I was numb, within days we were on a Pan-Am flight to a new life in South Portland, Maine, and a slew of relatives I had never met before. Thinking back now I don’t think I ever really started to grieve. In my fourteen year old head, super-sensitive head all I knew was that God took my dad away and it was my fault. If only I had been a better kid but that wasn’t possible because I couldn’t do anything right. That message still in my head on a constant loop. It tainted everything I tried to do. I was filled with a tornado of conflicting emotions, “I love you Dad! I’ll try harder Dad! Please don’t hit me with the belt!’ all the while filled with fear and even more confused when he bought me gifts, took me on submarines, kissed me on the cheek. Even now as I type this my heart is crying for “Daddy!” Forty eight years later and it’s like I’m crying for the first time. I was empty inside but soon learned to always put on a good front partly because it kept people from asking all those questions.
I stuffed my feelings for two years. I buried my loneliness in a love for music. Mom got me several different instruments but without discipline that didn’t go well. I did talk her into letting me take the stereo into my new basement bedroom that my uncle built. The same stereo I was playing Led Zeppelin on when I thought I had reached the end. I took a handful of pills and laid down to die. Nothing happened, I waited and waited, I expected to go to sleep and slip away but nothing, then I got scared. I left the house and made my way to a telephone booth at the corner pharmacy and called the Police. After a trip to the ER and medication to make me heave everything up it was back home where my “episode” was quietly swept under the rug. No one spoke of it, at least not to me. Nor were any psychologists or counselors called into play.
I can’t say exactly when I was introduced to porn but I can say this, it got my attention . Finally something that took my mind off all the pain I felt and brought some relief. I think it is safe to say I was addicted the first time I masturbated to it. I had found a form of medication to sooth my wounds, to dull the pain and the feelings of confusion. But it was a secret world I now lived in, seeking out porn at the newsstand and bookstores all the while keeping it away from family and friends.
When I turned eighteen, in fact in March of 1972 I took the oath for the U.S. Navy. Because of the suicide attempt they sent me to a psychiatrist who determined I was unfit for submarine duty which was devastating to me, despite my confusion about my relationship with my father I still had a desire to follow in his footsteps although to be honest I’m not sure I would have made it through Nuclear Power School. Plus they told me I was clautraphobic. News to me ! With a six month entry delay I went to Boot Camp in September and then To Pensacola for sixteen weeks of “Photographers Mate A School”. My first set of orders, the Naval Station Photo Lab in Rota, Spain. What a job, after working in processing, printing and on the shooting crew I got a chance to specialize in aerial photography which had me flying in Helos almost weekly. It was an amazing experience and I got to see a lot of Spain from a somewhat higher point of view.
One Sunday after attending a Mormon church service with a friend of mine, I had gone with some missionaries who had invited me, I we spotted to two very attractive young ladies who had entered the Fellowship Hall and started donning choir robes for the protestant service. I was immediately taken with the petite redhead, with a big smile and a sprinkling of freckles across both cheeks and her button nose she was too cute! She definitely got my attention! During a short conversation I learned that she, Bonnie, was visiting her parents for the summer and staying in the same off-base apartment building as I in Fuentabravia . Needless to say we ended up dating all that summer, touring southern Spain in my MG on the weekends. It blossomed into a summer love, my first real relationship and we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. I didn’t know it at the time but she was recently divorced, the result of a physically abusive relationship and was on the rebound. Bonnie had a deep abiding faith in God and delighted in sharing with me. I thought I had the porn under control but soon came under heavy conviction and despite all of her affection I soon felt this hole in my heart, an emptiness inside that I didn’t understand. Bonnie spoke to me of Jesus and salvation and how only He could fill the emptiness inside. She convinced me to talk to the Chaplain, so that very night we drove together to his off-base residence where both of them prayed for me and with me as I asked God for the forgiveness of my sins and asked Jesus into my heart. I wish I could say that it was all smooth sailing after that because it wasn’t, Bonnie returned to college on the West Coast not ready for a long-term commitment and I, now broken-hearted still had a problem with porn.
After several more tours, Iceland and Barbados I finally ended up on the east coast and made the decision to separate from the Navy at the end of my enlistment in 1978. It was a hard decision but I was tired of moving, always saying goodbye to friends and starting over, six years, four duty stations and two “A” schools, I was over it. The day before I was discharged I interviewed for a local police department but got cut at the final interview. I worked construction was already attending a church I liked and joined the singles group. I remember the first time I saw her, big glasses, beautiful green eyes, even bigger hair with lots of curls and a smile framed by these luscious lips. I was smitten. I soon found out “M” cut hair and I needed a hair cut bad. After the appointment I took her and her son on a date to see superman. That was followed by a ski trip and nine months later we were married in the church.
