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Posts Tagged ‘Recovery’

My Dad disappeared

For about a year

When I was seventeen.

The last I saw him,

We left him

Passed out drunk

On the living room couch.

Relatives came and got

My Mom, sisters and me

Leaving Dad

Who wouldn’t quit drinking

Who wouldn’t accept help.

I thought

I might ever see him again.

 *

Later

He returned to our lives

A changed man.

He sobered up

Got back his old job

Built back his old life.

*

But twenty years later

After he died

I realized

I never knew what happened

When he disappeared.

When he was on the edge

Of killing himself

With the drink.

Rumor had it

That he worked

The wheat harvest

Something he had done

In college.

Wheat Harvest

*

I started to write

The story of what I thought

Might have happened.

I realized

The piece I was missing

Was what it would be like

To work on

The wheat harvest.

*

I said to a friend

“Someday…

Someday,

If I ever want to

Really explore

My Dad’s story.

I might just have to

Work the wheat harvest.

My friend Pat

Listened quietly.

 *

Later he said

“You’ve talked about

working the wheat harvest

three or four times.

I just want to mention

Someday – if you want

To work the wheat harvest.

I have relatives in Oklahoma

Who do that each year.”

*

I did what I do

When hit with

The unexpected.

I sat there

Numbly,

Quietly.

And then said

“Thanks for telling me.”

Talk about upping the ante

On a spiritual quest

To walk in

My Dad’s shoes.

My friend had

Certainly done that.

Now I was left

To put it all out there,

Or leave it as “someday.”

*

I finally called Pat

And asked if he would

Do me a favor.

Check with his relatives

To see if I might

Join their harvest crew

For the summer.

*

Meanwhile,

I tried to figure out

If this was

Completely nuts.

Quit my job,

Go off and work

On a harvest crew

To find out about

My Dad’s story.

I checked it out

With Scott – a good friend

Who was really grounded.

He’d give me a solid answer,

Besides, he was

An accountant.

Logical, linear.

I later realized

I was secretly hoping

He’d tell me

“This idea is crazy”

So I could give up

The whole thing.

Instead he said

“Makes a lot of sense

I think you ought to do it!

It will be part of

Your healing.”

Major gulp!

*

Two months later,

I was living in a trailer

In Lone Wolf Oklahoma

With six high school farm kids

Learning to drive a huge truck

Used to haul grain.

And following

My Dad’s story.

*

Bunk trailers and work pickups

Cara - the grain truck I drove on harvest

It was the adventure

Of a lifetime.

We followed the wheat

As it ripened.

Living like nomads.

It was a world

I had never seen before.

Living in an old house trailer

In one place for two weeks

Then moving,

Trailers, trucks, combines

A caravan

To the next farm

As the wheat ripened

From Oklahoma

To North Dakota.

Combines and tractors

*

Combines dumping grain on trucks

I learned many things.

I grew up in the city

But had the heart of a country boy.

I love driving a tractor

Or a wheat combine.

I don’t do well on little sleep.

Living in a trailer,

Farm boys are not

Particularly neat

When Momma’s not there

To clean out the tub.

When pulling wheat from

A plugged up combine

The dust really itches,

When it gets down your neck.

 *

And special things happened.

    I got to visit the filmsite

From Dances With Wolves.

We saw Mount Rushmore,

Me at Dances With Wolves filmsite

My first pic of Mount Rushmore

Both affected me deeply.

All in all

It was a magical summer.

*

It gave me the truth

About what I believe

Happened to my Dad.

How he had

A spiritual awakening

And realized

He had to return

To clean up his past.

I finished the story

I wanted to tell.

I wrote it as a novel.

It will be called

“Nothing Left To Lose.”

 *

But as I look back

What Pat said

When the idea

First came up

Turned out to be the truth.

He had said

“Dan, you think you’re going

On the wheat harvest,

To learn about your Dad.

I think this trip

Will be about you.

You will learn about

Yourself.

Heal yourself.

Claim your own power.”

*

He was right!

I often look back

On the wheat harvest experience

As a turning point in my life.

When I claimed the truth

Dan the writer

Of my path

Not to follow the business world

   Of my Dad and my friends,

But to claim my birthright

As a writer

Dan the writer

A teller of stories.

And a country boy.

I am completely convinced

I did the right thing

In going on harvest

To walk in Dad’s shoes.

Because I found – myself.

