Paul Elam

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Being born in the mid 50′s, I grew up in a much different world than we live in today. My father was career military, serving faithfully through two wars and bearing the scars to prove it. My mother served as well, being an army wife and raising three boys. She earned a masters degree with honors after, and only after, that job was done.

My youth, of course, was rocked by the late 60′s and early 70′s, as was the rest of the country. I came to question and suspect, as did most everyone my age, everything my parents stood for. It took some time to figure out that my father wasn’t the guy that got us into Viet-Nam, he was just a soldier doing his job. I also figured out my mother wasn’t a domestic slave, just a woman who put her family first.

It also dawned on me that what they stood for was work, sacrifice and above all else, their children.

I did my own stint in the service and found myself unsuited for the grueling conformity and dedication to tedium it requires in peacetime, though I can’t imagine I would have preferred walking in my fathers footsteps to the battlefield. The fashionable rebelliousness I acquired in adolescence didn’t help, but it made things a lot more interesting.

Unsuitable for the military and uninterested in manual labor I eventually escaped to college. After a few attempts at majoring in beer, I settled on psychology and minored, according to the faculty, in driving them to giddy fascination with razor blades and other sharp objects. Apparently the military had not beaten the irreverence for authority out of me.

The problem with college is that it almost always leads to a job, unless you stay there and teach. I liked the idea of not working very much but the conformity required in academia rivals that of the military. Been there, done that, if you’ll forgive such a blatant clich.

I wanted something really easy to do so I chose a career of trying to talk crack heads and alcoholics into staying out of bars and crack houses. That turned out to be almost as hard as reasoning with professors, but it was also for a much better cause. I stayed with it for the better part of twenty years.

Interesting thing about counseling addicts; you can only talk about booze and dope so much. Sooner or later you have to get around to other things like work, social life and the lot.

Like marriage and family.

Addiction takes it’s toll across the board. Much of the recovery from it is repairing damage. The addicts family is often the biggest casualty. It’s a given in the treatment world that including the spouse is essential; that we are, in actuality, treating the family and marriage as opposed to treating the individual.

This is difficult work at best, but it got even more complicated. Somewhere along the way, about the time gender feminism stepped in to commandeer the realm of therapy, we stopped really treating addiction. The entire field seemed to morph into one giant episode of Sally Jesse Raphael. We began to identify and treat masculinity as the disease, not the addiction. The preferred treatment modality was emasculation, and the profession proceeded with that wholesale. Or as one psychotherapist once told me, just before being paid to address a group of male clients, “I love to take men’s macho bullshit and shove it down their throats.”

She wasn’t kidding, and she wasn’t looking any more differently at me than she did the male clients.

She also wasn’t an exception. Many of the clinicians I worked with took the same view of men and masculinity. It was a positively hateful environment.  The insurance companies didn’t bat an eye. They continued to pay. Treatment continued to suffer. And as time passed, relationships suffered more. Anti-male hate speech filtered it’s way into therapy and the culture at large in the same way tabloid journalism took over the news. Mainly because it sold.

It still does.

Having the unusual notion that it was more my job to counsel addicts than to neuter men and worship women, it often put me at odds with the prevailing powers. Never subscribing to the adage “If you can’t beat em, join ‘em,” I fought. In many ways I got my ass kicked.

The old saying goes, you can’t fight city hall. That may be true, but it’s nothing compared to fighting titty hall. Not even close.

Eventually I left, watching what was left of professional treatment go down in flames like Rome.

I’ll have to ask your forgiveness for the digression, but this is my story. It forms who I am and what I do as surely as my childhood and education. And it leaves me here, at A Voice for Men, offering thoughts and annoyances to those more interested in finding their way out of the morass than in finding someone to blame.

Paul Elam,

Founder and Publisher, A Voice for Men

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