The Courage To Face A Predator

We all possess courage, some display it more than others, but it runs through us all. The difference is a lot of us tend to let it lay dormant; we smother it with an array of other virtues that are far easier to muster, or worse, we allow our vices to intimidate courage through the use of fear. The Oxford dictionary defines courage as the ability to do something that frightens one, or strength in the face of pain or grief. We have all at some point in our lives demonstrated acts of courage, some were small feats, others tremendous, nevertheless they were all acts of courage in the face of fear.

As a child I was courageous, reflecting on it now, I called on courage for that first leap into the water, a night with the light off, even the first day of school. All events I am sure you can relate to, however my most significant act of courage as a child, some won’t.

I remember the feeling of uncertainty to the act; I was virtually unaware of its meaning. Still, I could sense its evil. The abuse had occurred several times, on many different occasions, with every account, I gained a greater insight into what this person was and how they thought. I started to identify the cues, breaking the code to help protect others and myself. I got to know it so well that I was able to ensure I was the only person hurt.

The day I discovered what I was suffering was wrong was the day a giraffe spoke to me. I remember him as Happy Harold. However, his name is Healthy Harold. Healthy Harold was a toy giraffe, big though, that travelled around schools as part of the Life Education program in Australia. On that particular visit, I remember the van going completely dark, with little lights shining on the roof that resembled the night sky, I also remember Healthy Harold telling me the following jingle “my bodies nobodies body but mine, you touch your own body let me touch mine”. That day I saw the universe and also became aware of child sexual abuse.

I kept the truth to myself for a while, thinking and doubting that what was happening was wrong. I was that scared of nobody believing me that I devised a plan to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind. As a child I decided to let it happen again to prove that it was happening, I would also lie to this person, convincing them that I wouldn’t tell a soul. That is until I got back to so-called safety. I knew it was going to happen again; it was just a matter of when. Throughout all of this abuse I was a victim, until that day, that day I was in control and that day I became a survivor. I let it happen again, as planned, and again I swore not to tell a soul, the memory of that lie is still so vivid. My courage wasn’t needed to deal with the abuse or to tell someone about it, the courage I needed was to lie. The fear I faced that day was lying to this person’s face. I had to hold a poker face against a monster; I was that scared of not being able to sell my lie that it took every ounce of courage I had. Sold it like a boss.

It disgusts me that any human regardless of age should have to face this evil, however unfortunately it exists. I don’t want you to take away from this how awful it may have been or that it should have never happened, it did. It does. What you can do for me is understand that we are all born with courage, and a lot of other virtues, they run through us and may just need waking.

Whatever it is you fear you have the courage to face it, believe in yourself and your plan.

A Few Questions

Q. What effect did the Life Education Qld program have on you? What difference did it make to your life? 

A. I met Healthy Harold through the NSW education system, I was a member of Bellingen Primary School and roughly around the age of 12, the age I am not precisely sure of though. 

Ultimately it was the education delivered through life education that enabled me to identify as a victim of child sexual abuse. This came through the message, and jiggle of "My bodies no body's body but mine, you touch your own body let me touch mine." I lived through these acts of abuse sensing the act was wrong, however, until that moment I didn't know it as child sexual abuse. 

I believe education to be the greatest measure any parent could take in the prevention of child sexual assault and encourage them to seek a program out.

Q. Please provide a bit of background to your situation growing up...do you know how long you were sexually abused? Can you tell me who the abuser was? (or we could just say a family member or family friend or teacher or whoever it was?) What age did the abuse start? Did finding out that what was happening to you was wrong to give you the courage to speak out?

Please click HERE to read my blog, Children of Virtues (courage). 

Also, it was a family member, someone trusted, as is the case so very often. The courage I needed was to lie to this person's face and convince him that I would not tell anyone. 

Q. What effect has the abuse had on your life? Is that directly linked to why you began drinking alcohol?

A. The impact mentally of the abuse was lesser for me as a child due to not completely understanding it. Unfortunately, as I entered my teens and adulthood, I started to realise more about what had happened but could not process it correctly, or relate to it due to the time that had passed. It was as if I was trapped in my child body but trying to process it in an adult mind whenever the memories arose.  