********************

Photo Credits:

Photos by Dan L. Hays Copyright – all rights reserved.

“The Wheat Harvest” the slowlane @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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I vowed to myself

“I will never be

Like my Dad was

Toward me.

I just won’t!”

I wanted to have

Nothing to do with him.

His path

Was not mine.

*

Then one day

I read a poem.

*

A poem I had written

When I was

Fourteen years old.

*

The poem read:

A fiery, bubbling demon

Against the sky.

The huge volcano.

Lava pouring from its lip,

Like angry words hastily spoken.

It seems to be making fun

Of someone below it.

Or trying to shame a person

For doing a wrong.”

I was astonished

At how early

I had realized

My Dad’s

Venomous tongue.

I said to my mentor,

“See, that poem

Is about my Dad.”

*

His simple response

Is tattooed on my heart.

He quietly replied:

“Is it?”

*

I was stunned

As the truth

Of his words

Clutched my soul.

I had become

      Just like my Dad

*

My Dad at age 19

Me at age 19

My words had

Been harmful

To many people.

I constantly

Had to make up for

The damage I had done

With my sharp tongue.

*

It gave me a task –

To uncork

My own volcano.

Find out

What fueled

Such deep anger.

It became

My commitment.

My life’s goal.

*

It was critical

That I do so.

Imperative

That I solve this problem.

I was watching my Dad

As his health suffered:

Heart attack,

Open heart surgery,

Colostomy,

Not following doctor’s orders,

Overweight, still smoking

And just

Sitting on the anger.

I was watching my Dad

Commit slow suicide

By stuffing

His own anger.

He had sobered up

But the past was the past

And he wanted no part

Of figuring it out.

He would not deal with it

Or even admit

How angry he still was.

*

So he sat on white knuckles

And it was killing him.

My Dad at age 43

I knew my Dad

Would die early.

I knew that I

Would die early too

If I didn’t do

Something drastic.

That’s why my task

Was so necessary.

To not be like

My angry Dad.

*

It led to

A lot of hard work –

Uncovering abuse,

Healing wounds

Releasing anger –

But without hurting anyone.

First, do no harm.

I became

A completely

Different person.

Calm, alive,

Safe for other people.

The venom purged

The volcano disappeared.

*

Then years later

I had a flash of awareness.

Had my Dad

Not sobered up

He would have died

Many years

Before he did.

It was a paradox.

Even while sitting

All that anger

He helped many people.

After I delivered the eulogy

At his funeral.

One man said to me

“Your Dad

Saved my life.”

I knew from his look

He meant it literally.

*

Then I put

All the pieces together.

My Dad –

Who abused me

When he was drunk,

Illuminated my path

To healing

By his example

By his journey of recovery.

And in that way,

I want to be

Just like my Dad.

Me at age 58 at a high school reunion, after a night of dancing!

*******************

Last Saturday night I read a new poem at an open mic event.  The next morning I got up and wrote three new poems.  “I Just Won’t” is one of those poems.  I will read it this Saturday night at the open mic event!

Photo Credits:

Don Swanson via Wikimedia. Creative Commons via Wikimedia.

Pictures of Dan and his Dad, Copyright Dan Hays. All rights reserved.

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“Insomnia: A Writer’s Night Journey.” Accessing old memories leads a writer into nights of insomnia and fear, and brings him closer to publication.

Published in Life As A Human.

Photo Credit:

“Eminem at 3 a.m.”

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Welcome to the Inner Child edition of the Carnival Against Child Abuse.  We will honor our inner child, and share how that child has been such a vital part of our path to healing!

Blog Carnivals are a great opportunity to sample a variety of Blog offerings on a common topic. There are so many child abuse recovery and advocacy resources out there. We hope you find something of use to you! I have enjoyed reading and participating in this Blog Carnival and am happy to give back by hosting it this month.

Inner Child Themed Posts

Patricia Singleton offers several posts from her Inner Child Letters series.  The first is Three Year Old Adultress Revisited,  where she says “A three-year-old can’t be an adultress, so why did I call myself that name? This is a letter written to that inner child.”

The second post is Grieving, an essential part of the process of working with our inner children.

The third in the Inner Child series is Processing, and Patricia admits that “Processing the feelings and the grief that has come up with these letters was harder than I expected it to be.”

