Jack’s Story: Undoing The Legacy Of Abuse
Hello! Welcome to the day after you drank too much. How do you feel?
Seriously though, I hope you had a happy 4th of July. Whether you’re an American or not, yesterday was July 4th and I hope it was a nice day for you. If you are an American, and not a person who has made a commitment to sobriety, there is a good chance you are curled up nursing a hangover as you read this.
And that’s okay. To each his own! I have been there many, many times. So has our author, a recovering alcoholic. Jack is (almost) my first male guest writer. I say almost because Joe from Nature Rated wrote a lovely post for us earlier this year about outdoor activities to do with the kids. I mention this fact anyway, however, because Jack is the first male writer to contribute a personal narrative.
The truth is, I believe that given everything that is going on in my country right now, the only way to be patriotic is through dissent. So I didn’t celebrate American freedom in the usual way yesterday, but I do think freedom is worth celebrating, wherever and however it is found. Jack’s story is absolutely harrowing, but at age 23, this young man is stronger than many middle aged people I have known. The viciousness Jack has experienced is sometimes hard to believe. We don’t like to think of humans as capable of such needless cruelty. But I have experienced this magnitude of abuse myself. People are capable of enormous cruelty.
Yet people are also capable of great bravery and strength. Jack had the strength to ask and accept help, to own his mistakes and culpability in his problems, and to move forward on his mission to help others struggling to overcome similar issues. Jack’s story is one of freedom; freedom from pain, from self-harm, from negative people, and from the cycle of abuse. This week, I’m celebrating Jack’s story.
Jack Travis is currently working on becoming a motivational speaker and an author; his goal is to help transform the lives of others using what he knows from personal experiences. Although he’s in a good place now, he struggled most of his life with mental illnesses such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. His road to salvation has been very dark, bumpy, and has consisted of many necessary detours, but he is now on a journey to happiness and success, and he invites you join him. You may start by following him on: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook &YouTube
Jack’s Story: Undoing The Legacy Of Abuse
My story begins in preschool. I was 3 years old, and it was the beginning of seeing the world outside of the comfort and safety of my home. For most kids this is a time of growth and learning, but my preschool teacher abused me: mentally, verbally, emotionally, and even physically.
I had to put up with her abuse for over a year because she made me afraid to tell anyone. When my mother found out how she was treating me, she pulled me out of that school, but I was traumatized for most of my childhood. I would continue to be intimidated by teachers in the future, and showed PTSD symptoms when dealing with other teachers. I almost couldn’t go to kindergarten because I was afraid to go into schools. My grandmother tried to comfort me by saying the abusive preschool teacher had gone down the drain in the bathtub, but that made me terrified of drains. For many years, I believed the teacher was going to come out and attack me again.
The legacy of abuse continued.
The abuse did not end there. In fact, it continued everywhere I went: school, home, work, and even on vacation. At home, I was always picked on by my brother and abused by my mother; my mother would scream at me, call me names, put me down, and even hit me when I was big enough that she felt I could take it. My brother did a lot of the same things, only he was worse and he started hitting me a lot sooner. My mother and brother would often gang up on me and make me feel stupid and vulnerable.
At school I was picked on by the kids and abused by a few more teachers. My second grade teacher was especially manipulative and verbally abusive to me; she would call me names, give me detention for no reason, take away my recess, exclude me from activities, turn all the kids in class against me by cancelling recess or other activities while telling them it was because of me, and even told my mother I was misbehaving in class. Every Sunday night, in second grade, I would cry and beg my mother not to make me go to school because I did not want to face my teacher, but every Monday morning, she would take me to school and the principal would walk me to class. I also dealt with typical situations where kids would tease me and exclude me from activities. Although I had some friends, I felt the negativity outweighed the positivity.
The kids mirrored the behaviors of their teachers.
By the time I got to middle school, kids were telling me to ‘go die’ and ‘go kill myself.’ They hit me in the face, choked me out, and called me names. I remember one particular day when some kids broke into my locker, and left a note inside it that said “YOU SUCK!” Every day I went to school, I dealt with those bullies, and every day when I came home, I dealt with the other bullies: My mother and my brother. My brother did all the same things those kids at school did to me, and worse. I had no safe place to go.
