The courage in your story

I’m an addict named Ryan I almost posted this last week. I wasn’t ready. I thought about it some more. I prayed about it even more unti...

I’m an addict named Ryan

I almost posted this last week.

I wasn’t ready. I thought about it some more. I prayed about it even more until a very unlikely phone call ended in a prayer that reminded me of the power of all of our stories. I am terrified as I post this.

What will people think?

What will people say?

Will anyone read this at all? 

These are all things running through my head right now, but I will have the courage to stand up and trust Jesus to do what only he can do with a story. Redeem it! 

I am an addict because of my desire and almost need to run from situations just like this. My desire to keep my life a secret. I won't do that anymore. I will fight for my recovery everyday. 

We all have a story. As a people we have a tendency to compare and classify our stories. Stories need no classification. God desire is redeem every ones story to tell something about him.

He is a God of

Your story tells something about God, regardless of how many layers you may or may not think it has. My story has some chapters I wish weren’t there, but God is redeeming all of my story. Not just the parts I’m comfortable with telling.

Right now I am in the process of writing a book. I honestly don’t know what more to say about it than that. I felt like God wanted me to write about my journey so I started writing. There is a part of my story that, for a very long time, I have not wanted to share. I wanted to keep it to myself because I was ashamed and scared of what people might think of me. Today I want to share with you a portion of that chapter. For a lot of different reasons I can’t and won’t share the entirety of the story. I go into a lot of detail that I am just not ready to share at this point, but I do want to share the bigger part of my story.

That is that there are so many people who have been through similar situations. They are holding on to their secret with all their might. My hope, my prayer is they will find a way to get some help today. Courage is always how to counter cowardly acts. Today I want to have a little courage.

For the sake of time. I want to let you know what happened to me and then share a portion of what I wrote about 9 months ago.

When I was 6 years old…

I was raped by 2 older boys that lived in my neighborhood at the time. I accidentally walked in on a situation that one of them didn’t want me to see several weeks prior. Because I told someone and because he was angry about the trouble he got in, he and a friend took turns abusing and ultimately raping me in the woods. The held a razor to my throat, and they threatened to hurt my sister if I refused to let them finish what they had begun. This is where the chapter picks up.

This was then and still is now the single most painful event in my life. It shaped a lot of the man I would become. For better and for worse.

If you are reading this and you have a similar story. You are why I am writing. You are why I’m sharing. You don’t have to hold on to this anymore. You are absolutely not alone and there is help for you. Reach out to someone and take some steps to face it so you can know what it feels like to overcome it. 

You can get help. You can recover. You don’t have to hold on to the shame, pain, fear, and hatred that has been such a significant part of you for longer than you can probably remember. Today I want to have the courage to stand up and say ENOUGH! I want other people to have that same COURAGE. We can stop the abuse of kids and we can help adults to escape the trap that your mind becomes when you experience trauma.

We can Recover!

I am not alone. The statistics are startling. Reach out. Share your story with someone you know may need it when you are ready. My prayer is God will use my story to show even one person that they do not have to live in darkness any longer.

I do apologize for the length. I just don't really know how to make this any shorter.

Below is an excerpt from the chapter I wrote revolving around this story. It picks up after I describe what happened to me.

I was lifeless. I had nothing to offer the world in that moment. I was so confused, so wounded, and absolutely devastated by the pain of what had just happened to me. In that moment. I wanted to die. I thought maybe I was going to die. I laid there as they walked away laughing and high fiving. Not before they made sure to restate what would happen to me if I ever said anything. If I ever mentioned it.

I was all alone in a moment that would forever shape the man I would become. The wounds from this event affected every part of me. My most painful moment in my life was someone else’s joy. There comes a point where there is no question you can ask God that would ever satisfy your need to understand what happened to you. No reasoning that you could ever be given that would offer any solace or freedom from the pain the evil of this world causes. Some things are not meant to be understood. Somethings simply cannot be comprehended. It doesn’t make it any easier to navigate through the pain, but it gives you some focus to where the light is at the end of whatever tunnel you may be in.

It was my birthday. I was afraid my parents wouldn’t let me celebrate if I told them. Truth be told. I didn’t know what to tell them. What to say or even how to describe it. There were no words for what I had just experienced. So I stood up. I put my pants back on. I brushed myself off and I decided that needed to my secret. I should never tell anyone. There was no need to.

This was the moment where life stopped being orange. From that point forward I operated in extremes. I was red or yellow and I lived in both worlds desperate to never allow them to collide. While also being desperate to never have to stop living in both worlds. I needed the separation. It’s how I made sure no one could ever really see me. It was how I made sure no one would ever know my secret.