Next Patricia shares the Three Year Old Adultress Carries The Shame of Incest, and wonders “How can memories that I don’t even have be so hard to let go? Shame is one of the most crippling emotions to carry around from abuse.”

Patricia then writes Dear Seven Year Old Patricia, where she says “I don’t know what you’re protecting my mind from, but I thank you.”

These entries are from Patricia’s blog  Spiritual Journey of a Lightworker.

Marj aka Thriver tells us I Resolve to Comfort My Inner Child.  “In this post, I wrote a poem to my inner child, promising to comfort her and protect her.  These are words I never heard from my own mother.  But now I can re-parent myself and heal.”   She also shares with us Helping Your Inner Child Help You.  “I  wrote this entry for a guest post at another blog on the topic of PTSD.  I did some research for this post and list some books about the inner child and also some of the strategies I have come up with over the years for comforting my inner child.”  Both of these posts are from her blog Survivors Can Thrive.

JBR shares SIX YEAR OLD LIVING IN AN ADULT from the blog JUST BE REAL, about “this six year old” living in an “adult” body, trying to form adult words to what I am feeling, but having still the mentality of a six year old.

Dan L. Hays shares his post If You Had Any Sense, from his blog Thoughts Along The Road To Healing.  A casual comment by his father led him to betray his inner child and spend many years suffocating in the business world.

Advocacy & Awareness

Kari submits About New Tribes Mission Abuse, from the blog New Tribes Mission Abuse, “where our goal is for other survivors to find support. Please help us spread the word of what happened to us, so it can end here.  Please help us show that disclosure can help the victim.”

Deb Serani shares Mentally Ill Stuffed Animals from her blog Dr. Deb.  “This post looks at mentally ill stuffed animals and the stigmatizing images they convey.”

Enola shares For Sale – Humans – human trafficking from her blog Enola.  She writes: “This article came to my attention through work I’m doing on a gang committee. I learned about the huge underground movement in human trafficking.”

Hope offers us Just For Today from her blog Hope For Trauma.  She shares “This journey that I am on towards whatever it becomes, is traveled one day, one hour and one minute at a time.”

Tracie reminds us Rape – It Still Happens (even in Africa) from her blog From Tracie.

Emily Rossiter brings to us Mental Illness: The Answer to How Can I Help? from her blog Surviving Limbo.  She says: “I’m an adult survivor of child abuse. I have a laundry list of mental illness labels. A friend of mine with OCD and I were talking about how difficult it is to tell people how to help us. Thus, I wrote this post.”

Thegiftedhands shares The Child Witch Abuse in West Africa from the blog Planetprose.

 

 

Art Therapy

Paula offers us From Victim To Choicemaker from her blog Recovery In Art.  She says: “a collage created during art therapy enabled me to face my deepest wound and let me overcome the trauma on a way I never expected.”

Healing & Therapy

Meggs Fitzwater shares with us Call Me Crazy from Speaking Out, “a blog about coming to terms with the inner child theory and integrating it into my healing journey.”

Rick Belden submits Some Thoughts On Forgiveness from his blog Rick Belden.com.  Rick shares his thoughts on forgiveness, such as viewing forgiveness as an active and a sacred process.

Paula offers her post I Am A Duckling from her blog Becoming Myself.  She writes: “I would like to share an exercise from the trauma therapy I just finished. During a session of integrative body psychotherapy I got asked to select two symbols. One for my Inner Child and one for Big Paula. Once again I was surprised about the insights I got from this apparently so simple exercise. Grateful beyond measure. I hope this exercise might help you along too!”

Splinteredones offers how to Cut Panic w/Meditation, qi gong, from her blog Splinteredones.  “How to use qi gong and the basics of meditation to control anxiety panic and the other crud that sneaks in.”

Dr. Kathleen Young suggests to Love Yourself With Gentleness and Compassion, from her blog Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma in Chicago. 10 steps to fostering gentleness and compassion in yourself.

In The News

Jay Smith submits 10 Laws Passed After Horrible Crimes from Criminal Justice University.

Survivor Stories

Marjorie McKinnon offers Returning to the Scene of The Crime from Blog Posts for Margie Marybelle McKinnon.  “Marjorie is the founder of the Lamplighters international movement for recovery from incest and childhood sexual abuse.  We currently have 59 chapters in 9 countries.  Our Blog site is at http://www.thelamplighters.org.”

Hope submits List of Life from her blog Hope For Trauma, saying “I guess one could call it a ‘bucket list’, but I think it is a thriving list.”

Ellen Brown offers us Why In The World I Transitioned Into Coaching from her blog Stepping Stones.  Ellen says “This is a blog post about why I decided to become a coach after healing from child sexual abuse.”

Emily Rossiter shares The Story Of A Runaway, Or How I Escaped Hell, from her blog Surviving Limbo.  Emily writes “The most terrifying moment of my life happened sometime in March of ‘92.”

Poetry

Echoing the sentiment of a former host, I will intentionally not comment on poetry, but allow it space to breathe without interpretation.

 

Laura Schultz shares Solitude and Evolving from LauraSchultzNow.

Jade Fields offers And so it is from her blog Sublimely Ridiculous.

Dan L. Hays submits Heartbeat from Thoughts Along The Road to Healing.

Thank you so much for making this a content-packed Blog Carnival edition!  It was an honor to host this month!  You can submit your blog articles and art  to the next edition of the Carnival Against Child Abuse here.


Photo credit: Painting the Co-Op. Tony Crider @ Flickr.com Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

 

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Upon The New Year

Previously published in a treatment center newsletter as a staff submission, May 1990.

My name is Hope, I offer you,
The promise of a life so new,
Out of self will, we have to climb,
So let’s start now, one day at a time.

There is a place where we have to start,
In bringing you a loving heart.
If you view your life with honesty,
Is it unmanageable, can you see?

At first it is painful, we confess,
To admit you are powerless,
There is one thing which we can say,
There is no easier, softer way.

Second, a gift you can receive,
As in your own time you come to believe.
A Higher Power can give you back,
The sanity, you feel you lack.

Thirdly, now you can decide
That God is really on your side.
Your will and life you can be handing,
To the care of the God of your understanding.

My name is Hope, and have you guessed?
The tools with which you can be blessed.
I offer the Twelve Steps to you,
Work them all, ‘til you are through.

They will help you learn a way at last,
To clean up the wreckage of the past.
Be in tune with God, that’s the plan
And with yourself, and fellow man.

For it leads to spiritual awakening,
So carry the message, that’s the thing.
Yes my name is Hope and I wish you to be,
Happy, Joyous and oh, so Free.

 

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My Inner Child

A good friend emailed me a while back and asked about my experience of the “inner child” on my road to healing.  My inner child, who I called Little Danny, was an integral part of the book I had written, “Freedom’s Just Another Word.”  My friend wondered if my experience of that inner child had changed over the years, or if that child was still a part of me in some ways.  Here’s how I characterized it:

My sponsor in one of the 12 step programs several times said that when a person goes through a traumatic event, the ego freezes at the age the person was when the trauma took place.  Pretty psychological, but it certainly felt like what I experienced.  It was the essence of Little Danny.  Either an 8 year old, a 14 year old or a 17 year old, the ages of my major traumas.  And my process was releasing that old frozen ego and allowing myself to mature like I didn’t do at the time, yet also honoring Little Danny.  I learned after a while that my abandonment fears are resident within him, and I have to get him to “buy in” to things I am doing, or he rebels, digs in his heels, and says “like hell you will!”  I vividly remember driving north from Houston to do a sweat lodge to release some old traumas, and having to explain to Little Danny that I wouldn’t abandon him as I did that work.
I’ve found that when he understands what’s happening and I treat him like the bright, intuitive and gifted child he was/is, he goes along.  And my recovery gets better.  But it has also been my experience that he doesn’t go away, nor do I want him to, but he just doesn’t run my life in dysfunctional ways any more.  My sponsor used to talk a lot about parenting the child, and I’ve had to learn to do that.  I hear an interesting comment one time.  A woman said something along these lines.  “I hear everyone talking about the inner child, and how great and wonderful it is to get in touch with that child.  But for me, there’s the other side of the coin, that when that child gets out of control, she’s gotten me into a lot of trouble.  I want to honor that child, but not let them run the household any more!”  I thought there was great balance in that – kind of like inventory work where you turn a character defect into a character strength, but using it more appropriately.  So – my cognitive thinking skills don’t get overused and thrown back at me as “you’re so darn analytical all the time!”  It works better if I listen to my inner child, but don’t always let him run things!

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I received this question from someone who had just read my book, ” Freedom’s Just Another Word,” where I confront some pretty bad demons from my past:

How did you overcome your fear of dealing with all the pain coming to the surface? I have not been able to conquer this fear I have of experiencing all that pain. I can talk to myself, try to reason it all out. I know this stuff is poison. If I let it all stay buried in there it is going to continue to rot my soul. I can know this in my head, but the fear is greater than my reasoning.

Here’s how I responded:
OK – that really is the essential question. The fear of dealing with all the pain coming to the surface. A very real, very pertinent question. It sort of gets back to simple concepts – “The way out is through!” “The only pain you can avoid is the pain of avoidance.” In my case, I had watched my Dad for 20 years be sober in a 12 step program, but not be willing to deal with the feelings underneath his drinking, which I strongly suspect were from his childhood. He had his first heart attack at age 44, open heart surgery at 47, a colostomy at 52, and died of a stroke at 59. OK – for me, I knew I was destined to go down that same road if I didn’t change the dynamic in some way. Intuitively and spiritually, I knew that meant I had to face the demon of the old, buried feelings – it would continue to “rot my soul” and I would end up dying early as well. So at that point – at the time of ” Freedom’s Just Another Word” – dealing with the pain was for me a life and death struggle. Once I acknowledged that, I became more like they talk about in recovery literature, “willing to go to any lengths.” Hence the title, and the associated second part of the song line I had “Nothing Left to Lose.” I didn’t choose that path, I was watching all my friends have normal lives and I was having to go through this shit, and resenting it – but that was the path I needed to go down.

So I had realized I needed to do this work – but how to actually get to it. Several ways. Fortunately I had the wonderful sponsor in one of the 12 step programs who gave me this huge gift. He told me that if we start doing feeling work and it gets to be too much, there is a natural defense mechanism in the body that will shut it down. I found that to be true! I would start crying a box of Kleenex cry, deep and intense for several minutes, and then almost magically I would pull out, it would ease off, and I would be fine for a couple of days until we needed to release some more feelings. It happened many times with the sadness. Where I didn’t trust it was with the anger. That’s a couple of books down the sequence, but I will soon write a book about how it was for me in dealing with an anger so pure and white hot it scared me. And eventually it went away. It was that way with the feelings. They felt like they would never stop, and as I kept unloading and unloading, they subsided and finally went away, and I was left with a new awareness, attitude and sense of peace. It really happened! I was pretty surprised, because I sort of never thought I could get there.

Another thing that really sustained me in continuing down the path of dumping all that old stuff was a book I mentioned in Freedom – “Hind’s Feet on High Places.” It is a Christian allegory about a woman named Much Afraid who lived in the Valley of the Fearings with her cousins, Bitterness, Envy, Fear and I believe Resentment. She left to go on a journey to be with the Shepherd in the High Places. That book spoke so much to me about a journey of faith, knowing what you should do and doing it – even if others don’t understand, coming to a deeper faith in trusting that God is with you when you go on that journey. It is a powerful book, it soothed my heart, and kept my feet moving forward when I wasn’t sure I could keep going.

The third thing that I think was hugely beneficial was a strong set of friends who did support me and encourage me to keep going. I had to let some people go who were negative influences, but I still had some solid people who could be there for me – even if they didn’t really understand what I was struggling with. Yes, it is an isolating journey, and I think friends like you have will be an invaluable asset for you in countering that isolation as you let those feelings out. I mean, the essence of what I learned in a 12 step program for those who grew up with alcoholism was “Don’t Talk, Don’t Trust, Don’t Feel” and those were the family rules I was trying to overcome.

I hope this helps, and I know with your great therapist, you are setting a platform from which you can confront those old feelings and bleed them from your system! They do eventually go away – I’m living proof. I just turned 59 (yes, the age my Dad was when he died) and I plan to be a 90 year old guy, writing books and doing Tai Chi. When I went for my physical last year, the doc said “so other than a few allergies, you have nothing wrong with you.” It took a while for the power of that statement to sink in – all the old ailments I was accumulating while stuffing those feelings have gone away, and I am in a whole new space!
Regards,
Dan Hays

—–

Footnote: I just went back and looked, and I received the email with this question on April 21, 2009.  I have stayed in regular contact with this person, and since overcoming the fear of the pain, this person has made huge strides in getting past some substantial abuse issues from the past.  It is a real life example where confronting the fear is easier than the continuous effort needed to try to avoid it!  Avoiding the buildup of “the poison … that will rot my soul” – great way to put it!

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