Give and Take


Three years ago, I wrote out the first and very rough draft of Breaking the Ruhls. The process that unfolded shortly after my stay in the monastery involved trusting someone to not only read what I had written, but forcing myself to listen to her advice about what to do next.

I hired my first editor, and embarked upon turning what I now called my first “purge” into a book. I submitted the draft to the editor, and she prepared a report. I was unprepared for what came back.

I read through the pages of suggestions and ways to formulate structure, but her words made my chest tighten: “You’ve told us your story. Now you need to show us how it felt.”

I understood what she was asking of me. Through tears, I told my husband I didn’t think I could do it. He added to my fears when he said I could absolutely tackle what was in store, but it came down to whether or not I truly wanted to.

For the next eight months, I relived, through writing, the story of my childhood and my subsequent challenges as an adult. Sexual abuse, mental illness, sexuality, and addiction. I struggled to reveal the magnitude of the feelings associated with those times, and even when I thought I had said enough, my editor pushed me further. On a handful of days, I was convinced I’d had enough.

The first half of Breaking the Ruhls focuses on my childhood and life in my parents’ house. Those were the hardest chapters to write. Once I started to write about how that experience affected me as an adult man, I relied more on my therapist for guidance and grounding. A temporary feeling of victory came each time my editor told me to move on to a new chapter, as she insisted on finishing each one before tackling the next. I’ve always needed to stay in motion. I find feeling stuck unbearable. Moving on is what I do best, so this was a challenge for me.

A few days ago, I received my first copies of Breaking the Ruhls.

After a recurring nightmare that I received the book and the title was misspelled, I asked my husband to open the box and double check. He beamed as he looked up, before handing it to me.

An assumption I am presented with often is, “It must’ve been cathartic to write this book.” Truthfully, the writing was not cathartic. It was painful. But now that I have the finished book in my hands, I do feel a sense of relief, or catharsis, as my story now stands on its own.

I did a “Give and Take” podcast interview with Scott Kent Jones the same day I received the finished book. He immediately put me at ease, even as he asked me some tough questions.

I share that podcast here, as it feels like another significant step in the process of healing.