"My vision is that others use my pain and the wisdom that came with the pain to better their own lives."
Content Warning: This article contains some graphic descriptions of physical and psychological abuse that may be triggering for some readers.
Charles was born in Montreal, Quebec. He moved to Atlanta, Georgia at 10 years old and came back to Canada at the age of 18. He graduated in 2010 from the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University with a Bachelor of Commerce. Charles is happily married with a 16 months old daughter. He was the Former Vice President of Vision Marine Technologies, formerly known as the Canadian Electric Boat Company. Charles has recently founded an IT company and is a new author of a book called You, Greatness, which is available now for purchase. His book is a vivid recounting of his childhood trauma and the tools that he used to turn his life around to become a husband, father, and successful serial entrepreneur.
SWY: If you do not mind sharing - What is your story with childhood and youth abuse and trauma?
Disclaimer: In order to protect the identities of the people who raised me I will refer to them as John and Jane.
CF: My first memory is when I was three years old. I was making a fuss at night because I didn’t want to go to sleep. I yelled from upstairs that I was hungry. Jane told me to go to sleep, but John insisted on making me a sandwich. I was sitting on my bed, which had a clear view of the hallway and stairs. After some time, John was coming up the stairs with a plate and sandwich and Jane was attempting to stop him. John then put the plate down, grabbed Jane’s head, and slammed it on the stairs and then he threw her down. He then proceeded to come and sit next to me while I ate. He said, “You know I did nothing wrong, I simply moved her out of the way.” Terrified of what he would do to me, I simply nodded and kept eating. Fifteen minutes later the police came and took him away.
Throughout my childhood, I was physically and psychologically abused by John and Jane. I have a vivid memory of the time that Jane used the rolling pin on my hand. She once forcefully dragged me up the stairs, threw me on the floor in my bedroom, and came back with the belt beat down. I go into more detail in my book about other events.
SWY: How has your experience with childhood abuse changed your life in terms of pushing you to become a successful businessman?
CF: Being told at a young age that I would never amount to anything by John and Jane shaped me. I have a burning desire to continually improve. I have a need to continually evolve to become a better person and businessman. I want to become so affluent in order to help children that experience abuse. I want to accomplish big things in order to act like a “father” to people who are looking to find their way in life. I believe that my purpose in life is to help others heal from their abuse and trauma, which is why I was made to suffer as a child.
SWY: You recently came out with a book called You, Greatness - What inspired you to write this book, and what benefits do you hope others will gain from reading your book?
CF: I’ve been to very dark places in my life. I was addicted to cigarettes for 10 years and marijuana for 8. I developed arthritis all over my body due to my childhood trauma. I felt down and out until the day I decided to take charge of my life and stop playing the victim. I began to counsel myself and develop strategies to deal with and move past my pain. I decided to write the book so that I may share my story with the world and also act as a catalyst for those who don’t know how to begin the healing process. The beautiful thing about my book is that even though I share specific stories from my life, the strategies I implemented in my own life can be used by anyone. Each person can implement them in their own specific way based on their own life. My vision is that others use my pain and the wisdom that came with the pain to better their own lives.
SWY: In your book, you share the steps you took to rebuild your life after suffering from childhood abuse - What are some of the “Life Laws” that others can use from your experience to do the same with their lives?
CF: One of the laws is "Don’t Be A Victim". There was a time in my life where I believed that all the bad things happen to me and only me. I was meant to suffer and this is how my life is. If I got a bad grade at school, it was because my teacher didn’t like me not because I didn’t study enough. So, I had to learn to be a victor instead of a victim. I took on the belief that I am completely responsible for my life. I wake up every day and I choose to reap what I sow. You are the creator of your life regardless of what others do to you.
"I had to learn to be a victor instead of a victim. I took on the belief that I am completely responsible for my life. I wake up every day and I choose to reap what I sow. You are the creator of your life regardless of what others do to you."
Another law is to "Embody Serenity". Serenity is having inner peace regardless of outer circumstances. Being in control of your emotions instead of you letting your emotions control you. I used to be very temperamental. The way I grew out of that was to become a more centered person and you do that by working on yourself and improving yourself. It’s a continuous journey.
SWY: What were some of the main resources you used to help you in the healing process?
CF: My first resource was Albert Einstein. I loved math and science growing up and my middle name is Albert, so I always felt an affinity towards Einstein. One day when I was 20, it occurred to me that Einstein discovered the Theory of Relativity by performing thought experiments. He imagined what it would be like to travel at the speed of light on a beam of starlight. So, I told myself that I can also perform thought experiments. One of the thought experiments I conducted was imagining what it would be like to be John or Jane standing in front of me as a child right before they beat me. That’s when it occurred to me that only someone unwell would ever harm a child. I go into greater detail in my book.
Another resource is my community. Because I did not have any positive role models growing up my values are self-derived. I decided that seeking out positive roles is a smart strategy. I do not view my family as only having the same blood/relatives. You can create your family by surrounding yourself with others who will care and nurture you and you can do the same for them.
SWY: What is one piece of advice you would give to a child or youth who is suffering from abuse and trauma?
CF: Don’t ever stop believing in yourself. You may not be able to control what others do to you and how they treat you, but you can control how you react and what you do with the pain. Take the pain and channel it into something positive. Make the choice that every bad episode you experience in your life makes you stronger and wiser. You are never beaten until you give up. If you never give up and continue, you will succeed.
SWY: Male childhood abuse is oftentimes overlooked when compared to female abuse - What is one thing you want others to understand about being a male childhood abuse survivor? Do you think that there is a stigma attached to being a male survivor?
CF: Growing up, I was taught that being a man means being tough. It means that boys don’t cry. I had to reprogram my mind to change that set of beliefs. It shows great maturity to be vulnerable. One of the most difficult things I had to do was to tell my story. It was difficult for me to admit that I need to make a change in my life. It was difficult to admit that I am weak. In a society that advertises what “manliness” should look like, it is difficult as a male to come forward.
No, I don’t believe there is a stigma. I believe it is powerful to come forward as a male survivor. There are so many men that have experienced childhood trauma and it is difficult for them to cope with and to admit it. I believe our society has evolved and we live in a time where men are starting to accept their vulnerability more and more.
SWY: As a new father, what are some messages and traits you think are most important in instilling in your child in terms of changing the trajectory of intergenerational trauma and abuse?
CF: When my daughter was born I felt that I now had the chance to create a happy and healthy environment for her. I can now channel all the pain that I felt into treating her the way I would have wanted my caregivers to treat me. I can now instill in her the values and beliefs that will help her live a happy and healthy life.