Finding Your Tribe is the Key to a Better Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about Ronin Shimizu. He was a beautiful 12 year old boy who recently completed suicide following years of bullying. My fear is that just as our society has become desensitized to school shootings (unless they hit close to home) the shock value of a victim of bullying taking their own life is progressively smaller.

I like shock. It wakes people up. It f@cks with the disconnect of social apathy. It’s an opportunity to increase awareness and change attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. We still have far to go on the issue of bullying.

I’m never going to be the poster child for anti bullying for a very simple reason: What I tell kids who are dealing with bullies is only half healthy. I urge them to get every possible support, help them to cope, to know that they have nothing to be ashamed of, and to find places where they can fit in and develop friendships. Then I encourage them to find any and all means by which to hurt the motherf@ckers who hurt them.

My stance is not some machismo bullshit. In every other part of my life I espouse nonviolent responses. It’s that I know the cost of not fighting back and I’ve treated far too many adults who are (unfairly) ashamed of what was inflicted upon them many years ago. The past is never over when it continues to limit how we live our lives today.

My healing has in part been a matter of helping young people who are like me. I echo the sentiments of heroes like Dan Savage of the It Gets Better Project. It (Life) gets better when we meet and connect with people who get us, accept us, and love us…warts and all.

I love the expression, “finding your tribe.” I am a misfit. I don’t fit in mainstream society and frankly I no longer have any desire to. I used to feel bad about not belonging. Then I met people like me and I found places where I belong and people who claim me as “family.”

I found them in group therapy. I found them in meetings. I found them in places I never expected to be. Kindred spirits – people who felt broken too. The more safe people and places I accumulate, the better I feel . My life is pretty kick ass. I’d never have believed that was possible when I was 12 and bullied, or 18 and scared shitless, or 30 and my own worst enemy. But I believe it now. It took a long time but today I also believe this:

The best revenge is living well.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.