Together We Heal

Together We Heal is for any who suffer from the trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse. We are here to provide a safe forum for survivors of abuse to share, learn and heal, give direction to those seeking guidance and to expose sexual predators for what they are and their methods of getting into our lives.


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The Invisible Hand On Your Mouth

Trigger Warning due to description of childhood sexual abuse

It’s an indelible memory seared into our minds and branded onto our souls. At least for those of us who were sexually abused as children. It’s a memory we can’t shake. At some point, many of us experienced having our abuser(s) hand(s) over our mouths to keep us quiet during the acts of abuse. They didn’t want anyone to hear our cries of agony. The tragedy is that years, even decades later we feel like it’s still there, like there’s some invisible hand still covering our mouths and cries for help.

Ironically we are often asked, “why didn’t you say something then? Why didn’t you tell someone what was happening?” For anyone who has experienced true fear, and I’m not talking about horror movie scared, I’m talking about terror beyond description. Those who’ve experienced this level of intimidation and panic know exactly what I mean when I say we were going through fear that completely freezes you dead in your tracks. It prevents you from completing even the simplest of tasks. The ones that others take for granted.

Sure our friends could go to mom and dad about a bully down the street, or the weird guy at the end of the block, or the teacher who was mean to them in school. But those seem benign to us in comparison.

For us, we couldn’t do the most mundane of acts – Like driving down a road we grew up on. Or walking in the doors of a church/synagogue/mosque where our abuser held all the cards and wielded total autonomy.

Much has been written in other places, and here, about the plethora of reasons children don’t talk about sexual abuse, so I won’t beat that dead horse. What I will tell you is that it’s real, and all the reasons explained in the various media and online outlets are valid. And it’s the reason why, to us, we felt trapped and incapable of speaking out.

The reason I bring it up now is for my fellow survivors who might not have spoken yet. And to help their loved ones understand a little better.

It’s that damned “hand”. And it’s both literal and metaphorical.

We felt the actual hand covering our mouths, sometimes even our noses, to the point we couldn’t breathe. Grasping for air, grasping for help, wanting to cry out but knowing any such action would be met with harsher penalties by the abuser.

When you are a child, those in authority have all the power. We felt powerless to stop them, or so we thought. When we were children, there were no talk shows discussing childhood sexual abuse. There were no support groups to turn to for guidance or shelter. There was nothing.

We thought to ourselves, even if we speak up, who would believe us? A child making accusations about a so-called “pillar of the community”. Or worse yet, about our parents! No one in their right minds would believe us. Or so we we’re told, and possibly in many cases it might have even been true…no one would’ve believed us.

So we did the only thing we could, just hang on long enough to survive. And most of us did. Sadly a few didn’t. We witnessed some of our closest friends take their own lives, or tumble down the road of alcoholism and addiction to the point it cost them their lives. Everyone else said, “I just don’t understand why Jimmy or Susie did that. They had their whole lives in front of them.”

What they didn’t know, was their lives had been destroyed by the hand of sexual abuse. They had no coping mechanisms or tools to effectively cope with the abuse. And due to the lack of guidance, they self-medicated, and when the pain went beyond what they thought they could bare, they ended what they felt was a meaningless life.

I know these feelings of utter despair. I know them because I also, like a couple of people I lost, felt as though life was no longer worth living. And while my feeble attempts to “accidentally” overdose were unsuccessful, my life went spiraling out of control.

Oddly enough it was what most people would consider a horrible event, my arrests and time incarcerated, that most likely saved my life. Had it not been for being locked-up, I would probably have continued to abuse narcotics until I eventually overdosed with no return.

Thankfully I did get clean, I did learn through counseling how to utilize proper coping skills to work though the pain of the abuse. And now I have a life I never dreamed possible. I have the most amazing and loving wife. And together we work with survivors and their loved ones in ways that make me feel both honored to help and humbled with rewards beyond this life or words. And I’ve been able to actually enjoy my life free of narcotics and can finally “feel” the experiences of my life.