High school wasn’t as bad as middle school, but I still dealt with constant rejection and exclusion. Any time we were asked to partner up in classes, nobody wanted to work with me, and kids would even say it to my face. I never stood up for myself because my preschool experience made me so afraid of teachers that I thought if I did fight back or stick up for myself, the teachers would beat me, and then I’d be punished by my mother for getting in trouble at school.
I began to mirror the abuse too.
I put up with so many different kinds of abuse for so long that I finally snapped, but instead of attacking others, I attacked myself. By age 6, I was drawing violent pictures. By age 11, I was addicted to pornography. By age 16, I wanted to commit suicide. By age 17, I became an alcoholic. By age 18, I was cutting myself, punching myself in the face, and bashing my head into brick walls. This behavior continued for years.
The straw that broke the camel’s back were the countless heartbreaks I experienced. Girls mistreated me and abused me; all I had wanted to do was give them my love. The worst relationship happened when I was 18. That girl abused me mentally, emotionally, verbally, physically, and even sexually. She started fights with me every night, tried to kill herself in front of me and used it as a threat so that I’d do what she wanted. She called me names, put me down, isolated me from friends and family, spent all my money, threatened to kill me, threatened to kill my cat, hit me a few times, wouldn’t let me eat, wouldn’t let me sleep, and forced me to have unprotected sex with her when I was not comfortable with it; she tried to get pregnant, and worst of all, she cheated on me with one of my closest friends. The two of them even got together a few days after she dumped me. It was not until a friend pointed it out to me that I realized I was a victim of rape. Of course, nobody has sympathy for a man who was raped by a woman, so the few people I’ve told acted as though it was insignificant and frivolous.
My self-harm and anger affected my relationships.
After that relationship ended, I hated myself more than ever and couldn’t trust anyone for years. I lost a lot of good friends because of the way I behaved after my ex damaged me. I met her after high school thinking that my troubles were finally over and that I had no more bullshit to deal with. Boy, was I wrong: the worst of the bullshit was just starting. I didn’t know how to handle life; I was barely surviving, and I was definitely not living.
Although I coped by going to the gym, I also drank a lot and attempted suicide at least 100 times. I ruined a lot of good opportunities with nice girls because I hated myself so much, and I believed that all women were evil and going to hurt me. I realize now how wrong I was; that it was just my survival instincts making that automatic assumption. I hurt other girls’ feelings and I didn’t care, because I didn’t believe they had feelings. Now I know better, and I’ve made amends.
For years I was emotionally dull; I couldn’t love, I couldn’t connect with others, and I couldn’t even cry for more than three years. I was convinced that I would never have feelings again. I was wrong. After about a year of therapy, I began reconnecting with my emotions to the point that I accidentally developed feelings for my best friend’s girlfriend. The situation drove me so crazy that I felt the need to confess. When I did, all Hell broke loose. They both got mad at me and refused to talk to me, which resulted in the loss of two more people who were important to me.
At the same time, I moved out of my abusive mother’s house and didn’t talk to her for awhile, and I had to give up my music career, which was something I was super passionate about and had worked toward for years. I had lost everything at that point, and now my two closest friends wanted nothing to do with me. I tried killing myself by jumping into a frozen lake, but someone stopped me, and I was taken to the hospital.
I hit rock bottom, but I was given a second chance.
The hospital finally gave me the love and support I needed to start over and heal myself. I was suffering badly from minor self-inflicted injuries, and major mental and emotional trauma. I sought some more serious professional help aside from one-on-one therapy: psych units, partial hospital programs, fellowships, etc. When I was in the psych unit, there were many different activities for us to participate in such as group meditation, art therapy, music therapy, creative writing, AA meetings, journaling, and going outside. Anybody could have just said, “I’m not doing that, that’s stupid.” However, I chose to have an open mind and try them all. I believe that the best way to heal is to have an open mind. I especially enjoyed meditation and journaling; those two activities got me through some tough times.
