The stories of healing from these courageous men will inspire a range of emotions.
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The Bristlecone Project

Portraits and Biographies of Male Survivors

Michael Cochran

It is a mystery why some people suffer immense traumas at the hands of humans and yet somehow remain open to human connection. Michael is a case study in that mystery. His smile is either right there, or you know it is about to break across his face. Asked to stroll about their blessed West Virginia acres, he and his wife Karen automatically reach for each other’s hands. And then there were the teachers and the therapists who gave him moments or months of crucial help, and Michael was able to receive it. He was open to those connections.

As a result, Michael has been able to confront, to grapple with, and ultimately to overcome a childhood that rightly could have devastated his life. His father was a WWII veteran who returned traumatized, marring Michael’s childhood with alcohol and violence. But it was his Michael’s mother who posed the greatest threat. Over many years, she groomed her son, confused him with increasingly inappropriate sexual behavior, and ultimately sexually abused him. Michael emerged from his childhood with a bone marrow-deep shame. An adolescent convinced of his own worthlessness.

But Michael also had his blessings. He is a very bright man, capable of mastering a stunning array of jobs and professions (and a Master’s degree). He has been a West Virginia State Trooper; he currently serves in the National Guard; he is a builder; and he and his wife run a very successful children’s daycare center.

Another blessing is his capacity to be open to human connection, and to mystery. In the midst of grappling with his memories, Michael felt compelled to write. And when his fingers touched the keyboard, what emerged was a surprising dialogue, between Michael and – says Michael, “for lack of a better word, God.” The dialogue was – still is – immensely important to him and was a critical part of his healing.