The definition of recovery is to return to a normal state of mind and strength. Since I started on the road to overcoming my sexual abuse 8 years ago I have worked tirelessly toward obtaining that recovered stage. During this time I have felt weak, emasculated, shame, strong, empowered, angry, confused and sometimes I felt them all at the same time. Usually, it cycles through. I’ll feel strong and empowered as if I reached a point where none of the sexual abuse matters. I reach a place where I no longer feel afraid of him, where I am a champion even if it’s just in my own mind. Then for no reason, it changes. I feel the shame, the fear and it eats at me that at 43 I still struggle with what was done to me at the age of 5…
About 23% of the world’s population doesn’t feel fear. They just don’t get scared. Not the way most people do. I’m not one of them. I get scared, not very often, and there are only two men who have been able to put fear in my heart. One was my boot camp drill instructor Sergeant Davis. The guy was all of 5’ 7” but he was the real deal. The other man was my father. I confronted him once in my mid 20’s. I jumped on a Greyhound bus to New York where he worked as a manager at McDonald’s on Wall Street. I wanted him to stand there while I just unloaded years of pain on him. God, when I saw him I nearly wet my pants. And just like that little dog that barks to show he is not scared of oncoming danger when in reality he is, I barked. He wore a smile as he walked toward me. I didn’t let him get within 10 feet of me. I just started to yell at him. Not how I planned it in my head but I panicked. My fear would not let him get close to me. Even though I could have easily hurt him physically I was still scared.
My father died a few years ago and still, his legacy of fear and pain looms large. The fear I felt that day and many times before I felt a few weeks ago. I had a nightmare where I am my fully grown 43-year-old self. My father is there, he tells me to turn around, and pull down my pants. I do it. And I feel his breath on the back of my neck. I can feel myself panicking in my nightmare. Then I felt it. The debilitating fear that poor 5-year-old knew too well. I became so scared I literally wet the bed… I wet my bed… I jumped out of my bed ready to fight with my heart pounding out of my chest. I felt light headed from my shallow breathing. Then I notice… I am safe, it was just a dream but the fear was real. I ran to the bathroom to take a shower. As I washed off the shame I cried. I cried because I am a 43-year-old man who fears little but wets his bed like a 5-year-old. Moreover, I cry out of frustration that after 8 years of therapy a simple nightmare scared me into submission. I cried because even in my dreams I could not protect myself. I get back to the room and my wife already knows something is wrong. I tell her what happened and she tells me it is okay as I cry again but this time I feel safe and supported. The next day I go to work and I help those who are the most vulnerable in our society, children.
There are two things I have learned from this situation. First, is that recovery is not getting back to a normal state of mind and strength. Recovery is about learning that you are STRONGER than from where you first started. It’s a cycle, not a destination. It is a constant journey of getting better to defeat the demons that will always gnaw at your feet. I have to accept that my father may always haunt me… But he has not nor can he ever defeat me. The second thing I learn or at least I’m reminded of… There is no bravery without fear. I have accepted that even in my dreams I am scared of my father. But FEAR has never stopped me. I have gone home with knuckles bloody, body battered, I tested myself as a Marine and nothing has put fear in me like my father. But that hasn’t stopped me from marrying the girl of my dreams and helping raise a beautiful family. It will not stop me from being a symbol of hope and perseverance. There is no bravery without fear! You see I can admit that I am scared because it only makes me fight harder. Your Story