My drinking was mainly a result of my ego, need to be wanted and the centre of someone's attention. The memories of abuse fueled my addiction on occasions. However, it was not the only factor. As a functioning alcoholic, I was never going to begin the process of finding peace with my past and addressing the person I had become and also the evil I had suffered as a child. The two lived in harmony as I lived in chaos.

Only after finding complete honesty and directing it inwards was I able to start and change my life for the better. After choosing to enter sobriety, I was able to also address the historic case of child sexual abuse. This gave me a degree of closure and the ability to find peace through consciously speaking out about my addiction, abuse and mental health issues to help others as I continue to help and evolve myself.       

 A lot of other social issues can form as a result of child sexual abuse. These include addiction, suicide, mental health issues, PTSD, and an array of others. As a country, we must continue to focus on the prevention, treatment and aftercare of these issues and our people. As adults, we must be accountable for our actions and seek education, help and treatment for our issues. Children must be given every chance to grow up in a safe and loving environment, and we must lead the way through being the example.      

Q. What was the reason you turned your life around? I see you are now three years sober?

A. Yes, I am three years sober. 

Jack Gibson wrote, "Would the boy you were, be proud of the man you have become?" I was not proud. I did not respect nor like who I had become and needed to change it. I had suffered enough; I was mentally and physically exhausted. We will all face rock bottom at some point, I had hit it and needed to surface again.   

Q. Why is it important to be an ambassador/campaigner for child safety?

A. I can never know how someone else is feeling as a victim of child sexual abuse, but I do have an understanding. It is this understanding that creates a connection, a bond. By making myself vulnerable through sharing my story, I may just save someone's life through the realisation that they are not alone. 

Q. Outline what you spend your time doing now? Do you have a job/trade/profession?

A. I am currently on long service leave from the Australian Army and then proceeding on discharge, December 2017. I will be looking to start a new career in 2018. 

Q. What are you doing in Peru?

A. I have just completed a 254+km self-sufficient stage race through the Amazon Jungle in Brazil. I was fortunate enough to pick up second place and have been taking in some sights in Sth America before travelling to New Zealand in November. Ultrarunning has become one of the foundations on which I build my life. I initially used it to focus my attention away from my past and alcohol, however, It now provides me with so much more. I could talk all day about this subject, however, maybe save it for another story.    

Also:

Q. How old are you? 

A. 36. 

Where do you live? 

A. In Peru at present, NZ in November. I sold all my belongings to travel. I only have my van in Australia which has everything I need. 

Q. Do you have a family of your own (partner, kids?) 

A. I have a girlfriend Liz, who I met competing in the Bravehearts 7 marathons, in 7 day's, in 7 states this year. She also travelled to Brazil to compete in the Jungle Marathon picking up second place female. She is a strong supporter of the prevention of child sexual abuse and a children's campaigner for a better quality of life. 

Q. Anything else you would like to add or feel relevant, please do!

A. I can not stress enough how the education I received as a child allowed me to act and prevent any further harm. No parent or child is exempt from this evil entering their lives. Don't ignore it, keep the conversation going and take some advice from Bravehearts, educate, empower and protect our kids.  

People can contact me or read more about my journey by visiting  www.soberstrides.com or by following @soberstrides on Instagram. 

Ultra Roamer

Filling in my gratitude journal I reach question five, something simple and near in sight? My response, monkey. To witness this unique animal playing in its natural habitat raises a smile, gratitude; I then watched it swing, jump and climb throughout the canopy before returning to my journal. 

Coming from Australia, the sight of a monkey is foreign, as is much of what I have witnessed and experienced in Brazil. We started our journey by visiting the small community of Caroca, located along the Rio Arapiuns. I write ‘we’ because fellow Bravehearts 777 runner Liz Douglas has joined me, a Kiwi "girl on the run" (@liz.girlontherun) who decided last minute that the call of the Jungle was too much to resist, packing her bags and hitting the trail. As we approached Caroca by small boat, my surroundings had an immediate impact on me; I was captivated. The land was indeed beautiful; however, I  did sense a harshness to her, a feeling of tread lightly. I imagine Australia presents herself the same to foreigners, one minute they are captivated by her beauty, the next, cautious of her allure. Immediate respect for land was within me. 