And I tell you all of this to let my fellow survivors and their loved ones know this is all possible for them too. If I can survive what I did, and now have a life not of just surviving, but thriving, they can too! All that is required is to reach out and receive the help that’s available.

As I so often say…together, we can truly heal…

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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Is Death The Greatest Loss In Life?

In my life I have learned a valuable lesson…

“Keep your eyes and ears open because you never know what surprises, good or bad, are around the corner and from where they might come.”

In today’s lesson, I heard something that struck a deep chord and of all things while watching a TV show. Today’s TV is not your mom and dads TV. By that I mean if you’re looking for brilliant insight into humanity you’re probably fishing in the wrong hole. But to my surprise I heard an insightful quote while watching the show, “Criminal Minds”.

This little nugget of introspection came from Norman Cousins, a noted American author, professor and journalist. He says:

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss in life is what dies inside of us while we live.”

Do yourself a favor and re-read it. Then read it again. And really consider what he’s saying.

I have read, re-read, mulled over and marinated in these words. And I have related them to being a victim and then survivor of childhood sexual abuse/molestation/rape. From that very first night of abuse, I died inside. The innocence of childhood, my faith in the goodness of people, my belief that I had self-worth, feeling as though I had a purpose in life, my trust in the clergy and for a long time even my belief in God, much less a God of mercy, justice and love…all of that was gone, it was gone and dead.

I would wonder, what kind of a God would or could allow such atrocities to happen to a child? I now understand, or at least hold the belief, that it isn’t my God that allows this to happen, it’s men and women with a free will who choose to commit these heinous crimes.

Right now my abuser walks free, with not so much as a blemish of a criminal record. All because of laws that protect sexual predators rather than the children’s lives and spirits they destroy. And every day I live with this pain, this loss, and even though I’ve developed tools to help me work through my own trauma, it has still killed a part of me. A part that feels rotten inside. Meanwhile this monster still has easy, open, unlimited access to little boys and at times it feels as though there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. And this boggles my mind. I wonder every day, how many other little “me’s” are being groomed for the same destruction? How many other David’s, Christopher’s and Andy’s is he building up, just to tear them down from the inside out?

And that’s when I gained some understanding of what Mr. Cousins meant when he said, “The greatest loss in life is what dies inside of us while we live.” I know all too well that feeling of being dead inside. The feeling as though my core is more like a zombie; rotting, oozing out a putrid smell of guilt, shame and self-blame that for so long I felt there was no help. I was already dead inside so I might as well do my best to finish the job Frankie started. He killed my inside so I’ll kill the outside. And as many of you know who’ve read or heard my story, I set out on a path of self-destruction via narcotics.

It wasn’t until I realized there was a reason I was being self-destructive, that I also came to understand I could begin to heal that inner side, I could even resurrect it. While it would never be the same, because wounds are wounds and they leave scars in spite of any healing that occurs. I DO have worth, and I could begin to have some semblance of a life once again.

So while I agree with Mr. Cousins, as it pertains to survivors of childhood sexual abuse, our greatest loss is what died in us while we were still alive, I also believe we can heal, there is hope, and even justice for some. But not without work; challenging, wrist-wringing, memory shaking, tear-filled, anger-filled, fist-clenching work.

It’s with these thoughts I began asking myself some questions.

1) What died inside of me?

As I mentioned before, there is a laundry list of things I felt had died: the innocence of my childhood, my faith in the goodness of people, my belief In myself and that I had worth, feeling as though I had a purpose in life, my trust in the clergy and for a long time my belief in God, believing that I was a good person. I felt as if I was dirty, filthy and used.

2) Why did it die?

Betrayal, denials of those in a position to help, lies, being treated as though you are to blame, abandoned, feeling totally and completely alone,

3) What are the consequences of the death?

Substance abuse/addiction, suicide, loss of jobs due to inability to maintain focus, inability to maintain healthy relationships, never have opportunity to have children/family, no stability, loss of sanity, DID, the list is virtually endless…

4) Who is affected by the death?

