* If you are a survivor, please note that this bio may contain triggers. Please take care of yourself. *
I was a little boy, filled with promise and adventure. But instead, he buried his pain in me.
Sexual abuse cost me and my family nearly everything. I spent 15 years searching the world for answers to my pain. As I looked deeper into myself I began to see the patterns. I began to walk on my journey to recovery.
When I was about 16, I watched a NASA TV show and became totally inspired by astronauts. I wanted to be one. So I got a head start to study calculus in high school, and then I went away to a very good engineering university. My family is very head-smart, so that has been a blessing. But as three years passed I was severely isolated, socially awkward, and hiding from a lot of pain. Hiding in a technical world of machines and big ideas in my head. I didn’t remember what had happened to me in my childhood. I only had a vague sense that I was hurt and needed healing.
I was a brainy, scrawny, pimply, sharp young man who lived in his head. I left university and began on a world journey which left me studying yoga, discovering my mind and body in an ashram in rural India, trekking through the Himalayas to focus on my breathing and the beauty in Nature, and learning to sing. I needed to connect with the little boy in me, to give him a voice, to feel my body, and to understand my own mind.
After some years I grew increasingly aware that I was yearning for something. It was something that I had lost. It had to do with my childhood, but I didn’t know what. I was becoming aware of a deep ache in me, of a yearning for innocence and play and connection and friendship, a yearning to live my dreams.
These are things that I have struggled with. I was so far from my body, from my mind, from connection with others, hiding in shame and doubt and fear. I lived most of my life that way.
The computer was my escape, something I am really good at. In my childhood, it was a world I could control and master. Later, working as a software engineer became my profession. But the computer was also my addiction, keeping me locked away in a fantasy world of glowing pixels and synthetic sounds.
Eventually, I found a mens’ group called The ManKind Project. I participated in a rites of passage weekend called the New Warrior Training Adventure, which is designed to challenge men to go into their deepest struggles and to help men overcome what has troubled us. It’s a very supportive community and it was a very intense weekend that changed my life. To belong to a tribe of men, to trust men!!! This was something completely new for me. It changed me.
On that weekend, I began to understand some of the pain I had buried about my family and upbringing, and to identify some of the behaviors that my mom and dad had done which had hurt me. I was held and seen by men at that weekend in a way that I had never been before. I finally had a taste of connection, after living in my own prison for so long. I went on to become a regular staff member for fourteen more NWTA weekends.
Gradually, I began to focus more on working with youth, because I felt inspired by their energy, innocence and playfulness. I wanted to reconnect with a part of me that I had lost. But the closer I got to youth work, the more my fears, my shame, and my distrust would haunt me.
But I let myself dream anyway. The ache to be on a sports team, something I had always wanted, got stronger and I decided to do something about it. In 2009 I founded Mammoth Tackle Football, an adult 6-on-6 full contact football club with two teams. I rounded up about 25 passionate football players and a coach and we held two amazing seasons.
It was such a rush to play football, after all those years of watching and wishing with envy. And it was so great to have a bunch of jocks rally around my vision, inspired to come and play and practice. It showed me that I could be a leader, even if I was a total novice football player. It showed me that I could live my dreams, especially the big ones. How could a scrawny little guy like me play tackle football? Well, I did!
During that time, my sister gave birth. I held her little girl. Something happened to me psychologically. I started waking up in the night with haunting memories and having flashbacks during the day. It was really dark stuff, with nighttime memories from my childhood that were truly terrifying. Blood running down my little leg. A bloody condom thrown at my head. The color of turquoise basement concrete with my face pressed up to it. Intense pain. Hiding from my dad in the closet, under the bed, behind a fortress of lego boxes. At first I thought I was going nuts. I saw two different psychologists and began therapy work. Slowly, I began to see a different side of my family that I had not been ready to see until then.
It was like I had been seeing one face of my parents and then I started to see another face. I believed that I had all these problems, that I was somehow broken or bad. I was so bound up in shame. But it was a long forgotten truth: I found a little boy in me, crying in pain.
When I confronted my parents about their abuse of me, my world was turned upside down. It was a heavy conversation, full of denial and shame. My dad said “you must be mistaken”. My mom turned around and called me a pedophile, and started blaming gays and the fact that I’m gay. I think she says that to deflect responsibility. It’s one thing for a man to love another man. It’s another thing entirely for a man to rape a boy, for a father to rape his son. But I was the family scapegoat.
So all the walls I had built to keep myself away from this began to crumble. And as the walls fell, over and over, I came into contact with that crying little boy. He is crying in me. At first he cried for all that he has lost. Now he cries for all that children lose every day.
