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The Righteous Rage of a Ten-Year-Old Boy

a memoir

by Justin B. Long

Justin B. Long

Release Date: 22 March 2021

The Righteous Rage of a Ten-Year-Old-Boy

Justin B. Long

 

A traumatic childhood led to a life burdened by negative feelings. But what truths lie undiscovered in the wreckage of the past?

Justin Long never felt good enough. After years of physical and psychological abuse from his parents, he was a self-loathing stranger to love. But at thirty-two, he faced up to the fact that his existence had become a downward spiral of alcoholism and despair.

Knowing something had to change, Justin sought help and got sober. But defeating addiction was just the start of his journey of endurance and revelation. Committed to becoming whole, he fought through his cynicism about counseling in order to resolve his underlying pain and rise above his past.

Justin’s raw narrative is a dark yet hopeful outpouring of one man’s battle toward emotional health through self-awareness and therapy. Pairing each trauma with the treatment plan that helped him discover it, he presents an engaging and healing window into his ongoing recovery. And with unflinching honesty, he offers an encouraging and powerful message on the importance of inner validation.

The Righteous Rage of a Ten-Year-Old Boy is an invigorating true story. If you like tales of overcoming hardship, and gaining tools to improve your own life, then you’ll love Justin B. Long’s inspirational memoir.

Justin B. Long
Click here to read a free excerpt from the book!

Excerpt from Chapter 2 of The Righteous Rage of a Ten-Year-Old Boy by Justin B. Long.

I sat in the black leather chair in my therapist’s office, trembling with anger and indignation. My lizard brain just wanted to smash things, to burn off my feelings with mindless violence. While I rarely gave in, I wanted to learn how to grow past such urges and stop living as a victim of my emotions. It was my third session, and we were starting to work on specific things. It was good, but it was painful, too.

“I want you to really get inside of that feeling,” Nysa was saying. “Move past the mindless rage and find the core of it. Yes, you’re mad at AT&T on the surface, but what’s beneath the anger?”

We were talking about triggering events. I was well-acquainted with the concept that underlying insecurities drove my emotional response to certain things, and that most of my problems stemmed from some negative belief about myself. Knowing it is one thing. Doing something about it is another.

Getting to the bottom of the rage was tough. I thought about all the things that had gone wrong with the internet installation project at our veterinary clinic, and how AT&T had handled it, or more appropriately, not handled it. For example, no one had told me that as the business owner, I needed to have a ground wire installed to the hardware rack for the box they were putting in. When the installation team showed up, they had to reschedule because I didn’t have that done. Then they charged me three hundred fifty dollars for rescheduling. That’s how it went for the entire three months it took to get the internet up and running.

“I think I just feel helpless,” I said. “They’re screwing me over, and I can’t do anything about it. That’s what pisses me off.”

Nysa shifted in her chair. “Helpless. That’s a good word. Let’s explore it. Do you feel this way about other things you can’t control?”

One of the many things I’ve learned about myself is that I’m a control freak. I’m not a micro-manager, and I’ve used that to convince myself that I’m not a control freak. But when I defend myself by saying things like, I allow my team members to decide the best way to do things, I am still presenting myself as being in ultimate control. I’m allowing them to make a decision.

“It’s not an across-the-board reaction to things. I mean, I certainly don’t like it when I get cut out of the decision-making process at work, which happens sometimes, but that’s not the same as this. That’s me feeling left out or unimportant, and this is me feeling like I’m the victim of an injustice.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere.” Nysa jotted down some notes. “Victim of an injustice. Let’s go with that. Give me another example of that happening.”

Several things came to mind. Getting caught up in a battle between a company I worked for and the labor union that got voted in, which resulted in me losing my job. Being demoted in the Army for a minor infraction. Reaching back to the heart of the matter, my childhood, I found more.

“Here’s one. When I was in high school, I saved up money and bought my first car. I didn’t borrow any money from my parents, not that they had any. I worked, I saved up, and I paid cash for this old 1976 Chevy Blazer. It was mine. And my dad grounded me from it. I don’t even remember what crime I committed against him, but I remember the war over whether he had the power to take my keys. He won, because he always won, but I remember that helpless rage. I hated that feeling. Still do.”

“Okay, that’s a good example,” Nysa said. “Give me another one.”