Picture: Taken from the shores of Coroca after my mornings box breathing & meditation session. 

Picture: Taken from the shores of Coroca after my mornings box breathing & meditation session. 

We had both decided that the best approach in adapting for Jungle Marathon was to get as close to race conditions as possible. We achieved our intent; the humidity was stifling, the land unforgiving and communication with others challenging. Not to mention the screams of unknown animals that echoed loudly. The sudden removal of electricity, wifi, phone reception and other creature comforts for eleven days, although challenging at first, only enhanced our simulation. Our communication with the villagers was aided by an old Portuguese to English dictionary, left by a foreigner dating back to 1972. Inscribed on the second page was the following, 'This dictionary represents Portuguese spoken by those from Portugal, not to be confused with Brazilian Portuguese. The language, although similar, varies in the pronunciation'. This variation resulted in many laughs at each other’s expense, breaking down walls and providing humility to all who attempt a translation. 

Picture: Helping Beto, a local boy, lay some irrigation for the crops. We achieved this by working in harmony utilising all the same communication methods I talk about in this blog. 

Picture: Helping Beto, a local boy, lay some irrigation for the crops. We achieved this by working in harmony utilising all the same communication methods I talk about in this blog. 

It wouldn’t be uncommon in this situation to see only barriers possibly resulting in both cultures withdrawing to converse only with their own. We did not find this; we found common ground by utilising all senses to engage in conversation, we become completely present as we listened and watched, read body language, pointed and drew pictures to send and receive our messages. I have grown to rely so heavily on technology to stay connected that it has resulted in me becoming disconnected. I'm guilty of disengaging in daily conversation with others, often opting to instead hide under the safety blanket of my smartphone or email. It was refreshing not to have the technology to connect us, no google translate or any other means. The desire to truly know and understand each other was enough; it allowed us all to communicate by engaging in whole present conversation. Look, listen, feel, respect. 

Picture: Getting in a long run by heading to another small community, Vila Gorete. It was roughly 20-25 km's from   Coroca   and had my poor mate Beto wishing he hadn't translated "we need a guide"  successfully.  

Picture: Getting in a long run by heading to another small community, Vila Gorete. It was roughly 20-25 km's from Coroca and had my poor mate Beto wishing he hadn't translated "we need a guide" successfully. 

After only taking a small number of steps during our first training run I was suffocated by the humidity and drowned by perspiration. I did, however, draw from my days in Ipswich for motivation, the ones that had me running in the Christmas holidays depleted from the heat. It took us a good few days to settle in and find a degree of comfort within this environment. We run daily, sometimes twice. One in the morning before breakfast and one in the heat of the day before lunch. This regime supplemented with increasing bodyweight exercises on the hour or cumulative on days completion, 1600h. As our training built daily so to our resilience. After about day three I found myself comfortable and becoming more productive, looking to be regularly engaged. I built a bush gym and explored the area thoroughly, finding new trails and ways of making a connection to the land. My daily practices become fine-tuned and then concrete. My morning routine consisted of a cold shower, box breathing, meditation, gratitude journaling (coffee included) and of course making the bed. Being stripped back to simplicity allowed me to see just how simple the process is. I had become so focused on personal growth and becoming a better person that I was hindering my progression. My eagerness to evolve was to the detriment of my actual growth. By not allowing myself time to absorb previously gained knowledge and understanding it thoroughly, I have denied myself wisdom. I needed this time to dissect, examine and re-build my knowledge base, taking a customised approach to building a better model. 

Picture: Some practice putting up my hammock. The last effort resulted in me sleeping on the ground. 

Picture: Some practice putting up my hammock. The last effort resulted in me sleeping on the ground. 