Victim, family, children, future friends, future intimate relationships, spouse, employers.

5) Where does that death lead us or leave us?

Alone, feeling powerless and incapable of moving forward or healing.

6) What does this death feel like? How do we describe it to those that haven’t been through what we have?

I think for most of us, the death is both instant and lengthy. The moment the abuse begins, the death occurs…that’s the instant part. But then comes the pain; the extended, ongoing cruel torture inside us. It’s like a long, drawn out illness, only instead of seeing a gradual decline as in a long term cancer, it’s more like having your head cut off by a guillotine that goes very slowly, making you feel every millimeter. It’s an agonizing pain that continues until the head is finally severed from the body. The only difference is we’re still alive, enduring the pain and with no relief in sight.

7) When this “death” occurs, when do we recover…do we recover? And the million dollar question…When is it “time”? When do we begin to heal?

To answer these questions I must also acknowledge some other questions we as survivors ask ourselves and ask each other. When will I start feeling better? When will I begin this healing process you talk about so much?

And to answer those questions I have to tell you a story about my most beloved dog. A Rottweiler named Chelsea who was the best dog I ever had. She was the most loving, sweetest dog and everyone loved her and she loved everyone. True story, my next door neighbor came over one day while throwing a pool party and asked if Chelsea could come over and play. Honest to God! They said I could come too, but who they really wanted was Chelsea. So I said sure and off they went…8 hours later I go over and Chelsea is still hopping in and out of the pool, playing with everyone and having a great time. So there’s your back story of this amazing dog.

As happens with all our pets, one day we learn they are not going to be with us much longer. In my case, I learned Chelsea had bone cancer. A very painful type of cancer, so I’m told, and so I asked the veterinary oncologist the same question I’m asked about recovery…when will I know “it’s time”?

In the most caring way he could verbalize he said, “because you have been with her for so long, almost her entire life, (which at this point was 10 years), only you will be the one to know when that time comes”.

I didn’t understand so I further questioned him and he said, “let me put it like this, one day you will see, one day you will know it’s time and only you will know when that times comes. I can’t describe what that day will be, but when it occurs, you will know it’s time.”

At this point, it only further frustrated me. So a few months went along and Chelsea was doing ok. She would have a moment of pain where she would yelp, but then hop right back up and all was for the most part ok.

Then came “that” morning. I woke up and noticed she wasn’t in the bed beside me or on the floor next to it. I called out for her but heard no jingle of her collar or clicking of her toenails on the tile floor. So I knew immediately something wasn’t right.

I went into the room, called out her name and as she tried to get up, she wailed in agony and fell back to the ground. She tried this two more times with equally painful cries so I ran to her side and kept her from trying to get up so she wouldn’t continue hurting herself.

There it was…just as the vet described it…the moment I knew Chelsea couldn’t handle any more pain, and to put her through anymore would be inhumane. So I made the call every dog lover hates, the one letting them know that your beloved and most faithful companion must be put to sleep. Fortunately I had an amazing vet who didn’t require me to bring Chelsea to the clinic. She and vet tech drove to my home and they did the procedure in her own home where she would feel as safe as possible.

I laid with her the entire time so she didn’t have to move around. When the vet arrived she gave me all the time I wanted, but it’s never enough. She shaved a spot on her leg, placed the IV in and let me know when I was ready, to say goodbye. And for the first time in Chelsea’s entire life she did something she’d never done…when I said ok to the vet, she let out a quiet growl directed at the Vet. It was as if to say, “dad, if you do this, I can’t protect you anymore.” It broke my heart and I cried like a baby. I gave her a kiss, and she gave me one last, big, wet slobbery one. Then, in a quiet, peaceful moment, she was gone. With no pain and without a noise.

