Bodies of water, being near and in water, has helped to keep Anthony connected both to the world and to his inner core, providing a pathway to healing.
One of the first things Tony says as he begins to tell his story is that he is a surfer. And what he conveys is not that surfing is his passionate hobby, which it is, but rather that through surfing Tony connects to himself and to nature, and those connections have sustained him and guided his healing. And water has always been a key medium for those connections. During the years of abuse, Tony would find solace in fishing, in being near water. Water was his oasis, his refuge.
The man who sexually abused Tony for two years was an accomplished predator. He was a scout leader, a coach, and a practiced groomer who first groomed Tony’s parents and then groomed and abused Tony. When Tony once tried to end the abuse, the predator drove him to a phone booth and told him to call his parents and confess to them what Tony had been doing; a master-level manipulation of a child’s misplaced reservoir of shame and self-blame. “I felt unworthy, and that’s why this was happening to me, and it has haunted me my whole life. That something is wrong with me, broken in me.”
When Tony did break free from the predator, he soon found solace in drugs and alcohol. They were painkillers; they numbed the relentless pain. By age 15, he was fully addicted. His parents intervened, and Tony entered a rehab center. Miraculously, when he walked out of that treatment center, he left drugs and alcohol behind. He found within himself an unblemished core, a reservoir of strength.
And Tony was now hooked on something else: helping other people who are struggling with trauma, substance abuse, and other life struggles. Today, Tony is Dr. Anthony Giardina, a clinical psychologist at a Veterans Affairs treatment facility in Hawaii.
The sun was dropping toward the horizon line formed by the Pacific Ocean when suddenly this wave appeared, “the wave of a lifetime.” Tony caught the wave, and it transported him, its energy palpable through his surfboard, and he watched the setting sun through the wave’s wall, in a moment of connection, to his own body, and to the natural world of which he is a part. Those are the connections that Tony returns to, the connections that were never severed but, with his inner strength and the help of his close friends, have been restored.