The memory that surfaced was old, but the jagged edges were still sharp. “My dad came home from work one day and went out to the garage to do something. I was in my room doing a school assignment. I think I was in third or fourth grade. Anyway, three seconds after he went outside, he was right back in the house screaming for me.”

I closed my eyes, trying to conjure the old terror I used to feel at the sound of my name. It came back surprisingly easy, the recipe having been used so many times: two parts urge to run, one part gut cramp like I need to use the bathroom, one part overwhelming desire to cease existing.

“Justin Boyd!” my dad shouted. He always used my first and middle names when he was mad. “Justin Boyd!”

I flew out of my room and met him at the back door. When he was enraged, speed was of the essence. My mind raced, trying to come up with a source for his ire. What could I have done? He hadn’t even made it to the garage before whatever it was caught his attention. Had I forgotten a task he’d assigned me? Something in the back yard I was supposed to do?

He grabbed me by the ear, one of his favorite control points, and dragged me out the back door. I knew a beating was inevitable at this point, and tears of resignation began to form against my will.

“What the hell is this shit?” He shook his fist as he spoke, driving spikes of pain deep inside my skull.

The searing pain in my eardrum was making me dizzy, and I tried to move my head in time with his hand so he wouldn’t tear my ear off. “I don’t know what you mean!”

He switched his grip to the sides of my head, and spun it roughly from left to right, forcing me to pan the back yard. “That!”

When my vision stabilized, I realized there was trash all over the ground. Literally everywhere. One of the dumpster carts lay on its side near the pecan tree. My first thought was that a stray dog had scattered the trash, but a dog couldn’t have pulled the cart in from the alley where we kept it. It had to have been a person, probably one of the kids from school.

“Were you too lazy to take the trash out?” he demanded, shaking my head. “Did you think you could just throw it out in the yard and get away with it?”

It finally dawned on me that he thought I was responsible. “No, I didn’t do that! Why would I?”

“Do you think I’m stupid? Who else would have done it?” He shoved me back in the house. “Go get the board.”

He’d made the paddle himself, which he dubbed The Board, for the sole purpose of spanking me. Sending me to fetch my instrument of punishment was another of his favorite moves.

Arguing with him was useless. He believed that I’d thrown trash all over the yard, even though I’d never done anything like that in my life. Nothing I could say would change his mind, because he was incapable of admitting that he was wrong. I ran to the cabinet where he kept the paddle and hurried back out with it. I wanted to scream right in his face that he was being stupid, that if he’d just think about it for ten seconds, he’d realize how ridiculous he was being. Instead, I handed him the paddle and silently accepted my fate.

“Get the trash can,” he growled, snatching the board out of my hand. “We’re going to pick this up, and you’ll get one swat for every piece of trash in this yard. I promise you’ll never pull a stunt like this again.”

I was used to getting spanked, but never more than ten or fifteen licks. One swat for every piece of trash? He couldn’t be serious, right? An icy spear of dread shot through me as he grabbed my other ear and dragged me to the first one, an empty mac and cheese box. As I dropped it in the cart, the board cracked across the back of my legs.

One.

I opened my eyes, coming back to the present.

Nysa stared at me. “Do you remember how many pieces of trash there were?”

“One hundred and four.”

“You got a hundred and four swats?”

The memory, at least thirty-five years old, was still clear, every detail all the way down to the way my legs burned. “Yeah. It took a while, but we got it all picked up.”

She shook her head. “Did you ever find out how it really happened?”

“No.” I looked down. “No, but I’m sure it was one of the kids in the neighborhood trying to stick it to my dad. He wasn’t very popular. Or maybe they were trying to stick it to me, I don’t know. I wasn’t very popular, either.”

“What did that event make you believe about yourself?”

It was easy to feel the rage, the overwhelming sense of injustice. I remembered pulling the can slowly from one piece of trash to the next, trying to buy an extra second or two of recovery time, my legs and butt on fire from my knees to my spine. Dreading the next swat, knowing it was going to land somewhere that already stung, because there weren’t any fresh places left after the first twenty strikes. Using the helpless anger as motivation to keep going in hopes that he would someday know that he’d been wrong about this and be consumed by his guilt. My feelings for my dad were easy to identify, but the ones about myself were more obscure.

