After writing “Groomed” I took a long hard look at my life. You know they say that hindsight is always 20/20. I know that what happened to me was awful. It was awful in the sense that the adult men that took away the innocence of my youth had no regard for my mental well-being. There were three perpetrators that for one reason or another decided that a thirteen year old boy could willfully consent to having sex with them.
The tactics that they used on me are no different than the tactics used by millions of perpetrators throughout the country. And these facts culminate to manipulation in the guise of consent to outright rape.
Throughout my life, I sought to find solace; first in a companion, then in alcohol, then in drugs and then finally in myself.
I never allowed myself to heal; and in order to heal, I had to face what happened to me. It was in dealing with that issue first that the healing would begin.
I used to deal with bouts of sadness. It would come out of the blue and it would take root almost as if it were a tangible thing occupying the same space as me. I would become acutely aware of my loneliness and so I would look for happiness in any space that I could find it. When I was younger, I hit the clubs hard looking for someone that would fill that empty spot inside of me. The spot was something that existed ever since those three men took from me something that had extreme value. Maybe they didn’t realize it or maybe they didn’t care. Maybe it was a combination of the two. It doesn’t really matter because the outcome is the same. I lost self-confidence as well as my sense of self-worth.
But like most men, I had no idea what was taken. I didn’t even know that it was gone. I only knew the empty spot that was left behind.
It is in this that I created the Safe House. I needed a spot to not only look at my life in retrospect; I needed a place to apply a balm to my soul that would help me to heal completely because it is in that healing that I can help others.
In my early twenties, I would drink to excess. Even when I had a partner, I found solace in drinking to the point of black outs without knowing why. I look back at that period and I now understand that the drinking was symptomatic of filling an invisible hole that my subconscious knew existed, but my active mind did not.
Emotional pain is awful. It rears its ugly head at the most inopportune times. I would drink to excess and then be reduced to tears mumbling incoherently between sobs on a tear stained face exhibiting pain that others around me would dismiss as having too much to drink. And indeed, they may have been correct in doing so.
But it still left me trying to fill a void that remained vacant until the next time I drank too much. Normally, I wouldn’t say this out loud. But in order to heal, I had to say this to myself and to my readers. I had to admit where I was so that I can be a better version of myself.
I gave a copy of my book to one of the managers at my office. It happened by accident. Originally, I wanted to talk to him about my career path within the organization. I had made mention that I was a writer…that I had published three books. He asked me about my work and I told him about my latest work. He asked if he could read it; and I froze for a moment. I had no idea what he would think of me once he read my work.
What if he thought less of me because of something that he read? And then I thought that this would be no different than his picking up my work in Barnes and Noble.
Still, this is part of the healing process because it is in my acknowledgement of my mistakes that I can first and foremost forgive myself. I can let go of the guilt that sat on my chest for decades. I’ve been walking in my truth for quite some time now. I am learning how to take the good with the bad. I will come across people that have hurt as well as people that have hurt me.
Here is what I will say to you:
Own your truth…all of it. Remember that no one hasn’t made mistakes. No one can hold a mistake over your head if you admit to and own it first. It will be hard. It will be difficult. But you are strong enough to do it, because it is a part of the healing process.
~ J.L. Whitehead