I grew up in a family system that was steeped in an ethic that enforced religious values. My parents were both raised by staunch conservative Catholics, and as such, did not believe in birth control. When I asked my mother once why she chose to have so many children, she stated: 'I never turned your father down'. Eventually, the task of raising 8 children in an economically disadvantaged situation took its toll on both of my parents. Drawing from the arsenal of parenting 'skills' passed down to them from their parents, they resorted to the the use of violent enforcement to keep things under control. It was a very traumatic existence, to say the least. As underlings, we lived in a punitive state, and under the circumstances, true nurture and affection were severely lacking in our family system. My family enforced emotional suppression, and displays of any kind consequentially were met with being shamed, or threats of physical violence -- the emotional affect of our family was normally flat, except when my stressed out parents went on the rampage, letting off steam.

Somewhere around the age of 12, I was sexually initiated through unwanted sexual advances by my older brother. We shared a room at the time, as our house was limited for accommodating the housing needs for the 10 people of our family. He used emotional blackmail to force me into compliance, threatening to tell my mother a lie about me if I did not comply. Fearing the possible loss of my mother's favor was a terrifying prospect. As first born and the eldest, he had been given charge over the rest of us siblings while our parents were away from the home working.

I'm sad to say, being at the time emotionally starved of attention and affection, that my brother's sexual attention became the highlight of my life. Here I was, getting ready to enter my high school years, and the most important thing in my life became that I was my brother's sex slave. I blush to admit I was flattered, but seeing no way out of it, I yielded to his advances. His abuse continued over the course of the duration of his high school years, until he graduated and went off to college, and after dropping out at the end of his freshman year, joined the Navy. At the time, I thought I liked it; at the time I thought I needed it, but after many years of recovery I realized that was never the case, but rather, his attention and 'affection' (for lack of a better word) met a deep unmet need.

At some point I began to discover that he was abusing another brother ( years later, another one would come forward to admit he too had been abused), and on another occasion I walked in on the scene of my youngest sister, then about 4 years of age, masturbating him as he lay on his bed. I was so frightened at the sight, that I let out a blood curdling scream, and my father came running up the stairs to see what was the matter, and as my sister went running from my brother's room, my father just turned around and walked back downstairs without a word. My emotional reaction at that moment in time, is something that still lives with me to this day.

During High School I took my first job at age 14, and between school, work and piano practice, I led a very regimented outer life, but was out of touch with my feelings. I struggled with the effects of the abuse, striving to 'fit in', and soon began to experiment with drugs; by the time I was a Junior in high school I also began to drink. My grades were very low, far below my level of ability, but I did not realize at the time how the abuse was already beginning to impact my functionality. I think that rather than cultivate and nurture my natural introverted tendencies and character traits, I rejected and distorted them in an attempt to obliterate them by forcing them to become extroverted traits in order to measure up to social expectations, which favor extroverted character traits. I was set on a course where I would do anything for recognition and approval, even destroy my own natural tendencies and characteristics, in order to appear 'acceptable' in the eyes of others.

After graduating from high school, I wanted to get away from my family situation, so I joined the Navy, continued my substance abuse, and became a musician. I had learned to play the piano quite well and it was the one thing that gave me my special 'me-ness'. Eventually I came to capitalize on this strength and used it to overcompensate for my own lacking sense of self esteem by striving to perfect my mastery of it so as to gain the recognition that I craved. It was not enough to just 'be'; I had to earn my value, and that ethic followed me throughout my life until the age of 32 when I first found recovery.

However, once mainstreamed into the navy life, I became sexually promiscuous, seeking opportunities to trade sex for love. I began to develop a lifestyle of living from one party to the next, from one 'hook-up' to the next. I misjudged many situations, and during one incident, a perp took me on a ruse, and led me into a situation where I was raped at knife point and robbed. Another time, while on the ship, a mate, while showing me around, took me to a hidey hole and forced me to fellate him. I eventually got out of the service, and returned to my hometown and continued the life of partying and random sexual encounters, looking for love in all the wrong places, as the song says.

When I turned 21 things changed for me. My older brother perp died in his apartment mysteriously from a cerebral hemorrhage and we never got to say 'good-bye'. Strangely though, just a week before his death, in a conversation we had, he dismissed the early sexual abuse behavior by simply saying unapologetically 'that was just kids fooling around'. In essence, in my mind, all during my adolescence I was 'married' to him, in a sense, through our sexual relationship. This was a proclamation of divorce. As it turned out, my brother would be the one human person who would expose me to two of the most powerful experiences of my life: sexual initiation, and sexual rejection. It took me a long time to realize the depth of devastation and the psychological/emotional/spiritual havoc this left as its legacy. After he died, I exposed him, reporting his predatory behavior to the family, however, my family was not pleased. Since I broke the silence I was ostracized, and later, one of my brothers (who later it would be revealed was also abused) threatened me with violence if I did not stop talking about it.

