By Floyd Godfrey, LPC
*True account - December 2013. It is inspiring for me to watch the healing and growth that brotherhood can facilitate.
The boys all sat quietly as Davey was speaking. It was only his second time in the “Band of Brothers” group therapy program in Mesa AZ. He was nervous. This was a group for boys who struggled with compulsive pornography usage. At fourteen years old, he was the youngest member of the group, and the rest of the boys were in high school. Davey stammered a bit as the therapist asked, “What do you need to feel safe in here with the other guys?”
He thought about his response, and finally replied, “I need to know that the guys aren’t going to make fun of me about my problems.” His eyes were brimming, but he held back the tears. He was afraid to say more and expose his emotions. The group therapist spoke to the entire group: “How many of you will commit that you won’t make fun of Davey if he shares his problems?”
Every hand in the circle quickly went up. The group of twelve boys was accustomed to hearing problems and supporting one another. There had never been any teasing or making fun of another. One of the group members then asked him, “Davey… are there boys at school that have made fun of you? Because we don’t do that here.”
Davey hesitated then replied, “Sort of.” It was obvious he was holding back a quivering lip. A short pause and the therapist spoke up. “Davey… why don’t you take a risk and see if these guys can support you. You’ve already mentioned that Christmas is really hard for you. Can you share more about that?”
The young man took a deep breath, and while twelve teenage faces were attuned to his words, he began to explain: “When I was little, my dad used to get drunk. Really drunk. He would hit me and scare me. Sometimes he would yell and say it was all my fault.” He took a trembling breath as the tears began to stream. “In the morning he didn’t remember, and would ask how I got all the bruises. I didn’t even know what I did that was my fault. It happened all the time. One day my mom finally left him, and she sent me to live with my grandma. It was better because no one was hitting me, but I really missed my mom and dad.”
Every young man was now riveted on Davey’s story. “On Christmas Eve he called me. I hadn’t heard from him in awhile. He told me he loved me.” The tears were now uncontrollable as he continued describing the experience. “I was so happy to hear him say that he loved me. I wanted to hear that for a long time.” Davey paused to breathe between his tears. He continued, “The next morning… we received a call that he died. He had died that very night he called me. Christmas morning! I just wanted him to love me… I wanted to be good enough… and now he was dead.”
There was a silent pause as Davey sat crying. The therapist finally spoke up. “Davey… choose someone in the circle that seems supportive.” Through blurred vision, the boy looked around the circle and chose an older boy named Dee who was eighteen. The therapist asked, “Why did you choose Dee?” Davey responded, “Because he looks like an older brother - he’s big and strong… and someone who might care.” As Dee sat down next to him, the therapist asked, “Did you ever have someone in your life that you could talk to and feel supported? Someone who cared about you like a brother?” His response was obvious: “No.”
Dee put his arm around him as Davey slowly sank into his chest, now sobbing. Dee’s words were just like an older brother: “It wasn’t your fault buddy. No one should ever treat you that way.”
We all watched as the young man received healing validation from an older brother. As he tenderly received messages of hope and support from a mentor. When Davey’s breathing became steady, Dee looked at the other boys in the group. With a boyish smirk he said, I think we need a group hug! At this cue, the rest of the group stood up and gathered around. There was some laughing… some poking… and some banter, while the center of the circle revealed a few more tears. Davey had never experienced this deep level of brotherhood and acceptance.
As the boys withdrew from the hug to form a circle, Davey emerged with a tear-streaked face. He looked into the eyes of the other young men with a new sense of connection and confidence. Is this how life was supposed to be? Could people really be this understanding and caring? A new sense of relief swept over Davey as he stood in the presence of his new brothers. Perhaps he could find his self-confidence again. Perhaps he could trust others again. And… perhaps life could bring joy.
*Band of Brothers is a group therapy program in Mesa Arizona facilitated by therapists at the Family Strategies Counseling Center. Check out our link for more information: Band of Brothers or call us at 480-668-8301.