Peter Morrison


Peter Morrison

Paul’s friend opens up about being adopted by a physically and sexually abusive paranoid schizophrenic mother, being a child actor, becoming sexually promiscuous and almost dying from AIDS.  They talk about spirituality, Peter’s Christianity, and the importance of surrender.



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Episode Transcript:

Paul: Welcome to episode 102 with my guest Peter Morrison. I’m Paul Gilmartin. This is The Mental Illness Happy Hour, 90 minutes of honesty about all the battles in our heads; from medically diagnosed conditions and past traumas to everyday compulsive, negative thinking. This show’s not meant to be a substitute for professional, mental counseling. It’s not a doctor’s office. It’s more like a waiting room that doesn’t suck. Look at that – I got right to it. I kind of like that.

The website for this show is There’s all kinds of stuff that you find there. There’s a forum you can connect to other listeners through. There’s all kinds of topics and threads created so go join it and start sharing with each other. There’s a lot of people that are active on it already. And it’s beautiful witnessing people connecting over similar issues. There are also a bunch of surveys that you can take. You can also see how those other people who have taken the survey have responded, so if you like—if you’re fascinated by other people and what makes them tick, go check that out.

Oh a reminder, I’m coming to Portland April 18th-21st for the Bridgetown Comedy Festival, and, yeah, so hopefully I’ll get to meet some of you folks from Portland and maybe interview a couple of you. What else is happening that I wanted to share with you—oh! I fired my therapist. Which was really kind of hard to do. And I “fired,” is that the word? “Cut him loose?” “Gave him a pink slip?” She was good but there was something lacking. I’ve probably had about six different therapists over the last 20 years, but there’s something specifically that a few of the therapists have that I now seek out which is this intangible quality that I feel safe and comforted by them. And I can’t put it into words but I know it when I see it and I wasn’t getting that with this therapist. I got the feeling that intellectually she knew what she was doing. She was very well trained, although a lot of times she was scattered and hadn’t remembered what we had done before and that kind of hurt my feelings a little bit. But that wasn’t the sole reason; it was a contributing reason to it. But I’m learning in my support groups to identify my needs and to seek out having them met. And so I emailed her and said I’m moving on to a different therapist. And the awkward thing is it’s another therapist in that office. I saw this therapist come in and she exchanged pleasantries with me for about ten seconds and I went, “That’s it. That woman has that energy.” I think if I could try to put it into words, what it is – it’s an energy that they have that I can feel aids in bringing up what is buried inside me, oftentimes a sadness. And I picture myself—I never had the feeling like I wanted to cry in front the therapist that I let go. It felt like there was still like a wall up and when I had a therapist where I feel felt and heard and feel like they’re really empathizing with me, not being paid to, it brings up something really deep in me. And it can be really productive in therapy. And so I had my first session with that new therapist, and it did not disappoint and I think it’s going to be very productive and I’m happy I did it but it was hard. It was really hard.

The other thing that I’ve been doing which is, God I hope it works, I’ve been doing trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, which is this new procedure where you go in five days a week for an hour or 45 minutes and they put a big magnet on your head and send pulses, and it feels like a woodpecker with a dull beak poking away at your head for 45 minutes and it’s supposed to increase the blood flow in the area of your brain where you struggle to have feeling. And basically it’s a machine for those of us who feel dead inside. So I’m hoping that that works because my depression has been creeping back in. So I’ll keep you guys posted on how that goes.

One of the surveys I put up was rate your top ten episodes from 2012. And so these are as voted by you the listeners counting down from number 10 to number 1, your favorite episodes of 2012:

ten Policeman Andy

nine Laurie Kilmartin

eight Dave Holmes

seven Steve Agee

six Kerri Kenney-Silver

five Nadereh Fanaeian

four Rob Delaney

three Chris Hardwick

two The 2nd episode with Dr. Jessica Zucker

one The 1st episode with Dr. Jessica Zucker

So thank you guys for participating in that and thank you to those guests of mine that helped make those episodes possible.

I want to read from the Struggle in a Sentence survey. This first one was filled out by Rachel, she’s in her 30’s, she describes her depression as, “The world is spinning around me and my feet are filled with lead.” About her anxiety she says, “There is something that I absolutely have to take care of and I can’t find out what it is.” That one—I think I may have read that one before. But if I did it’s worth repeating.

This was filled out by Nikki, she’s in her 30’s about her depression, she writes, “My own personal rain cloud on a leash, a lowness that follows me and lingers in the background even on beautiful days.” About her trichotillomania, she writes, “If I just make sure there are no irregular hairs and pull them, then I can relax.”

This is from the Shame and Secrets survey filled out by a guy who calls himself DNT. He’s in his 20’s, was raised in an environment that was a little dysfunctional. “Ever been the victim of sexual abuse?” He writes, “Yes, and I never reported it. And also some stuff happened but I don’t know if it counts as sexual abuse. In university I got blackout drunk and had sex with a girl with whom I didn’t want to. I had a girlfriend at the time. I felt that the girl had taken advantage of me.”

“Deepest, darkest thoughts?” “I sometimes fantasize about killing/torturing certain media figures.”

“Deepest, darkest secrets?” “When I was about six, my babysitter’s daughter forced me to eat her out so that I could play video games and then later threatened to tell on me if I didn’t continue.” About his sexuality, I don’t know if I mentioned this, he says that he’s bisexual and writes underneath it, “I don’t believe that sexuality is that black and white. I am sometimes straight other times gay, more often than not I am asexual.” Which makes sense to me as a victim of sexual abuse. A lot of time victims of sexual abuse will go either one way or the other. They’ll either become extremely promiscuous or sexually and social anorexic.

“Sexual fantasies most powerful to you?” He writes, “I’m a sexual recluse. I fear intimacy. I’m disgusted by the fluids and hate feeling vulnerable. I imagine this stems from the sexual experiences of my past. Still I am drawn towards fellatio, an act that I was forced into at a very young age.”

“Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend?” He writes, “I would not, because I would fear that I would come across as damaged.”

“Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself?” He writes, “I feel weak.” Well, DNT, I’m sending you a big hug buddy, you’re not alone. You are not alone.

This is from the Body Shame survey, filled out by Harold who is a transgender, female to male. Bisexual, in his 20’s and writes, “I hate my thin arms. I feel like they give away how feminine I am. I hate my chest, especially because my nipples are too large and I’m afraid that if I can ever afford male chest surgery, it will look fucked up because of them. I hate my cunt, but not really. I hate that I’m supposed to hate it, supposed to apologize for it our lie about it when being a dude with a cunt is kind of fucking awesome. If I could magically replace it with a dick, I might, but it would still be a tough decision. I like my chest hair and the hair on my legs and torso in general. It’s especially awesome because I haven’t started testosterone supplements yet, I’m just a naturally hairy guy. I could even grow a douche-y neck beard if I wanted to. And even if it’s too feminine sometimes I think my face is pretty cute. When I thought I was supposed to be a woman, I thought I was ugly and like a goblin. But as a man I actually stack up pretty well.” Thank you for that, Harold.

This is also from that same survey and this is filled out by a woman named Fiona who’s in her 50’s, she’s straight, and what do you like or dislike about your body and why? And she writes, “As a woman of a ‘certain age’, I find that I am far more comfortable with my body than when I was 30 years younger. I was a natural beauty but very uncomfortable with all the attention, having been abused as a child in the past as the pretty one. While I have aged of course, face less taut, a few wrinkles, graying hair, I am actually healthier now than ever, from exercising, eating right, etc. And the health and ability to be comfortable with how my feels and what it can do, from giving birth to hugging the dying, to moving my own furniture, makes the looks part less important. As someone who was so neurotic and insecure about my looks and by others like me at the time, I just wanted to say it does get better with age. You begin to appreciate the life you have.” That’s so beautiful. Thank you for that.

