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‘I Was Ashamed‘’ After Years of Abuse, Illiteracy, Demers Confronts His Demons

‘I Was Ashamed‘’ After Years of Abuse, Illiteracy, Demers Confronts His Demons

The beating began when he was 7 years old. His father, a drunk, would whack him with the back of his hand. He would scream insults. “You’re no good!””You’re stupid!” He would hit the boy’s sisters, as well. Worst of all, he would hit their mother, his wife, over and over, night after night. He would split her lip. He would smack her forehead until she bled. She never spoke of it. And so the boy never spoke of it. And the shame began to bubble inside him.

‘I Was Ashamed‘’ After Years of Abuse, Illiteracy, Demers Confronts His Demons

AN EVEN TOUGHER BATTLE

The man who lost his toes to frostbite lays down on a mattress, and the man who lost his teeth to street fights checks the final name off his clipboard. The room quiets and the lights dim and Henry Covington, the pastor, who turned this church gym into a floor of hope...
‘I Was Ashamed‘’ After Years of Abuse, Illiteracy, Demers Confronts His Demons

HOW TO A LIFE

Second of three partsFor Part 1, go to freep.com/sportsOliver!””Yo.”The man in the ski cap – who had his frostbitten toes amputated a few years ago – steps out and waves a hand, then walks to a vinyl mattress with a gray wool blanket....
‘I Was Ashamed‘’ After Years of Abuse, Illiteracy, Demers Confronts His Demons

HOW TO RESCUE A LIFE

Second of three partsOliver!””Yo.”The man in the ski cap – who had his frostbitten toes amputated a few years ago – steps out and waves a hand, then walks to a vinyl mattress with a gray wool blanket. This will be his bed for the...
‘I Was Ashamed‘’ After Years of Abuse, Illiteracy, Demers Confronts His Demons

HOW TO RESCUE A LIFE

Second of three partsOliver!””Yo.”The man in the ski cap – who had his frostbitten toes amputated a few years ago – steps out and waves a hand, then walks to a vinyl mattress with a gray wool blanket. This will be his bed for the night, a...
‘I Was Ashamed‘’ After Years of Abuse, Illiteracy, Demers Confronts His Demons

A Floor at the Bottom of the World

First of three parts

The men keep their coats on. It is cold inside this church. They sit at tables, hungry for food, and listen as a woman tries to rouse them with inspiration.

"I AM" she yells.

"I AM…" they yell back.

The lighting is dim. Some men hold their chins in their hands.

"SOMEBODY!" she yells.

"SOMEBODY!" they yell back.

‘I Was Ashamed‘’ After Years of Abuse, Illiteracy, Demers Confronts His Demons

THE WILL TO SURVIVEJUSTIN OWNED A PERFECT GRADE-POINT AVERAGE. HE STARTED ON HIS HIGH SCHOOL’SFO

His hands are bleeding. So are his knees. He picks up the rope and pulls it taut. He has beaten four others and now, across the rope, stands the last of them, a teammate, a younger teammate, no less, a kid he had taught to lift weights, a kid he had always been stronger than. Heck, he had been stronger than all of them — but that was last fall, before it all happened. Before the year from hell.

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