Can you talk about your childhood bullying experience?
It’s kind of hard to talk about. I grew up in a very religious family where my dad was kind of against the church. In one ear he’d be telling me that the church is all about brainwashing, and in the other ear, my mom was saying that it’s the only way to heaven. It was a real push and pull situation that I grew up in.
My dad definitely had anger issues. I remember falling down the steps as a little kid around Christmas time, and I started crying at the bottom of the stairs. My dad got off of the couch, picked me up, and said…
“Real men don’t cry. If you want to be a little baby, I’ll give you something to cry about.”
And then he just beat the shit out of me!
In those situations, I found a safe spot underneath the stairs in my house where I would draw all kinds of demonic pictures. I’m sure that they’re still there to this day.
I guess you needed something to cling to in a terrible situation…
I was so angry! When you can’t turn to your dad for guidance, who do you turn to? The craziest part was that, in my head, I still made him out to be my hero.
Everything that I was doing wasn’t good enough for his approval, so it made me try harder to become the person that I thought he wanted me to be. It was a very confusing time.
My dad was very sadistic, and kind of felt power in bullying me for whatever reason. It made it really tough, because I think that he always saw me as kind of a card that he could play against my mom.
That must have been very tough on you and your mom…
Looking back now, I know that my mom truly loved me, and was trying to protect me.
I remember one time when they were fighting. My dad had one of my arms as he tried to pull me out the front door while screaming at my mom. She was pulling my other arm trying to stop him. Basically, in his eyes, I was probably nothing more than a piece of jewelry that he was trying to take back from my mom. It was a very hard situation.
I can only imagine. Did you gravitate towards your mom and away from your dad?
Despite everything that my dad did to me, I would still sit by the living room window every night waiting for him to come home from the grocery store where he was a butcher.
Every time that he came home, I would try and impress him, and get in good with him, because it was the only way that I figured he would stop being mean to me.
Did you have any place where you felt safe when your dad was around?
I would literally sit in the back of a closet as I listened to him scream. One time, he put his fist through the door of the closet. It was very scary!
No kid should have to live in the fear that you lived in. Did that go on throughout your whole childhood?
One night, I fell asleep by the window waiting for my dad to come home. When I woke up the next morning, he had never shown up, and I couldn’t understand why. It was one of those things where I was really confused, and I kind of took it out on my mom for some reason, because I had no idea where he went.
How long was he gone?
He was literally gone a year or two before I even heard from him (or of him). I came to find out that he was married to somebody else who lived around two blocks from my house. It was just a weird situation, and I kind of took it out on my mom, so I didn’t have anybody in my life.
Did you speak to your dad after you discovered that he was living nearby?
I would very rarely go visit him, but eventually, I actually ended up moving into his house when I was in junior high because I was mad at my mom, and I took things out on her. I lived with him for around a year until I realized that I couldn’t stay there.
I was a little older then and I understood things better. When I told him that I wanted to move back home with my mom, he just lost his mind and smashed my dressers.
It sounds like your childhood was not only difficult, but also very lonely…
I hated the town that I grew up in, because I felt like I didn’t fit in. It was a very small, country town, you know, very religious. You’re either a Christian, a farmer or both. I was born into a world where we had no TVs in the house.
How long did you stay at home?
I moved out when I was 16, and I’ve been on my own ever since. I moved out to L.A. right before my 21st birthday. When I got there, I spent my first Christmas by myself because I didn’t know anyone.
It’s understandable why you wanted to break away from your torment…
I’m not trying to paint my dad out to be this monster. He’s older now, and we’ve never really talked about all this stuff. It’s one of those things where maybe we’ll talk one day and maybe we won’t. I’ve forgiven him. I don’t look at him as a bad person.
He was young when he had me, and nobody hands you a book on how to be a good parent. By no means am I making excuses for him, because hitting a child is not right, but back then, I think that it was a lot more accepted (at least where I grew up). That’s all that I knew. I just figured “ok, I fucked up and this is my punishment.”
I’ve had everything broken over me, from broom handles to wooden spoons. I’ve even had perfect handprint welts on me that lasted for a solid week.
It’s tragic that you blamed yourself for the abuse that you were receiving…
To me that was normal. I didn’t know what was going on in other households. In my mind, I still thought that was the way that everybody was raised. I’m finding out now that it wasn’t.
Can you talk about how you got started with Bullyville and what your relationship is with them now?
I was the spokesperson for a moment, but I’m no longer a part of Bullyville. But I think that it’s a great thing, and James McGibney has his heart in the right place.
What was your family’s reaction when you shared your story on Bullyville?