And before we go to Peter’s interview I just have one more thing—one more survey that I wanted to read. And this is from the Happy Moments survey, filled out by Ricky who’s a male and he’s in his 20’s. And his happy moment, he writes, “My dad had been an alcoholic for the first 12 years of my life. It was all I knew about him. I learned to accept his condition and the pain that came with dealing with it. In July of 1999 I was a 12-year-old insecure child that just wanted a normal relationship with his father. I had such a hard time going to my father’s house, my parents were divorced at age 3, that I would beg my mom to tell him that I was sick. But in that month, everything changed. He wanted to pick me up. He had good news he said. He asked me, ‘Do you notice anything different about me?’ I told him I hadn’t. That was a lie. It was noon and the man hadn’t had a drink of alcohol yet. The thought entered my mind that maybe the good news was that he quit drinking. At that age, as much as I hoped that, I didn’t want to guess that and be let down. He replied to me, ‘What haven’t I done all day?’ I got the courage to reply, ‘Drink?’ He then explained that he regretted the relationship that he failed to form with me over the past 12 years. He apologized for the drunken Little League games where he embarrassed me, the nights where he made me apologize to my crying mother for something he did. Everything I wanted. Everything. I wanted to burst into tears. I was thrilled. But something really held me back from showing my excitement. I didn’t want to be let down. That night we went to Camelot, a local arcade. Back then my dad was a huge pinball fanatic. Going out on the weekends I spent with my dad was a new thing for me. I was so used to having him drink at home while we watched a movie but this, this was new and exciting. We jumped from pinball machine to pinball machine, having a decent time. I’ll never forget the pinball machine we ended up at, it was Apollo 13: The Movie. That night we spent hours playing it, almost beating it, pumping in more quarters, more quarters. Well somehow we beat it. I’ll always remember the memory of jumping up and down with my father at that arcade. I remember looking up at his face and seeing a smile that wasn’t due to alcohol. I remember the looks on d Paxton’s and Tom Hanks’s faces as they looked down at us from the machine. They seemed happy for us. My dad was happy to be with me. And that was all I needed in that moment. It was the beginning of our relationship that is solid today. That was the day I began to truly know my father.”


Paul: I’m here with my friend, Peter Morrison, who I have known for probably three years, two or three years.

Peter:  Uh huh.

Paul: Something like that.

Peter:  Seems like longer.

Paul: It seems like ten years. In a good way.

Peter:  Ok.

Paul: Peter and I know each from a support group and leaned on each other so heavily.

Peter:  No, I leaned on you.

Paul: No, I leaned on you. Our first year in the support group. I will always remember walking around—I would be in various cities because I was still doing standup at the time and I would remember—I would be talking to you on the phone and I would be walking near some downtown area, and we’d both just be talking to each other about either how miserable we were or how scared we were or how happy we were.

Peter:  No, you never let on how miserable you were.

Paul: No?

Peter:  No. You were always like the strong one. I was, I was a mess.

Paul: Well, you were going through a lot too at that time.

Peter:  But so were you, that is my point.

Paul: Yeah. It’s funny, sometimes it’s—you remember a feeling, you forget the specifics, but I remember a feeling of talking to you on the phone and feeling like I was meant to be talking to you at that moment, and my—that would take like my fear away.

Peter:  I loved you from the first time I talked to you. That’s the bottom line. We had such a good thing and it’s such a blessing to be here now talking and I hope that a lot of people are able to hear this. Who knows what we’re gonna talk about?

Paul: Well I want the listeners to hear your story because I always—when you would tell me parts of you story, I would say, “Well, I don’t know if I could recover if I had it as bad as Peter.” Let’s talk about it.

Peter:  You know I want to caveat that by saying I’m really grateful to God that I don’t have to identify myself as my story anymore because, yeah, I agree, a lot went down. But I, even to this moment, just have to be aware of how I’m talking about it. Because when you grow up—when God gives you challenges in your life, it’s easy to get lost in the challenge instead of the purpose of the challenge. And I was so addicted to, when I met you, to just talking and being in the challenge. You know, allowing the discussion of it to affect me emotionally and make me feel like a good person or that I’d accomplished something. I really didn’t feel any of that, it was just through the talking about it. So I’m just sitting here grateful before we start, reminded that, you know, God has a lot more for me than just what I’ve been through.

Paul: Yeah. To those—I know we have a lot of listeners—

Peter:  Hello, listeners.

Paul: That are atheists, and I would ask you to put your differences aside and hang with this episode. You may not have the beliefs that Peter does, or that I do, but Peter’s story is worth hearing and the reason I preface that is I know some people get turned off when talk about God. Especially when people who’ve lived through something difficult talk about God, because then they think, “Well, you’re a fool! How can you think that there’s a God when that happened to you?”

Peter:  And I’ll tell you, thank you, I just want to tell all of you that I more than anyone was a non-believer, ok, this is a very recent thing. And unbeknownst to me, I’ll be very clear, I am a Christian, I do believe in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. That’s very important for me to say because that’s where I’m coming from. But that was not always the case. In fact, if you told me that I would be looking at the Bible as my one and only salvation, and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, calling on the Holy Spirit 100 or 200 times a day in the heat of the moment when I need it most, I would tell you you’re f-ing crazy. Now I’m actually the one to talk to you if you are an atheist, because at heart I’m still in shock that I have this amount of adherence to Christian principles. And I’ll be very clear, you know, there were many times in my life where religious people tried to get me to see things they way they wanted me to see them, and there was absolutely—I used to profess, I’m a complete non-joiner. I still am to a large degree. You know, I don’t like to join groups, and group sports and group talk and group outings, group—definitely not group religion. So it’s fitting that we start talking about this because I think it’s really important. I think it’s important, you know, I know the only that I got to where I am, and, mind you, the only reason I like to talk about the religious side is because of the amount of joy it brings me. The only way I got here is by being allowed to find my own way and by being drawn to people who let me find my own sense of a power greater than myself. I will say this, and to all of you, I absolutely know for a fact that until you are able to surrender to something greater than yourself, there can be no true happiness and no true healing. There can’t. And I say that with all due respect in the most non-denominational sense. I’m not saying religious, I’m not calling it anything, but until one understands the process of how to surrender to something greater than themselves, which means that you have to come to some terms and some definition for yourself of what that greater thing is.

Paul: Would a Costco membership fall under that category?

Peter:  I guess, although I have to be wary only—although no, in all seriousness I have to be wary—and it’s funny because I’m writing a paper on this very subject right now. Materialism is a dangerous higher power.

Paul: Oh, that’s the understatement of the century.

Peter:  Uh, yeah.

Paul: The understatement of the century.

Peter:  Yeah, it’s just one of them, actually.

Paul: So with that preface put in place, I want the listener to know that the object of this episode is not to try to convert anybody. I want to just tell you one person’s story, one person’s—what they’ve been through and where they’re at right now. Before we started rolling, you said—tell me what you were talking about, where you just came from.

Peter:  I just came back yesterday from visiting families of origin, because I have quite a few, people I haven’t seen anywhere from 15 to 25 years.

Paul: Does that include your parents?

Peter:  It does, all of them. I saw all four sets of them.

Paul: Four sets being?

Peter:  Adopted, birth, surrogate and step.

Paul: Oh wow.

Peter:  Plus assorted estranged business associates and friends that I’ve not seen in forever long. And it’s funny, with some of them there were actually rumors that I had died and it’s surreal when you have people who you were so close to looking at you in shock because they literally thought you were dead. But then it was just such a testament to—and I told them that I was, I was very much dead, you know, but just to have people who are supposed to be close to you and who you’ve been estranged from by choice, I have to say, look at you in shock that you’re alive, just as a testament to how far apart we’ve become.

Paul: Where are you from originally?

Peter:  Originally, I grew up in New York.

Paul: City or state?

Peter:  Long Island. Born in Bronxville or something like that. I grew up on Long Island although I call it doing time. I don’t call it growing up. You don’t grow up on Long Island. And—but from an early age, a very early age, I was travelling all over the world and so I’d like to think that I’m from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I don’t consider myself from anywhere in particular, not from Long Island, I think because I had so many external influences. And I was always a kid who, I don’t know, Long Island just irked me. It didn’t feel like the place I was supposed to be even as a very young kid.

Paul: And why were you travelling all over the world?

Peter:  My careers. I was in the performing arts.

Paul: And what did you do?

Peter:  I was in the ballet and I was also a child actor.

Paul: These are things that I know by the way but I’m asking you these questions for the listener.

Peter:  Yeah.

Paul: And so can you talk about what that experience was like being a child actor?

Peter:  Well, you know, I think what affected what I was doing as a kid the most was what was going on in my house, especially with my mother. Because my adoptive mother was a paranoid schizophrenic. And we can get to this later, it was nothing she nor any of us knew about. And so I was raised in a house where you were the object of other people’s issues. And I was looked at very much as the problem, which—in the family. And I spent a large part of my life being told that I was the problem and having people trying to effectively work the problem out of me, whether it be psychologically or physically. So my home life was that I was this kid who hated everything, I hated myself, I hated my life, I hated what I saw inside of myself. I didn’t understand anything. I was constantly being punished and locked up. And then my mother in her state of confusion, I think, became obsessed with the talents that she saw that I had. So it was very, very important for her A – to get me out of the house, and B – to try to make something out of my talents. So whether it be drawing—for example, my mom had a seatbelt and used to tie me to the piano bench when I wouldn’t practice and I didn’t like practicing. In the winter time she would say it’s very important—now mind you we didn’t know about her clinical—her mental condition, and you’re trying to rationalize this as it’s the dead of winter, she bundles me up, you know like those marshmallow kid suits you can’t move? She’d then stick a pencil in my hand and paper and force me to go sit out and draw trees. And she wanted every last detail to the point—she really wanted me to understand the difference between evergreen and deciduous trees, which was fine, but you can’t draw too well in the mittens and marshmallow suit. So I’d sit out there—I was hating her so much. And this went on with astronomy and bug collecting and acting. And she made me take Latin as a kid, and then ballet came into the picture and acting. And as soon as I started ballet, as soon as I started the ballet, I was—it’s like I was always looking for an escape, I was looking to get out of this house, I was looking to get out of her clutches and her insanity, and my father and my brothers and all that. And my—the first day went to the ballet class, I knew I’d found a new mother in the director, and I was seven years old. And I’ll never forget that the first time I danced, it was only about one thing, and that was to impress this lady who I had now dubbed in my head my new mom. My mom was standing at the door. I was nauseated with her watching me. There was something about me opening up and revealing something about myself that was real and deep and vulnerable that I would never, ever allow.