We have since returned to Ater do Chao, situated on the edge of the Rio Tapajos. Alter do Chao is where we will finish our race preparation and then board the boat for the Amazon on 05 October. The accommodation and lifestyle have again been very different to what I am accustomed to, however, both our hosts through Airbnb have been most welcoming, ensuring our stay is as authentic and pleasurable as possible.

Picture:   Our accommodation in Alter do Chao sourced through Airbnb. Perfect for our last week  of prep before Jungle Marathon 2017. 

Picture: Our accommodation in Alter do Chao sourced through Airbnb. Perfect for our last week  of prep before Jungle Marathon 2017. 

In two day's time, we leave for the Jungle Marathon. Both Liz and I feel ready and confident that our training has prepared us for what lies ahead. From Australia to Brazil, now into the Amazon. 

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Seven

Seven marathons, in seven days, in seven states. Child sexual abuse. 

The harder I run, the stronger the message. 

That was my purpose. 

It was tough to predict what I would get out of this experience when I registered to undertake the Bravehearts 777 challenge; even leading into the final few days before the first marathon my search was uncertain. I knew my purpose for attending, but nothing could prepare me for what I walked away with and now attempt to process. 

I have read a lot about endurance sports giving you the ability to discover yourself on a deeper level. Points after time endured that give you access to heightened awareness and consciousness. After day three I noticed I was fatigued but still running at a high frequency, an indescribable energy that was slowly drawing me away from the normality of everyday life and further into a connection not only with myself but those aligned to the challenge. I have never felt more alive, and those final four days have changed my life, my eyes flood writing in reflection. No sooner had I finished the marathon I was on, I would desire the next. During the transition between states, I likened the feeling to when I destructively drank, however in this instance, the deeper the sense of solitude within myself, the more open I become to the amazing people around me. I wanted to put myself through more to absorb and experience this feeling in greater amounts. 

On course, I received more out of what was not said, than anything ever mentioned. The silent and mutual acknowledgements of pain, guilt and sorrow, equally matched with strength, compassion and understanding. We were all afforded different levels of processing at erratic stages over those six hours, and we all shared every once of positive and negative energy we had. I have distinct images and emotions as I picture my fellow warriors and my heart fills with nothing but love and respect for each. I left an army several weeks ago and signed straight back up to another. 

I also hurt more during the week than I have in a long time. I felt everything and with all my senses. The presence was so strong with some connections that I had to remove myself. My soul bled for the mothers on this trip, and I cannot articulate what I witnessed. I have spent so many years focusing on the pain I carry as a victim, that I never gave thought to my own parents. I have never seen tears shed with so much love and suffering in my life, and it now haunts me that there are not only the survivors carrying this daily but also those who feel helplessness. The week allowed me to lose pain I carry, however, at the sacrifice of now hurting more for others. 

I am finding it hard on the come down at the moment and will continue to process this for weeks. I love each one of you who fought this battle with me and send you strength over the coming weeks. This experience has left me humbled and in awe of you (animals). 

I know a girl who is also struggling at present, and I can’t help but pray she finds her words. I have laid this down raw in the hope it gives her strength. 

M

Day 7 was a battle at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon, Australia. 

Day 7 was a battle at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon, Australia. 

Failure

Original Post, 01 April 2017.

Recently I shared a post on Instagram where I used the word 'failed'. I chose failed as I embrace the word for its distinctiveness, it also correctly measured my outcome. To my surprise, this upset people and even resulted in some raising concerns for my well-being, which I am grateful for, however, now wonder if I had of chosen unsuccessful would this have been the case. 

Has the word failed become so negative in our society that we now see it as taboo?   

We suggest for people to set goals that are measurable, and this allows us to identify with success. If failure is the opposite of success then why not use it to determine when we have not achieved our goals. Surely this just provides a clear distinction between the two. Some of my more notable failures have resulted in the most significant of results. If I can not determine when I have failed, I can not look for alternate opportunities to succeed. No growth is as influential as that provide by the seed of failure. 

