Taking the Next Step: Get Real Retreat
I am an African-American male survivor of sexual child abuse. I was victimized from the age of 4 to 13 by seven different predators. I was emotionally dead by the time I was 14 years old. As a child, I felt dirty, cheap and useless. In addition to this, during my high school years, I had relationships with two different adult women, one of which was my teacher. I carried my burdens of anger, shame and guilt around for many years. This caused me to be emotionally disconnected from the world, and eventually to be unfaithful to my wife, whom I loved very much. I kept these events inside, as a secret, until I started to see that I was still affected by the horrors of my youth. Those memories ruined many relationships in my adult life, which included a divorce after 22 years of marriage.
I would also have violent fits, not against my wife, but on strangers who would make me upset. I just pretended that they were my former abusers and that made it easy to do. This would, of course, leave me in more shame and guilt. My self-esteem was completely gone, and I eventually attempted suicide because my life was going nowhere fast. I knew I needed to get some help.
Wade gives an update since the show:
Being a part of Dr. Phil's Get Real Retreat was a lot different from being on a regular show, because I got a chance to spend an extended amount of time with Dr. Phil. There were several things that he said that stirred my thinking and touched my heart. But the main take-away was to be honest with myself and talk to the wounded child I was inside, because I was holding on to that part of me. It really did not register with me until the last day of the retreat.
I woke up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready for my day. I was in the bathroom wondering if I had made a mistake in participating in the session. I was wondering if it would have a lasting effect on me. Then it came to me that I was feeling better than ever, and whatever I made of the special workshop would be up to me. Then something phenomenal happened. While I was sitting right there in the bathroom, my mind went back to the very moment, right after I was raped. I was 9 years old all over again. I was back in 1974, and it was a very hot summer day. I was standing on the street where the assault happened, without the ability to move. Suddenly, I appeared on the scene as a grown man. I was a big, strong, noble person, full of love and integrity. I walked up to little 9-year-old Wade, kneeled down to look him in his face, and asked him if he was all right. Little Wade looked at me and shook his head no. I wiped the tears from his red face, told him he was safe now because I would take care of him, and then I walked him home. At that very moment, I knew I was better, because I was rescued by the only person who could rescue little Wade: me. I knew that I could carry on and leave the past. That was Dr. Phil's suggestion, to talk to the child inside. I followed the recommendation, and I can honestly say that my life change at that moment forward.
As I moved on to change all things in my life, the other statement that he said that stuck with me was, "There is a point at which all things wrong can be made right." I believe that, and because I do, it fuels me to do everything I can to not only change my life, but also the lives that I touch every day.
After the show, I reevaluated every single thing in my life and started to fix me. I was in intense therapy and sexual child abuse support groups as well. I wrote a book, Moon Cussers: My Life Story of Healing from Sexual Child Abuse. After continuing to heal, I was determined to learn everything I could about sexual child abuse, similar to how a cancer patient wants to learn everything they can about oncology. In fact, I wanted to be an expert. So, I continued to be a student of the affects of sexual child abuse, along with how recovery is possible. I yearned to create more tools that could be used if a person was not comfortable with or could not afford to go to a therapist. So I worked with several psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors and specialists in creating a workbook called The Butterfly Gateway Workbook.
I also started a foundation to create awareness and recovery for survivors of sexual child abuse. I felt that men needed to speak out more on this subject in order to socialize the stigma of the effects of sexual child abuse. But, I was even more determined to find people who were survivors, who needed to be healed, not just treated, so that they could "live their best life." Therefore, I created a safe environment so that survivors could talk about their painful past while helping them heal their wounds. The organization is called The Butterfly Gateway. The slogan is, "If you can face it, you can fix it."
I spend a lot of time now with the support group I lead, and giving talks and interviews on sexual child abuse awareness and recovery for survivors, parents and children alike. Helping other people and paying it forward helps me stay focused. I am happier than I have ever been and at total peace with me, and I love that! At this point, it's all about helping others and being a giver. This approach helped me form a great friendship with Kathleen, from the show.
These are the things that were key to my success as a male sexual child abuse survivor:
- Be totally honest with yourself about the abuse and then talk about it.
- Let yourself off the hook, because it was not your fault. Even if you feel like you participated, it was not your fault.
- Write about your feelings on a daily basis.
- Find a therapist who you trust.
- Find a support group that you feel at home with. When you go, be open and share your thoughts and feelings.
- Say the words, "I was sexually abused, molested, raped, or sexually assaulted," until the words lose their power.
- Forgive the past and let it all go. The good stuff, the bad stuff and the really ugly stuff --everything! Let go of everything about the past.
- If you fell into negative behaviors because of your past, forgive that too. That was just the way you learned to cope with your pain.
- Include God in your healing process. He saw it all when it occurred and hates it like you do, but he can heal you, if you let him.
- Dig deep to find the courage, strength and determination to love for yourself.