Paul: In front of your mom.

Peter:  Well, yes, in front of my mother, yes, particularly in front of my mother. So it was an interesting dichotomy, trying to dance completely close-hearted but trying to impress and overachieve and overcompensate at the same time.

Paul: And you were trying to hold that side of yourself from your mother seeing, but you wanted to show the rest of this to the dance teacher.

Peter:  Well, I think what I didn’t realize—correct, I guess, from an external sense, but in all actuality what I was doing—I was incapable of opening my heart truly because of what I was going through as a child. So while I thought I could be open and happy with other people outside of the house, it wasn’t possible. But yeah so very quickly my life became about, you know, getting away from this family and the people who would become my surrogate parents were foreigners and very strong-willed.

Paul: We call them ferreners.

Peter:  Ferreners?

Paul: Ferreners.

Peter:  From where do you call them that? (Paul laughs) Here in the valley?

Paul: Didn’t you know that?

Peter:  No, they were very wealthy. They were everything the opposite of my mom—the problem became very quickly that there was a triangulation going on. I was very confused because now my mother became obsessed with my careers, but if I were punished, the one thing she would take away were my lessons, which incited such rage in these directors who then would turn my parents, particularly my mother, into the bad guys. And I became the brunt of all this. And my mother, in her way, made me feel like these people were bad. And so I was so confused because everybody was pushing for me so much, but at the same time, knocking each other down. And I was a little kid, and I’ll be honest, I hated performing from the first day I ever did it. I just went back to the theater because I had to meet my surrogate parents, these directors, at the theater where they were putting on a production. It was so surreal. Out of all the days of the year they were having a show that night and I walk in after 22 years and they’re in the audience in dress rehearsal and everybody’s on the stage and that was the stage that I danced for the first time in my life, when I was 8 years old. And I found myself standing there, spellbound, remembering how much I hated that very first show, being in front of that audience I couldn’t stand it. I absolutely hated it and how poignant it is that I would continue for so many decades after that, pushing and pushing and pushing myself to succeed and achieve and never listening. And I think that’s really important, that’s something that I want to convey to your listeners – is, you know, the one thing I was never able to do was to listen to that very small part of me. Because I didn’t have that very small part of me accessible. I only had rage and, you know, extreme emotions. I had no quietness, quietude within me. But standing there after 22-23 years, actually, no it would be 35 years, it was poignant to realize, wow, I didn’t like to do it.

Paul: You never listened to that part of yourself that had dread about it.

Peter:  I thought you were supposed to do what you hated the most because I was so addicted and only knew the walking of the tightrope through life. And I’ll say, I’m 42 now, I still have that. I wake up with the dread. I wake up on the tightrope between the twin towers—no, bad analogy. But I wake up—

Paul: Have you seen that documentary by the way of the guy walking on the tightrope—

Peter: Philippe Petit. I used to work with him.

Paul: Really?

Peter:  Yeah. He was fantastic. We used to do parties, segue, we used to do parties and he would—his whole thing of he would set up his thing inside the party venue, walk across all the tables, which is almost more death-defying than seeing him do it way up high because he’s like six feet over people eating their dinner.

Paul: Wow

Peter:  He’d take food, and wine and drink, yeah, amazing.

Paul: If you haven’t seen the documentary, it’s called Man on Wire and—right, isn’t that what it’s called?

Peter: Yeah.

Paul: And it’s amazing. It’s about so much more than a man walking on a wire between two buildings without a net. It’s this guy was guy was born—that is how I need to express myself. I will stop at nothing to achieve this, yeah. It was pretty amazing. But getting back to what you were talking about. Before we go any further, can you explain the surrogate parents ,were those your adopted parents or is that different?

Peter:  I was adopted, my birth parents gave me up when I was about one. And I lived in a boarding home until then, and then I was adopted by these two people, the ones who—with the insanity in the household. And that’s who I grew up with.

Paul: In Long Island.

Peter:  In Long Island, yeah. And then my adopted mother killed herself when I was about twelve. Not knowing her condition or anything—

Paul: This is the paranoid schizophrenic.

Peter:  Yeah. Both my parents were raging alcoholics. My mother was addicted to everything under the sun in terms of pills. My adopted father, after her death, went out and got on with his life, so he basically left. We still had the house there, but he was never there. And so at 12 years old, I was like, wow, we’re free, because the insanity stopped. So he ended up getting remarried to my stepmother, which brought in a whole stepfamily. In the meantime I went to live with my directors, who I would live with for about six or seven years. So I consider them my surrogate parents.

Paul: I see.

Peter:  And then later on I would come to find my birth parents, my mother and my father and biological sister and all that. But it’s all these that I hadn’t seen in all these years that I just came back from seeing.

Paul: Who was there – all of them?

Peter:  I went to—I stayed with my birth father, God bless him, the most amazing person in the world. I am just so blown away by how God provides. It’s just amazing, incredible. I stayed with him, I went to see my stepmother, my adopted father, who’s now in a nursing home, who has Alzheimer’s, who doesn’t even know what’s going on. The last time I saw him we could actually converse. Now I look at him and he just stares at me. Anyway, so I saw them.

Paul: You sure he’s not watching Jeopardy, and just thinking?

Peter:  No. No, he may be watching Jeopardy but he’s not thinking.

Paul: Ok

Peter:  That’s the lovely, the lovely thing about Alzheimer’s.

Paul: Get used to me, by the way, bringing the interview to a screeching halt.

Peter:  Aren’t these repeat listeners? I know. I think they know. Guys, we know, don’t we? Um, no and then I saw, I went and saw my surrogate parents. And ….

Paul: And then the step.

Peter:  Step. I saw stepfamily. I reached out to my adopted brothers, my older one and my younger one. The older one lived—he was the closest to my birth father, only 20 minutes away and he didn’t even bother returning my calls. So that was um ….

Paul: Was he from the same …?

Peter:  No, different parents and I would say …

Paul: How did he get to be close to your birth father if he was …

Peter:  No, close in proximity. Close geographically.

Paul: Oh, I got ya.

Peter:  Meaning to say that it would have been the easiest to see him. The other people I was trekking three hours out to Long Island from upstate and all this stuff.

Paul: Where did the worst of the abuse take place and can you talk about that?

Peter:  Where in terms—what do you mean?

Paul: With which people and at what ages?

Peter:  Well, I would say probably the most destructive was with my adopted parents. I would say it was—yeah, I guess, because it was all day every day. It was my entire life. You know, my parents believed in hitting you, and so from a very, very early age, really around the age of 4 to 5, it was just around the age of 1st grade, and I know because 1974-1975 is such a poignant time for me. I often ask myself why am I so drawn to this? Because this is the turning point, what I understand now, I have to believe, is that my mother’s condition was changing. Her schizophrenia was now starting to take a more severe form. Because prior to that, you know, things were relatively ok. Or I was just so young I don’t remember.

Paul: Kids are so resilient.

Peter:  Yeah, but my mom used to smile and she used to laugh, and that like all went away. And suddenly now it was a constant—you being hit, and locked in your room. That was the thing, the doorknob on my door was always reversed, and I was always the one getting in trouble. My brothers, no. If we got into a fight, I was the one who was blamed. Even if I knew that they were the ones who started it, she blamed me.

Paul: Were they adopted as well, or were they—

Peter: My younger brother was biological to my adopted parents, and my older brother is from a—he was adopted from another family.

Paul: Was there favoritism towards any sibling?

Peter:  Well that’s what I’m saying. I would suppose—I always felt there was. You know, I—because I only saw me getting trouble. I only saw me getting hit. And when I got hit, it was a family affair. You know, it was my brother going to get me so that my parents could hit me. It was my father running after me and dragging me back to the house so my mother and my father could hit me. He’d sit on top of me and hit me. It was always about me getting in trouble. And I was a feisty one.

