It was right around this time. I knew something was about to happen. I had not gone all in, just yet.
I had gone back to old behaviors and used old defense mechanisms. I went back to the old coping skills of my previous life. Essentially, I went back to the old me because in the simplest terms, I failed to maintain the new person I had become.
I was still young. I was only back in the real world for a few months before the old me came back in the picture. I suppose the most frequent question is where did I go wrong?
I remember being asked the question, “What happened?” which was followed with the statement, “You were doing so well,” in tone of surprised disbelief.
I was frightened. I was hit with my old intimidation and insecurities. I felt unlike and dissimilar from everyone. No matter how I tried to fit, I just couldn’t.
Everything in life seemed so forced and coerced but for everyone else; life seemed like this natural thing.
It seemed as though people moved in a fluid-like motion but everything about me was clunky and out of rhythm.
Deep down, these were my honest feelings.
One could argue that my depression was unresolved. One could say that I was unable to accept the things I cannot change due to a chemical reaction in my brain.
The truth is all would be right. The truth is I also skipped on my personal maintenance. The truth is I began to think and believe along emotional lines. I fed my insecurity. I gave in to emotion, which fed my anxiety that spread out like a dove’s tail.
The truth is I was very much a part of my own downfall.
We always are.
Situationally, I was still grieving the loss of my Father. I was home from a place where I had status. I had just returned from place where I had a sense of purpose and a feeling of belonging.
However, life in a therapeutic community is life in a therapeutic community.
Previously, I lived on a farm with others who thought, lived, and felt like I did. I lived in a small community, which, with all of our internal dysfunctions; one thing assured, there was never a shortage of someone to talk to. Help was readily available and no one was allowed to isolate or hide away from themselves
I was a senior member at a place which I call, “The Farm.” I was regarded. I was included. Moreover, I was invited. And for that time; this was my identity.
I had come from a place where people would ask things—like simple things, such as questions that sound like, “Hey, how’re you doing?” and actually mean it with the intention to be answered.
Back home, keep in mind, people ask “How’re you doing,” but the seldom mean this as a question. It is more like a salutation or another way of saying, “Hello.”
In the real world, no one wants to know, “How’re you doing?”
They just say this because it’s a thing people say
Meanwhile, I was back in the real world; I went back home after my completion of treatment. I held on for a while. It was difficult though. I was lonely. I went out but my interaction was less than stellar. I did not interact with too many people. I began to feel the loss of my previous identity, in which I worked really hard to achieve. I lost my feeling or purpose.
It was difficult for me to admit that I had a problem. It was difficult for me to come to the grips that the things I previously enjoyed, which are also the things that almost killed me and landed me in places, like say, jail or on street corners with pistols in my face, but nonetheless, the things which altered my state and cloaked me in a euphoric cocoon would now be taken away.
I was intimidated by the idea that I would never be able to do the simple things that other people do, like go to a baseball game and drink a beer in the stands. As I was told, this would no longer be an option for me. As I saw it, this was just another thing that made me different and unlike everybody else.
However, more difficult than all was the fear i had of letting go of the image I created, which was all a lie.
I managed to create an entirely new persona. I created me. In fact, I recreated me to hide the true symptoms of my inner turmoil. And now that this was revealed, who would I be if not the person I pretended to be all along. I felt naked and vulnerable. I was raw; uncomfortably raw, in fact, and I had no idea if I would ever make it.
It was hard for me to let this go. It was hard for me to break down the honest facts; however, with the help of the other members on the farm and with the help of a treatment plan and through the guidance of professional help; I was able to strip myself of all the “Old me” things that literally kept me sick.
I was someone on the farm. I was important. I was a friend. I was a family member. If there was something needed, I was sought to be helpful. I felt as though I had a position; as if I had a purpose and a sense of importance. There was a reason for me.
But back home, I went back to my old bedroom, which was odd my first day back. I felt like I had returned to the scene of a crime. It was like a murder took place here; only, no one else the details of the case.
But I knew . . .
I knew about the skeletons in the closet. I knew where all the bodies were hidden. I also knew where all of my old paraphernalia was hidden. I knew where I hid the jugs of gin. I knew about the secret hole in the wall, which I had covered by a poster, so that I could hide things in plain sight.
When I returned to my old bedroom, immediately, I saw the old me. I felt the pain. I remembered the hard times. I remember the contemplation of running away. I remembered the lies I tried to hide.
(And by the way, to this day, there is probably stolen jewelry hidden somewhere in the walls of my old childhood bedroom. I’m sure if the walls were taken down, someone would find something. But I digress.)
Upon my return to the normal world, I went back to normal people things. However, I felt unfit. I went back to school but I struggled with anxiety because I had classroom memories and classroom fears.
Meanwhile, most of the kids my age were discussing things like life, or like how they took driver’s education classes or went to prom. But not me—I never went to a prom. I never even went to high school. No, I was placed in an upstate facility and remanded there by the courts until the completion of my treatment.
I tried to go back. I really did. I went to a college program but I couldn’t keep up. I sunk quickly and quit as soon as I felt the old fears come rushing back in.
My fear amazed me; I went from feeling comfortable in my own skin to immediately questioning my identity. Therefore, in answer to the frequently asked question of where did I go wrong?
I answer this simply.
I lost myself again. I felt the old fears and went back to my old default settings. I did this to defend myself. I went back to my old subconscious programming because, in the simplest terms, I lacked the confidence that I could live, be, or interact, in any other way.
