I am not a political activist - and this post will probably come across as an act of political activism.
I am an educator and a licensed psychotherapist. I am an author and I host two podcasts, but yet I recede from political conversations because of my own internalized fear and ignominy. I struggle with the "imposter syndrome" many of us are accustomed to.
There are times when I track down that I can no longer sit quietly with my thoughts; or be satisfied with my rants to my partner, therapist, or friends. There are times when I must speak. This is one of those times.
I identify as an African American, gay male from the Deep South and I was raised to keep my mouth shut. I learned by scrutinizing that being black meant I was inferior than; being gay meant I was condemned to hell; and being poor meant I would never excel. These are lasting impressions, even if they have all been proven wrong.
But, I retaliated against the internal voice that urges me not to speak - the frightened internal child fearful of being punished. But I need to speak about the injustices in the world I see. I fight back against the fear because there are those who have found my voice to be one of solace and strength, and I owe it to myself and those who can't speak, to at least try. To try my best at articulating what shatters my heart; what frightens me; and what infuriates me to the depths of my soul.
I'll start with the death of Charleena Lyles in Seattle, WA, my current home. Truth is I don't watch the news or follow many news outlets on social media; the influx of negativity sears my brain, and dampens my mood. I learned of Charleena’s death via Facebook. I was in shock. I asked myself, "Is this in Seattle? It can't be." Was I now living in crazy town? I gathered more information. I became irate and consequently sad, with each piece of information. I couldn't understand why the police would shoot anyone, let alone a woman, even if she had a knife, which may not even be true.
How is it that the police do not know how to deescalate a situation like this? I am a mental health provider and having my roots in agency work, we are taught, at the very least, basic de-escalation skills - wouldn't the police be taught even more? And then I thought of her babies. I thought of the three who witnessed her death and the one she was pregnant with when she died. The police killed a mother and her child. How would these children ever convalesce from this tragedy? They won't, at least not fully. They will hold a piece of that day and the moments after till the day they die - it's the nature of trauma.
I. Am. Disgusted. I. Am. Angry. This is an injustice. This is one of many. There are so many I can't keep track.
I told a room full of people today, I feel like I am being retraumatized every time an injustice occurs. A black mother dies and I think of all the beautiful black mothers I know, including mine, some with mental illness, and I fear for their lives.
I hear Bill Cosby, an admitted sexual predator, gets a mistrial and I recall my own sexual assaults as a teenager and as an adult. I feel sad and become disconnected.
I remember sitting in the police station in October 2017, when I finally came forward and revealed the name of my abuser, after 18 years of therapy and five years of 12 step recovery, only to hear that in the state of Georgia the age of consent is 16 and I was 16 when he groomed me and molested me, so no crime committed and even if I had been 15, the statute of limitations would have long expired. So hearing Bill getting to go free, until the retrial, makes me sick to my stomach. He told the truth about his sick, sadistic treatment of women and a jury couldn't agree to convict him. What the actual fuck?
I think our justice system is royally fucked up and needs to be completely overhauled. No way should a man be allowed to sexually molest a 16 yr old and get away with it, nor should a man be able to drug and rape women and walk free. It's disgusting. And police are exonerated, majority of the time, when they gun down unarmed black men and women. This is all so unreal. But there is more.
And to top it off, it took the mainstream media weeks to talk about the gay men being held in concentration camps in Chechnya, and now the conversation has died down.
What, you didn't know? I recently told some colleagues about it and they had no clue. I'm not surprised, if you don't.
The men are still being held against their wills and are reportedly being tortured and killed. What else needs to happen? As a gay man, this fucking scares me. Just because it's not happening in America right now, doesn't mean that it can't.
I don't know if I ever feel safe anymore.
I live in a racist, homophobic, right-winged, capitalist society where anyone can take my rights, violate them and me, and walk away with no regrets.
As a gay, black man in America, I am tired of the injustices; the pain so many of us suffers. But the truth is this, tomorrow I have to get up and go to my private practice and help people heal from all the things I have mentioned, and I have to do so, because someone has to, and my healing has been happening for a lot longer, so I am able, it's just that the pain resurfaces every so often, and then I have to ramp up my own internal work.
I have to show up and do my part to help my client so they know someone cares even when it seems like the world doesn't.
I will keep fighting for those without a voice, and while I am, my voice will become stronger. So maybe I am a political activist?!
Thank you for listening.
Every human being comes into the world wanting to be loved. Without love, we are left with heartache, pain, grief, regret, shame and guilt. This is not how I wanted to live my life.