Paul: He would sit on top of you and hit you?

Peter:  Yeah. My mom—and my mom would like dig her nails into my face and, you know, she’d just be laughing. And I’d be so seething with anger and I just need to say this, and it’s a rather vulnerable thing for me to say, but I think it’s important. In that rage, with my parents sitting on me and me screaming at the top of my lungs, there was nothing and nowhere I could go. And I used to become sexually aroused. I think for lack of a better place to put all of my focus. Because there’s only so much you can hate. There’s only so much you can yell and scream and I’ll tell you, you guys, this has been a very destructive side to my personality that developed. Because as you can imagine, if you’re aroused by severe pain, you’re gonna make some pretty challenging choices for yourself in your life.

Paul: I am so glad that you said that Peter, because I have so many listeners that fill out—there’s a survey called the Shame and Secrets survey.

Peter:  Oh wow.

Paul: And we’ve had thousands of people take this survey.

Peter:  That’s amazing.

Paul: And I can’t tell you how many people hate themselves because they are turned on by some form of pain or degradation. And many of them need it to orgasm and they feel that it makes them a bad person.

Peter:  Yeah. Absolutely. And I would say from my own sense, from a spiritual perspective, it’s going against my spirit to do things like that, absolutely it’s gonna bring me shame. I understand this now.

Paul: But it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.

Peter:  No, no.

Paul: It’s just an unhealthy way of dealing with an emotion.

Peter:  No, it’s amazing, you know, Paul, for the longest time I didn’t think there was anything wrong with my upbringing, I really didn’t. And I didn’t feel like I was trying to suppress or avoid anything. I used to think we were the perfect family. It was only through concerted, turning my focus inward a little bit, and acknowledging for one second that oh my God, my life—oh it hurts. Everything hurts. I’m so—I don’t know when it happened, but there was a turning point, and I think that’s so crucial because if one thing I wish for some of your viewers is that somebody acknowledges their pain for the first time after hearing this, you know. Because that’s so important, and that’s the hardest thing, you know.

Paul: And the other point that I’d like to make is when you begin to engage in addictive behaviors, most people probably start when they’re adolescents, some even children, you do that to numb out so you don’t feel that pain. Well as you carry that addiction with you, you don’t feel that pain of all the stuff going on around you, but you feel the shame of your actions.

Peter:  Wow.

Paul: So you haven’t investigated why you needed to numb out.

Peter:  Right.

Paul: And you minimize it because you’re numb, but sadly the only thing you’re not numb to is how badly you feel about yourself and so by treating your addiction, you take that numbing away. You suddenly feel all your feelings, but being able to feel your feelings, you’re able to follow that thread back to where the pain started. And then you can begin to understand it. And then you can begin to have compassion for yourself. And then you’re not a slave to that addiction and you can begin to protect yourself from people you need to protect yourself from. That’s a point that I think is very important to make because so many people just think, “I just have no self-control. I just have no will. I’m just a bad person.” No, you probably started numbing because it would—and then they minimize it and you can’t make somebody intellectually understand that. Oftentimes the only route is to just focus on the addictive behavior and pull that thread. There is so much. It is the tip of the iceberg. It’s about—1% of it is about the addiction and the other 99% is about why this addiction formed.

Peter: Amazing. You—that’s amazing. You’re amazing, how you’re able to put things into words.

Paul: It’s not through any great—

Peter: Yes it is.

Paul: I had to live it. I had to live. And I had to make every other mistake.

Peter:  That’s greatness. That’s greatness.

Paul: Well, I’m so uncomfortable right now, but I had to make every other mistake and try ever other fucking house on the block until I discovered that one, so that—so you began to numb out, you began to …

Peter:  And going back to your question, I would say the early years from 4 until my mother died at 12, was the worst. And intermingled in there were external situations. You know, I was molested outside of the house you know, my mom used to molest and inappropriately touch me. My surrogate mother who now—these are the directors. And I was always told, “No, this is how she is.” So you know, someone says everything from, “I’m going to cut your dick off if I find out that you did this or do this.” That is abusive, to inappropriately touching you, whether it’s with your clothes on or your clothes off—and I used to have all of it, to full-fledged, you know, being molested by someone who I loved and trusted implicitly.

Paul: What would a mother do specifically to you sexually? Because this is—you know, Oprah and all the other shows have covered so many parts of child abuse, but the one that I feel a light still could be a little brighter on is the mothers that sexualize—

Peter: Their sons.

Paul: Or molest, yeah. And I want to understand more, not only—I understand they do it because they’re sick. I want to try to understand the ways that they abuse their access to children because I think as the nurturer, and having more physical contact, and more access to their children’s bodies, I want to begin to document the ways in which they abuse that trust. Because they do it not only boys, but also to girls. I get a lot of girls—women that email me that—whose mothers were way too interested in their period and, you know, spooned with them while, you know, one of them masturbated. Yeah, the list goes on and on. Can you talk specifically about what they did, if you’re comfortable.

Peter:  Yeah, absolutely. My adopted mother—you know, I have to say I never wanted to be naked around her. Although I was really, I was a total streaker as a kid. You know, I loved being naked. I actually felt good about it. But around her, no way. Because there was something about her that I sensed, I had a feeling she was gonna take it from me. So I had all these kinds of feelings, so if I walked past her with just a t-shirt on, and we’re talking 4 or 5 years old; 3, 4, 5, as early as I can recall, she would call me over to her. And she was always checking me under the guise of am I growing up yet? Well, I’m like 4 or 5 years old and so she would have to pull my shirt up and look at my genitals, and make me stand in front of her, and like she’d have to like explain to me, “Oh, well, let’s see are you getting bigger?” And I don’t think she meant like aroused bigger, I think she meant more mature. So of course that made me feel horrible. My surrogate mother, as soon as I met her, used to threaten me like I said, she would always threaten that she was gonna cut off my genitals if I did this, or should found out I was this, or I was going here or doing this with this person that she didn’t like. So I was always under the constant threat, which I never took seriously so I thought. Of course I did. What it did is it cut me off from my lower region, you know, because as long as you don’t have any feeling down there, who cares if she’s gonna cut it off? But she always used to grab me. And it would always be under the guise of like, let’s make a joke, and it used to actually make me laugh, of course, because I kind of had to, because for me if I didn’t go along with it, where did I have to go back to? What was I gonna go back to? So there was a constant grabbing at my genitals and my nipples and pulling at them, you know, and what it made me do, and she would—this was a much older woman—it made me do the same to her. You know, because if we’re gonna do tit for tat, or tit for tit, you know, (that’s really bad, you better edit that) I’m just gonna go along with it. But it made me feel awful. My—you know, so being naked around my mother was a mixed message because she would also give me bare-bottomed spankings, you know, spanked? And so again my pants would be down and I was so used to being in front of her feeling the shame about my genitals and really about me not wanting to grow because I was so fearful of—the other thing is is that I was obsessed with searching through my parents’ belongings, I think because there was so little they were giving out about themselves. And I was on this quest to find something about them, and you know, my mom had all of her vibrators and her sex books, and so I was always in her room going through her stuff. I can say I was very early on addicted to that. And the shame that that brought me, because on some level, even as a young kind, I knew there was something sexual. You know, when you see all these things that vibrate and look like penises in her nightstand on her side of the bed, I knew it wasn’t my father’s. And then all these books about adults having sex, it was always on my mind with her, and then coupled with the fact that she was always wanting to check me and inspect me and I didn’t—even the way that she used to talk about sex. And I believe in her state she did mean well, when she would try to sit and tell us or tell me about sex. Because I used to ask where do babies come from? And instead of just telling me, she would have to say, “Well, the way babies are made feels really, really good. You know it feels really good.” And she would get into the feeling almost like she was reliving it herself. And I remember even as a young kid that made me feel awful. And I think this is really what I’m left with in all of it, you know, there’s so many things that happen to us. But for all intents and purposes, after—the way to healing for me I think has been to acknowledge in my recollection of things, what made me feel bad, that’s really all it is. And I went through a very, very long time of—you go through the stages of a death. It’s a death. It’s a death of denial. And all the bargaining, you know, that—for years I used to do that, Paul. Years. It was like I was gonna go crazy. I used to—it was the start of me coming to terms with wow, something was not right. And for years, I would be on the bus, or like outside doing something and this dialog would be in my head would be like, “She did it. Oh no she didn’t.” And it was like these people—

Paul: I got an erection that one time. Well then that must have been my fault.

