The Bristlecone Project is an awareness campaign of 1in6.org. Photographs and text by David Lisak, Ph.D.
Raised by a single mother in Albuquerque, Dennis was first sexually abused at age 7 by a cousin, who threatened to kill his mother. Dennis endured other abuses – older children; the owner of a local store; a high school art teacher. He disclosed to his mother; she did not believe him. After graduating from high school, Dennis began working, and his intelligence and capabilities were soon evident. But he struggled with relationships; his ability to trust had been shattered.
Someone introduced him to methamphetamine, Dennis tried it and “felt like superman.” So began a long history of drug use, drug dealing, and its consequences. Dealing drugs, and being successful at it, gave him a feeling of power that countered the profound powerlessness that haunted him since the abuse he suffered as a child. He did his first stint in prison at 33. During his next stint, Dennis was gang raped and severely beaten. After his release, he tried counseling, but still felt a profound void in his soul. A friend asked for help moving some drugs. Dennis agreed, was set up, and was facing 35 years in prison. But for the first time, an angel appeared in his life, in the form of a local police officer. She told Dennis: “I think you’re really done. Are you?” She spoke on his behalf, and Dennis got five years probation. He moved to a distant corner of New Mexico, got involved in the church, and began the process of filling that void in his soul. “By the grace of God, I’m finally becoming free.”
Originally posted on 1in6.org