Letters From the Eastside – Letter Two

Dear Mother Directional,

There’s been no word from Cousin Contagious since he last walked away from the world. But there is good news. Cousin led himself into a treatment facility. His only message to me was short but to the point. He wrote to me about the food, which is not the best and that the bed was not what he was used to. Plus, his roommate snores. So, there were a few times when Cousin had to go outside and sleep on one of the couches in the hallway. 

He described the facility as an old hotel, which it was. He said the décor had not changed much over the last few decades. Cousin said the guest rooms are now patient rooms and the meeting rooms are in small offices, except for the big meetings which are in a cafeteria.
He said that there are people from all over the country and yes, they make fun of Cousin’s accent and his New York slang.
“It’s a place filled with drunks and junkies,” he said. But at least Cousin is in a good place. He is safe for now. Maybe his body is there and his mind is elsewhere – or then again, maybe his mind will catch up and this time will be different for him.

It is strange to think about how many years go by and then suddenly, we look back and our past is like it happened in another life. I suppose Cousin feels this way now. I suppose this is why he mentioned looking back only to realize how much time he wasted. He said guilt is a killer.
I agree. I think guilt is a killer too. Then again, so is regret, shame, blame and fault. All of these ideas can lead us into a downward spiral and then it’s like we can’t do anything right. The ideas of failure are too big and too heavy to carry.

Perhaps this is why Cousin kept running away from himself. Or, maybe this is why he spent a better part of his life canceling his thoughts by trying to erase his memory (so he can find peace).

Mother, it seems unfair to have things like this in our life. When I say this, I mean things like depression. I mean the insecure little ideas that start out like a tiny seed and we try to keep this from growing.
It’s unfair to have this and the things that lead to our compulsion – or the fragments of sanity that come along in the aftermath of our crazy little downfalls.
I don’t think this is intentional. I really don’t. I don’t think Cousin wanted his life to be this way. But then again, here he is and this is his life.

My idea is that compulsion has nothing to do with sanity or logic. This does not make sense to anyone else – and maybe this doesn’t even make sense to the person at the time. Then again, obsessive compulsiveness has nothing to do with something that makes sense.

I think there’s an itch in a place where no one can reach. I think there is something that blurs the lines of good or bad and fogs the concept of right or wrong. This hysterical blindness or emotional blindness or habit can become a killer.
And then comes the aftermath, which causes the guilt and the shame or the blame and the regret. Of course, this digs a hole so deep that one would assume is enough to make people run the other way – or to quit drinking or give up the junk. But no.

The hole is deep and the high is superior. Rather than feel the shame or be intimidated by the work it takes to overcome or improve, the compulsion takes hold and people re-up instead of recover.
At least that’s how I see it. I think this is somewhat of a self-destructive response disorder. That’s why Cousin is having a hard time. He’s responding to his guilt and shame.

He did mention a letter he received from an old coworker named Kenny. He said Kenny was in the same position. He mentioned that Kenny had finally cleaned up, only to learn that Kenny was sick and facing the end of his life.
Cousin said that Kenny told him to keep the pace. He told him not to give up. He said that Cousin is doing the right thing and that should he think about leaving, Kenny explained that it took finding out that he was going to die to realize what it means to live. 

It’s funny. I think Kenny thought about dying all the time. So did Cousin yet it’s not that anyone wants to die so much.
No, I think this is a case of wishing everything would just stop or go away. I think they want the shame to go away. They want the guilt and the regret to disappear but no matter how they try to get away from this, the hole just keeps getting deeper. It’s like emotional quicksand and the harder you fight the quicker you sink.
I think this is where Cousin’s biggest challenge is. Each time he faces himself in the mirror and sees what he’s done, the guilt and the shame eat him alive. That’s why he goes back to the same old routine. He just can’t seem to get away from himself. But the pills help. So does the bottle. So do the needles that explain the pinholes in Cousin’s arm.

I plan to write Cousin. I’m not going to tell him that I understand or know what he is going through. But I will offer my love and let him know that if he ever needs proof that someone cares – he can call me because I care. I won’t tell him that I have the answers because I don’t. Instead, I’ll just tell him that maybe we can find the answers together. No judgment. No fights. No arguments. It’ll just be us. This way, he won’t have to fight alone. 

I think Cousin might appreciate that . . .

At least I hope he does. Or, maybe he will run from this again. Maybe shame turns help into poison and at times like this, kindness can sting like an antiseptic to a scraped knee.

But then again, this is the cycle – it hurts to see what you’ve done. So you want to run away. It’s not that Cousin wants to die. He just wants to stop running. He wants to stop thinking all the time. So he can rest.

Anyway, all is well for now. I am leaving on a plane and heading to a small convention where I will be presenting in front of a computer screen. Usually I do this in front of people but not so much anymore. No one shows up in-person anymore. Everything is on computers now. No one calls anymore. They just email or text. But I still call. I love to talk. I think talking is one of the best life saving devices we have. I think Cousin might agree with this. What about you?

Love always,

Your son


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