Yes, failure has lessons that should be embraced. Those lessons, however, are only offered as a result of outgrowing your current possible. If you do not test your current possible, then how are you to know your current impossible. What you do with failure is a test of character, you can allow it to defeat you, or you can choose to learn from your mistakes and continue in the pursuit of success. I will fail again, as I will grow again, but I will not make failure a result of lessons not learnt. I see failure as an experience that should be earned not simply used as an excuse to quit. Only you know the difference between your failures and your excuses. 

My failed attempts have not disheartened me; they have encouraged me. The key word being courage. Courage, not the absence of fear but the willingness to continue in spite of fear. If failure also instils courage, then I will seek more. 

Becoming the ultimate teammate

This blog was written for the www.frogman-project.com as their guest.

A number of topics came to mind when brainstorming to write this piece, and after 15 years of service there are a number of them that hold great importance to me, however I did not feel I was the person to address these topics, particularly in this forum at this time. It was not until I delved deeper into that thought that I discovered what it was I bring to the table, myself and my willingness to contribute.  

Building the Ultimate Teammate

Looking into the Frogman Project the one thing that resonated with me the most was the projects vision to mold and create the ultimate teammate. What intrigues me about this vision is the reliance it must have on the individual to determine its success. Whether you are a member of the Frogman Project, Defence Force, Emergency Services or the community if you are going to become the ultimate teammate then you have a responsibility to contribute to that team on the highest level available to you.

Contribution Through Leadership

I have come to learn that true leadership requires you to lead by example, that leading by example is visual leadership and that this is achieved through both word and action. It is everyone’s responsibility whether employed in a command position or not, if you are part of a team you are required to lead on some level.

As a team member you will have influence over the environment in which that team must operate. If you are not aligned to your team’s values and ethos or you don’t care for its common goals or mission then the environment you are promoting is a toxic one, it will spread like a disease and ultimately result in your team’s defeat. By understanding the role you play within your team and executing it with professionalism and to the best of your ability you are leading by example. Whether that leadership is directed within on a personal level, utilized to influence the mate beside you, a few in the team or the team as a whole you become an integral part of that team and its success.  

Know and Grow Yourself

Through self-awareness and the ability to acknowledge, understand and be conscious to your own values, beliefs, strengths and weaknesses you will be able to identify what it is that you can or can not offer your team and therefore contribute to your full potential.

After spending a lot of my adult life with an egocentric view of the world it was not until I began to work on myself from within that I started to become a better teammate. I adopted a more worldcentric view through integrated training on a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual level and fostered my strengths and weaknesses in order to enhance the team. 

We all require work on ourselves to better serve others. It is not until you understand yourself that you have the ability to both grow and serve simultaneously. If you are not focused on self-mastery then you are not focused on becoming the ultimate teammate. The two work in unison.

Step Up and Be Counted

 Only once each member of the team makes the decision to step up and be counted as a teammate does your team truly unify. We are all apart of a team from the families we are born into, the communities we live in and the people we surround ourselves with. Some we choose, others are forced upon us, non-the less we owe it to our team and ourselves to contribute to the best of our abilities and become the ultimate teammate.

Remember the teams mission is bigger than you, however mission success relies on you.

I would like to thank the Frogman Project for the invitation to address this community and I look forward to contributing in the future.

Recommended reading:

a.         The Way of the SEAL & Unbeatable Mind vol 3 – Mark Divine

b.         High Altitude Leadership – Chris Warner and Don Schmincke

Lessons Learnt 2015/2016

As the year draws close to an end I feel the need to reflect on the past two years of my sobriety and share some lessons learnt. These are not just lessons for alcoholics or addicts but for anyone wanting to take a step closer towards becoming a better human. My hope is that those who need these words are inspired enough to take them and put these lessons into practice. 

I have been fortunate enough to achieve the majority of my goals this year and for that I am grateful. These accomplishments are not only the result of hard work and dedication but can equally be attributed to a focus on personal growth and becoming a better version of myself in every aspect of my life.  