How can we create a safer world for children when our only response is hatred? I am finding a place of compassion that stands up for children and also sees the humanity, the potential for violence that we all have. None of us, it seems, are truly immune to hurting what is vulnerable in the world. Therefore, we must move with care and humility, knowing that children suffer the worst for our errors.
I became a stranger to my family when I reached the little boy in me. I saw the way innocence had been stolen, and how I had been manipulated into serving a lie, a lie that said I was terrible and bad and broken. This lie held me in its cage. It kept me alive, and it kept my family together in numbed out denial.
This is the lie that imprisons so many of us survivors of abuse. And this is why I feel it is so important to proclaim that as survivors, We Are Made To Soar. There is a spirit in us that goes beyond the hurt, and gives purpose to the pain. This is why I believe in the dreams of little boys and girls, and this is why I want to help survivors live our dreams.
My depression deepened after confronting my family. I went through an intense period of grieving and adjusting my life. I was no longer emotionally able to practice for football, so I let it go (I’d love to play again!). Work was a struggle. Every day I was lying in bed hurting, remembering all these terrible things and seeing what I had lost. I started playing video games again. I tried to keep it in check.
I was coming to terms with the abuse. I saw an episode of Oprah where she had 200 courageous male survivors on her show, which really helped me. This led me to an amazing organization called Male Survivor. I attended two of their recovery weekends, invested in therapy, and found BC Male Survivors, a great recovery group in Vancouver.
Along the way I met a ton of other courageous men and women facing their pain and healing from sexual abuse. It is a very humbling journey, with moments of utter sadness and moments of such triumph. In my dark days, I lay naked in the bathtub, crying. Other days I heard stories of such strength and resiliency. Untold stories of people who have survived rough abuse.
After those years of hard work, I was invited to an indigenous healing ceremony where I had the opportunity to ask for healing. During that ceremony, I received an intense vision to go to the Amazon for healing of my family wounds. So I packed up my stuff and booked a plane ticket to Peru. I learned some Spanish, and landed in a hot sweaty jungle in a culture I knew nothing about. It was an adventure.
I found an elder from the Shipibo culture. I explained to him how my family had been torn apart by sexual abuse. He took me under his wing and taught me how to work with the plants of the Amazon. We communicated using my rough Spanish and my little translator Android app. I began a spiritual diet consisting of very basic food (rice and scaly river fish, no salt, sugar, fruit, oil), no sex, limited social contact, limited use of technology, and large amounts of time spent praying, working with local jungle plants, and in healing ceremonies.
I dieted for about 2 months like this, sometimes living in a little hut on the edge of the jungle, surrounded by monkeys and tarantulas. I swam in the Amazon, met children in a little village, helped my teacher’s family with medicines for their children, food and supplies for school. I was shown my connection with Mother Nature, and with my Ancestors, with the love that is in everything, and with all the pain and wounding that so many of us carry.
The whole time I was supported by my programming work with a great mobile software development company in Vancouver. It took me awhile to find a place like this, but I’m happy I did. They let me connect remotely from Peru, programming iPhone apps part time while living on the edge of the jungle. This led to some very interesting Skype meetings involving torrential storms, rickety old boats, nutty Internet connections, curious Peruvian onlookers and working from some very unusual places. What a blessing that is, to be able to travel and find healing, while having a steady job.
I’m grateful for modern technology and for my parents who encouraged me to develop my intellect. That may sound strange coming from me, given that I’ve survived serial rape and being psychologically tortured by my parents.
But it’s true. Everyone is a human being, and my childhood was not all bad. We had summer vacations and I had a go-cart and a little yellow waterslide in the backyard. But man, some of what went on in the basement is truly dark.
This is part of what makes incest so very difficult to heal from. It tears families apart, leaving everyone with conflicting feelings of love and hate, of tenderness and violence. It’s a terrible curse on a family, and for a parent to sexually violate a child is a terrible crime.
I hold my parents accountable for their actions, and, somewhere in me, I still love them. To me, they are not simply monsters. They are people with a lot of hurt, who have suffered, and made mistakes. Some days, it’s agonizing to me that they won’t admit their mistakes, or that they deny so vehemently or blame so viciously. But meditating in India, learning from Buddhist teachers, and praying in the Amazon have taught me that we are all human. I can start by freeing the little boy in me. I am not to blame. I can change myself, heal and become a champion for the dreams of children and survivors.
So I returned from the Amazon with newfound strength and clarity. Gradually, this new dream has been emerging to help other survivors live their dreams. To give hope and purpose to the pain, to go and live the life we are capable of, even with the challenges we’ve faced. That’s how Made to Soar is being born. It’s the little boy and the man I am, working together to help other children and adult survivors to reclaim their lives. It’s really very simple.
I believe in the dreams of little boys and girls.
I honor and protect them.
Will you join me in supporting survivors to live our dreams?