Peter:  I was at the supermarket and I would be going and going. And what I realize now is you know, the way to it is to go, “Well, how did it make me feel?” Because honestly, my mother could have done this—and I say this in all objectivity, someone else could have gone through the same thing and it not have the affected them the same way. And for them it may have not been considered abusive. For me, I it made me feel awful, I know it made me feel tons of shame and tons of guilt. And going back to your point before I think, you know, I think one of the most liberating and terrifying times in the healing process for me was finally starting to say, you know, my mother did this to me. Or my father did this to me. You know, there was so terror around the house. I never knew I even had that terror. But to be able to find people who I could start to just talk from that vantage point, no I didn’t—and then to almost go to an extreme with it. And to not be judged by doing that. You know, to go to the extreme where everybody’s doing everything to you, you know. But at least you’re starting to externalize and realize that you did grow—we don’t grow up in an isolated bubble. We are affected by the people who we are raised by. We are affected by our situation.

Paul: I’m glad you made that point because there is kind of a pendulum to recovery where it’s like you don’t think anything happened, then you blame everybody and everything.

Peter:  Everybody. Absolutely.

Paul: And then it kind of settles in the middle and you see them as very flawed human beings and you hopefully have compassion both for them and yourself, and ultimately the place to be I think is to be able to have compassion for other people but not at the expense of compassion for yourself.

Peter:  And that’s why they say you can’t do the healing by yourself. Because you have to have a healthy mirror. You have to have unconditional love in the present moment by someone—I think personally a group is always ideal, but for someone it may just be a person, a priest, a friend, I would say a child. Don’t do it with your children, I wouldn’t advocate doing it with your spouse. A family member, someone that you can trust who you can start to talk to who’s gonna mirror back to you in the present that you’re ok, you know, that you’re safe. I think that’s so important.

Paul: And I think what’s good about support groups too is there’s no strings attached. There’s no—they don’t have anything to gain from the relationship. And so when you feel like a relationship between you and I, you know, when I feel that love coming from you and the compassion coming from you, it—I don’t know, there’s something really, really nice about it. When it’s a room full of people that have no reason to lie to you and they’re telling you you’re loveable.

Peter:  Why don’t we talk about that a little bit because I think it’s almost ironic, you know, because yes it does feel really good, doesn’t it? The love.

Paul: It’s amazing.

Peter:  But at the same time, when you’re addicted to not that, to the opposite of that.

Paul: To isolating.

Peter:  What do we find—what do we witness with people in our different groups and stuff that come in and out? You know, I think it goes without saying, it’s—when you are raised to believe that you are worth nothing, when the voice in your head, the strongest voice in your head is telling you that you are a piece of shit, that you don’t matter and you might as well be dead, all the love in the world, you know, the better the feeling, the worse it’s gonna make you feel because, you know, you’re mirroring back to it that you’re not the one that should be feeling that.

Paul: It’s a war.

Peter:  So you’re fighting that, yeah. You’re fighting energy. It’s really—instead of allowing it in, you’re trying to deflect all of these certain qualities of energy, but then you know, the lower vibration, the hate and shame and guilt and anger and all that, you’re more than welcoming of all that. So I know for me one of the biggest things, especially when I first started allowing other people in to help me heal was the whole, you know, the other shoe is going to drop, you know?

Paul: Right.

Peter:  It’s like great, it’s great knowing you connected, you’re in the moment, you just expressed some really heavy duty stuff and you go home and you wake up the next morning and you’re like, “Oh my f’ing God, what did I do? Like how could I have talked about that?” because you know, you’re actually, you’re reliving the whole thing over. It’s …

Paul: And you’ve made yourself vulnerable.

Peter:  Exactly. Exactly. You know they say, like from a biological standpoint, all cells are doing—and I believe this from a health standpoint, because physical health plays into all of this stuff, that all cells do—we are either in a constant state of contraction or expansion. And so you can imagine how much your cells and your body, every piece of you is in a state of contraction and I’m sure some of your listeners who are experiencing a lot of emotional pain are also, you know, getting the double whammy of physical health issues. And in a large way, you know, my health issues played into my urgency and my willingness to surrender to healing, because even if I was in perfect physical health, if I didn’t have physical problems, I could probably stand the emotional pain. I probably wouldn’t look at it too much. But it was the physical that actually got me to really look at—it got me more scared.

Paul: Can you talk specifically about when you found out?

Peter:  I had sex with a guy when I was 21, and I’ll never forget. And I considered myself heterosexual before that, I’d always been into girls and I had girlfriends and enjoyed sex and all that stuff. But there was always another side of me and I think this is important too, because I—and so I had sex and I—of course I got drunk and I had unprotected sex and I proceeded to get very, very sick. And the guy that I had sex with was a good10-12 years old than I was, and I was in the hospital and I came down with—you know, I was 21, I was in New York, they said I had meningitis of the throat. They put me—I’ll never forget, I had—I was in Roosevelt Hospital, my room overlooked Gracie Mansion, and I looked out one day and I said, “I’m lucky! I got the best view!” and the nurse was like, “Actually, this is like the worst place to be. They give this to people who they know aren’t gonna make it.” And I’ll never forget that, Gracie Mansion.

Paul: Wow.

Peter:  Gracie Mansion, yeah. But so what ended up happening is—those were back in the days, we’re talking like 1992, something like that, back in the days of anonymous testing labs which is what I made sure I went to to get my test results. I knew I had HIV. I knew it right then. And I didn’t want to talk about it, I didn’t want to admit it. And the tests came back negative. And I’ll never forget, I thought, “You know what? No. There’s no way.” Fast forward, fast forward, unprotected sex, addicted to unprotected sex, never used a condom in my life, addicted to having sex with people I didn’t want to have sex with, the darkness and being estranged from my family, I transmuted all that energy into having unprotected sex because I really just wanted to just go back with them. And it was this whole big convoluted mess, but I absolutely ruined my health. Ruined my health. I ended up getting—and this is really important because I think HIV—everybody knows, or a lot of people know, that HIV caught early is completely treatable, and completely painless and you’ll never have any side effects with the refinements in medications. But there are always more complicated illnesses that come in, and one of them is HPV, that both men and women get. And I ended up having that and because of my compromised immune system it ended up converting to pre-cancerous into rectal cancer. And so for the last two-and-a-half, three years, I’ve been going through all the treatments necessary. Thankfully, thanks be to God, I’m—it’s apparently, allegedly, gone. It’s out of my system. But needless to say, what happened early on in youth had me wrecking myself physically, using myself as like a human receptacle. And that’s really sad. You know, that’s really sad to me, that if I had been able to do the work, I wouldn’t have had to go through that. And I believe, I believe everything is as it’s supposed to be, but honestly, the amount of physical—

Paul: That’s a hard one to put on that side of the ledger.

Peter:  I’ll give you a laundry list of the illnesses so maybe, you know, if some of your listeners are going through some serious medical things, they’ll know that like they don’t have to be alone with it. And so when I—when my T-cells dropped, I think I got HIV in 1993, in 1998, into 1999, is when I started to see the effects of low to no T-cells. I was getting my blood counts, I was going to doctors every three months, every three months, and they were all saying, “Yeah, you know—“ they went—the started from…

Paul: I have a question.

Peter:  Yeah.

Paul: Going back to when you were in Gracie—looking over Gracie Mansion, they did an HIV test and it came negative.

Peter:  Correct.

Paul: So obviously some type of mistake was made?

Peter:  I believe so.

Paul: When did you finally get a test that showed…

Peter:  ’98.

Paul: OK, so that’s when you knew you were HIV positive.

Peter:  Yes.

Paul: But you even kind of felt I was.

Peter:  Oh I knew before then. And ironically, years later I had fallen out of touch with guy, and I was somewhere as God works, these people—get this, these people were sitting in the waiting room of a doctor in New York city, and someone said the name of this guy, he had a unique name, and I knew. I turned around, I said, “Do you mean so-and-so?” And they said, “Oh yeah!” And I said, “What about him?” and they said, “Did you hear?” And I just had this sinking feeling. This was the guy that I had sex—unprotected sex with that first time. They said, “Oh yeah, he’s about to die. He has AIDS.” And I was like, “What?!” I was sitting in the doctor—some random doctor, and these people were sit—and they gave me his phone number and I was able to actually speak to him right before he passed away. And of course my thing was, you know, well, cuz he knew, that’s my point. He knew when we were together that he had full-blown AIDS. And so of course, you know, he had dementia and the whole nine yards, he didn’t even know what was going on, but I was like, “OK, if you knew, why didn’t you say something?” You know.

Paul: Did you then ever have unprotected sex after getting the positive test?

Peter:  Tons. Tons.

Paul: Ok, so you did the exact same thing you were pissed at him for.