So why did I tell you this story? Because for those of us working through the emotional struggles of CSA, the same is true…only we will know when the time is right. Only we will know when we are ready to move forward, to heal, to grow. And no one can tell you when it will happen. I know that’s not the answer anyone wants to hear, but it’s the truth.

Fortunately I have some good news to end this story. As the doctor told me, only you will know when it’s “time”. And when that “time” comes, hope and healing will follow. I promise.

“There are things in my past that have made me afraid. But I’m not afraid anymore. I’m not sure what will happen, but whatever it is, it’s better than being afraid.”

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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The Correlation Between CSA & Substance Abuse : Radio Interview with Elaine Crocker

Sunday, March 23rd at 7:00 pm ET, I was interviewed on Elaine Crocker’s Radio Show.

In addition to recapping my story of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), we discussed the correlation between CSA and drug addiction/substance abuse.

Elaine’s show is called Experience-Strength-Hope

The foundation of her show is: Everyone experiences defeat, heartbreak, loss. Hear inspiring stories of perseverance from people who have found strength & hope in and through despair.

If you are a survivor of CSA, and/or have had or still struggle with substance abuse, or if you know someone who has been through this, please take a few moments to listen. My hope is that you find some information that will help you or someone you love.

Unlike the era I grew up in, times are different now. You WILL be believed, people WILL listen and help, healing and hope ARE available. All you have to do is reach out and we’re here for you.

experiencestrengthhopelogo

Below is the link to the recording of the show:

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc


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Healing & Recovery – Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Survivor’s Story

Radio Show with David Pittman & Michele Rosenthal – Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Healing and recovery with regard to childhood sexual abuse (CSA), says David Pittman, Executive Director of Together We Heal (TWH), happens because “Ultimately, you have to make a choice.” For Pittman that choice happened when he was incarcerated for drug possession. Getting clean, facing the truth, healing and founding an organization that provides free counseling is the amazing transformation that David has brought to his life. In this interview we discussed:

David’s incredible story of trauma to triumph

How he cleaned up his act and turned his life around

2 things that help any CSA recovery

3 steps that can help you achieve success

The TWH mission and their “turn no one away” counseling policy

http://www.changeyouchoose.com/healing-childhood-sexual-abuse-a-survivors-story/

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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The Abused Addict: CSA info too important to miss!

Radio Show Recording with David Pittman and Rachel Grant – January 29th, 2014

The Abused Addict: One Man’s Journey of Recovery from Sexual Abuse

Discovering the Correlation Between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Substance Abuse/Addiction

We cover not only abuse and addiction, but also issues with sexuality, access to counseling, sexual predators grooming kids for abuse, churches that protect sexual predators, creating support groups in your local areas and so much more! Please set aside some time to listen to what I genuinely believe is valuable information for both survivors of childhood sexual abuse and those that love them.

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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The Abused Addict: One Man’s Journey of Recovery from Sexual Abuse

The Abused Addict: One Man’s Journey of Recovery from Sexual Abuse

Discovering the Correlation Between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Substance Abuse/Addiction

Join us for this free 90 minute teleseminar
January 29, 6p PT / 9p ET

Do you struggle with coming to terms with the pain of childhood sexual abuse and facing the demon of addiction at the same time?

Do you ask yourself, “Why me? Why did this happen to me? What have I done to deserve this? I was just a kid, why did you do this to me?”

If so, I hope you will join me for this teleseminar with David Pittman, Executive Director of Together We Heal and beyond survivor of sexual abuse and addiction.

During this free 90 minute teleseminar, David will share several positive tools that are necessary for a healthy recovery from both childhood sexual abuse and substance abuse/addiction.

You will learn:

What are some of the greatest challenges faced by survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
What exactly is an “Abused Addict”?
How do you look to the past to give yourself a future?
Who or what is “Together We Heal” and how might they help me?

As a special bonus, David will leave time at the end of his talk to answer your questions, so be sure to join the call live. If you are not able to join us live, go ahead and register and you will receive the recording.

This call is perfect for you if: You are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and have struggled with substance abuse/addiction or you want to move forward in your recovery but feel stuck at times and don’t know why.

