is not so much for labor but for the fruit of labor. In his museum there are paintings and sculptures that show men using tools to cut stone, harvest crops, make beer, and more. There are also works throughout that illustrate and celebrate the tools and machinery of labor over the laborers, paintings where things like lime kilns, bridges, and ships dominate the landscape and dwarf or obscure the workers who use or make them. At times it feels more like a celebration of industry, which uses labor to achieve its ends, rather than solely the examination of “men at work” that it purports to be.
Another issue, first brought to attention by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in an article by Mary Louise Schumacher and Whitney Gould on October 28, 2007, has to do with several of the artists and their relationship to the Third Reich. According to the article “the most represented artist in the collection, Erich Mercker (1891-1973), was commissioned directly by Hitler’s government to create images of the Third Reich’s expanding infrastructure.” Of the 900 paintings and sculptures owned by the museum more than 80 of Mercker’s pieces are included. There are two other artists besides Mercker who were also commissioned by Hitler or his cohorts. While they were not necessarily party members they did work for the Nazi party, thus quietly acquiescing, showing subtle support through the justification of earning a livelihood. Even if Hitler and his men had never engineered the Holocaust they were still fascists who controlled both the employers and employees in their totalitarian state. In addition, knowing how many of the works were created by artists working under Hitler’s regime the countless shirtless, muscled men depicted may seem less like physiques created from honorable labor than overwrought representations of supposed Aryan superiority. It seems an odd choice to have so many works represented by these artists.
Overall I found the museum to be fascinating but I was left with numerous conflicting feelings about it. On the one hand you can see the worth of working men and women as they toil in their chosen fields. In painting after painting, sculpture after sculpture–in those in which the men (and occasionally women) who do the work are depicted–you can see the dignity of working class people. You can see the pride in their work. The artists clearly admire them (in fact, as noted above the depictions of the male laborers can make the museum seem more of a tribute to the beauty of the male form than of the male workers). The artists clearly celebrate the workers they show us. On the other hand, if you are aware of economic history at all, you have to be aware that in a capitalist system the workers often go unrewarded while the employers make more and more money off of their labor. The nine-foot tall statues of laborers on the rooftop garden may seem like a gigantic tribute to the workers they represent, but the reality is that the statues are lifeless replicas. The museum as a whole appears to be a celebration of working class heroes, but in the end the celebration seems to be more about the industrialist art collector who created the space and filled it with the things he liked best.
Perhaps Grohmann would have done better to create a museum honoring manufacturing and industry and leave the celebration of laborers to those who truly understand and appreciate labor. A museum built by workers and housing works created by tradesmen and artists who have toiled in the fields and factories would more likely be a celebration of working class people. And the museum would not be named the Grohmann Museum. Instead, it would carry a name like The Art of Labor. I would gladly pay to tour such a place.
Let me say that I love you. I have known you in the core of your beings to be kind and generous people. This is why you remain my friends. I have known you to help your neighbors in need. I have seen you love your families and friends. I know that you have the innate capacity for deep compassion.
But when I hear you suggesting that all Muslims should die, or that politicians you disagree with don’t deserve to live, then I have to question your beliefs. I have to question your understanding of the book that you claim as your life guide. When I see how much you hate I have to question the presence of Christ in your life. When I see you using the Bible to justify war, discrimination, the death penalty, I have to question whether you have read the book at all.
Whenever I hear you spout hatred or generalizations about classes of people certain remembrances of Christian teaching from my youth come to my mind. I hear how you use the Old Testament, particularly Leviticus, to justify your political beliefs and I can’t help but think of how Jesus said that he came to replace the old law. And yes, I know there are right-wing theologians who will argue this was not his intent but it seems quite clear that he did intend to replace the old law with the new while understanding that he was fulfilling the prophesies. He did not negate the Old Testament–he fulfilled its story line and its promise and he started a new one.
When I hear you talk about retribution I cannot help but think of Jesus asking his followers to turn the other cheek and to love your enemies. Oh yes, and “judge not lest ye be judged.”
