• Kurt J. Kolka

Gaylord man comes to grips with being bullied as a youth

GAYLORD — "I’m gonna get you!”

Those words from a sixth-grade bully echoed in the mind of Tim Morgridge for three decades, impacting his life, choices and relationships.

The bully never harmed Morgridge physically, but those threats kept haunting him.

“You’re always looking back behind you,” notes Morgridge, a 55 year-old Gaylord resident, about his reaction to the childhood threats.

In school, Morgridge was shy and always had a love for art. He became known at Gaylord High School as Elbow Joe, after a cartoon character he created.

When it came to the bullying incident, he kept it to himself. The feelings of perpetual fear it caused grew over the years. Other negative comments people made to him also added to this emotional burden he carried.

“I never felt like I was good enough,” he said.

He went on to art school, but the feelings of inferiority led to drug and alcohol abuse.

“I married my (now) ex-wife and her dad was a preacher,” Morgridge said. “When I was about 21, this one Sunday he did this sermon on the mind of an artist. I felt something pulling at me (spiritually).”

Shortly afterward, Morgridge gave his life over to Jesus Christ.

His father-in-law became his mentor in faith. When Morgridge had a question, instead of giving him a simple answer, his father-in-law handed Morgridge a Bible and concordance and told him to look it up for himself. His confidence grew and he even gave a sermon at one point.

Then, his father-in-law became ill with cancer and soon passed away. Faced with more pain, Morgridge returned to drinking and drugs. Despite various attempts to stop, he just couldn’t completely break free of his addictions. In time, he and his wife divorced. His life fell apart.

“Every time I started being successful, I would sabotage it,” Morgridge said.

After having spent many years in the South, Morgridge returned to Gaylord and ended up in the hospital because of his addictions.

At that point, he felt God saying to him, “You know, Tim, you can keep going in this direction or you can follow me. You need to decide.”

A short time later, a friend, Gary Chappell, talked to Morgridge about the Celebrate Recovery program, a biblically based, 12-step program aimed at helping people recover from all kinds of “hurts, habits and hang-ups.”

“Everybody has hurts, habits and hang-ups. This is a program for everyone,” Morgridge said.

The program was created to help people struggling with issues such as relationship difficulties, dysfunctional families, anger, depression, anxiety, perfectionism, sexual addictions, physical/emotional/sexual abuse, chemical dependency, co-dependency and other types of emotional/mental struggles which people tend to keep hidden.

The program asks participants questions and helps them to take an inventory of their lives.

Celebrate Recovery was created by the Rev. Rick Warren (author of “The Purpose-Driven Life”) and the Rev. John Baker to assist people in experiencing healing by sharing experiences, strengths and hopes through group interaction. However, while sharing is encouraged, it is not required.

Morgridge says it was the program’s questions that helped him to realize how significant of an event the sixth-grade bullying had been.

Once realizing where these feelings came from, he could then deal with them, forgive those involved and realize that others’ words didn’t make him a bad person.

“I don’t beat myself up anymore,” he said.

Today, Morgridge is a maintenance person for a local apartment complex. In his spare time, when he can find it, he still enjoys drawing and painting.

He has even illustrated a book called “Eaten” by author Charles M. Bump.

He has become one of the leaders in the local Celebrate Recovery program in Gaylord. He is also a volunteer member of Northern Michigan Substance Abuse Services, which provides peer recovery coaches for those trying to stay clean from drugs and alcohol.

He also has a soft spot in his heart for those affected by bullying. Whenever he sees it happening, he steps in to end it, talking to both the bully and the victim.

Morgridge says bullying is a serious problem today. Kids are still afraid to tell adults. Adults tend to deny that it goes on until something serious happens.

“Bullying is like this big pink elephant that everybody sees but nobody wants to talk about,” Morgridge said. “It’s like child abuse used to be.

“(As adults) we see things differently than a child. We have many things going on. If we have problems going on in one area, we can say, ‘OK, but that’s just one area.’ If a child is struggling with a term paper, it’s huge to them. School is their life. Adults forget that.”

Morgridge says he’d like to see a support group eventually set up for kids or teens as a way for them to get their feelings out regarding issues like bullying.

The local Celebrate Recovery group meets from 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays at CrossPoint Church, 1499 M-32 East. Participants spend an hour eating and enjoying each other’s company, another hour in music and a lesson, and the final hour in discussion, with men and women in separate groups.

Baby sitters are available for parents. All area adults are welcome to attend. Guests do not have to be affiliated with a church or have any religious belief.

More information can be found on its Facebook page, Celebrate Recovery — Gaylord, Michigan.

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