Stigma Fighters : Gary Tidwell

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Stigma Fighters : Gary Tidwell

Broken Healer – My Story of Pain and Restoration

I chose that name for this article because this is My Story. I’ll share my own struggle and pain, but thankfully it does not end there. I share how I have been blessed to overcome them to become who I am now and finally where I hope my dreams take me.
Well, I guess I the best place to start is the beginning. I am the oldest of a total of 6 children that were born to my patents, however only one other is a full sibling. As so many are now, I was a “divorced child”. At the time my dad worked as an over the road truck driver. To say it nicely, my mom was lonely and sought companionship in my dad’s absence. As a result, they divorced when I was 3 years of age. After the divorce my younger brother and I stayed with my dad and we all lived with my grandparents for the next two years. As my brother was still a baby, 18 months at the time, he got A LOT of attention from my grandparents who cared for us while dad was working. I was properly cared for and never neglected, but at the time I certainly did feel like I was not as important or loved as much as he was. I mean, he was a baby and needed more attention and care.

Within a couple years both my parents would remarry and begin new families. Dad and “Mom” would have a boy. My Birth mom would eventually have 3 daughters. My brother and I went to visit her mostly on the holidays and for a while during the summer. Everything changed the summer that I was 8, between 2nd and 3rd grade. While I actually have limited memories of the times that I spent with my birth mom and her family, this one incident is burned into my memory. My brother (6 at the time) and I were in the back seat of the car with stepdad and birth mom sitting in the front seat and dividing a large bag of marijuana into smaller ones and then selling them to others who drove up to where we were parked. Upon our return home we described the incident to my Mom and Dad and my brother and I decided that we did not want to return for more visits. To this day if I wonder if I had not made that decision, how different my life might be. As a result of that decision. Over the next 12 years, I would have no contact with my birth mom other than one short letter that would come a couple years later. Beyond that there were no birthday cards or calls, no other letters of any kind. As I grew up I was always “quick tempered” and often struggled getting along with my brothers. There were a couple times there is no other way to explain it other than to say “I lost it”. On one occasion I was playing soccer during recess at school and another boy slide tackled me knocking me down. Before I knew what happened he was lying on the ground knocked out from being punched by me. Another time I was playing with next youngest brother and he also did something that knocked me down and I literally chased him around the yard until I caught him and had both hands around his neck until someone pulled me off of him.
Thankfully, I finally “grew out of that phase”, well out of being violent and aggressive anyway.
In our home I was the oldest of three boys. During much of my childhood, my dad was gone a lot due to working in the oilfield as it was during the heart of the 1970-1980’s oil boom, He was gone a lot, but somehow still manage to be there as served as our coach for soccer, baseball and bowling. Looking back I know that was him trying to “be there” and show us he loved us and was interested in the things that we were, At times though, I think I needed a “dad” more than I needed a coach. I would go through Junior High and High School, struggling like every kid to “find my place”, to “fit in” and “be accepted”. What I experienced was more rejection and degradation by the so-called “popular kids”. I would find a handful of other “misfits” that I would call friends. In my desperate need for love and acceptance I found myself in unhealthy co-dependent relationships. I had was seemed to be magnetic attraction to some of the most unhealthy of girls and found myself trying to “save” them. My thought at the time, if they needed me to take care of them, then they will love and stay with me. What I would soon learn was thought of as a sick relationship.