Now I know everyone brings baggage into a marriage but she had no idea what I was dragging in. Low self-esteem, self-loathing , bitterness and anger, mostly towards myself and my father but it has a way of touching everyone. And then there was the porn which just fed everything. It was a vicious circle, sneaking out, buying it, using it followed by overwhelming guilt and shame,and tears, always tears, then repentance, rinse and repeat. I always felt like I was circling the drain. Especially when she found it, tore it up and threw it in my face. I never wanted to hurt her, I just wanted the pain to go away. She had her own issues and together they created the perfect storm. Somehow I managed to get hired by that same Police Department and despite my lack of confidence I came out second in my class. Only by the grace of God! Academy graduation was followed by the birth of our first son and five years later our daughter. Together with my stepson we now had a family of five.
That was thirty some odd years ago. My how time does fly. Thirty eight years of marriage, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild and my wife is really now just a roommate. Now you are probably wondering what happened in all those intervening years. Some were good, some were bad, lot of memories on both sides that I’m sure I will bring to light at some point. But the overwhelming memory is of the deep depression that settled over me and the porn, always there to some degree, tempting and taunting and by this point only deepening the pain. The suicidal thoughts never left, having investigated numerous suicides on the job I knew I could never really do that to my family and besides I knew who the source of those thoughts was and I wasn’t going to let him win. I knew something had to change. But how, I had stopped feeling anything decades before, I felt like a living, breathing, walking, functioning suicide. For years I was a recluse in the bedroom, my cave, coming out to go to work and smile and lie, “Fine , Thank you,” rolled off my tongue while I was dying inside. Somehow I always held on to hope, even in the darkest of times.
My daughter started attending a church youth group with a friend and I had the honor of dropping them off at the church one night a week. At this point I had backslidden totally and had left the church I got married in years before unable to deal with my own guilt and shame and the depression. Every time I pulled up I always wondered what lay beyond the door. Finally I accepted an invitation to attend a church function at a local state park. My wife had already been attending the church for about a year and encouraged me to go. I found I actually enjoyed all the folks I met and when I met the pastor I knew in my heart that God had called me home. A man with greater compassion I had never met. It was a small church and everyone was close, like family. Just what I so desperately needed. Hope began blossom in my heart and I started attending regularly.
One Sunday after the service I was talking to friend in the sound-booth when he asked me if I would like to join the team and learn to work in audio. I declined at first but the seed began to grow in me. I finally said yes and after several months of training I developed a passion for it. Serving my Lord by mixing live sound is one of the joy’s of my life. I soon took over the ministry and over the years have trained close to a dozen young men in the art and science of mixing and live sound but now I am relegated to the pew having done too good of a job. God knew exactly what I needed, my church and my ministry is my lifeboat! Why he chose to use a backslidden still sinning christian like me I don’t know but I am grateful. Grace and mercy, that is all it can be!
(My office, above, on Sunday mornings’ when my team needs me. Which is not often enough! )
The last nine years of my career in Law Enforcement I worked as a School Resource Officer at a local middle school. In that capacity I spent a lot of time with the guidance counselors working with student and parents, diffusing situations and yes, taking police reports. Occasionally it would involve an allegation of the sexual abuse of a female student. I realize how traumatic retelling such a story can be so I never pushed the victim hard for details, all I needed was enough to confirm a crime had been committed. Then I would call the Detectives and the social workers. Their interview with the victim I knew would be painful so why push for more than I needed in the initial report. These “incidents” always tore me up emotionally, especially after I had time to dwell on it. Over the years I had come to admire many of the students. Having learned a little of their home-life and background they became my heroes. The fact they came to school and thrived amazed me.
All of this came flooding back to me as I read Tiffany’s post about “grandpa” and the abuse that she endured. My God how it ripped my heart out, and yet she found the will to survive. Now an accomplished highly educated medical professional, I once heard her comment to herself, as if in surprise, “I’m a freaking doctor!” I chuckled to myself, “Yes you are, you have a PhD. in Physical Therapy ” So why now, why this amazing, incredibly strong and courageous woman? Why not someone from the bible? I really don’t know, except that she is flesh and blood, I’m blessed to see her on occasion and we exchange emails, unlike just reading about someone in a story. I guess I was just ready and the size of the fight in Tiffany sparked something in me. A desire for a change, to crawl out of this fog of depression, a desire to draw closer to God, a desire to face my inner demons, to experience life and love, a desire to save my marriage and God willing restore our passion for each other that I allowed the porn to steal away.
Well, I guess that’s it. I’m not proud of my moral failures but I am grateful to a loving and merciful God who never stopped loving me. I am also grateful to my wife who never left me, she has moved in and out of the bedroom about a dozen times over the years but who could blame her! Finally I want to thank two amazing and brave Warrior Women in my life who never fail to inspire me and who are in fact responsible for me starting this blog. Once I started writing poetry to deal with this flood of feelings that was coming back I started sharing it with them and they encouraged me to share it right here. So another shout out to my friend Tiffany at Tiffanybeingfree.com and Rita at Rockymountainheartbeat.com, Rita is an absolute hoot! I met her through Tiffany and now “M” and I are planning our first “just us” vacation to visit Rita and “D” in Colorado to take in God’s Creation in the Rockies. “M” and I are celebrating the news she just got yesterday that she is in remission from breast cancer. We are Overjoyed! God is Good!