When I hear you spout hatred of Muslims or gays or African-Americans the phrase “love thy neighbor” comes to mind.
You have the right to your opinions, political or otherwise. You have the right to hate whomever you choose. But please stop doing it with the Bible as your defense. While I am not a Christian I was raised one and I have great respect for those who live authentic Christian lives–people like my mother who have always given of themselves for the betterment of their community, like friends who work to bring together nations and people instead of tearing us further apart. But I do not respect your religion. I do not believe it is Christianity and I believe that if Jesus returned today you would not be drawn up into Heaven in rapture. Instead he would wrap you in his love and try to teach you the true meaning of his lessons. My guess is that you would not listen to him. You might even crucify him again.
I am saddened by what you have become because I know the essence of goodness underlying your being. I try not to judge it, but clearly there is hatred calling you to action. There is hatred in your words. You have left the family of Christian love like a Prodigal son. My hope is that you return to that place of love where you started as an innocent child. Like the Prodigal son you will be welcomed back with open arms.
Alcohol dulls the senses. It hides pain. But only temporarily. It is ultimately a depressant. It eventually takes one’s unhappiness and magnifies it tenfold, a hundredfold. It at once allows you to hide yourself from others behind a series of masks, but unmasks you to yourself and shows you the worst aspects of who you are underneath it all.
Even with that I think my psyche needed the alcohol for the eleven plus years when I was drinking. In a strange way it protected me. I did not know how to deal with the pain of my childhood and it allowed me to survive–not in a healthy kind of way, mind you, but to get through my days with at least the perception of less pain in my wounded soul. I didn’t know how else to deal with the sexual abuse I had suffered from ten to almost eighteen years old. I have shared this before but what I went through was devastating. At ten years old I was manipulated into thinking I was going to play a game. I consented to being tied up to play the game–because I didn’t know any better–and instead of some fun childhood game my pants were pulled down and I was molested. The image I have of that day is my abuser’s back as he sat on my chest, and a crucifix up on the wall just past him, with Jesus looking down on everything but no intercession on my behalf. Jesus was silent. I have often said I lost both my innocence and my faith that day. The abuse, including rape, continued for more than seven years of my childhood.
I know now that my descent into drugs, alcohol, and other dangerous behaviors was in large part a reaction to that abuse (not to mention that I was just simply wired as a very addictive personality). It kept me from having to deal with it until I was better prepared. There was a huge cost for that emotional delay, though. I lost a lot during those dark years.
And yet I came through it. I survived–not unscathed, but I survived–and I believe I came out of it a stronger, more empathetic person. This is not the way I would choose to teach empathy and give strength to someone I love. Not everyone survives what I put myself through; I was lucky. But life has its ways. It gives its lessons when and where they are needed. One just needs to be open to the messages and the lessons that are presented. Without alcohol and drugs creating a fog my spirit opened up to the universe, to the lessons it had for me, to self-revelation and some universal truths.
Since I quit drinking my life has turned around. I became honest with myself. I grew strong. I became more open. I have shared the hard lessons in my life so that others’ lives might be a bit easier, and that has made my life better, too. I faced my abuse. I forgave myself for my drunken wasted years. I forgave myself for the abuse–those who are victims of sexual abuse often blame themselves–and I forgave my abuser. I still do not like him or trust him, but I let it go. I was able to write a play about those abuse experiences. I’ve had articles published about it and I’ve given written testimony in support of Wisconsin’s Child Victims Act. I formed a Facebook group for supporting survivors. I got several organizations to help sponsor and support a day-long conference on surviving childhood sex abuse that will happen on June 20. And in July I will be co-facilitating a male survivors support group. I am no longer hiding behind masks. I have unmasked myself and I have allowed myself to like the person behind the mask.
Today I am thankful that I stopped drinking 24 years ago. But I am also thankful for everything that has happened in my life, good and bad, because I have grown from it all. I will never drink again and I will never hide behind masks again. I am living my life authentically, and I am thankful for the opportunity. I am thankful for my life. I am lucky to have it.