I write this blog for every man out there
who has been sexually abused.
This is for the man who truly understands my shame,
and continues to suffer in silence.
It’s time to talk, and be free from our shame.
When an event takes place that impacts us at a deep emotional level, our bodies have the ability to block such traumatic events from our memory. Our body understands that if it does not bury this trauma deep within, then it is going to be very difficult to navigate through life. This is the body’s way of protecting us.
My body protected me from painful events for the majority of my life. However, the symptoms were always there. Without knowing where the pain was coming from, I walked through life continuously wanting to inflict pain upon myself.
I struggled to let people close to me, felt worthless, and was always consumed with shame. Immersing myself into self-destructive behaviours, gambling, and alcohol provided a momentary escape from my inner demons.
Over time, I found myself in a position where one doctor estimated I had one month to live if I continued with my destructive lifestyle.
I stood at crossroads.
I decided to fight for my life.
The best gift I ever gave myself was gathering the courage to walk into rooms with other people who had also battled addictions. In a world where I struggled to “fit in”, these rooms allowed me to finally feel at home. Yet, I quickly discovered that I did not enter these rooms to work the 12-step program as much as I did to simply be understood.
This was my first experience with the two most powerful words:
Over time, I was able to sustain a sober lifestyle, and build strong support systems around me. I found myself in a position of strength, and my body no longer needed to expend energy suppressing trauma.
Slowly, my body allowed some of the suppressed memories to surface, and I began to recall being sexually abused throughout my childhood. As horrific and painful as these memories were, they provided some answers as to why I was trying to inflict pain on myself for so many years.
As pieces of the puzzle began to come together, feelings of shame came with a new vengeance. Like drinking sand, I was slowly suffocating in my shame.
I recognized that I could not move forward unless I did something different.
After much searching I found the strength to once again fight for my life. I made the difficult decision to attend a men’s group for other men who had been sexually abused.
As I approached the Saskatoon Sexual Assault Center, I experienced a similar deep, and intense fear that was present before attending my first 12-step meeting years earlier. However, this fear and discomfort cannot be articulated through words.
To my surprise and absolute horror, I entered that room only to see one other man present. This only reinforced my shame and embarrassment that men did not speak of these horrors.
When the group began the counsellor asked us to share anything we wanted, and perhaps what brought us to this group in the first place. Well… I attempted to put a voice to some of my pain. However, after only a few sentences I shut down and felt as though I simply could not go on.
I sat in that chair feeling completely exposed.
Sitting beside me was the other man in that small room. Eventually I raised my eyes from the floor, and his eyes met mine.
Through pure compassion he softly said, “It’s OK Al, I get it.”
Essentially, this was his version of, “Me too.”
Those words saved my life.
Connection. Suddenly, I was no longer alone in this battle.
There was nowhere else in the world that I could have received that gift. Yes, I had to take an incredible risk that evening getting into that space. However, I received the greatest reward.
Like anything in life, it is only once we take a risk and do the work that we are able to receive the greatest rewards.
Today, as a motivational speaker I am in a position to share my message with thousands of people every year. Despite feeling that same initial fear and discomfort, I finally decided to put a voice to the issue of sexual abuse on a public level.
Two key things have happened since my first disclosure.
One, I cannot begin to count how many people have approached me after a presentation saying, “Me too”. Many stated that they have never shared this with anyone, and they became aware that they needed to do something with their own shame.
Two, I have witnessed that the more I put a voice to this prevalent issue, the less power it holds over me.
Like anything, the more we are able to get the darkness out, there will be more room for light.
Whatever you are currently battling, know this:
There is no need for you to fight your fight alone.
Dig deep, gather your strength, and enter into the rooms of others who will speak a similar story.
I understand the fear, but I also understand the rewards.
And I promise that you will be rewarded for your courage.