Unfortunately, I still struggled greatly to feel motivated to find happiness. Even when I was going to the partial hospital program in May of 2016, I was very depressed. All I did for a while was lie in bed, watch TV, and drink myself to sleep or abuse melatonin supplements. I would even take my medication with beer, or sometimes rum. I felt as if nothing was going to make me happy, and that I was destined to be a depressed and worthless nobody for the rest of my life.
I lost the majority of my close friends in the past year. They either betrayed me or simply went their own ways after I got sober in February of 2017. My best friend and his girlfriend tortured me with months of silence, then talked to me again briefly. After that, they told me not to talk to them anymore, and a month later, they filed a restraining order against me, accusing me of stalking them and assaulting them. Luckily, when we went to court, the judge saw right through their lies and dismissed the case; he even told them they were wasting the court’s time.
I was depressed and angry about my friends’ behavior for a while, until a different friend got me into entrepreneurship. I discovered that it made me very happy. Starting a business with a friend helped get me motivated, and I felt a lot better about myself; I was even able to open up and make new friends. Unfortunately, we ran into too many issues with the business, which drove me to binge drinking again and a little bit of self-harming.
But relapse truly is a part of recovery.
I ultimately made the choice to go my own route with motivational speaking because I felt like this road was a better fit for me. I also quit drinking, and I was invited to join AA. Initially, I had a lot of anxiety about it, but my first time there, I was welcomed with open arms. I felt immediate relief. When I got my first 24 hour sobriety chip, the members hugged me and everybody applauded for me. It was great feeling because I had earned it, and I realized I can keep earning more. Plus, when I was a kid, I once went a whole 4 years without being hugged at all. Those were dark times, but I can finally put them behind me now.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, getting sober made me lose most of my close friends because they no longer want to hang out with me. I don’t take it personally; I know that it’s just because we no longer have common ground. I’m still working on getting my life together, but I’ve found the path I want to take; something that fulfills me and gives me a strong sense of pride. I developed the motivation to pursue my goals, help others, and work toward success. Although I had some setbacks, I was able to keep myself motivated and get over those humps. I still struggle with loneliness; finding sober friends at my age is a real challenge, and being different is definitely no help. Sobriety can be lonely, so the best thing to do is connect with other recovering alcoholics in AA who have common goals.
Motivation has been the key to my recovery.
It was not easy to get motivated; I felt as if my life had no meaning, and I had no drive. I believe motivation is like Newton’s law of inertia: an object at rest will stay at rest and an object in motion will stay in motion, unless acted on by an opposing force. It was the opposing force I found in my life that made me go from being at rest to being in motion. I discovered my true passions, and began making positive changes in my life, while weeding out the negative at the same time. It is still a work in progress, but I plan to share my techniques, strategies, methods, philosophies, and more with the whole world.
Ultimately, what kickstarted my healing was removing myself from a toxic environment, getting rid of toxic people in my life, meeting better people to connect with, and finding something that I enjoyed doing because it made me feel good about myself. Also, the professional help I have received from therapists, and the love and support from the fellowships have helped me to heal, and gain greater insight and knowledge about my past spiritual emptiness.
One mistake I made last year was trying to get better for others. When others turned on me, I stopped caring about getting better. Now, I focus on getting better for myself, because I know deep down that I deserve it. All I want now is to be able to use what I know to help those who still suffer, and allow future generations to have the wisdom and support they need to suffer less and be stronger together.
Thank you so much Jack for sharing your story here on Betty’s Battleground. Your perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds is truly an inspiration and I wish you the best in your future pursuits as a motivational speaker. You certainly have a lot of strength and knowledge to draw upon.
As for you, dear readers! Thank you for taking the time to bear witness to Jack’s experience. If you have anything you’d like to say to Jack, please leave it in the comments. As always, please keep it respectful. It’s okay to disagree, but it’s not okay to be rude.
If you have a story you would like to share on this blog, I am booking for the Fall and Winter quarters. Please check out my guest post info page to learn more.
Finally, please take a moment to share this post. It would totally make my day if you took 30 seconds out of yours to add this to a social channel or two.
Til next time.