A Cheerleader's Triumph

By H. Peter • July 24, 2015

Bullying comes in all forms and methods, physical, emotional and even spiritual. It is not a just a new phenomenon to the electronic age, but has been around for as long as one group is in and someone is out. The pain that it inflicts can last a lifetime, but can also lead to insight, personal growth and healing. Allow me some thoughts.

Sometimes when we knock on a door we have no idea what we will find beyond. On some rare occasions you will find a light that can illuminate the darkest night and become a spotlight into your soul and a candle lit path to additional wisdom. Other times it can be the entrance to a haunted house.

Sometimes guides appear at the most unusual time and places. Let me share one encounter I had with you. During a conversation with a long past schoolmate who I barely knew, I learned not just about her path and her pain, but also about my own as well. I learned about courage, honesty and "transparency"…her word not mine.

The adolescent years are hard enough without the added benefit of having an alcoholic parent. Alcohol fuels frustration, bitterness and anger, often times directed at the most vulnerable in the family, the emerging adolescent.

Let's go back more than fifty years. For three years Dawn, (I have changed the name) was a cheerleader in her school until circumstances and fate, perhaps nurtured by alcohol, intervened and directed her into the clutches of a new high school.

Pretty and unsure, but with three years of cheerleading experience and confidence built on this secure foundation, in spite of the corrosive effects of parental alcohol abuse, Dawn pursued a position on the cheerleading squad.

Discrimination can be overt or it can be through our silence and ignorance. It could not exist in a state of heightened compassion. However, no matter the form, it can be emotionally excruciating and crushing to the spirit, particularly the already unsure psyche of a young teenage girl, already suffering from the pain inflicted by an alcoholic parent.

The image that we project to the world around us is rarely the self-image within, and for Dawn it was no different. Beneath the exterior that appeared so hard to others, was an aware young girl who knew she was better than the rejection suffered at the hands of the cheerleading coaches, who never gave her the chance to prove her real worth and talent. In the course of the failure of the adults around us we sell ourselves short. We do not see ourselves for the real worth of our talent and abilities. Our self worth is unrealistically reflected in their dark shadows.

The pain of the long ago rejection was still evident in our conversation. But there was also self awareness and triumph, that the long ago rejection from the pretty line of cheerleaders was not for her lack of talent and ability, but the lack of others to see beyond their narrow scope of vision and their inability to allow a newcomer, an outsider, to be welcomed into their community…or in this case a cheerleading squad. The real loss belonged to the squad, for they missed an opportunity to witness her skill and talent and the chance to meet someone who was learning to cope with a dysfunctional alcoholic parent, yet still somehow internalizing the values needed to become a strong, wise and sensitive woman.

Dawn's honesty about her early life, her struggles and her belief in 12 Step programs that encourage self-examination and personal growth that build character, was inspirational to me in her fearlessness to openly discuss her past and her present. It encouraged an open and honest discussion between the two of us. It was time and words to be savored.

From that long ago failure of the cheerleading coaches to recognize Dawn's talent, to the façade she created to shield what went on behind her closed front door in the form of dysfunctional alcoholic parenting, there emerged a beautiful, confident and independent woman, proud of who she had become, staying in the present and looking to the future. Dawn gave me a gift when I shared my own 12 Step story with her. Our stories illustrated that often what we think is behind other closed doors is only an illusion. Alcohol not only distorts the vision of those who consume it, but the children who have to grow up under its distorted influence, even though they never take a sip.

So I write here and say it quite clearly with no hesitation. Dawn, you should have been on the cheerleading squad and it was the adults who failed you. However, you learned your own chants and heard an inner song that made you the real winner.

You help others in your life, including me with your courage, and that, in fact, makes you the best cheerleader I ever met.


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