It upset everybody in my family because they all knew, but nobody talked about it. I’m not trying to air the family laundry at all. I’m doing it more because of what I’ve had to go through, and if I can help one kid out there, then it was worth it.
When James approached me and asked me about it, I just felt like it was time to get my story out there. I really struggled with it because I don’t want anybody to look at my dad in a negative light. That wasn’t my purpose at all. My purpose was to share my personal story in the hopes that it would help people.
Are you a part of any other anti-bullying movements?
I’m always looking to partner up with different bullying things because it’s just so important to me to help as many kids as I can by sharing my experiences. Hopefully, that will help inspire and help people.
Was your school life any better than your home life, or were you bullied there too?
I was a loner. I got into fights in school and was bullied, especially when I moved to Indiana. I saw kids there who were terrible bullies. One kid lit another kid on fire, and then kicked him while he was on the ground.
That’s insane! My only dealings with bullying when I was in school was of the more traditional kind, where I feared getting beaten up. I remember the terror that I felt, and it was just one or two incidents when I was young. Nowadays, as a parent, I live in constant fear of the carnage that comes as the result of bullying.
I know what you mean. When I grew up, school generally wasn’t a place that you feared. Even if there were fights, it was still a safe place. You didn’t fear for your life going to school.
The thing about bullying is that it’s always been there and it’s always been bad. It’s just the fact that we have the Internet now, and so many eyes are watching that society has become more aware of it.
I think that the only thing that’s worse is that social media has turned it into a 24/7 problem.
What advice would you give to any kids who find themselves in a similar situation as yours?
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Getting abused by adults is not normal, and if any kids out there are experiencing it, they need to let someone know. It’s just not right. Nobody will ever know what it does mentally to someone. To this day, it still fucks with my head.
Did things with your dad ever get any better since you’re an adult?
We’ve kind of made amends. We never will be close because I grew up without him, but I don’t hate him. I forgive him for everything.
At the end of the day you just have to be the bigger person. The only thing that I can do, the way that I can beat this is not have a kid too soon, and understand everything before I pass that along. The only way that I can try to help fix the world is to do things differently. If I have a kid, I’m going to give it the loving, caring life that I never had.
The best thing to do is to break the cycle. This shouldn’t be passed from one generation to the next.
Yeah, absolutely. Because I wasn’t around yet, I don’t know how my grandparents were to my dad. I do know that you don’t just wake up one day as an asshole. I think that if you look back, it probably trickled down, and that he got it from somewhere. The only thing that I can do is learn from his mistakes and not pass it along to my kids. Like you said, the best thing that can be done is to break the cycle.
It reminds me of the whole Adrian Peterson situation. Maybe he was physically disciplined in a very harsh way, but that doesn’t mean that he had to do the same thing to his children. I mean, he is a very strong NFL player, and yet, he was beating his 4-yr old with a tree branch. I imagine that hit very close to home for you…
Yeah, I see that as so wrong now, but only because I took the time to really try to fix myself (which didn’t happen overnight). I’ve even tried to put myself in my dad’s shoes to understand his side. Like I said earlier, he was young, and there is no handbook that teaches you how to be a great parent. I’m sure he didn’t set out thinking…“hey, I’m going to be a fuckin’ asshole and hit my kid.”
If I hadn’t taken the time to fix myself, I’d probably do the same thing if I had a kid, because I wouldn’t know any different. If he grew up anything like me, and didn’t take the time to fix himself, I truly believe he might not know that what he did was wrong.
It’s good to see that a change has happened with our generation (Adrian Peterson aside)…
I almost think that it was worse growing up in some ways back then because it was more acceptable in certain places in the country to literally beat your kids with a belt. That was considered punishment, and nobody really did anything about it.
Sixx: A.M. has a lot of message-driven songs, but were any inspired directly by bullying?
You know, we kind of just put a lot of our emotions into everything that we do. For instance, on our first album (The Heroin Diaries), I put myself emotionally into those songs by tapping into the physical abuse that I’ve been through. Even though it wasn’t heroin abuse, for a while, the physical abuse did lead to a really bad cocaine problem. I was able to plug myself into that story in my own way.
Do you have any memorable stories that kids have shared with you because of your anti-bullying involvement?
There were a ton of comments on my story on Bullyville. The part that’s so moving is how many people the story touched. I couldn’t have dreamt that so many people would feel connected to it. There were thousands of comments and e-mails from people who were going through similar situations.
It must have felt good to know that sharing such a deeply personal and painful story was not done in vain.
It was very touching to know that one person really can make a difference. And if we all stand up and speak our minds, this world will slowly become a better world to live in.