James Canipe shares an incredible story of bravery, self discovery, recovery and relationship repair. We are grateful for his generosity and courage. Do you have a story, a poem, art work, a song, you’d like to share? Let’s talk about it, mike@menhealing.org. Mike Davis, editor

Stories fill the catalog of this life. We all have many to tell and in some ways these tales define us, but more importantly how we react and adjust reveals the depth of the story. What is to come is one such story about me. I’m an endurer of childhood sexual trauma. The scars that were etched within my soul, I could never see until recently. How naive and blind, I was for so many years. The anger, the insatiable thirst for approval, the self loathing, I wore them foolishly and believed myself stronger for having suffered. There could be no pain anyone could inflict upon me because I had endured. I was stronger because of the abuse. How I was wrong. I was unable to see. A man standing alone in a darkened room with his hand on the light switch yet fully believing the room to be cast in a blinding light. 

So, I’m here now to tell what could appear as such a simple story about a father, a daughter, and a game called soccer. I love sports. The challenge, the competition, the answer of who is better than who, a test of strength and resiliency. Obviously, I wanted my daughter to experience the pleasure I knew from athletics, but something so simple became so much more when a father came to realize that a life of hiding was tearing him apart and destroying the relationships that he values more than the countless breaths we take each day. Now into the story of a beautiful girl, a tortured man, and the beginning of a change in the tide. 

I can remember the moment frozen in time

A year ago, a lifetime it seems, I can remember the moment frozen in time, crushed and ashamed, I stood as my daughter blankly told me she didn’t want me at her soccer games. Her courage I couldn’t see, her honesty, I couldn’t feel. I was devastated and broken, disassociating to avoid the moment and the pain. Narcissism had been my protection, self-destruction, my blanket and finally the years had caught me in the bluest eyes telling me the harshest of truths…I had been a bad father, a terrible man, a poor husband…selfish and scared. Six years prior to this moment, I had witnessed my daughter’s birth and thought that this was a chance, my saving grace because I had never felt this way before, so enamored and in love. However, my heart at this time was a bottomless hole that I had been furiously shoveling trash into for years hoping to feel something. And with time, even her birth and life didn’t save me because I was still running from the truth that was eating me alive. I wasn’t the father she deserved. Absent as a workaholic, absent emotionally because I felt so alone inside, absent with support because I hated and doubted myself so thoroughly. She saw me. She saw who I had been becoming all these years and what I had been unable to see myself. 

Now today, a year later, I find myself standing on the sidelines as my daughter’s soccer coach and we are closer together than I could have ever imagined. The path here has been so difficult and I hear the voice telling me to run as I had in the past, but after telling my story and confronting how the abuse affected me, it’s now hard to turn to the sabotaging and chaos that I used to believe brought me peace. I see the scar now and how deeply it was cutting me still. I see a light when it used to be only blackened windows and yes, my dear daughter, I see you and I hope one day you see the full story of me. A man on the verge and now hoping to feel the phoenix burn. So, yes it’s a beautiful game, but more importantly it’s a beautiful life. 

James Canipe

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