Surviving Myself – Andrew Willis (ACE Study)
Dr. Jeremy Richman Ph.D., founder of The Avielle Foundation discusses Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) in his presentation The Science of Violence and Compassion, as a factor that could lead to violent or aggressive behavior. The following guest blog from Andrew Willis’ first-hand experience confronting his own ACE’s originally appeared on the Stop Abuse Campaign blog series and is from his 2015 speech at the Stand Up For Passion event in NYC.
It was a great job. Jetsetting around the world, managing integrated marketing communications for global brands like Citi, IBM and HP. The cliche, “It’s Hong Kong, it must be Monday” and stopover weekends in attractive cities my reality.
I returned home to a beautiful 6,000 square foot stone house in Connecticut, my wife and two children. An ideal life. Work hard. Play hard. Good friends. Great family. Two vacations a year; sailing in the summer, skiing in winter. Church on Sundays.
Then I woke up.
Staring into the bright clinical lights of the Very Intensive Care Unit in a hospital far from home. I’d swallowed 300 Tylenol PM and wished the world goodbye. Almost a week before.
Leather straps hung off my bed by my feet and arms where they secured me.
My veins had coursed with crystal meth. My arms… bruised and punctured. My goodbyes said, not heard.
I had never even smoked weed until I was over 50. Taking drugs was my way of medicating away the pain and humiliation of remembering my youth. Still today much of my childhood years are cloaked under the shrouds of secrecy that protect our sanity but drive our depression.
Why? I had to know why this happened to me. Was it just my bad choices or was something else at play. I guess I went in search of excuses – but I found answers. I found I was not the only one. In fact I was no different to about a quarter of people. One in four of you in this room is hiding a secret from childhood.
My search for the answer, combined with the love of my two boys, family and friends has kept me alive.
My search initially led me to the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study). A massive study of childhood trauma and its impact on health carried out by Kaiser Permanente with the CDC.