Sean stood a little more than five feet tall. His hair was shaved close to the scalp and his eyebrows were thick and dark. He had blue eyes. They were the wild kind. Sean’s eyes were the kind that explained his lack of sanity could arrive at any moment, and if prompted, Sean could switch his temper like the flick of a matchstick.
Sean had a large nose, which had been broken several times. Most of those times were from his alcoholic father during a drinking binge. Sean had three scars on the back of his head from different street fights. He had a thick scar that came from a gash, which began at his lower cheekbone and ended down at the bottom of his chin.
“This is what happens when you mess around with the wrong girl,” Sean explained.
He was friendly and charismatic. Sean had a way about him. He knew how to make people laugh. Aside from his crazy past and wild appearance, Sean was soft-spoken. He was sober much longer than I was at the time. He had been around the 12-step rooms for many years. Not all of those years were sober ones. Nonetheless, the time Sean spent around the rooms—whether they were productive or destructive, Sean eventually gave in.
I was still very young in my sobriety. I was still plagued with the awkwardness of my scrawny appearance. I was socially uncomfortable and easily intimidated. I was uneasy with my friendships and relationships. I was always second-guessing myself; I was always unsure and rarely comfortable with my decisions. I was caught in the social trap of trying to be someone else because I thought being someone else was more interesting and more attractive than being me.
I lied a lot. I made up stories to make myself out to be the tough guy, the villain, and also the hero
I admired Sean. He never allowed his lack of height to seem like a weakness. In fact, Sean had a way of standing out in the crowd. And while Sean may have been the shortest; his way of standing out made it seem as if Sean was the tallest in the room.
Peter was young like me. He was new to sobriety. Like Sean, Peter came from an abusive family. Peter’s mother left when Pete was very young. He rarely spoke about his mother, but when he did, Peter explained, “She loved the bottle more than she loved me and my old man.”
As for his old man, Peter’s father was an ex-junkie that claimed to be saved by Jesus Christ. Peter’s father was a social drinker; however, peter explained about the blackouts and the late night beatings that came after one of his father’s “Social” occasions. After years of neglect, Peter was emancipated from his father. He was on his own by the age 16 and lived with a women he referred to as Aunt Bess.
I was serving my second stay in another short term facility. I was at the tail end of 28 days and about to go home until an emotional melt-down kept me in for another two weeks. Sean was a graduate of the 28-day facility. He was clean and sober. He was wise. Above all; Sean had a way of speaking that made me want to listen to him.
Sean visited the facility often. It took some encouragement, but after listening to Sean speak, I decided to introduce myself.
I asked Sean about a tattoo across his chest.
The tattoo was a bible verse. It was Romans 12:19
“Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay says the lord.”
Below this was another quote tattooed on Sean’s chest.
This quote was from Deuteronomy 32:35
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.”
I asked Sean about the tattoos. “You see these scars I have?” Sean pointed to the one on his face and the scars on his hands and knuckles.
“You see the ones on the back of my head?” Sean turned his head to show me the slices on the back of his skull, which were like jagged lines where his hair could not grow.
“You see this nose?”
Sean laughed as he pointed towards his nose. His laughter vanished, however, as he continued to explain, “Some of these scars were things I deserved. But some of them were scars from things I didn’t deserve.”
“I used to want to get even,” he told me. “I used to think if I fought enough—and I mean I would fight anyone—that I could somehow punch my way into feeling better.”
“But I got tired,” Sean told me
“I got tired of getting locked up. I got tired of being drunk all the time and angry all the time.”
Sean explained, “I got tired of dragging around my past and the problems I had with my old man. I mean, think about it? I was just a kid and I couldn’t ever go to gym class because my old man used to beat me so bad that I could never wear gym shorts. I could never swim in my friend’s pool with my shirt off because I didn’t want anyone to see the belt marks across my back.”
“I wanted to kill my father for a long time. Hell, I wanted to kill him even after he died.”
Peter sat beside me. He was quiet and his eyes appeared watery.
Sean said, “There comes a time when the fight is just too tiring.”
“I had to give up. You know?”
I knew what Sean meant . . .
I have a memory from when I was very small. I was very young—too young to understand much about the human anatomy, let alone what it means to be touched in an inappropriate place.
One day . . . I was sitting on the roof of my Long Island home. I was no longer young or innocent. I was watching the cars pass my house. Across the busy street was an empty field with tall grass. I played there as a boy. I dug for treasure. I built clubhouses and tree forts. As I grew older and less innocent, I found myself hiding in the bushes for different reasons.
I sat on the roof of my home, contemplating life and its meaning; I thought about my own sadness. I questioned why I was the way I was. I was sipping from a small flask that was filled with cheap gin. And that’s when the memory hit me.
That’s when I remembered what happened. In that instant, I felt disgusted. I felt diseased and dirty. I felt stained and broken, as if I could never be perfectly put back together or whole again.
When the picture of what happened came to mind, I clenched every muscle in my body. I clenched so tightly that I imagined the sound of glass shattering in my head. The sound of broken glass was like a mirror of my rage and the shards that fell were like tiny daggers that ripped me to shreds.
The weight of this memory was too heavy and too dangerous for me to ever talk about. I never dared to tell anyone. I never thought anyone would listen—or believe me. I never thought I would be able to get out from under the terrible feeling. And worse, I could wash myself a thousand times and still feel dirty.
After listening to Sean’s story for a little while, I decided to open up
In my life, I don’t think I ever cried as hard as I did when Sean told me, “That shit wasn’t your fault.”
I never felt a hug like the one Sean gave me that afternoon. It was the kind if hug that made me want to hold on and never let go.
I felt protected for the first time in my life.
With both arms wrapped around me, Sean patted my back. He kissed the side of my head and said, “You’re gonna be alright, kid. You’ll see.”
“Do not say I will do to them as they have done to me; I will render to them according to their work.”
Someday, a man will stand before his judgement. He will be shown the records of his past. In that moment, that man will see a picture of a little innocent boy—and he will remember what he has done.
That man will be damned for what he has done.
And I will not have to do anything