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Yes, Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks
I work on a college campus full of faculty and professional staff, most of whom actively want to do good for our survivors of sexual violence on campus. However, we live in a society that perpetuates ideas about who can and cannot be affected by interpersonal violence (IPV).
Too often, when we talk about abuse we talk about how hopeless we feel. I will ask the question that was posed to me, “Who’s telling you that story?” I once believed the lie that I was a hopeless case, but then I found recovery and in recovery I found and surrounded myself with people, men that believed in me and fed in to me. I went from hopeless to hopeful.
Growing up having been emotionally, physically, sexually and spiritually abused, left me with a lot of deep scars that were hardened over time. I was once a vibrant young boy, full of life and joy. I was not afraid of anything and felt good about myself. Slowly the feelings of joy, fearlessness and feeling like I could conquer the world were stripped away from me by my abusers, and were replaced with feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness.
Before I go any further, this is not about casting blame, as casting blame only portrays a victim mentality. Today I am no longer a victim, I am a victor, but being a victor does not mean I am not without my challenges.
My mother, as far back as I can remember has been abusive with me, calling me names and caking soap on the back of my teeth so heavily it would take me all day to get rid of it. To this day I have no idea why I was so badly abused by her other than she was likely abused herself.
My father was working a lot so he was unaware of her abusive treatment of me. However, up until I was 12 years old, when my father died, my father was my hero and I never really remember him being cruel to me. In fact I believe he was extremely proud of me. Once dad died, my life became very confusing and uncertain.
My parents divorced about a year before dad died and the man that was to become my stepfather and perpetrator – Jack – entered our life. Jack had earned my trust and in fact was very much a surrogate father to me when my father was unable to be there.
The confusion started shortly after dad died when Sam began sexually abusing me. The sexual abuse turned into emotional abuse, followed by physical abuse and spiritual abuse. Over a five-year period my life imploded. I loved playing the guitar, playing baseball and was a straight “A” student, but slowly that all disappeared. When a person gets beat down physically and emotionally enough, they start believing the lies that are being told to them about themself.
Slowly because I had fully bought into the lie that I was worthless, an idiot and would never amount to anything, I quit playing the guitar, quit playing baseball, and barely graduated high school. I spent the next 30 plus years trying to prove to the world, and more precisely Jack and my mother, that I was not worthless.
I got married, raised a family, own a home, and built a million dollar business, yet I was still feeling worthless and empty on the inside. I had achieved all of this with sheer hard work and no education. After all, higher education was for “those” people and I was just a construction worker.
Five years ago I made the choice to close the business and walk away fro a 40-year career in construction. I decided, jointly with my wife, that I wanted to pursue my passion of helping men that had been sexually abused as children and were struggling with addiction.
I decided to finally write my book – Healing the Man Within – and return to college, something I did not think I was capable of doing. So with the support of my and mentors I dove head first into my journey. I battled with my self-doubt, not feeling worthy, and fear, but a remained persistent through it all. I am writing this blog today and reflecting back on the last 5 years.
I have earned a degree in drug and alcohol studies and am now a CADC-1 license drug and alcohol counselor. My book Healing the Man Within is now published and available on Amazon and I have become a Certified Life Coach. Most importantly though, on May 27, 2016, the kid who barely graduated high school 41 years ago graduated from College of the Desert with high honors and an AA in psychology.
I’m not boasting about my accomplishments out of ego, I am only writing about this because I once thought I was worthless and would not amount to anything. I’m not saying it has been easy. I have struggled with self-doubt, feelings of worthlessness, and fear of failure, but I never gave up, never threw in the white towel, oh I wanted to on several occasions, but with the strength of my higher power – God ¬– I overcame all my fears.
Lets start a new dialect of HOPE amongst us and never say never, because I am here too tell you that old dogs can learn new tricks.
- By Randy Boyd
Randy Boyd is a licensed California Alcohol and Drug Counselor, the founder of the Courageous Healers Foundation, and an associate of “It Happens to Boys.” He speaks at conferences, schools, and treatment facilities, about the effects of abuse on men, and how men can heal from those effects. Randy is the author of the new groundbreaking book addressing the sexual abuse of boys entitled “Healing the Man Within”, a book for male survivors written by a male survivor.