From Bedtime Stories for the Insomniac

To The Civilian:

There are different battles for different kinds of people. Some battles are more deliberate; some of them are more strategic and cold, some battles are quietly long, and linger on painfully, and some battles come with flashes of violence against enemies both seen and unseen, heard and unheard. It would be inaccurate to say wars are limited to one specific battlefield.  And complete with different battlegrounds, life happens, and each person has their own war front.
In some cases, the hardest battle for one person is considered peaceful to another. In most cases, however, the strangers of any battle are either uninformed or misinformed of struggle, and as a stranger to a battle outside from their own daily grind, the stranger cannot understand both the physical and mental scars of combat.

With regards to the nature of battle as it relates to the social illnesses of alcoholism and addiction, I refer to strangers of this as “Civilians.”
I call them “Citizens,” because they have never seen the battlefield. They have no idea the wars that are fought here, on our soul, in both good neighborhoods and in any social background. Be advised; there is in fact a war on drugs and this war comes with casualties. And again, it is inaccurate to see battle as something limited to a specific form of combat. Battles come in various ways, and of any enemy, there is no enemy worse than one that lives behind the walls of your own eyelids. Believe me on this one . . .

Before moving onward, I would like to explain that in this analogy, it is important that I clarify my comparison as a soldier in battle should not in any way degrade or cheapen the actual uniformed soldier at war or serving on behalf of their country. This is not my intention. Instead, I outline this to detail a mental conflict.

In my analogy, I liken the alcoholic or the addict as someone involved in a different kind of battle. The fight is daily and weapons of mass destruction are different in this war; however, equally deadly, the artillery upon detonation is seen as haunting, yet beautiful and the chaos that comes with euphoria is deadly, yet inviting. The rules of engagement are different in this battle.
This fight is more inward than outward; it is internal and the enemy speaks in the deadly whispers of comfortable language. in this case, the enemy is a friend. In this fight, the enemy is the one thing that seemingly saves the alcoholic or addict.
Elsewise, nobody outside battle understands and everyone else is either in the way, or they’re in the war themselves.
Outside the battlegrounds, such as the bars, the cop-spots, the junkie-dens, and the smoke-filled rooms where men and women drown themselves in bottles of loneliness; the world goes on.
People live. They laugh and they smile. Everyone else goes on about the day, but to the drunk or junkie soldier, to the wife or husband, child or relative of these soldiers; life is complicated with the mental ambush of ongoing and overly complicated debates.

The enemy on this front is not only in the form of a person; the enemy is chemical by nature, causing a chemical reaction, and the while no, there are no snipers in clock towers, or hiding in heightened positions, armed with rifles, and looking to pull the trigger, nor are there an infantry ahead, waiting for an ambush; the battles in this war are very real. And like war, same as the soldier returns home with scars, there are many alcoholics and addicts who return to the world with post-traumatic stress disorders. There are some who have died as a result of their battle. Some died in the heat of it. Some have passed as a result of their sickness. Some pas away years after battle. They pass as a result of health problems, but nevertheless, their deaths are war related and attributed to that battles they put themselves through.

I consider strangers to this fight as “Civilians,” because they have never been affected by this sort of thing. What would they know about it?
To the stranger, they would have no way of understanding the thought process that comes with addiction. They would never understand the battle that rages in the mental war rooms. Or if not the mental war room itself, the civilian would also have no understanding of what it means to sit on the opposite side of this war and be a casualty. They have never been held as an emotional hostage—at least not in this way. In this case, the civilian does not know about staying up late, hoping for some kind of news about the addict in their life but then praying that there is none. Civilians have no idea what it means to wait for the active alcoholic to come home, wondering what the mood will be like and frightened of what damage has been done. For the civilian, they could never imagine what it’s like to be a child of war or the parent to a child in this losing battle.
To the “Citizen,” this is only something they read about. They say things like, “Why don’t you ‘Just’ quit,” or “Why don’t you ‘Just’ do this, or ‘Just’ do that.”
But citizens and civilians have no idea how incredibly idiotic the word, “Just” sounds. They say, “Just do this,” as if “Just” was an easy thing. They say, “Just do this,” because, after all, they’re civilians and battles like ours are foreign to them.

Citizens will often have a list of suggestions. And although the suggestions may be helpful in many ways—the citizen still lacks the visceral experience of the junkie wars. They are not only a stranger to the battle; they are stranger to the pain that goes along with it. They are not familiar with the strategy and survival of this game. Their experience is limited and their opinions are often uneducated.

Simply put—they just don’t know . . .

I once sat down and spoke with a man about his story. He urged me to write about him. Instead, I urged him to write about himself. In this life, I firmly believe that we are the best authors of our own story. And it’s better this way. This way we can take direction on which way our story goes, who we reach, and how we can be helpful. We can season the facts with the little details which no one else saw as a crucial part of our design.

When I first entered sobriety, I found there were others like me. They understood me because they saw the same fight. They knew what to do; they knew how to handle the urges and the unnecessary voices that scream in the mental war rooms. They knew about my scars. They also showed me how to heal them.
The thing about civilians is this; they lived a different life. They don’t understand the split in our personality and our struggle to differentiate between the positive and disease voices in our thoughts.

As a man of battle, I have made it a point to help those who are like me. Recently, I listened to a few people talk about addiction, calling it, “A choice,” instead of an actual and clinical disease. Of all the people I have spoken with that shared similar experiences, I have never met anyone that chose to have this sickness. I never met anyone that woke up one morning and asked to be a junkie.
At first, I was aggravated by the conversation. Then I settled down and thought to myself, “Of course they think this way. They’re civilians.”
They have no idea about the mental anguish. They don’t know about the depression and the constant need to always find some kind of balance.
And that’s what this really is. The act of drinking or usage of substance is to balance out the world. Often times, in our efforts to find balance and feel better, the scales tip drastically in the wrong direction. As a result, we’re always on the run.
We’re always trying to find that perfect sweet-spot; we’re trying to find that place where the scales are balanced, and all is well.
Meanwhile, we are lost in this fight. The world around us burns to the ground and often, the usual casualties are those who love us most.

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