I can honestly stand tall at the end of 2016 and confidently announce that I actually respect who I am becoming. I write this because the first lesson I learnt on my journey into sobriety and becoming a man is that before you can even begin to evolve as a human you need to find that respect for yourself. I am not talking about loving yourself; a line I believe is well and truly over used and often a throw away to settle on mediocrity. I am talking about enough respect to be completely honest about who you are and who you want to become. This is where I will start my list as it was the first step I took towards becoming the person I am today and all other lessons fell out of this.

Lesson 1: Honesty and Respect

It makes sense to me that in order to live a life of honesty and respect for others you must first spend time practicing on yourself. I believe a huge part of my own personal growth over the last two years was due to practicing these virtues on a daily basis and finally starting to fully understand and appreciate them. Although honesty towards myself was found under a rock at the bottom of a breakdown I give thanks for its unveiling none the less. It was through the brutal honesty that I had become a shit human that I gained enough respect for myself to not let it define me. When you live a life of respect and honesty for both others and yourself you find other pieces of the puzzle present themselves.

In 2017 show yourself enough respect to be completely honest about who you are and who you need to become.

Lesson 2: You are a product of your environment

If you truly want to see into your future just take a step back and look at who and what you surround yourself with. I lived in bars, clubs and taxis of a weekend constantly surrounded by people and places aligned to the common goal of self-destruction not self-development. Whether your conscious to it or not the environment you choose to live, work or play in will aid in determining who you are becoming. You will adapt to its routines and influences and before long like me it will just be the norm and you will settle for it. I had to separate myself from all negative environments and people in an attempt to salvage my soul, this was extremely tough and very lonely, however it allowed for me to eventually take control of my own environment and assisted in determining who and what I let in.  If a negative environment can have so much influence over who you are becoming imagine the possibilities of promoting only healthy and positive environments for yourself. 

In 2017 control your environment don’t let it control you.

Lesson 3: You don’t have to be who you were 30 seconds ago

Once I had escaped my environment I was faced with the realization that I had to become myself. I have used reinvent myself in the past, however I don’t like that term as it reads that I am still not true to myself but does get the message across. Gradually over the years and in particular through my 20s I molded myself into the person I thought I wanted to be without ever taking the time to understand who I actually am; I became the result of ego and lived a life through everyone else’s perception and or expectations of who I was or should be. All I had become was a drunk.

Being social was extremely hard at first even talking to people as myself was brutal but over time it became easier. As I grew in respect for who I was becoming so did my confidence to be myself. Just because people think they know who you are is not a good enough excuse to remain that person, particularly if that person is not someone to be proud of.

In 2017 become the person you were destined to become

Lesson 4: Ego is the enemy

The greatest loss I have ever experienced was that of my ego, greatest as in the most welcomed. This loss has allowed me to make myself vulnerable in order to help others, allowed me to except who I am and be proud of it, treat every man as my master and learn from all, stay true to who I am and my beliefs but above all it has allowed me to not care what people think of me, only how they act as a result of me. After so many years of being outwitted by ego it is a lesson I aim to never repeat.

In 2017 lose the ego.

Lesson 5: Wake up

In a world suffocated by humiliation, gossip, social media, technology and all things material it is not hard to look past the obvious warning signs that we are facilitating our own extinction. If we remain naive to the continual death and destruction imposed on humans, nature and the planet than what hope do we have for the future or that of generations to come. I don’t go on here to force my own beliefs or opinions onto anyone, all I suggest is that if you want to experience the gift of selflessness and grow on another level then invest some time into the service of something bigger than yourself.

In 2017 make a difference.  

This list is by far not exhausted and there are many other lessons learnt from the years passed, however this is a list that I believe can really make a difference in anyone’s life. I will continue to run Sober Strides in the years to come and watch in amazement as it continues to grow in unison with myself.  

Some say it is not about being the best, they are wrong. It is about being the best, the best version of yourself. Take everyone and everything else out of the equation and go be the best.
— Johnathon Morrison

An Alpha male is not defined by unprovoked acts of violence towards fellow man, not by words filled with hate nor acts of belittlement or humiliation. These are the actions of weak men, cowards. It is an Alphas character that defines him, his unmistakable presence as a warrior, an aura generated by his character and not his ego.
— Johnathon Morrison