Do-Overs: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
We don’t often get do-overs in life. Sometimes golfing with a friend, they might give you a do-over if you hit a particularly bad shot, but most people would tell you that life doesn’t offer second chances. Millions of people who have successfully completed a 12-step program might point out how much the 8th step is as close as you can come to changing the past. “8) Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” It’s not technically a do-over, but it acknowledges our imperfect selves and suggests that now that we know better, we can do better.
That might seem like a strange reference for a survivor of child sex abuse. I was the protagonist in the story, not the antagonist. I lived my life trying to cope with what happened to me and I was handicapped because I kept the secret. My abuser is now long gone, and at this point the only thing holding my dysfunctions in place is me. I have now made the choice to do my best to repair and rebuild myself into a whole and healthy person.
One of the things that weighs on me the most—which I believe I have in common with many alcoholics—is how I treated those around me when I was at the height of my dysfunction, especially my family. I was not there for my children to the degree I wanted to be and as a result, they missed a big piece of acceptance and approval from their father. I did in fact love and approve of them, but I was not living in the present enough to communicate that. Even when we were in the same room, I wasn’t really there.
Circumstances have brought us back to a city we left a year ago and with a tight housing market, we ended up moving in with our oldest daughter and her three children until we can find a place. On the surface that sounds scary and dubious at best, and I won’t even go into the potential worst. To top that off, I am not comfortable in anyone’s home other than my own for more than a couple of hours.
Surprise! I had fun! I got to watch my daughter function as a mother and a competent adult. My interactions with her were very different than they were in the past due to sharing her space and her life and her family (and I work on being present with others now). One day I told my wife that I was beginning to see this as a rare opportunity to give my daughter what I had been unable to give her when she was growing up.
Then a week ago my daughter posted this on her Facebook page “Being under the same roof with my parents is curing some of my insecurities about who I am as a person. I feel so seen by them and appreciated! It is healing my heart. There isn’t judgment, I have realized that any of that leftover judgment is mine and it’s time to completely let it go. What an amazing gift living together has given me!”
Facing my abuse and the way I lived as a result has been difficult beyond words, but the rewards are immeasurable. To be given the gift of being able to get a do-over at this point in life is truly a miracle. I would move to the ends of the earth and back for the chance to repair some of what I left unsaid or undone with my children.
What an amazing gift indeed!
Read more on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
By Randy Ellison
Speaker, writer and author of the book Boys Don’t Tell: Ending the Silence of Abuse, Randy Ellison is a child sexual abuse victim’s advocate and an activist promoting cultural change working with local, state and national organizations. He addresses abuse prevention and healing for survivors from a survivor’s perspective. Randy is a member of the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force. He is a founding member and former board president of OAASIS, Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service.