It is David’s hope and desire for you to be able to come to terms with this simultaneous struggle with childhood sexual abuse and substance abuse. To realize that you CAN overcome the powerlessness you felt having been victimized as a child and give up the thought that you can control your substance abuse. You can make radical and amazing changes as you take back your life and realize your ability to make powerful choices about who you are and how you live.

I hope you will join David and I for this free event January 29th, 6p PT / 9p ET.

See you there,

Rachel

Please sign me up for the free teleclass
The Abused Addict

http://rachelgrantcoaching.com/theabusedaddict/


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When Does The Worst Day Of Your Life, Turn Into The Best?

In sharing my story, I often mention getting arrested and having to spend 30 days in jail for drug possession. The reason I do is to bring to attention how low my life had gotten due to the sexual abuse I endured as a child. I was in so much emotional pain, the only choice I saw was to try and cover the pain by ingesting as many narcotics as I could. This led to multiple arrests and the aforementioned time incarcerated. I didn’t even know until my last arrest report came out, but I had the following drugs in my system…cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy), methamphetamine (speed), GHB, ketamine, and heroin…all at the same time! It was a miracle I was even alive.

At the time of the arrests it felt like it was the worst thing that could happen to me. That is until it was clear I was going to jail, the only issue was for how long. Then came the day when judgement was rendered, and that seemed like the worst thing that could happen. That is, until my first night in jail.

And so began one worst day after another. While there, I encountered times where I didn’t know if I was going to make it. On two occasions my life was threatened and was moved from one cell to another until they thought I was as safe as I was ever going to be. I spent each of those 30 days wondering if I would make it out alive and scared out of my mind.

Then came the day of my release. Truly one of the happiest days of my life. Over the next few months I slipped on and off the wagon of drugs. I woke up one day and realized that if I was ever going to hope to have any chance at a future I had to get clean…for good.

So my dad helped me with a home-style rehab. He put up with all the nasty things I said to him, he helped me as I got sick for a week and all the while wishing I was dead, or had a “fix”. I spent a total of two weeks of the “worst days” of my life going through withdrawals and all that comes with getting narcotics out of your system. Then after about a month, I was free from the drugs within my system, now I had to get the garbage I wanted out of my head. So I started attending NA, and with the help of my mom, a friend and an amazing sponsor, I was able to work through all I needed to and can say now, I’m 8 years clean.

So why am I telling you all the details of all of the “worst” days of my life? Because if it weren’t for all those worst days I wouldn’t be where I am now. Now I am happy to report my sobriety from narcotics. Today I am working with my fellow survivors of childhood sexual abuse and helping them to find their own healing path. Today I work with some of the most amazing people who give of their time and talents to help others. And “today” would not be if all those “worst” days had not happened.

I couldn’t see it at the time. I never foresaw where those days would lead. All I knew was I wanted to live, or at least didn’t want to die anymore, and so I did what my program taught me, I took one day at a time and stayed clean “just for today” and it eventually led to now.

I’m telling more of the details for my fellow survivors to know there is hope, there is healing, and the light at the end of the tunnel is NOT an oncoming train. If I can get to where I am now, they can too. Together we can truly heal. I’m living proof.

The other reason why I’m being so revealing is due to a comment made by one of our readers…It caused me to have one of those Ah-Ha moments and led to this article. So I wanted to share with you the genesis of my thoughts:

“Thank you _______ for the reminder to be the encouragement for those in pain, the cheerleader when they succeed, and the friend when they just need…This was because _______, thankfully, reminded us to not only respond with comments to those with good news or progress in their healing and life, but also when the news wasn’t so good or as uplifting. As a matter of fact, it’s those times most of all they need to hear from us that they are not alone and we are here for them.”

So with that in mind, remember to share the good, the bad and the ugly…in doing so you never know which of your fellow survivors you might be helping, and assisting them in turning one of their “worst” into a “best”.

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal