Live of Chains

Lives of Chains!

“It was fitting to celebrate and rejoice, for this your brother was dead and is alive; he was lost and now is found. Luke 15:32.

Last night I watched Lifetime’s movie: “House of Chains,” a graphic movie about child abuse. A leader of a religious cult has a family and keeps his kids chained to their beds, teaching them the world is evil. Once they were rescued it became apparent from the ending that regardless of how much therapy these five young adults would be given, they were wounded for life.

I did not sleep, my own demons haunted me during the night. For I hang and love youth from severely abused homes all the time. I hang out and love adults on the street victims of sexual and emotional abuse as young kids.  I can think of at least thirty who have shared that their lives in their “houses of chains” in the last month.

They run away, turn to drugs, and get hooked up in abusive relationships, each seeking escape from the pain, and the wounds of their first abuse.

The sad reality is the majority will never adjust to what we call a “healthy”, “normal life” if there is such a thing.  I spent an hour with a thirty you old “Jim” on Thursday. His history is that of being sexually abused by both his mother and father from the age of 4 as well as physically abused. He ran away at 13. “Jim” is so torn up emotionally he will never lead what we call a “normal life.”

“Jimmy” lives in an old bus with an abusive girlfriend, has psychotic dreams, and explosive anger, and stays high on pot and LSD all the time. During his early years “Jimmy” was a prostitute, and now sells weed, and steals.

Rather than providing support–places to live, with a harm reduction approach, we housed people for the most part turn our heads. Our lawmakers propose stricter drug laws without seeing the person. There is more stealing in our stores resulting from people not having money for food.

Kaiser publishes patients’ medical and mental health history online,  which I love to read, and at times become depressed, but overall it is interesting. One of my diagnoses is “Severe PTSD”.

In my memory, I return to my childhood. When I was four my mother remarried, and had my dad, sign the adoption papers, with the promise of never seeing me again. It was only five years ago I received a photo of him from probably a cousin (who failed to put their return address on the envelope), the first time I had ever seen his face.

According to a mental health worker many years later I suffer from an attachment disorder, (I love of how these diagnoses are always permanent) which makes it difficult to attach to other people.

The fact is my adoptive father was my dad, he loved me with all of his heart. I could not have had a better childhood. I was able to obtain the best education, four degrees. I had the best of health care, vacations, and most of all non-judging love.

I became a minister in a church that tells us that “homosexuality is an intrinsic evil,” and when I began to come out was sent to therapists who reinforced that–one said, “straight, and only sex with the man on top is the true way” (LOL). Then came the years of prostitution. And from there my healing journey began.

Through the years in San Francisco, I have witnessed killings, deaths in all sorts of horrible circumstances, and much recently one zoon death firsthand. I see violence nearly every other day, sometimes seven days a week.  I can not retreat into Oakland Hills or to San Carlos every night. Violence is real, very real.

The reality is I have always had health insurance, access to good medical care, and mental health treatment. I will always suffer PTSD in one form or another, it is one of the scars of the cross I carry. But I have access to care. I survive and have been able to function well. I have not lived a life in chains, but one growing and caring. Even at my worst, I need no one feeling sorry for me or their sympathy. I have had and continue to have a good and very privileged life unlike too many to count have had.

There is an old Native American saying: “Never judge another person until you have walked a mile in their moccasins,” you see for all our lofty ruminations about God, for all the symphonies and theologies and liturgies for the divine. I have yet to find a more profound expression of God’s nature than the one that begins, “once upon a time, there was a shepherd and a lost sheep.”

God With Us is a marvelous storyteller, for he tells us we are his children and that maybe one percent of the time we get it right, and the other ninety-nine percent God is pure love! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!”


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