Peter:  Correct, exactly, exactly, exactly. Yes, I even gave someone HIV, who found out that he was HIV positive. I can’t prove for sure because he was sleeping with a lot of other people. I wanted to say that I did, I will take the blame for that. I need to, you know. Can I say one way or the other for sure? No. But yeah, no, that is one of the hardest things. And you know, there’s certain things in life that should give you shame, and that’s one of them. You know, I need to feel that—so at this point I would rather have no sex than you know, potentially put anybody else at risk. But yeah, so in ’98 the doctors were telling me, “You should probably be on medicine. Yeah, your T-cells aren’t too good.” Yeah, whatever, I’m not going—I knew I wasn’t going on those medicines. The insanity in my head said, “Those medicines will take away your personality.” I had no personality. They said, you know, the voices in my head said, “Those medicines are bad for you. They’re evil, the side effects are terrible.” You know, and so what happened was my T-cells dropped from just under 200, and they’re like, “Well, you have AIDs,” to 100, to 50, to 20, to 5. And for about a year-and-a-half, I went around with less than 20 T-cells. But here’s the deal, I would—because I was so determined to find another way …

Paul: What’s a healthy number for T-cells?

Peter:  In a normal individual, some people just range in the low end, it could be 400 to 1600. Normal is about 600 to 1200, around there.

Paul: Ok

Peter:  Yeah. So I had less than 20. I would pass out on the street, I had pneumonia four times. The first time I was in the hospital, in ICU, I was on a ventilator, and that was the first time I had an out-of-body experience, because I woke up in ICU, I’d passed out in the street, someone had taken me to the Emergency Room, I woke up in ICU, all these machines were going, and that was the first time that it hit me that, whoa, something’s probably wrong. But I had no fear, and I didn’t feel any pain, and I didn’t feel bad about anything, and I actually felt good about being taken care of. That was a very important point of my medical past, is that the only place I ever felt safe is in the hospital. Because there was no one to take care of me. There was no one looking after me. There was no one saying, “No, we want you, stay, we’re gonna be good to you, it’s ok, you can stay no matter what you’ve done or what’s gone on.” So the hospital was the only safe place. And I recognized that that first time, I just happened to be on a ventilator and I wasn’t able to breathe is my point. And I’ll never forget, I had this out-of-body experience there in the hospital, which the sense was that, “Oh, ok, I’m gonna get out of here, this is like retarded. This is—who cares, this is no big deal.” And I did, and then I ended up back in ICU three more times with the pneumonia, the thing was, when you can’t breathe, it’s very hard. And what I didn’t figure is not the time when I was in the hospital, but what I was gonna be able to do or not do when I was out of the hospital. Cause for those of you who have been in intensive hospital care, you get out and you’re so weak, you can feel strong in the hospital, but as soon as you leave, you have no legs, you have no energy, you can’t do anything, like it’s weird, it just takes all the energy out of you.

I went back, I had a heart attack, I had open-heart surgery, I had cryptococcal meningitis, which is meningitis of the brain. I had lesions on the brain, I had another form of meningitis, I had MAC, which is a form of TB, and for four-and-a-half months I had a 104 fever and they tested me for everything under the sun, sticking needles—you can’t even imagine—they didn’t know what was going on, they were like, “Oh, you have cancer.” This is before I was diagnosed with the rectal cancer.

Paul: But they knew you had HIV.

Peter:  Correct. Well, at that point I had AIDS. And mind you, I had no family. People were contacted because someone took, thankfully, while I was out, unconscious, took my phone and called everybody on the list. My family knew. Not one of them ever called. Not one of them ever came to see me. My birth father did. And that’s another story. When I was 27 I met my birth parents. But people that I’d known up until then, no one came. That was very poignant. And I’m bringing it into the present moment because going to visit my adopted father, who’s now in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s, and my stepmother, who by the way—the day my stepmother came to live with us, I felt so guilty and so paranoid that she would know what went on because she lived in the same house that all this went down as a child, I had her become my godmother. I’m technically baptized Catholic. She’s old world Italian, Catholic, I thought, “My God, I feel so bad for this woman. She’s coming into this insanity, both my brothers are drunks, I’m a raging drug addict, my father’s a raging alcoholic, and she’s gonna come live with us?” But, you know, she was very sickly when she moved in, and I was the one to take care of her. Well it’s interesting, because—and this is important to say—you know, at my sickest, the doctor sent me home, and they said, “You need to go be around people who know you.” Not people who love you, but people who know you. The only people I could think of were them. I contacted them in New York, I was living in Los Angeles, I contact them, they said, “Oh, ok, yeah.” A couple of weeks before—so in the meantime I got rid of my apartment, I sold my car, I started packing up all my stuff, I was in and out of Intensive Care, I was trying to do this by myself. About a week or so before my trip, I got this feeling that I should probably call my adoptive father, and I called him, and I was like, “Yeah,” so I was saying, “so you know, I’m gonna have my stuff shipped in like a couple of days.” He was like, “What stuff?” and I said, “Well, my stuff.” He’s like, “Well, you’re only staying like a week or something, right?” And I’m like, “Ok, you don’t get it.” And I just got this horrible feeling and I said, “You know what, I gotta go.” And I made a pact to myself that I would never talk to him again. Right then and there I was done. I was done. I had to put on a suit, I had to go find myself a new apartment, I had like a 104 fever. I was so sick.

Paul: He knew how sick you were?

Peter:  Of course he did. He said, “Well that’s fine, you can come for like a week, but you can’t tell anyone of your condition, because the grandkids won’t be allowed to come here.” And these are kids that I helped raise. I was like, “Yeah, you know what? That’s not gonna work.” Come full circle, when I was there this week, this past week, my whole goal was to be of service. Was to go, I knew that my adoptive father was in a nursing home, I figured my stepmother was gonna need help, I on purpose—and this is the first time I’m seeing them since that time, you know, I didn’t see them but I talked to them on the phone, that was the last contact I had with them fourteen years ago. I on purpose said to my stepmother, “Well I’m sure you’re gonna need help. You’re alone.” She’s like, “Yeah, well, I’ll probably have to take a taxi.” I said, “Here, I’ll come and pick you up at the house and we’ll go to the nursing home together. Is there anything else you need, do you need to go to a store?” Blah, blah, blah. We were talking when we were taking my father to the cardiologist, we were sitting in the cardiologist’s office, and my stepmother—we were talking about illnesses, and my father’s issues, he has aneurysms, he had an aneurysm in the brain which triggered the Alzheimer’s and all this stuff. My stepmother turned to me and said, “Did you ever have health issues?”

Paul: Wow.

Peter:  And I’ll tell you, Paul, it was so important, that was one of the moments I wanted to touch with her and them. That if I tried to manipulate it to get it, it wouldn’t have been what it was supposed to be. It came organically. All I was trying to do was be of service with them. If I was going to look for the dirt, I shouldn’t have gone at all, but I was going to be of service. The dirt came out and I needed to touch that place because in that moment that she said that, I looked at her, and I looked at my father and I realized that, you know, as far as these people go, I am alone. I am not a part of this, they are not a part of my life, they never have been and no wonder I was so self-destructive. Because not only did she know, she said she was the one that initiated the whole thing about me not being able to go home. And so I needed to be there.

Paul: Why would she have said that to you then?

Peter:  What?

Paul: Have you ever had health issues?

Peter:  Because that’s how she rolls. That’s her way of doing things. She hears what she wants to hear.

Paul: So she was trying to pretend that she didn’t know that you were …

Peter:  I truly believe in that moment—I want to be careful not to assume too much, but from what I know of her, I think she just truly didn’t even, it didn’t even—it didn’t mean anything to her. And that’s the point. That, you know, certain things in life need to mean things to us, you know, and for her me being that sick didn’t even go that deep, to the point that she wouldn’t remember. Because if it were important to her, she would remember it. I truly believe she doesn’t remember. Because it just didn’t even matter. She’s so consumed with her own stuff. But what a great thing, after all this to be able to come full circle and to be ok. It hurts, don’t get me wrong, it hurts a lot. It shows me how autonomous I’ve had to be, you know, with them.

Paul: Was the reason that you went back to—what was the reason that you went back to see these people?

Peter: I—to put closure to a lot of fantasy. I’ve worked through a lot of stuff but what I hadn’t done was be able to actually have the conversation with them to know what it was to stand in front of them and not feel like a piece of shit. I’ve never known what it is to not feel like shit around them, any of them, you know. And so for me it was—I prayed a lot about it before I went and I said to the Holy Spirit, I was like, “You know what, glorify Yourself through me on this trip. If it’s not meant to be, then You show me, You give me a sign. You give me a sign.” And the next day in the mail, I thought it was a joke, was a plane ticket—a free plan ticket to anywhere in the United States.

Paul: Really?