We later moved to Alabama. It was never spoken of. The damage was more than done. I didn’t know that it would lay out a path for my life, but it did. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t do anything right. I was so angry and I was so scared all the time. My life started to take a slow ride downhill. Everything in my life was about protecting myself from people and protecting the people I loved most. I didn’t know it at the time. I only just found out, but everything in my life was about protecting that secret and the only way to protect it was to NEVER EVER EVER LET ANYONE see me for me. I could never let anyone see the authentic Ryan. I lied. I cheated. I manipulated. I wanted to control how everyone viewed me. If I could control how you viewed me then you could never hurt me the way those boys did.

The idea was so deep rooted in my subconscious that I may never fully get control of it, but I am aware of it now. I can get better. I will recover.

This story is plagued with darkness and sadness. The pain is unreal and if I tried to graphically explain the sensation I had to relive at 31 years old we would be on this chapter for some time. It was the greatest physical pain I have ever experienced. Even as I relived it at 31.

Life is messy.

Life is hard.

Life is an absolute nightmare sometimes!!

So how do I get better?

One day at a time.

Here is my reality. If I had to do it all over again. I would still tell on DJ. I would still stand up for Henry. Because that is what you do. You fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. You stand up for those who have no one. And you rally back against injustice. I’m proud to say I ended that little boy’s pain. I am proud to say it was exposed so he could have the chance to deal with it.

I would always protect my sister and she would protect me. If she would have seen that happen she would have killed both of those boys no questions asked. I would never let me be the reason that someone else hurt my sister. I love her greatly and I would rather take the pain than for her to ever have to. If given the choice of that happening to me or my sister. I wouldn’t blink. I would stand up and take it like a man.

My reality is that I was more of a man when I was 6 than at just about any other point in my life. For me being a man and doing the right thing came with great amounts of punishment and pain.

6 year old me, or rather authentic me, was an amazing kid. I had a big heart and I was smart. I was a fighter and would do anything for my family. I was sensitive to the world around me, and I wanted to make it a better place. Somewhere along the way I lost sight of that. I knew what I wanted to do with my life but I had no concept of what that picture would look like.

No one will ever do to me what those boys did. I am my protector. I will stand up for the little guy in the woods just praying that it would end. Just trying to pretend to be somewhere else and to block it out. I will make sure that never happens to me again. I have the ability to reassure myself that all the world is not like that. I have the strength to keep standing when I feel like I have nothing left and to keep fighting when I don’t feel confident I can even raise my arms. I never have to be in that position again. And if ever I was. Unless it was for life of my kids or someone else I loved dearly you can know that I will be dead or they will.

My point is this.

Im still freaking standing.

At 6 years old I knew something that we all take for granted.

I stood up after the most tragic, and life altering event of my existence, and I dusted myself off and I said no one needs to know. I wish I hadn’t done that. But it takes strength to do that. It takes an incredible amount of will power and mental toughness to make the decision to do that. I still have that same will power now. I still have that strength. I don’t have to keep it buried any longer. I don’t have to cower. I can be strong. I can be courageous.

You can get better.

You can recover.

You can be happy.

What has been broken can be repaired.

What has been destroyed can be rebuilt.

What has been taken from you can be restored.

I know this, not because I am soo strong, but because I have seen courage throughout my life of people fighting back when all they wanted to do is quit. We are beings of courage, of fight, and of beautiful restoration. I didn’t stand up for myself until I was 31 years old. I didn’t find my way until I was 31 years old. It wasn’t that I was so tired of being sick. Because, in my mind if I ever said it out loud I would get sicker.

It was the courage of the people around me at the Bridge. The tears I saw when people told their painful stories. When they had to relive their pain because the only way to overcome your pain is to face it head on. The only way to heal is to be honest about how broken you really are.

It was because of their courage that, I for the first time in my life, knew I was not alone. I was not the only one. People dealing with unimaginable pain are everywhere and through the courage of those who stand up and face their pain, we allow other people to see they can face their pain. They can recover. They don’t have to feel this way every day. It takes courage.

Courage is in everyday life.

In the adult who was abused as a kid and finally tells their story.

In the mom who is depressed but gets up to make sure her kids gets to school even though it’s the last thing she wants to do.

Courage is in the little boy about to take his first steps.

The man starting a new career because he realized he wasn’t happy after 20 years at the same job.

In the woman who was raped 6 months ago and has to go to Walmart today.

In the father who never had an example of how to be a good dad, but still tries every day to connect with his kids.

In the single mom working full time and raising 2 kids. She’s exhausted and every day she finds a way to be super mom.

In the addict who goes to their first meeting.

In every single person in rehab.

In every person that has had significant trauma who keeps fighting and facing the world every day.

In the kid being bullied at school but refuses to stop going.

To the child with ADHD who doesn’t understand why he is different, but refuses to give up!

In the teacher about to walk into their classroom for the very first time.

In the teacher that comes back every day to invest in our future.

Courage is in the man who was married for 50 years and just lost his wife. He doesn’t want to go on, but his kids need him to fight.

