by Phillip Fry
I was born and raised Catholic in a small town in Ohio. When I was around eight years old, I was sexually abused by our priest during CCD class. I never told an adult about what happened because the priest made me feel that it was my fault. After the incidents, I became a depressed and angry child. I tried to commit suicide multiple times. I used drinking and drugs to mask the memory of what happened to me. Eventually, I stopped going to Mass.
As an adult, I got married, started a family, and built a home. However, I never stopped getting high or drunk, and the abuse cycled through my head more and more each day. I did start going back to Mass and on one Sunday Mass, something was triggered in me. When I came home, I lost control of my anger. I started crying and could not stop. After 25 years, I finally told my wife about the abuse that happened to me.
The next day, by God’s divine providence, my wife found the Maria Goretti Network (MGN) and spoke to Father Gavin Vaverek a co-founder, who referred me to speak with Miguel Prats, also a co-founder and survivor of abuse. That was the first time I was able to talk with someone who really knew what I was going through, even better than I did. Talking with Miguel really helped me and my wife navigate through the difficult first weeks. In the beginning, I was in a rush to get over it and had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that this wasn’t going to be over just because I finally told my wife. I had 25 years of issues that I had never dealt with and the depression and anxiety were taking over my life. As part of my healing process, I met with our local priest for spiritual direction. I also confided in a few close friends and family who were very supportive of me. I met with a couple of psychiatrists but did not like them because they pushed medication, which I was against. Miguel recommended a counselor to me and she was the perfect fit. She has helped me so much with my mental health during this past two years, all without prescriptions. I did try getting high one more time, but the drugs did nothing for me. There was no longer a reason for me to take them, so I stopped cold turkey and have been sober for two years now. I did attend 12-step meetings because I still had cravings, but I learned that this was only dealing with the effects and overlooking the abuse. Once I started attending MGN meetings for survivors of abuse, I was really able to address the root cause of all these problems in my life, accept my past, and turn hurt into hope.
The MGN meetings focus on spiritual healing and forgiveness as St. Maria Goretti did, through Christ’s redeeming love. I have also become more engaged with my Church. I try to attend daily Mass and Adoration and say the Rosary as much as possible. Since I came forward with the truth of my past God has blessed me with miracles to help me with my healing, even intercession from a Saint! God has also provided me a strong support network, like my wife, counselor, the MGN network, spiritual directors, friends, and family. I still struggle with PTSD, anxiety, nightmares, and forgiveness, but I am starting to accept that the abuse is not going to go away just because I shared my story and that I cannot change my past. I am actively working on my mental and spiritual healing, and I am thankful that God has given me a second chance at a life worth living, a life that the abused little boy never had, full of loving and accepting people.