Peter:  A free plane ticket. And I called up Southwest Airlines and I said, “I have this thing…” and they’re like, “Yeah. Sir it’s…” I’m like—cuz I said, I said to the Holy Spirit, “You give me a tangible sign. Cuz I can’t keep going back and forth. If this is the right thing, if it’s not the right thing.” The next day in the mail I got the thing that looked like junk mail. And I never look at junk mail. I actually called them because I was thinking, “All right, well, if this is free, then …” And it was.

Paul: Wow.

Peter:  But so—the reason was is that I felt I was being guided to go back there, that was the main reason.

Paul: You weren’t going there out of guilt.

Peter:  No. I felt like because I was being guided to go there, then I had to show up and be of service, to honor the guidance that I felt like I was getting, you know, or being given. And so what that meant that everything then kind of rolled and fit into place. Well if I’m being guided to go there, that means there’s a purpose, which means I have to be of service, and so what does that mean, I had to break it down with each person. What is it going to mean to be of service with this person in this situation? I had to be very, very organized about it, because otherwise I would have been a complete wreck. So for each person I had a very goal-oriented thing—ok, this is what I’m going to be like with this person. I had to be—at the same time I had to just go with no expectations. But I had to be clear, you know.

Paul: I’m struck as you talk about your relationship with your God and your Christianity—

Peter: I love it.

Paul: I’m struck by the feeling that I wish more Christians took their belief as a form of personal responsibility and less as a sword they wield to feel morally superior over other people.

Peter:  I know. The number one thing that, you know, Jesus said was, “Don’t judge.” The only one you’re allowed to judge is yourself. It’s very easy to get on a high horse because—and I was thinking about this the other day, you know. I have a very strong sense of something greater than myself. And because that sense kind of allows me to feel this sense of empowerment, it makes me feel entitled to talk about that empowerment. And because so many of the other people who are religious talk in the “we” or the “you”—I know every time I hear “you” I justifiably am allowed to detach from what that person is about to discuss, because that “you” is not about me. The hardest thing about, you know, this source of, like greater than myself is to own it and to from the “I” and to talk from the experience. I think that’s one thing that like religion in general lacks so much of, when you hear people talking about religion or you hear people preaching, preachers, is that they don’t talk from their experience. You know, own it. Own your experience. And therein lies, I think, the issue with a lot of religious folks, is that they’re not really feeling it. They don’t have the experience. There is no experience. And so if it’s one goal that I really want to, you know, achieve in my life, is sharing my experience of what it is to be a religious person, you know. And hopefully maybe I can impart some of that experience, but like, have it be experiential for me and the other person that I’m talking to. Not just talking about my experience, but have us come together and experience it together maybe. You know, that would be a really good thing for me.

Paul: I almost wish sometimes that the people who are “really religious” but their actions don’t seem to be very spiritual, I almost wish that they would go through a period of not believing at all so that they could come back to it from a place where they—where it’s integrated into their life and it’s not this separate thing that’s about dressing up and going someplace on Sunday and fitting in with everybody, you know.

Peter:  We look through the ages—what do we respond to in people? We respond to their strength, but we respond to their strength through the difficulties that they go through. You know, there’s some stuff going on in the news right now, and thankfully I see the media trying a little bit to focus on the heroes and the strength. I wish we could do that more. And people—I think we’re obsessed with the negative. And I don’t think that’s the point. You know, my question always is, “Where is God in this situation?” And it used to be, “Where were you God in the situation?” Now it’s, “No, my focus needs to be set on finding God in every situation.” And there’s a difference, you know. It was revelatory for me to realize one day, and it happened just like that, it was one day that I heard something at a meeting, and I realized that I didn’t have to try to figure anything out anymore. I could just stop. And what happened? All of these emotions started to come out. And I don’t know who I was surrendering to or what, but the fact that I didn’t have to try to figure anything out was huge. It was such a weight off my shoulders.

Paul: I’m glad you mentioned that because I say so many times, the spiritual plane cannot be accessed through the intellectual plane. There is no door, there is no door there. And that’s why oftentimes so many of us have to try every other solution in our lives for either our addiction, our sadness, something we’re struggling with, and we have to give up trying to figure it out, and in that giving up, something happens in our chemistry that—I believe that our vibration changes and we interact with the world in a different way chemically. And that makes perfect, perfect sense to me. I would venture to guess that 90% of society’s ills can be traced to the fact that people are ignoring their spirit.

Peter:  We need to be teaching children about the power of surrender. You know, when was the last time—who taught me that like the way to true happiness is by acknowledging that I’m completely powerless over my life? Like, that goes—that is completely ass-backwards everything we’re taught.

Paul: Our society tells us just the opposite. That if you try really hard, you can do anything.

Peter:  Correct.

Paul: No, you can’t! There’s a gazillion things out of your control.

Peter:  You can, you can, and that’s the point, no you can and I’m so glad you said that – you can. And people will, you know, forever, ad infinitum, they’re gonna keep on trying. But you won’t be able to be happy. And what are we seeking here on this planet?

Paul: You think people can achieve anything if they try?

Peter:  Well, yeah, they do all the time. But how happy are they? How acknowledging of their soul and their feelings and all that stuff, no not at all.

Paul: I’m not—and I’m not saying that it’s not ok to dream and it’s not ok to try very hard to achieve, especially if there’s inspiration inside you. I think that is one of the greatest things ever. But there’s this belief, I think in our society that every—that you can control anything. Because I think that’s the inherent message in that “you can achieve anything.” I think implicit in that is “you can control anything.” And as you and I have talked for this last hour, a lot of times it’s the surrendering of the things that we don’t have control over that is the door to happiness.

Peter:  This is the only way.

Paul: Would you clarify that—could I clarify that by saying in the long run, we don’t really have any control. Because I have control over whether I can walk over right now and turn the light switch on. So I have control over that. I have control over what time I’m gonna get up or whatever. But in the long run, in the long view of our lives, we really don’t have control over …

Peter:  Thank you for clarifying that, yeah. Good stuff.

Paul: Do you want to do a—read some of our loves?

Peter:  Yeah.

Paul: This is from a woman who calls herself Murphy.

Peter:  Hi Murphy.

Paul: I’m gonna start with hers. “I love a nice, hot shower after working out.”

Peter:  I love feng shui.

Paul: “I love finding a book that I can’t put down.”

Peter:  I love eating healthy.

Paul: “I love driving early in the morning when it’s pitch black and there is no one on the road.”

Peter:  Oh my God, I love that.

Paul: That’s a good one.

Peter:  Yeah, I go to the gym at 2AM for that reason. I love old homes and old places.

Paul: “I love the collective sense of belonging that comes with conventions.”

Peter:  I love opera, Broadway, live theater.

Paul: “It’s hard to see it at the time, but I have to admit that I love change.” That’s a good one.

Peter:  Wow.

Paul: That’s it. That’s it for her love list.

Peter:  Yeah.

Paul: What’s your last one.

Peter:  The Bible and Bible study and I love kids.

Paul: And I love that that makes me uncomfortable and that I’m gonna leave that in there, because I love you. I get uncomfortable talking about the Bible and I love that I can say that to you and you know that I’m not attacking you personally.

Peter:  I didn’t write it.

Paul: (laughs)

Peter:  I just remember—I like to think that, you know, the Bible is divinely inspired. My interpretation of it is not. And it never will be. So.

Paul: I want to thank you for being my friend. I want to thank you for being there when I needed you and continuing to be there when I need you. Thank you for being so honest and I know a lot of what you said will move a lot of people. Some of it will piss some people off, some of it will confuse other people, but I love your truth. I love your truth.

Peter:  And I love you and I love yours. And my wish for your listeners is just to know that, you know, we have to be having a dialog about all this stuff, you know.

Paul: Civil – a civil dialog.

Peter:  Yeah. Everything you feel about everything is important, you know. It’s just about being able to talk about it. And that’s what I hope this is all about. So.

Paul: Thanks Peter.

Peter:  Thanks Paul. And isn’t it a shame we couldn’t get married. There’s no way I wasn’t gonna add that. That might have been too many double negatives in there. Many, many thanks to Peter Morrison. There is nothing like having a friend that you can really be yourself in front of. It is so, I don’t know what the word is for it, but …

Before I take it out with a bunch of surveys—and I want to ask you guys a question. I kind of usually split up the surveys, about half before the interview and about half after the interview. I wonder would you rather if I had more of them after the interview so that those of you who don’t like the surveys could just get right to the interview? Just putting that out there. You can email me at And you can also email me about anything. And I usually try to respond. I’m not always able sometimes to get to every email, but I make a pretty concerted effort. And I gotta tell you when I’m down in the dumps, it feels really good, especially like if somebody will listen to, for instance, the Dr. Zucker episode, the first Dr. Zucker episode where I where I just kind of spilled all of my pain out there—and confusion—and I still get emails from people that will hear that episode for the first time a year later, and it’s so comforting to have people reaching out, even complete strangers. Not only does it remind me that I’m not alone, it—there’s a void that’s been created where my mom used to be. And I feel that emptiness. And I’ve been feeling it for the last year. And some days it’s ok, other days it’s not. And so thank you for helping me.

