There are few if any audiences other than survivors, that will understand and relate to this topic of choices.

I clearly remember, and hope I will for the rest of my days, the jaw dropping moment where all of the sudden it somehow clicked. For some reason it all was clear. I felt both elated and amazingly stupid.

Here I was, late 30's and I had just discovered what most 10 year olds know. It is ok for me to decide what I want to do. I have as much right to choose what I want as anyone else does. elementary... but taken from me and so many others by those that abused me. They took my choice. They took it then, and it took me most of 30 years to find my right to my own choices and decisions.

I would have never imagined that I was not making the choices and decisions every day that I wanted to make. I had no idea how powerful that desire to just disapear in the corner and do whatever anyone else wants truly was.

I began to realize that I may have very well never made any choices or decisions that were truly mine and mine alone.

As I faced myself face to face so to speak and asked the hard questions, I was faced with the knowledge that I could not identify one major life decision that I could absolutly say was mine alone.

By that I mean all my choices were made based on what I assumed those around me wanted. It become amazing to me to realize just how much of my life was structured around the assumptions I had incorporated into my life about what I thought I was supposed to do.

From where I went to college, to what I majored in, to the job I had, to getting married, to what clothes I wore and what friends I had. The list became virtually endless.

For a while it was overwhelming, but then I began to tell myself, Brent, think about it, just how many grown men ever have the opportunity to define their life and who they are and what they want at this stage of the game.

Not many. So I began to enjoy, and still do, figuring out what do I like, enjoy, want to do, etc...

And it is yet to end, and I hope it never does. Just a couple of weeks ago I was invited to go with a bunch of guys and play paintball. My first immeadiate reaction was no. Then I said why would I say no. There are all kinds of reasons I would have said no in the past, but now. Then I thought, sounds fun actually. So I did, and it was one of the most fun days I have ever had. I almost said no...not because I really meant no, but because for a moment, I was letting all the assumptions about who I was, what I liked, what I could do, not do etc... answer for me...

But that was not the choice I wanted to make...Playing paintball was the choice I really wanted to make.

Some of the looking at myself was pretty rough. Especially when I forced myself to face fact, and not allow myself to accept my incorrect belief system any longer.

One of those hard facts to face was one of my self imposed protection systems. One that was actually quite effective, though ultimately quite harmful.

Somehow, and I will not begin to try and figure out how my 8 or 9 year old mind was working, I figured out that to be fat and ugly would protect me from the world. The protection I craved was to be free from abuse, but that carried over to everyone else as well.

To illustrate just how extreme this thought process became, I remember as an adult thinking how "lucky" I was to be fat. I was safe from relationships, and "sex" and all that. Yes, I did say I thought I was "lucky". As I say now... you can justify anything if you try hard enough... I certainly took some things to an extreme.

But one day another moment of clarity. Being overweight was my choice. No one made me eat more than I should. No one made me drink 3 or 4 gallons of coke a day... yep I really did...

There was no door monitor at the front of my house to keep me from exersizing.

I chose to assume that I would be safe if I saw myself as un-approachable. As long as I thought that no one would want to know me, no one would.

Again, a note about the power of self assumptions. At various times I would go to the gym for a while and try a diet. I actually really liked the gym, but at some point someone would notice that I had lost weight, or was looking better or whatever people say to compliment you.

Well, most people would find that encouraging. But I found it scary. I was messing with my self protection system, and that could not be.

So off the diet and quit the gym, and before you know it, I needed bigger clothes, yet again.

And then I realized I had made these choices. I had wrongly assumed that I could only be happy if I kept my distance and maintained the image of myself that I had so carefully crafted. That image of being un lovable, un touchable, alone.

Yes, there was a very good reason why I had done that. Survival. Whether I "needed" to do what I did I don't know. But I do know I survived. And that is what matters most, eventhough the methods left a lot to be desired.

But, that time was past. I had to decide now. Now it was Brent's choice, and his alone.

I never imagined I would ever be where I am today. I never imagined that I would go to the gym, and instead of hiding around the edges, be someone the new guys come to and ask how to do this or that.

I never imagined being able to go to a clothing store and try something on and say, this is too big, do you have a smaller size.

I started with one choice. I decided it was just too much to tackle all at once.

I made just one choice... I decided there was one thing I could do. I stopped drinking coke.

That is where it started. That was my choice... And then the choices became easier and easier, as I learned I really had the freedom to choose.

If I wanted to eat healthy I could. So many would think that sounds so backward, most would be saying something like if I want ice cream by god I will have ice cream. But I learned it wasn't so much what I shouldn't eat, but deciding and realizing I didn't have to eat that way unless I wanted to. And I really did not want to.

I still have plenty of things to figure out and I am by no means am where I want to be. But now I know it is only up to me to do and be whatever I want. It is my choice. I get to decide, no one else. What an amazing thing to learn.

We are all so different and we all have used so many things to alter our world from what it should have been in order to survive.

For me it was mostly food. At times drinking and some drugs, but in the end, it was always food. Some escape by using sex, I used food to escape sex. And a lot of other things as well...

This topic is not about diet, or food, or substances... Nor is that what this forum is really about.

It's about us figuring out how to be the men we are meant to be. It is about finding those parts of us that we have buried or lost, and learning how to embrace the life we have.

It's about choices..... OUR CHOICES!!

"Everyone is entitled to their opinions and it is not my job to change their mind." Dali Lama