In order to get back in the good graces of my family I started to live a more 'acceptable' lifestyle, more like them. I denied my sexual orientation, got married and had three kids, all two years apart. My ex knew about the abuse and about my sexual history, and she seemed to accept it. Her parents hated the fact that she was marrying me, feeling that she could do better, and so from that angle, our relationship never had a chance. even though I was always faithful to her during the 8 years of our marriage.

It was in this decade that I began my career as a church musician, continuing along the lines of trying become worthy and acceptable, but now not only in the eyes of my family, but in the eyes of the church and society in general. It was taking a tremendous amount of energy to keep back all of the suppressed emotion that had accumulated unresolved for my whole life. I was still using alcohol and pot, but now I was also using my job and God as drugs to keep me from feeling anything. I worked hard in this career and excelled in it even though at that point I had no formal training. Except for a few years of piano lessons in junior high years, I was largely self taught musician.

Our marriage continued to deteriorate, largely because of my own emotional state, the guilt and shame around my brother, and the unattended and unresolved post traumatic stress and anxiety arising from the past. I had not even realized at that point that I had never known unconditional love in my entire life. Finally at the age of 31 after 8 years of trying make a go of it, we split up in 1985, and I turned to Alcoholics Anonymous.

As I began my recovery, I felt a new sense of freedom, as if spring had dawned on my life for the first time. Even though it would mean an incredibly difficult and stressful life, dealing with an ex-wife who had turned hateful and vindictive, making it difficult for me to be present in the lives of my children. I tried very hard to protect them from her wrath, and it was not always easy, because she was, and still is, dealing with her own issues of control. I am happy to say, that my three children turned out wonderfully, and if I gave them anything, it was a healthy appreciation for diversity, and the propensity to live their truest self.

Once I turned 36 I began to see the effects of recovery beginning to show their promised results, and I enrolled in University. After two years it became too stressful to hold down the jobs as musician and go to school full time and share custody of the kids, so I took a break, but eventually returned years later, and graduated cum laud in 2000 at the age of 47.

I felt the recovery promises were being fulfilled in my life, and along the way I learned a lot about love and forgiveness of both myself and others. I still struggled with the effects of the shame and guilt from having dragged around the ball and chain of Sexual Abuse and Assault so many years, and the fact that I did not receive any real treatment for it, kept me from experiencing success in any of my 3 relationships that I became involved in following the breakup of my marriage.

So after graduating in 2000, with all three kids now totally independent, I was free to move to a place in the country where I could expect that employers in my field payed adequate compensation for services, and I moved to Minneapolis/St Paul. While there, I started to work on my recovery from SA, and took a workshop at the Neighborhood Involvement Project in Minneapolis where I received a ton of help. I also took the training course to became a certified sexual assault advocate for Dakota county. I was able to experience the very real pain of the people who were sexually assaulted, and help them thru the process of healing during and after their experiences, and as they dealt with legal and civil procedures. I also became a volunteer at 'Open Arms' of Minnesota, an organization that prepared, packaged and delivered healthful meals to persons recovering from the effects of HIV/AIDS. In addition to that, I applied to the University of Minnesota and completed all the coursework and performance for a Master's in Choral Music. I also achieved a Certificate in Vocal Pedagogy. I am the first person in my immediate family to have achieved any education beyond high school. Believe me, I am not bragging, but rather proud of these accomplishments, considering my state of mental health when i began my recovery journey.

While in Minneapolis, I developed a relationship with a therapist specializing in male survivor recovery, Peter Dimock, and he led me to reenact the first incidence of abuse, and restaged the scenario to have me, instead of yielding to my brother's advances, to leave the area and go report his proposition. That gave me a sense of freedom that I never believed I would ever know, enabling me to reclaim my future, and so I am now able to talk about the past as being in the past.

Over the next year, I began to pray for God's will in my life, and I felt drawn to consider joining a monastery. After an appropriate time of discernment, I was accepted as a Trappist postulant at Gethsemani in Kentucky. After spending nearly 6 months there, as the time was approaching for me to make a decision about continuing on to the next stage as novice, I realized that God was not calling me to the cloistered life, but rather to return to full time music ministry and so I chose not to remain. I left for my hometown Pittsburgh and reestablished myself in my field.

Since returning to Pittsburgh, I became active in the Male Survivor recovery community, and just recently made a decision to begin to change careers, so I have applied to begin working towards an MSW at the University of Pittsburgh this Fall, with the goal of becoming licensed counselor in the field of Social Work.




the story continues here



Edited by ModTeam (07/07/10 11:04 PM)
Edit Reason: Edited at user request
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  1. the past
  2. ReClaiming Now
  3. advocacy