In early May of my sophomore year of High School, my grandparents’ home was hit by a tornado, and between that and a business opportunity that came my dad’s way, we would move at the end of the school year. My girlfriend at the time and I had promised to stay together despite the move. (Of course this is LOOOOOONG before Facebook, Skype, and Text. Needless to say it did not last, and I was hurt and rejected yet again. I was 16 at the time and was sure that my life was over. If she couldn’t or wouldn’t stay with me, then surely there was something wrong with me and no one would ever want to be with me, As it would go, I began to believe that life was not worth living if I felt this way. I had heard that you could kill yourself if you took a lot of Tylenol. So I went to the medicine cabinet, got the bottle and took “a handful”, 6 maybe. At the time I had no idea that I would have had to have taken almost the whole bottle to even come close to doing what I was trying. As best as I can remember, I think it was much later before I told anyone about it.
The next school year started and I was soon able to put the girlfriend and the incident behind me. I found another group of misfits to hang-out with and stayed out of the relationship game for a while. That would change during my senior year and I would find myself in yet another unhealthy relationship, and another that summer and yet another at the end of the second semester freshman year of college. Always the same pattern, “damsel in distress” not understood by her family, “mistreated” and “needy “. All the while what did I need more than anything – “to be needed.” So we were perfectly imperfect together.
Due to other poor choices that did not involve my relationships, I would lose 2 academic scholarships that where just the difference in me being able to remain in school or not. As a result, I would have to return home. As was my pattern, I would get involved in yet another dysfunctional relationship which would eventually end on amiable terms.
After being home for a little over a year I was accepted into a ministry training and discipleship program and the course of my life would be changed. Over the next 15 months, I would work, attend classes, and do ministry, all the time turning my focus less and less off of myself and my needs and to helping others. It was also during this time that my whirlwind of unhealthy relationships would finally come to an end. I met the one human being that is the most responsible for helping me overcome my hurt, rejection and fear of abandonment, the one that holds the key to my heart, my wonderful wife. (At this writing, we have been married for 18 years and a couple for 23.) We did not start dating when we first met. In fact she ran from and avoided me for at least the first 3 months. We would later become very close friends and that would be what our relationship grew to be built upon, not just romantic feelings. It was during our first year of dating that she would support and walk with me through one the anxiety provoking encounters I could have imagined. However, in the end it was not as bad as I had imagined it. So what was this encounter? I met my birth mom. The one question that had plagued my thoughts all my life, “WHY?” Why had she not made any kind of contact while I was growing up? At the time I found her response almost as disturbing as the lack of contact. What she told me was that my Dad and Stepmom had not given her contact information when we had moved. What about my last 2 years of high school when we lived in the same house, right in the same town. With the love and support of my precious wife and other dear friends, I would learn that I could be and was loved and accepted for the person that I was. Loved and accepted by them and most of all loved and accepted by God. Coming to the full acceptance that He loved me no matter what and I was chosen and accepted into His family with all my hurt and other baggage. Even more so, he wanted me to let Him have all of the hurt and baggage because in actuality, He had already taken care of it in His death and resurrection. It was not an overnight experience, but as time would go on, I grew more and more confident and was able to truly believe that I could be and was loved unconditionally.

Upon completing the ministry training program, I would return to college and eventually earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in Substance Abuse. I would grow more and more through my interaction with the recovery community during my studies. I continued my studies at the Graduate level and earned my Master of Arts degree in Counseling. For the most part since earning my Bachelor’s degree I have been in social and or mental health services.
It has been just in the last 4 years that I have seemed to come into the realization of many of the gifts with which the Lord has blessed me and utilizing those gifts to share the light of hope and most of all His unconditional love with the hurting. In that process, I have met and ministered to some of the most amazing strong, yet broken people. People that I have been blessed to play a part in His healing and putting them back together. As I move forward that is my goal to reach more and more with the goodness of His grace and love. I want to publish a book of my recovery and inspirational articles and saying and pictures. Eventually, I want to speak to groups, churches, conferences and share with them this amazing message of hope and healing. I truly believe that if we were to grasp the love that He has for us and then genuinely share that love with others, there is nothing that He cannot heal and restore. He takes the broken pieces and puts them back together to make a brand new vessel that is more beautiful that we were before we were broken. I am glad that you have crossed my path and I hope we can walk together as we continue this journey called “Life”.
While my story does not have the trauma and severe mental illness or substance abuse that many of you have had to battle, it is my story and I honestly hope that if nothing else it helps you to understand me and where I am coming from. Second, I hope that it empowers and encourages you to keep working and moving forward in your own journey, because you may not see it today or even next week, but life does get better and the pain and suffering do end. If I can help you in anyway, I hope that you will get in contact with me.

*****

gary.headPersonally, I was a child of divorced parents at the age of 3. By the age of eight I had no relationship or contact with my birth mother. I grew up with a father that worked in the oilfield in the 70’s and 80’s. His work kept him away from home a lot. My step-mom how was the one primarily responsible for my raising, I found out as a adult, was hurt, angryand depressed with her own “issues.” Later just after my departure from the home, she required private psychiatric hospitalization due to suicide attempts. During my adolescents, I began developing co-dependent traits, and always seemed to pick the neediest and sickest of girls to be with so that I could “fix them”. Over time, I developed abandonment and rejection issues leading to depression, which revealed itself as anger and mild rebellion at home. This pattern of toxic and dysfunctional relationships continued up until I met my wife. I can not lie and say that the rejection issues and fears do not occasionally rear their ugly head, but it is much better than ever before.

I guess in a way, I chose the career that I have, because I am still a little co-dependent and want to help others get better.

Seeing as I have worked primarily in the Public/State funded sector, I guess, I have trained myself to separate my faith from my much of my teaching and presentation. However, I honestly believe that there is no TRUE recovery without faith; and my faith is in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and His Son Jesus, the Christ.

I hope that now you will understand why Recovery and Hope are so precious and important to me. I hope that you will continue to visit and be encouraged and empowered as you continue along this long and at times difficult journey.

Gary can be found on his blog, Facebook and Twitter

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By | 2015-09-08T16:29:18+00:00 September 14th, 2015|Categories: Brave People, Stigma Fighters|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

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