“I think I felt defeated and utterly alone,” I said at last. “I was helpless, but the fact that I was going to take a totally undeserved beating hurt even more. My dad didn’t believe me. I’d done nothing wrong, I’d told the truth, and I was being destroyed for it. When I tried, I failed. When I did nothing, I still failed. The deck was stacked against me.”

She wrote in silence for a moment. “Okay. Let’s take this all the way back, as far as you can into your childhood. What’s the earliest time you can remember being the victim of an injustice?”

My childhood was an unbroken line of injustices, at least to me. To say that my relationship with my parents was adversarial would be like saying that space is big. It’s technically true, but a gross understatement.

My dad ruled me totally and completely. He was quick with a criticism and quicker with the paddle. I got a spanking nearly every day of my life until I was thirteen. My mom had her own debilitating emotional challenges, which she was sure that God would fix if she just prayed fervently enough, found the right church, and got involved to the level that He noticed her. Sometimes she was my ally, and sometimes she sold me out to my dad. I never knew which way it would go.

“I always had a heavy workload,” I said. The eggshell wall of my therapist’s office was decorated with an abstract picture of a motorcycle, and I stared at the spokes on the front wheel as I tried to unearth the buried memories. “My dad was the kind of guy who always had fifteen projects going, a real do-it-yourselfer. He never paid anyone to do anything in his whole life, I don’t think. I was in awe of him in some ways. He knew how to do everything. Electrical, plumbing, carpentry, mechanic, he did everything himself, and I was his laborer, the go-fetch runner, and the flashlight holder.”

I closed my eyes again and explored things that I hadn’t thought about in years. Crushing cans with the sixteen-pound sledgehammer that I could barely lift. Digging ditches for the new water line my dad was installing. Splitting firewood with that same sledgehammer, pounding steel wedges into the logs, praying that I didn’t break another handle and invoke even more rage. Pulling nails from recycled lumber. Watching my friends ride by on their bicycles while I worked.

“This probably isn’t the earliest, but it’s what’s coming to mind,” I said at last.

“That’s okay,” she said. “Just go with it.”

I glanced at her. The tiny diamond-chip studs in her upper lip reflected the light from her computer monitor, drawing my eyes away from her dark, purple-streaked hair. She wore a white sleeveless blouse above her long, pleated skirt, exposing slender arms covered in tattoos. I might’ve looked like a typical strait-laced white guy with my button-down shirt and khaki trousers, but I totally identified with her look on the inside. It was a defiant reaction to whatever trauma she had endured, and I got it. She was my people.

“One of my jobs was splitting and stacking firewood. Dad cut it to length with a chainsaw, and I did the rest. He built this rack behind the house, two poles in the ground vertically, maybe fifteen feet apart, and six feet high. There was a wire that went across the top from one pole to the other to keep them from splaying out under the weight. My job was to keep that space full and neatly stacked with firewood from one pole to the other, all the way up to the wire. There couldn’t be any gaps at the top, and no pieces out of line. We would stand at one end of it and count how many pieces were sticking out the front or the back, and then I would get a spanking, one swat for each piece. The injustice for me was that the wood wasn’t always the same length. Sometimes he would cut a piece longer, but I wasn’t allowed to make excuses.”

Nysa took notes on the pad in her lap. “So, you couldn’t defend yourself by explaining that it was his shortcoming that he was spanking you for, not yours.”

“Right. Well, some of it was his, and some was mine. I would be daydreaming, thinking about a book I was reading or something, and sometimes I wouldn’t realize that I had a few pieces out of line until there was a whole stack on top of them, and I would just take the beating rather than unstack all that wood to fix it. That part was on me.”

“And you felt like you deserved punishment for that part?”

I squirmed, aware of where she was going. “He was trying to teach me to always do my best, and spanking was his motivation tool. I knew the system. I was going to get whipped every day no matter what I did, and it made sense to me that I was choosing a few extra licks rather than a half hour of extra work to fix my own mistakes. It was my fault for not paying more attention.”

“So, the sense of injustice wasn’t about the work or the spankings, it was just about the swats you got for pieces of wood that he cut too long.”

“Right.” I tried to remember what it felt like, standing in front of the stack of wood after hours of work, waiting as my dad inspected it so I could take my licks. “Mostly.”

“Okay. Let’s do some processing.” She handed me a set of paddles, small plastic discs with a wire coming out of them, one to hold in each hand.

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