On the night in question, just before I dove back and went all in; I was driving in my minivan, which was filled with stolen equipment. It was only a matter of time
I used to like to steal because since I always felt so empty and weak; the fact that I stole something meant more than just stealing an item.
I viewed my thefts as a theft of power. This meant that I owned a piece of someone. I used this to satisfy my anger, which was mainly a cover-up that masked my pain of feeling so painfully different.
No matter how I tried, I could not fit. And no matter how I tried to get people to like me; although I’m sure some people liked me—I could never seem to pull of my trick and feel comfortable in a crowd.
In full disclosure, everything I did was only a symptom. My actions and my behavior as well as my feelings and opinions were all reactions based on a problem which stemmed from within.
It was all in my head . . .
I was tired of feeling unlikable. I was tired of believing the inner lies. I was painfully tired of the thought machine and the incessant thinking that would not and could not stop; therefore, I sought through my old remedies to calm (or appease) the thought machine.
Even if the peace was only temporary and the inevitable outcomes led me to a worse circumstance; as I saw it, I gladly paid the price of admission because feeling good for at least a minute was better than never feeling good at all.
I found myself back to where I was. But worse, I found myself back to who I was. It was as though all the lessons I learned and all the work I did had vanished. I’m not sure how this happened. I suppose it was my inability to accept the terms of life as life unfolded.
Acceptance- [ak-sep-tuh ns]:
- the act of taking or receiving something offered.
- favorable reception; approval; favor.
- the act of assenting or believing: acceptance of a theory.
The above is the word acceptance as defined by Dictionary.com.
There was a step, which was the first step they offered to me, which read that admitted I was powerless and that my life had become unmanageable.
Admitting this was easy. There was no doubt in my mind that my life had become unmanageable. There was no doubt in me that I knew there was a problem. However the ability to admit and the understanding of acceptance is two separate things.
I needed to find accountability for my feelings. I needed to have someone to blame for my discomforts. I needed a reason why I felt the way I did or looked as I did. I could not and would not accept that natural truth, which is this, is who I am. And since I could not accept me as I was, I struggled to manipulate and make me different
The most valuable thing we have is our identity; however, when we feel as if we lose this and when we feel as if we have nothing, as in nothing to offer the world, or as in feeling unremarkable, unwanted, and when we feel as if we have no purpose, and no reason—the idea of acceptance is unthinkable.
To accept means to understand; however, when it comes to the emotional thought and the subconscious math and programming, we trip and we fall because we can’t understand and we don’t want to feel the way we do.
This is where we revert back to that little kid that was picked on in a classroom. This is when we revert back to the first time we felt socially disappointed (or disgraced.) This is when we go back to old fears of humiliation, which we swore would never happen again.
In my case; I lost my sense of self. I forgot who I was. I gave in to emotion instead of operating on intellect. Put simply, I fed my insecurities. I fed my fears. I promoted my pains. I stopped the process of improvement and encouragement. I went back (as though I never left) to my old mindset, and it was just that quick. I sunk. I say this as I always say it; I lost like water loses to a drain. I say it this way because no other explanation is as accurate.
On the night of my fall, I was in an elderly person’s home. It was clear that the person lived alone and they were away. I remember the decorations of the home and how the home smelled like an old woman lived there.
I remember the way the couches were covered in plastic. I remember the darkness of the rooms and the smiling faces of the children and grandchildren that posted on the wall in picture frames. I remember the faces on the photographs and the eyes, which were all looking at me as I burglarized the home.
I stole jewelry. I stole money. I stole anything of value and sold it for a quick sale at a price much less than its worth.
However, to the old woman; —or should I say, “To grandma” as some of the cards read—I stole pieces of her history for a quick buck. I did this because I was hateful and angry and tired and sad and the list could go on. This is who I become when I give in to addiction and depressive thinking.
I went back to who I was. Shortly after, I found myself driving down Rockaway Parkway with a nickel-plated .357 magnum beneath my seat. I am fortunate that the next plan did not take place but this was only because fate led me elsewhere; otherwise, the sins I will have to pay for would be more crucial than now.
I went right back to it. It was though an old friend was there laughing and waiting for me—looking to say, “I told ya you’d be back,” and so it went on, a 24 hour binge that almost turned deadly.
This April 1st will mark my 28th year away from that person.
And I don’t miss this old part of me at all.
When I speak at presentations or talk about my addiction or alcoholism; I never speak about the drink or the drug.
Instead, I talk about my feelings. I talk about why I did what I did instead of glamorize the actions like some rock star or a glorified gangster with a gun. There was no glory in this. There was only shame. All I felt was shame. As I type this to you and expose my old truths (grateful to have new ones) my skin stands on end with goosebumps. I feel the contempt on my tongue and the sad remorse for a kid that never knew what he was truly worth.
Do you want to know what happened or why I went back out?
It was because I failed to understand my value. I lost my sense of identity. My actions matched my feelings and in an effort to defend myself, I went back to an old program which I knew would help me—and even if it only helped me for a minute, at least I had that minute.
But I don’t want to settle for a minute anymore.
I don’t want a minute of relief—
I’m looking for a lifetime of peace (So help me, God)
I know you . . .
I know you get it . . .
Just remember something, if you find yourself believing those lies in your head, call me. You and me we can talk for a while and I swear you will feel differently when we’re done
Written for G—
I love you brother