Courage is the woman going into her first day of chemo

In the man who just heard words like cancer, and 6 months to live

In the doctor that spends his days trying to make people well.

In the woman who just found out her husband was having an affair.

In the man whose secret just got found out and has to figure out how he will ever put his life back together.

In the teenagers who just found out they are pregnant and refuse to get an abortion.

Courage is everywhere!!

Find it because it is contagious. Courage around you will inevitably be courage in you if you choose to let it.

Here is some of my courage.

Robert, Dain, Rich, Tom, Scott, Hilda, Skip, Kathy, Lauren, Leslie, Lana, James, Chelsey, Besty, and Michael Lin! I found my courage in you guys. The courage to write this book. The courage to forgive. You guys showed me what courage is and what it looks like.

For me today courage takes on a lot of different forms. But in this moment my courage is in the letter below. Courage is in facing the people that hurt me.

I won’t carry around their secret another day longer. I won’t carry their shame for another second. I will stand up to them. I will recover. I will stand up for myself. I will be the authentic Ryan.

A letter to the boys that raped me.


I don’t know if you remember me. I am the little boy whose innocence you stole. Whose life you took from him for a cheap thrill. A little boy that still has nightmares of that tragic day all these years later. A little boy who thinks he cannot tell anyone about what happened to him because they will never look at him the same. He lives in fear they will think he is weak and disgusting. A little boy who you wounded in his Soul and has to fight every day to be the man he was made to be. The man he turned into knows he isn’t weak. He knows he isn’t disgusting. He knows he was more of a man at 6 then either of you probably ever have been.

There are 3 things you need to know.

First – You no longer have a place to reside in my head. When you try to remind me of that day I will have the courage to stand up for myself. When you try to tell me I’m worthless, I will stand up and remember the price that was paid for my freedom. You can’t hold me captive in my own mind any longer. You can’t tell me lies anymore. You don’t have power in my life anymore. I will recover. I will run towards light and away from the darkness you encourage me to seek. I won’t continue your cycle of pain and destruction, but rather I will do everything I can to put a stop to it. I will take what you meant for evil and use it to help others be free of the anguish that you and so many like you try to put kids through.

Second – I am sorry. What you did to me was a learned behavior. We didn’t grow up in the age of the internet. The reality is that someone probably did that to you at some point. That you had to feel my pain. I believe empathy is the key to kindness. I’m sorry that someone did that to you. I’m sorry you had to be that scared and feel that out of control. I’m sorry for the shame it must have made you feel and the ways you chose to deal with it. The pain you probably carry around to this day from not only what happened to you, but the people you hurt to relieve your own pain and shame. I am sorry. I am sorry that is your view of the world. No matter where you are in this world. There is help for you. Reach out, get better, and take your life back.

Third – I cannot fathom the darkness that must have been inside of you to continue to hurt me as I cried. As tears were streaming down my face and the look of desperation I must have had. But I know that darkness is painful. I know that darkness of any kind is scary. I wish I had been honest about what happened to me not only for me and my future but for you and yours. I wonder how many kids you hurt after me because I didn’t want to face my pain. I won’t carry that for you though. It’s your shame. Not mine. I want you know very clearly, I do forgive you. I face you every day of my life and you don’t get to hold a place of anger and hate. But rather I will be the man I was when I was 6. I will stand up to you and tell you I forgive you and I hope and pray you have gotten or will get the help you need. I hope you have learned how to deal with your pain without having to hurt other people to cope. I forgive you because it is the courageous thing to do. I forgive you because in that forgiveness I see the clearest picture of me apart from you.

I forgive you. I don’t want to. It isn’t easy, but it is the right thing to do. I will forgive you every day for the rest of my life if that is what it takes to never be under your power ever again. I am not scared of you anymore. I won’t hide what you did to me ever again. I will take the shame you gave to me and give back to you. Then fight for this world so as few people as possible ever have to feel what I felt that day and every day since.

What you did was an act of true cowards. I refuse to match your cowardly act with my fear, shame, and pain. I will overcome your choices with my courage. I will overcome what you did to me by standing up to you, by forgiving you, and by fighting for people who have been in a similar situation. I will overcome your act by showing love to those who don’t deserve it.

Your power over me is no more. I love me. I fight for me. I rise above you and the shame you passed on to me. My hope, my prayer, is that someday you can confront your darkness and know the freedom that forgiveness brings.


That is part of my story, but not the only part. I am not defined by what happened to me. I am defined by the love of a Father and defined by how i let that love lead me to respond to it. The terrible things that have happened to you don't define you. I am not defined by the shame i felt that day. For a long time i let the shame i felt from this event lead me to pursue my addiction whole heartedly. Today i have the courage to live a different way. I have the courage to face my addiction one day at a time. 

I will recover

Until Next time. 

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