At 26, I set out on a journey to help others as a licensed psychotherapist. I set up shop in Seattle and attempted to do the best work I could possibly do. I wanted to help heal others of heartache, pain, grief, regret, shame and guilt. It was a challenge that I wanted to overcome. “How will I do this?” I often pondered. I hadn’t yet healed my own wounds.
Trying to be present for other people’s issues was the most challenging effort of my life. I was not only a therapist but a teacher. My clients looked to me for education, guidance, and reassurance that life wouldn’t always be so cruel. I couldn’t offer much reassurance, but I could offer one thing: I would be present as long as they showed up and did the work. And they did…
As my clients were showing up and my practice was starting to take off, I felt this nagging sensation buried deep inside. Something was missing. I still didn’t feel like I was loved. This was a deeply rooted feeling that I couldn’t shake. As I tried to fight it so I could stay present for my clients, I sunk into an abyss of shame.
The shame told me “I am not good enough”, “I don’t deserve to be loved”, “and I will be a failure in this business”. How was I supposed to manage now?!
I hit bottom and realized that I didn’t love myself. That was what I was missing. I had no earthly idea how to genuinely love myself. With the guidance of a therapist, I ventured into a space of self-discovery.
I came to understand that several of my negative thoughts and behaviors were caught up in an addictive cycle. I am codependent person and a sex and love addict. First, I placed my value dependent on what other people thought about me. I was raised in a less than nurturing and sometimes abusive household. I grew up believing that I was “worthless”, “only good for taking care of others”, and “never going to be loved”.
Secondly, I spent most of my life caught up in other people, places, and things that were distracting me from my goals of finding love and happiness. The shame that was deep-seated kept me believing that I would never, ever be loved, by anyone.
Lastly, sex became my most important need, because I learned that if I had sex I would be appreciated and accepted. These false beliefs almost cost me my life.
It was all bullshit. I had to learn that I am worthy of love. I found out I was lovable, loving, and loved by trusting in the power of 12-Step meetings. I found a community that accepted me for all my traits, including my flaws. I found a sponsor that guides me on a journey of self-discovery that is natural, loving, and healing.
Through my own work, I have been able to truly be present at my practice. I now help others find out who they are and determine who they want to be. No fairy tales here; just real life work by real people wanting to be loved.
I chronicled my life and journey to healing in my latest book, I Just Wanted Love: Recovery of a Codependent, Sex and Love Addict, available on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com. For a limited time, I Just Wanted Love is available on a Kindle for a reduced price. Get it today http://bit.ly/ijustwantedlove
Avoidance by definition is “the action or keeping away from or not doing something.” (dictionary.com) You may be inclined to avoid difficult topics or activities out of your earlier conditioning in your family of origin. Avoidance is in fact a coping skills, but one that is more codependent in nature than really being helpful. Avoidant behaviors may have protected you at many points in your life, but if you are a person in recovery avoiding the realities of your situation is not helpful and counterproductive to the work you signed on to do.
So, what are you avoiding? Probably a lot. Are you avoiding going to weekly therapy to process hurt, pain, anxiety, or depression? Are you avoiding meeting with your sponsor to work the 12 Steps? Are you avoiding having a difficult conversation with a spouse or partner? Avoiding it won’t make it go away.
I think it’s natural and normal for humans to want to avoid pain. Put plainly, anything that will cause emotional or physical pain we are hardwired to avoid. I avoided quite a bit pre-recovery including asking for help, seeking guidance from professionals, and of course going into recovery to begin with.
In recovery, I work every day to avoid avoidance. Most people will move past avoidance after they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. That can take a long time. I try to challenge people, whether clients or sponsees, to see the benefit of tackling those things you are avoiding head on.
There is a challenge I notice people face while working on avoidance behaviors, they don’t know whether or not they are worth moving through avoidance. Now we are talking about self-esteem. If you don’t feel worthy of the gifts awaiting you, you will be less inclined to move through the difficulties. You will stay stuck; depressed and/or anxious and mad at the world.
Low self-esteem is a common problem for individuals in recovery. Of course it is. We have gone through some of the worst shit imaginable and now we are tasked with pushing through all the guilt, shame, pain, and trauma in order to have a life worth living. It’s a lot of work! But….
There is a solution:
Recovery is challenging, but it’s worth it. You can get your life back on track or move forward to the next indicated step if your recovery has stalled. It’s not easy, but hardly anything that is worth it is.
If all else fails, you can always turn to the trust prayer for serenity:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.
This entire website is about me. I think you know just about everything you could ever possibly want to know. If not, here goes: