< Chapter 2:3 Chapter 2:5 >
Have you ever had a dark secret that controlled your life? I was beginning to learn how to live a life of what I now call “duality”. On the outside I was a rock, I was a shining example of how to overcome adversity, while on the inside; I was living a life of quiet desperation. I was scared, with no true self-esteem. Even more, I was vulnerable and looking for some form of certainty. I wanted to know that someone loved me and that I could turn to someone to help me understand what was happening. I wanted to cry, I wanted to tell someone what I was feeling and have them fix everything, or at least show me how to do it myself. But I held it all inside. I couldn’t let anyone see the pain. I especially couldn’t let my mother see how much I was hurting. I knew how much it would hurt her to see me in such pain. This emotional conflict created a perfect opportunity for the next obstacle, or “strength installer” as I like to call them now.
As I battled my inner demons, it started to create a distance between my mother and I. If I was hurting, physically or emotionally, I would keep it to myself because I had to be strong for her sake. As this separation was unfolding… something that would divide my mother and I for years was about to happen.
What I am going to discuss next, took me a long time to come to terms with. As I have grown in my own recovery and guided others along the way, I have learned that this “dark secret” that we will be discussing happens a lot more than I think any of us will ever truly know.
As I said earlier, I felt so alone at that time. I was so scared. I wanted to understand, but even more, I wanted to be understood. All that I had known and trusted was falling apart. The things I used to count on for security were crumbling and I needed a safe haven.
As in many families, everybody watched out for each other. I had another aunt who would baby-sit me quite often. When I had lost my leg, she had really made an effort to get me involved in things outside of the house. She would take me to visit relatives on her husband’s side of the family who had kids my age, and would get me involved in things like ceramics and other creative outlets. Spending a lot of time with her became normal, and as with most families, when you spend that much time together, there is a trust, a bond that is built which is stronger than anything.
It all started so innocently. My aunt would stay with me often when my mother would go to work. I remember sitting on the edge of my bed one evening in our new home. We were alone in my bedroom, and she was trying to get me to undress to get ready for bed. I still remember the comment so clearly. “It’s ok, I’ve seen you naked before. I used to change your diapers”. I felt so uncomfortable for some reason, but I didn’t know why. It was awkward, but I never said anything to anyone.
Some time soon after that experience in my bedroom, she took me into the bedroom in her trailer to show me where my uncle kept his “dirty magazine”. It had a yellow cover, and it was all about different sexual positions. I remember the curiosity and the laughter, and the uneasiness. There was a sense of excitement, danger and that “special” bond. It was supposed to be our little secret, in that we couldn’t let him know that she showed me where his magazine was.
I can’t tell you exactly how we got to where we did; I’m honestly not sure how it happened. That seems to be the case with most people I have spoken with. The evolution is so subtle, that all of a sudden you are in this situation where you have a dark secret that is making you sick and you have no idea how you got there.
I was around 11 years old at this time. We had progressed to where we were playing strip poker with each other, and running around her house naked. But it was ok she said, because “she loved me”. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone though because they would make us stop. It was so confusing. I knew it was wrong, it felt totally messed up. But I couldn’t let anyone find out. If they knew about our dark secret, they would make us stop. They couldn’t make us stop because if they did, I would be alone again. For once… I did feel like someone really understood me, and loved me.
I started to ask more questions of my mom and others to understand what sex was about. My uncle Dick who really was the father figure in my life for many years, started to educate me more and more on some of the “technical aspects” of human sexuality, and I would return to my aunt full of curiosity. No longer was it just that we didn’t have clothes on, but now I understood the differences. More and more I wanted to explore them.
And then came the day it all went too far. We were at her place again. It was commonplace now. Just another day when the two of us would be playing strip poker and running around her house naked. I remember being in her bed. I can’t remember exactly, but something at school happened that had me really feeling bad about being different. I was talking to her about how no one could ever love half a person, and she was hugging me. She was kissing me on the lips. It was awkward, but at the same time I wanted to experience what I was learning about. I slid my hand between her legs, and she started freaking. She was screaming and crying like I had never seen anyone do before.
I couldn’t figure it out… she had told me she loved me so many times. We had spent so much time naked together. From what I was learning, that was what people did next. I was confused… scared… she pushed me away and screamed at me to leave. What did I do? I thought that was what was supposed to happen. She threw me out of her house and locked the doors.
I was maybe 12 years old now. And I felt like the biggest pervert on the planet. What started as our dark secret, now became my own personal nightmare. I was dirty, guilty, sickening, and repulsive. The list went on and on. What was wrong with me? Why was I such a mess? God hated me. Now, the one person I thought understood me, had kicked me out of her house. Somehow I had become some sick Monster who had hurt the one person who loved me so much. Now I had an even bigger demon inside of me. I had another thing to hide, and now there was no one to tell.
For the next 13 years that dark secret haunted me as I lived each day believing that I was the one at fault. Believing that I was the sick and demented one. I had such guilt. It affected every relationship I ever got into. And it drove a bigger wedge between my mother and myself.
This guilt was my constant companion. Every day, when I interacted with women, there was an underlying thought that if they ever found out about my dark secret, I would be humiliated. Until it all came out one night, in November of 1993. I was talking to a very close friend when, for the first time, I was able to share just a small piece about that part of my life. Have you ever had a friend who could get you to open up completely? What started out as vague reference to my aunt, turned into a several hour cleansing.
It happened shortly after my daughter was born. I was feeling really uncomfortable that my aunt was spending time around my daughter. Yet I couldn’t understand why. Remember, in my mind, I still thought that I was the sick one, not my aunt. But I knew, that I would not allow my daughter to be around her. And to keep my daughter away from my aunt, I was going to have to tell my mother everything.
As we stood talking, my dear, dear friend finally got me to realize that I was not the perpetrator, but the victim. He pointed out that all of this started when I was around 8 or 9 years old, possibly even earlier, and that I was not the one who initiated it. Now, I know that in the year 2000 kids are learning about sex a lot earlier, but in 1973, in rural Pennsylvania, 8-year-old kids are not the ones who instigate getting naked with an adult. My friend and I talked for about 5 hours that night as the feelings, the justifications and finally the new understandings came pouring out.
I cried a lot that night, and through his help and those tears I was finally able to let go of that dark secret that had affected so many areas of my life. I was able to see things in a new light. For the first time in 13 years I was able to walk down the street not feeling like I was some sexual deviant. It started a new road of recovery that led to my understanding of why and how I acted in relationships. How I had always felt I was unworthy of being loved. Why I totally separated sex and friendship.
The wounds were so deep, and the ripples so encompassing. Not only did that dark secret affect me sexually, but it also dramatically affected my relationship with my mother. Here I was 11 or 12 years old and all of a sudden I had a MAJOR dark secret to hide. I also had this new association to what being “loved” by an older female relative meant. There was this sick association to what being loved by an older female would lead to. As a young child the question was, “Is this what being loved by an adult woman was going to lead to?” “Would my relationship with my mom go that way also?”
You cannot begin to imagine how sick I felt. How mentally unstable I believed that I was because of what happened. So I pushed my mother away even farther. I became secretive, and would even avoid her physically. I felt uncomfortable when she hugged or kissed me, so I played it off as a boy getting older making comments about how she was embarrassing me. But really, I felt sick inside when she got close. There were so many lies. There was so much guilt inside because of my dark secret. I couldn’t let her find out, and I couldn’t risk “love”.
On Thanksgiving 1993, over Thanksgiving Dinner, I had one of the hardest conversations with my mother that I could ever have. I started off by telling her that I did not want my daughter near my aunt, and then had to open up as to why. Tears came from both sides that day. My mother felt the pain of not being able to protect her child, and I felt the pain of hurting my mother with this long buried dark secret. But for my daughter’s safety, it had to come out. It wasn’t the best Thanksgiving, and there was a lot of disbelief on my mother’s part at first. She didn’t want to acknowledge that something like this could have happened to her son. But she also knew the reality was that I would not be lying about it.
As a closing to this subject, a few years later I contacted this aunt to confront her and let her know that I was not going to be silent anymore. As I expected, she denied it fully. She blamed me as being the one at fault and adamantly fought to defend herself. All I can do… is pray for her.
< Chapter 2:3 Chapter 2:5 >
The Warrior Sage Chapter/Section
Who Is Willard Barth?
Preface - Exploring Strength And Weakness
Chapter 1:1 - The Process Of Self-Awareness
Chapter 1:2 The Stages Of Child Development
Chapter 2:1 The World Changed Forever
Chapter 2:2 The Vicious Cycle Begins
Chapter 2:3 Losing Faith
Chapter 2:4 My Dark Secret
Chapter 2:5 Where Is the Love?
Chapter 3:1 Seeking Paths Of Acceptance
Chapter 3:2 The Road To Alcohol Dependence
Chapter 3:3 Leaving My Childhood Behind
Chapter 3:4 Escaping Responsibility; The Joy Ride Ends
Chapter 3:5 Living A Duality Begins
Chapter 3:6 Out Of Control
Chapter 3:7 Crossing The Line To Insanity
Chapter 3:8 The Black-out Drinking Begins
Chapter 3:9 Facing The Music
Chapter 3:10 A New Beginning
Chapter 3:11 More Lessons To Learn
Chapter 4:1 The Final Party
Chapter 4:2 A Moment Of Clarity
Chapter 4:3 My New Life Begins
Chapter 4:4 Sober - Time To Face The World
Chapter 4:5 The First Year Of Sobriety
Chapter 4:6 Major Change Comes In Year Two
Chapter 4:7 My Daughter Is Born April 20, 1992
Chapter 5:1 Life Changing Decisions Follow My Daughter's Birth
Chapter 5:2 Recognizing The Voice Inside
Chapter 5:3 The Empress Hotel
Chapter 5:4 A New Chapter In My Life Begins
Chapter 6:1 Finding My Way Home
Chapter 6:2 Falling Into Place
Chapter 6:3 A New Awareness
Chapter 6:4 Personal Finances And Personal Development
Chapter 6:5 The George Washington Story
Chapter 6:6 Letting Go So Others Can Grow
Chapter 6:7 The Wrap Up
Jump HOME from My Dark Secret