Having had to consider my adoption as a child in detail and its effect on my life, the thought of doing the same in respect of the abuse I suffered as a child filled me with dread. Its impact has been much harder to pin down. So much of my thinking seemed to be so conceptual that, many times, when I tried to link something to it, I found a number of alternative reasons to explain an incident or my behaviour. I wrote pages on the subject, but none of them made much sense. When I re-read them the following day, they seemed to me to amount only to a morass of confused stories, interspersed with pop psychology. As a result, they were thrown in the bin.
As I continued to struggle, I had a moment of insight in which the following thought came forward: the fact that I cannot find clarity concerning this subject means that the consequences of the abuse, even though undefined, have been dramatic but in an all-pervasive way.
The secret me, the bit I kept for myself, the bit that nobody could touch, was my defence mechanism against being harmed again. If there was something that was internal, whatever that something was, then it could not be taken away, could not be abused. In so far as it may have protected me, it also led to a crippling fear of intimacy.
Although this did not prevent physical intimacy, it still marred sex as a complete act. Both the mental and physical sides have to coincide to create total satisfaction and, because I would not risk being vulnerable and kept something for myself, that could not happen. Instead, I mistook intensity for intimacy. Anything edgy, tending to the extreme, seemed more exciting, but when experienced was invariably unsatisfactory.
In a similar fashion, my relationships, at all levels, have been imperfect. It is not just the very close relationships that have suffered. This fear has also caused me to have difficulty in social gatherings of any kind. And at the very times when I might have been expected to be happiest or most content, I have all too often felt detached and unable fully to share a moment of victory or joy. Added to this, because I did not have any insight into why this happened, I would also be angry.
This fear is also principally responsible for the self-destructive behaviour that has occurred in my past. At times, when a situation or a relationship threatened to become sufficiently comfortable that I was able to consider taking the last stride towards contentment, I would do something to wreck it, thus preventing any chance of putting my happiness in the control of another person. You will immediately have spotted the inherent irony of doing this: it made me unhappy anyway.
I believe the abandonment issue was also at work in the behaviour outlined above. Having previously been abandoned, there was no way I could risk this happening again, and I would leave before I could be left. Though this, too, made me desperately unhappy, I would console myself with the thought that it would have happened sooner or later, and at least this way I was in control.
Even now that I have some understanding of these issues, it is not as simple as switching from uninformed and unhappy to informed and full of the joys of spring. There is no guide to risking intimacy that is universally applicable. All the theories and treatises that exist can never deal with the infinite variations that make up an individual’s life and circumstances. Little by little, I am trying to trust more, invest more emotionally in things, and open myself up. With this, inevitably I suppose, there has come hurt. People let you down; they act in a disloyal way. But what is the alternative?
Either of the two issues, abandonment and abuse, would have posed more than enough problems for me. In unison they have been an ordeal and continue to be so on an almost daily basis, even though their influence has diminished. I am now much more aware of my moods and motives, and of what might lie behind a certain feeling or proposed action. As such, I have started to have some success in recognising and dealing with these twin monsters.
I am not sure the title of Mrs Moore III was especially attractive, but Belinda overcame any misgivings and we married in December 2008, a year after she gave birth to our daughter, Larissa Holly. We are getting on with the most important task of all: raising a decent, healthy and happy family. I try to give the benefit of my experience to Larissa Holly and Imogen, the daughter of my second marriage, and worry about their future, as do all parents. I try not to resurrect my former life through them and am always mindful that, while they have part of me in their persona, that persona is not mine to control.
One of the most difficult things about parenting is knowing when to keep quiet and not to interfere, and realising that some lessons have to be personally learnt. Both my daughters seem to have my argumentative and spirited nature; I just hope that it can be tempered, or at least directed, in positive ways.
I am, at last, beginning to understand my thoughts and actions, which at times still border on the pathological. I have had to accept that my extraordinary experiences gained through rugby were exactly that, and they were not meant to last in perpetuity. In fact, one of the things that made them special was their transient nature.
The most common question I get asked is: “Do you miss playing?” I used to trot out a stock answer, saying that I did not, because I realised that I could no longer play due to the passage of time, and anyway my life had many different strands, all of which kept me busy.
I no longer say this, because it isn’t true. And pretending that I do not miss my playing days is not to face the consequences of retirement. I miss that life more than I usually admit. It is not just the crowds or the acclamation; I miss the thrill of direct physical confrontation. I wish I could still enjoy the fantastic repartee and solidarity generated by competitive matches and the banter outside those moments of stress. And I miss my mates. Whenever I meet any former team-mate, it is as if our past glories occurred only last week, and I get twangs of nostalgia.
I wish there were more events or occasions at which I could meet the boys, but we all lead busy lives that have too little time for enjoyment anyway. I now try not to yearn for those days, and instead to be grateful that I have had them. Not many other people have had the chance to experience something similar.
I am in the process of setting down my personal and professional goals for one, five and 10 years hence. It occurs to me that this document should also include plans for a limited number of achievements in areas that interest me. I have matured enough to know that these need not, and probably should not, be things such as climbing Everest or walking to the South Pole. If they were that extreme, it would be a firm indication that I continued to chase something that was ultimately impossible to attain, that is, a life permanently filled with adrenalin.
Although such a life would continue to provide thrills, it would ultimately bring me much unhappiness because in the end I would fail in my quest. The elements of controlled danger in activities such as skiing couloirs and motorbike-track days give me an adrenalin fix but they are wants and not needs.
It has taken too long for me to recognise that the maxims by which I tried to live my sporting career do not work when applied to normal life. The fact that I instinctively still associate normal with mundane is to misunderstand the proper meaning of the word: that it also means healthy and occurring naturally. The truth that has escaped me is that there are enough real challenges within everyday life to occupy anybody. The difficult tasks of being a good father and husband are faced every day, and they are not made any easier by their frequency. I failed in the past to attend to important matters because I judged them to be of lesser importance than chasing my dreams.
The commonplace challenges, plus the odd chance to campaign, do charity work or take an opportunity to make a difference, all these are more than enough for a normal man, which, in the end, is all that I am.
Over the years, the advice from lay and professional confidants – to “put it all behind me” in order to achieve some sort of peace with myself – was not unreasonable or unrealistic, but to do so I had to find out what “it” was; which was in itself difficult. I have been trying for some time now to deal with “it”, and occasionally I feel I have made great progress. More often than not, though, I feel progress is slow. I suppose that to unravel 40-odd years could not be done any other way but I wish it were not so. I now realise that my constant search for the one explanation that will solve all my problems is itself part of the problem.
The fact is that, as far as my personal life is concerned, this “key’’ probably does not exist. My legal background taught me to analyse facts and consider every detail of an issue and this led me to do the same with my past. However, doing this means that I constantly dragged experiences from my past into the present, and although they were not as viscerally felt as when they first occurred, they were nevertheless upsetting, and they could not be left to rest. I have had to learn to see them as things that I cannot alter or make better; they will always be painful. What I have to do is deal with their effects.
Crucially, I am now able to see that I should not define myself as an abused, abandoned man; rather, I am a man to whom abuse and rejection happened