Stories for the Insomnaic

Months into my stay on the farm, I sat with a group of fellow lunatics and complained about the establishment. At the time, there was a counselor in the room.
This was his group…
He leaned on the rear two legs of his chair with his hands clasped around the back of his neck. I recall the way he rocked back and forth with an arrogant smirk on his face.
“Well, if you’re so angry then why don’t you tell us about it?”

Danny was a counselor in name only. To me, it seemed he enjoyed watching people feel pain, and while Danny claimed his methods were therapeutic, I believed he enjoyed his position like a sexual fetish.
“Go ahead, Ben. Tell us why you’re angry. You’re not going to hold this group hostage.”

Danny knew I could not respond the way I wanted to. In fact, he pressed me harder because he knew there was nothing I can do about it. He even told me this on a later occasion, as if I should have learned something

“Go ahead, Ben. You’re not codependent over me. I’m not afraid of your feelings.”
Then he dared me, “If you want to do something about it, then why don’t you?”

In the calmest anger, I told him, “I’d like to kick you out of that chair.”
Then I smiled at the idea. “I’d like to kick you in the face and watch you roll backwards.”
Danny asked, “So then why don’t you do it?”
His words were like needles to my brain. I felt as an angry dog would feel after being teased and stretched to the end of its leash.
“Go ahead, Ben. No one is stopping you.”
My fellow inmates said nothing. Their faces seemed expressionless and their eyes were fixed on the floor.

Danny continued to poke at me, asking, “If you’re so angry, then why don’t you do something about it.”
I defended myself by explaining, “Because I can’t, Danny.”
“And why can’t you?”
“Because if I kick you, then I’ll get thrown out of here, and if I get thrown out of here I go to jail. And I don’t want to go to jail.”
I asked him, “Is that what you want to hear? That’s why I can’t do anything….but if I could…I would love to kick you in the face.”
Inside, my rage was a storm, but outside, I spoke even and plainly. It was clear that I was enraged; however, I spoke as a matter of fact and not out of emotion.
In my thoughts, I could literally see Danny falling backwards and out of his chair.

I imagined his scrawny body as it tumbled. I pictured his face turning to an expression of fear and shock, and as I responded, I envisioned his blonde mullet-hairstyle as it soaked with his own blood.
“But you go on,” I told him.  “You keep playing with people’s heads. It’s a good thing you’re doing. Be proud.”

Whatever I said, Danny responded, “You’re not codependent over me, Ben.”
Then he folded his arms, lifting his chin in a feminine style of defiance, and quietly, I swore to myself that if I ever saw Danny out in the real world; I would punish him!

Fast forward, and more than a decade had passed since I was kept in a controlled environment. It had been years since I woke in a bunk, stood up, and made my bed before an angry bunk-leader screamed to the count of 20.
My showers were no longer limited to two minutes. I could eat what I want, whenever I wanted, and there was no one around to tell me what to do.
At the time, I was more sober by will and less than a power of example. I was again, my own worst enemy. Although, I was clean, I was also resistant and equally resentful.
I was in the middle of two court cases; one for an assault charge and the other was a bench warrant for littering.

On top of my daily 12-step meetings, I was also in therapy. At the end of my rope, I recall my therapist asking an old, but frequently asked question.
He suggested, “You have a lot of anger.”
I responded, “No shit!”
“How long can you live like that,” he asked.
“I don’t know.” I told him. “I thought that’s what I pay you for.”

We talked for most of the session about my anger. He touched on the root of my issues, but leaned towards things I should be grateful for.
“It’s like the old question.”
I asked, “What old question?”
The therapist stopped writing in his notes about me. He put down his pad and pen and asked, “Ben, you complain that you have no shoes……..but what about the man with no feet?”
Faster than he expected, I shot back, “Fuck the guy with no feet….He don’t need shoes! What the hell does he got to do with me?”
And quickly after, the therapist returned to his notepad and went back to writing notes about me…

I expose this to show who I was. I explain my struggles to offer a background to this:
During the week, I would go to lunchtime meetings. I was a salesman, but too immature to properly handle the downside of my position. It was difficult for me to catch myself and not speak out of anger. But 12-Step meetings helped.
And though I was guilty of lashing out at some of the fellowship, even going so far as to throw a chair on one occasion (I missed, by the way) I did see an improvement in my behavior.

On a specific Wednesday, I was scheduled to speak at the meeting and share my experience with the group. The meeting was held in the bookshop of a Church where I often helped set up the tables and chairs.
This meeting, however, I showed up slightly later than usual. I walked in expecting to see the usual faces and say hello to my usual friends. But on this day, there was a different face in the crowd.

He looked exactly as I remembered.
I suppose age, muscle and body weight separated me from his memory.
Instantly, my stomach spun into knots. I felt the hairs on my arm begin to stand.
My first thought was, “Revenge,” but I suppose a small amount of maturity stopped me.

“Excuse me,” I asked. “But were you ever a counselor?”
“I still am,” answered the familiar face.
“Is your name Danny?”
Appearing flattered, as if maybe he helped someone, Danny smiled, “Yes it is.”
“Holy shit!” I said.
Danny commented, “It’s nice to be remembered.”
His tone of voice was the same. Even his blonde mullet was the same. He still had that off-putting smirk and obnoxious laugh.
“Oh, I remember you. You were my counselor for 11 months.”
I told Danny, “I swore that if I ever saw you in the street I would bury you under the cement.”
And in true Danny fashion, he answered, “Really, because I don’t seem to remember you.”
(That was a lie, by the way ….he admitted to that later on.)

Anger is a part of me. I admit that. Anger is natural… I understand that too.
I was angry for a long time. I was angry about the shape of my body and my lack of strength. I was angry about my height and the way I spoke. I felt awkward. I was insecure and as a result, I was outraged.
I was angry that it seemed so hard for me to fit in. I was frustrated because everything seemed like a struggle. I thought life was a joke, only, I was last to get the punch line.
I used anger as a tool—I used my rage so I would never feel like a victim again.

I spent most of my life dangling from the horrible threads of depression…
My anger had nothing to do with Danny or people like him. My anger was a reflection of how I felt about myself. Once I began to take care of that, the Danny’s of the world were just unimportant.

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