John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise VI

John Michael was recently triggered reading a news story involving alleged sexual abuse that took him back to his own traumatic experience as a child.


This is long and deeply personal and perhaps hard for some of you to read, but cathartic for me nonetheless. It has a happy ending though, if you want to skip to that part.

I have been a bit agoraphobic at times in my life. Living in the Florida Keys would have been a great time for many lovely outdoor adventures including sailing, fishing, snorkeling and the like.

I worked at a hotel in Islamorada for six months and after my shift I would head back to my place and hang out with the TV for the most part. Then when I started writing for a newspaper I would go home and obsess about what I had written and how my day went.

During that time, I also could not walk on a floor in my bare feet. I had to have socks or shoes on. Living on the streets cured me of all my minor phobias, but my psyche can travel back to sad and lonely spots now and again.

Twitter lit up recently over a story that appeared in the National Enquirer. The story quoted friends of the late actor Corey Haim. Haim allegedly revealed to them that he was sexually abused by Charlie Sheen on the set of the ’80s coming-of-age movie Lucas. Sheen, through a spokesman, has since denied the allegations.

Haim was 13 at the time with Sheen being 19. Dominick Brascia and Corey Feldman both stated that Haim shared the abuse story with them.

Feldman wrote about it in his autobiography without naming Sheen. The language is graphic and triggered some abuse memories for me. I pulled this quote from Newsweek: “At some point during the filming [of The Lost Boys in 1987, Haim] explained that an adult male convinced him it was perfectly normal for older men and younger boys in the business to have sexual relations, that it was what all ‘guys do,’” Feldman wrote of a past conversation with Haim. “So they walked off to a secluded area between two trailers, during a lunch break for the cast and crew, and Haim, innocent and ambitious as he was, allowed himself to be sodomized.”

Well, that Charlie Sheen case triggered me more than I thought. It also meant that I was still hiding some things from myself that needed healing.

The memory in me had to do with how Sheen allegedly talked to Haim, convincing him the whole thing was as normal as sitting down to dinner. The words “predators” and “grooming” get used a lot in the media when talking about pedophiles, which I find dehumanizing, and from my experience pedophiles in their own minds don’t think they are doing anything wrong.

Sex is a strong motivator and drive in your average human, but if there is a severe injury, it can become compulsive and next to impossible for a person to manage without help.


I feel blessed by the amount of healing I have had in my life, and I managed to squeeze out a few tears while writing this.


A day or so ago, I stepped out to walk Totes and I felt just very cautious being outside and in the world, like something or someone could come at me at any second. I also felt like crying which is something I find hard to let myself do and I could not find my tears. Then I had a panic attack which left me breathing hard for a while.

I never did really like the guy who attacked and molested me. I did not trust something about him and he was smarmy and full of overly kind Eddie Haskell type of talk. He was quite a bit older but was always making sure I was riding in his car to Spokane and Tri-City judo tournaments, which I also did not trust. I started getting good at judo and was winning some tournaments.

When I was in the Keys I was working with a life coach over the phone, he had me do body and face tapping to release old emotions. He also had me write down everything I remembered about being molested. A week after writing it down, I had a vicious memory surface that overwhelmed me. I never called that motherfucker again.

Most of my life I felt like I was acting in it, playing a sad part I had created, waiting desperately for the whole thing to be over. There was also a part of me that was waiting to bolt from any situation that may have involved me being responsible for shit, and I have sabotaged many good situations and relationships in my life.

Well, the Eddie Haskell approach was not working with me for my attacker. So, one night at practice … and this is the part I repressed … he took me out on the judo mat, I won’t give you all the gory details, but he completely dominated me in a very unkind way. I do not know why I did not say, “Get the fuck off of me!” or cry out for help. I do remember hoping someone would see it and put a stop to him, but that did not happen.

Then later, when he was driving me home with some other kids, he did some more bad things that I did not stop. I quit judo after that, but did go back one more time a couple of weeks later because some friends of mine in the neighborhood wanted me there. I did not tell them what happened.

The guy wanted to get me on the mat again and I refused. As I refused, I was looked at him with scorn. This is why I think pedophiles have no idea of the harm they cause. The look on his face indicated that he thought I had enjoyed the whole affair and thought that I could not wait to have it happen again.

I feel blessed by the amount of healing I have had in my life, and I managed to squeeze out a few tears while writing this. When I was on stage in Carrie doing rehearsal, I had the thought, I will be okay here. And I will be okay. In fact, I will be joyful living this life and not pretending to do so.

After my panic attack, I went down for a nap. I was climbing up this snow-covered mountain and it was foggy. I sensed I was getting close to the top and hesitated for a second, but then proceeded. The fog lifted, and I was on top of an enormous mountain, blue sky and mountaintops covered in snow everywhere. It was so breathtaking I started to fly even higher enjoying the view.

In between the panic attack and the nap, I was struggling emotionally, but for some reason I recognized I was loved. Not by God, which I know to be true, but by other people, which I sometimes doubt. When I had that good thought, I felt the emotions give out in my heart and I was flooded with peace. I want to thank you all for your support and love in my healing adventure. I am pretty sure I have nothing left to confess.


There was a black cloud over my
I placed it there in childhood
fear and shame soot and ashes
you lost your innocence
so you stole mine
stalker, man of stealth and shadow

I dove into several black holes at once
listened to traumatized children crying
their mother wailing
fallen angels gnashing their teeth

God saw what was happening and threw flower seeds
into the muck of my downward spiral
into that shitty, dark dirt

that dark cloud rained its dark water
but water it was
nourishing the seeds in the shitty dirt

One day I was moping around
hoping that dark cloud would conjure
my death

but the sky was very blue
birds were singing
and so I joined them for a note or two

That is all it took
some sunshine passed through
my best intentions
my deepest defenses
and the snares I placed in the way
those black clouds drifted

a field of wildflowers slowly growing in my heart


John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

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