Before I go to these surveys I wanted to remind you that there’s a couple of ways to support the show if you feel so inclined. You can support it financially by to the website, and making either a one-time PayPal donation, or my favorite, a recurring monthly donation for as little as $5 a month. You only have to set it up once and then it just—PayPal takes it out every month and that gets me a little closer to my dream of being able to support myself doing this show. You can also—if you’re gonna buy something at Amazon, enter through the search portal on our homepage and Amazon will give us a couple nickels when you buy something and it doesn’t cost you anything. That portal is a little search box on the right hand side of the homepage, about halfway down. You can also support the show by—non-financially by going to iTunes, giving us a good rating, writing something nice about the show if that feels truthful to you, and by spreading the word on social media. That would be greatly, greatly appreciated.

All right I think that’s it as far as that so let’s just go into these last surveys. This is from the Shouldn’t Feel This Way survey and this was filled out by a guy who calls himself Claudius. He’s straight, in his 30’s, was raised in an environment that was totally chaotic. “What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?” He writes, “He never wanted a funeral. What the fuck are we doing here?” “How does writing that make you feel?” “It makes me smile because I know it’ll happen.”

“If you had a time machine, how would you use it?” “I wouldn’t know what to do with it. There isn’t a single thing I’ve experienced that I would want to see in a different light since they’ve made me who I am today. And I wouldn’t want to visit the future because seeing what I might become could change how I act now. I guess I would put it next to the elliptical that I never use. Fucked up, huh?”

“I shouldn’t feel this way <blank>.” He writes, “I’m supposed to feel pride that I quit drinking, but I don’t. I feel empty and alone.” “How does writing that make you feel?” He writes, “Pathetic.” “Do you think you’re abnormal for feeling what you do?” He writes, “Not since I’ve been listening to the podcast. I hear that others are getting through it all and I know I can do it too.” That makes me feel SO good to read that. “Would knowing other people feel the same way make you feel better about yourself?” He writes, “Not better, but it makes me more confident that I can overcome it.” Thank you for that, Claudius.

This is from a relatively new survey that my friend—she’s studying to be a therapist, and it’s about people’s experiences in therapy, both as therapists and as clients. And this one is filled out by a client, a woman who is in her—between 26 and 35 years old. “What brought you into therapy?” She writes, “I’d been in an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage and after the divorce I had extreme anxiety and depression.” “Describe any fears you had associated with starting therapy.” “I was afraid that my therapist would find out that my anxiety and depression was not necessarily a byproduct of my failed marriage, rather from an accumulation of childhood neglect and being a child of parents who were alcoholics and drug abusers.” “Of the fears you described, did any of them come true?” “My therapist is very good at what she does. She was able to get to the core of my problems and I feel she and I are able to work together to work through them.” “As a client, describe what worked best for you in therapy.” She writes, “My therapist has a used a combination of esteem building techniques, imagery, and EMDR, the issues at hand.” EMDR stands for eye movement desis—I always fuck this up—eye movement desensitization and reprogramming. “As a client, what were your initial impressions of your therapist?” “At first I thought she was a flake. Everything she did seemed very cliché at first. I was very reluctant to respond to her treatment suggestions. I was almost to the point after the second or third session to seek another therapist. I decided to give it one more try and it was then that we had a breakthrough. Something hit me during a session of EMDR and I when I told her, she said she already knew and was just waiting for me to work through it in my time. She has had my trust ever since.” Ah, that’s so beautiful. “Do you feel that you can be completely honest with your therapist?” She writes, “At first I withheld a lot of information from my therapist. I only wanted to deal with the issues that stemmed from my dysfunctional marriage. Once she got me to open up about my family, childhood, etc., I realized it too was necessary to work through.” “Is there anything that you’d like to share with a group of new therapists?” She writes, “It was the patience and persistence of my therapist that was able to break down the brick wall that kept me from opening up to other people and being able to trust anyone.” I totally get that and I think that goes back to that thing that I look for in a therapist, which is that feeling that you are being emotionally felt, that they are taking it in and actively empathizing. And it can be—for me it can just be a look on their face, you know. I can just see a look on a therapist’s face and now if I’ll be able to cry in front of that person.

This is from the Shame and Secrets survey and this is filled out by a woman named Shanti. She’s straight, she’s in her 30’s, was raised in an environment that was totally chaotic. “Ever been the victim of sexual abuse?” She writes, “Some stuff happened but I don’t know if it counts as sexual abuse. Around the age of four or five my dad used to walk around naked, show me Barely Legal magazines, let me touch his penis, he would squeeze my butt. But I cannot remember any actual sexual touching.” Shanti, I know I am not alone in saying that was sexual touching, what your father did. What he did was sexual abuse and I feel safe in qualifying it as that, even though I’m not a mental health professional, that is some fucked up shit. And I don’t know any other way to put it. She writes, “He is now in prison for possession of child pornography and I wonder if anything ever happened to me before I have memories of it.” Well I think the stuff that you have memories of, it is enough on its own. I hope you’re getting help.

“Deepest, darkest thoughts?” She writes, “The only way I’ve ever been able to orgasm is to imagine myself as a child and my father sneaking into my room to have sex with me.”

“Deepest, darkest secrets?” “From age 19 to 23 I would only have sex with guys for money. I was not a streetwalker or anything, but if a guy was interested in me, I told him that he had to give me $100. It usually always worked and I made thousands of dollars. Two years ago I was drunk at a bar and a guy was interested in me. I told him I would fuck him for $200. We went in an alleyway and he gave me the money. He couldn’t get it up so I ran away with his money.”

“Are you gay, straight, bisexual?” She writes, “Straight. I used to identify as bisexual but after too much drama with females, I consider myself to be straight.”

“What sexual fantasies are most powerful to you?” “Imagining that my father is sneaking into my room at night to have sex with me. Sometimes telling myself to be quiet because my mother is in the next room and might hear us. If having sex during the day, I imagine that I stayed home from school that day to have sex with my father and the police are coming soon. The thought that someone could catch us is crazily arousing to me.”

“Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend about your fantasies?” She writes, “I could not tell a partner because I don’t want him to fell weird about having sex with me. I’ve told my best friend just recently after being friends for over 15 years and because he told me a deep, dark secret too.”

“Do these secrets and thoughts generate an particular feelings towards yourself?” She writes, “In the moment of it I am so turned on but afterwards I feel shameful and guilty. Why would I think these things? What happened to me when I was a child to make me think these things? I have tried stopping these thoughts but it makes sex so boring to me.” Shanti, I really relate, though the circumstances of our—stuff that happened to us as kids are different, I struggle, you know, when some of these memories came back to me last year, one of the things that also came back a fantasy of wanting to go back and relive that, not with my mom, but with somebody else, you know, an older girl in the neighborhood or a different mom, or some type of comforting female. It’s probably the most powerful fantasy that I’ve been having in the last year. And I’m not beating myself up about it. You know, one of my friends in the support group, I shared it with them, and they said, “You didn’t put that fantasy there. That was put there.” And I know that that’s the truth, and if I keep it—and I’m not saying you should go around telling everybody everything—but holding onto it as a source of shame or personal weakness or failure is—that’s just—you’re unnecessarily hurting yourself. So I think a therapist will help you work through when to do that. But I wanted to share that stuff that I have because I didn’t have that fantasy until that kind of buried memory resurfaced and I was able to process it and it was really fucking painful processing that. And I think by us sexualizing it, we take the sting out of it, and we give ourselves a sense of control in it, because if we can become physically aroused by it, then we substitute physical arousal for that fucking deep, deep, painful wound that we were used by somebody that was supposed to protect us. So that’s my two cents.

And we’re gonna wrap it up with this last one. This is from the Happy Moments survey, filled out by a woman calls herself NWB. She’s in her 20’s and writes, “A happy moment that I remember vividly happened when I was in my early teens. I was fishing with my family but I was in my own little world. I had my headphones on and was listening to music. Out of nowhere I felt a drop of rain and then another. And as it began to rain, the opening melody of Bittersweet Symphony began to play in my ears and it felt perfect, that it would rain just as this beautiful, sad song was playing. And I was so happy.” Thank you for that, NWB.

And thank you guys for being there for me, and for supporting the show, and for helping me create this really cool community that feeds me, it feeds me. And if you’re out there and you’re feeling stuck, there is hope. There is hope. Don’t give up. Sometimes it just means reaching out for help and trying a new way of living. But just know that you are not alone. You are most definitely not alone. And thanks for listening.