Memories From the Balcony – Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

This one will not be for everyone. Then again, not everything is for everyone. I suppose this is more for me than anyone else. I suppose this entry is to define the contrast between who I was and who I’ve become. 
Or maybe this is me looking to offer you a bridge to come over and see more because I want you to know everything.
I want you to see the good as well as the bad and the ugly because, in fact, I believe these are a person’s qualitie, which allows them to be beautiful.
And yes, I want to be beautiful.
Moreover, I am here to define the lines of my change which is important.
Wait, no. I believe this is imperative to continuing my path and living a good life. 

I offer this entry as a look-back and with a warning, I admit that thinking about the way I used to be is uncomfortable. However, in my growth, I can see myself differently now.
I can see that my thoughts and actions were all symptom-based.
There was much more beneath the surface. 
Much more.
While I start this entry with somewhat of a personal disclaimer, I will caution that in the beginning, there was rage. There was darkness and the vast misconceptions of how life is or how life should be.
I will begin this with caution because the person I was does not reflect the person I have become nor does this reflect the person I am now or the person who I want to become. I report this because this was me and I want to be more.
Just like anyone else in this world, I want to be someone.

More than anything, this entry is a look back to an emptiness which was brought on by the ingredients of my surroundings, my demons, my pains, my frustration and the tiredness that comes with believing that you’re out of place or simply this: Unacceptable.
In fairness to the truth, I was bullied in more ways than one. I had both visible and invisible scars which I’ve mentioned to you on several occasions.
It is these scars and the wounds, both at the flesh level and at the flesh of my spirit which had led me to a specific mindset. 

I believe in the degrading abilities of crisis and distress. I also believe in the decaying abilities that come with anguish, despair or with depression and rage.
As well, I believe in the degenerative collapse that occurs with the constant process of overthinking.
Lastly, I believe in the personal implosion that occurs with constant anxiety and frustration.

In fact, I say it’s easy to go crazy. I say it’s easy to lose sight of yourself or to lose sight of truth or your morals. I say that sanity is the easiest thing to lose.
What’s more, I say that when you can’t sleep; you can’t rest or when you can’t calm down, it’s easy to find yourself in insane moments and doing insane things with insane people. Suddenly the unthinkable can become acceptable. This is where the dangers come in.

I remember this.
I remember the need to fight back; to respond, to rebel or to preemptively strike first, hard, and if necessary, I recall the mindset which was unrelenting and unmerciful.
I believed this was because if it were true that life is a cycle and what comes around goes around; I admit that I used this cycle as my defense to act as the hands of fate. By my right and hate, I chose to be a deliverer.

Aside from my challenges with a chemical psychosis and aside from my inability to feel comfortable in a room – aside from my challenges to believe that I was smart and that I was more than the predictions that were placed upon me; I was missing in the sense that I was empty. I was tired of feeling weak. I was tired of being afraid and tired of worrying that somewhere, someone was going to look to come and take advantage of me. I was tired of thinking that at any given moment, someone would come along and pull my blankets to hurt me.
So in an effort to fight back, I chose hate to keep me safe.

Do you know why kids love the villain?
Do you know why kids seem to idolize the bad guy or worship the gangsters or the so-called thug-life?
The answer is simple.
The answer is because nobody picks on the tough kid. No one bullies or looks to take advantage of the dangerous one.
No one wants to mess with someone who they’ll fear because, in the end, people look for the easy target. People look for the weakest in the herd – they go for the weakest in the pack or the low-hanging fruit because all else is either too much of a challenge or too dangerous.
I didn’t want to be weak anymore.
I didn’t want to be the low-hanging fruit.
I wanted to be safe. I wanted protection. I wanted to be unafraid and be unmoved by pain.
Whether physical or emotional, I wanted to become the idea that pain doesn’t hurt.
Nothing can hurt me, not even myself – hence, the scars and the self-inflicted flesh wounds.

Most of all, I was only a kid.
I was just a boy. I was only trying to find something that would help me make sense of the world around me. I was growing but I was still that scared little boy.

I admit it.
I did the things that put me where I was. I pulled a few tricks. I made a few scams. I had my way with others the same as others had their way with me. To me, I saw this as more of the same. I saw this as the way we pass the torch. Some one has to breathe out so someone else can breathe in. I saw the world as a place which was divided by two: victims and volunteers. And me, I didn’t want to be either yet I was both on more than one occasion. 

As I saw it, this is life.
Perhaps this was not life for other people. But this was me; this was my life. To put this in the rawest sense, this was just how the world was meant to be.

I offer this as an undecorated truth.
I offer my version of truth as a person who admittedly struggled with audio hallucinations. I struggled with post traumatic tensions that refused to let me go.
I lived with moral injuries that I would never dare to speak about.
Not to mention, I didn’t know how to tell anyone what was happening in my head. Besides, who wants to admit that their rage has gone so far out of control that when the panic hits or the rage flies off the handle, I would hear the sound of breaking glass – almost to act as the sound of a brick being thrown and breaking through a plate glass window at a storefront.

It would be inaccurate to say that I had it better than anybody else or that my life was ultimately worse. I had my bouts of shame. I had my troubles with the contortions of guilt and regret.
But more, I had a river of hate that was flowing deep within me.
Which to this I say, such is life when nothing is addressed or everything is buried or hushed.

I had my rage to keep me warm.
I had my resentment to light the flames of the bridges that I had burned and hoped would guide my way.
I had a few weapons. I had the ability to pull a trigger.

I had every ounce of me in the corner, hidden away, crouching like a frightened child behind a brick wall – I was like a small boy who was too afraid of the dark and on the outside, I wanted to play the role or the vengeful soldier with no remorse.

I can say that at some point in time, I had decided to cancel my requests to find purity or good in other people.
Instead, I chose something more synthetic. I chose hate. I chose to subscribe to a lifestyle in which I thought I could find some protection.
I chose actions and behaviors that mirrored the feelings which boiled deep inside of me.
And sure, there were moments of guilt.
There were times when remorse would enter the stage. There were conflicts of shame. To be clear, there were times where I had seen bloodshed and for the moment, I felt a dose of humanity. But at the same time, there was a voice inside of me that said, “No, don’t you dare.”
Don’t you dare think or feel.
Now, it’s time to be a machine.
No remorse.
No tears.
No feelings.
Just be a machine
(to keep us safe).

I can remember the sight of a young woman.
She was hit by a car on the road between her work and her husband’s place of employment, which was across the street. We were told that she was trying to run across the street to give her husband her very first paycheck.
Can you believe that?
She never had a paycheck before.
Not one.
She worked at a fast food chain.
Her husband worked across the street at a different fast food spot.

In her excitement and as a symbol of togetherness, love and loyalty as well as pride; this young woman ran across a busy street when out of nowhere, a speeding car hit her.
She was sent flying in the air.
When she landed the car behind hit her once more and tossed her up again. Then finally, she landed and was run over by a limousine. Her stomach was flat. the back of her had hit the ground. She was looking straight up at the moonlight on the pavement in the coldness of wintertime.

I can remember the incident as clearly as anything. I can still see the details of what happened in my mind.
I can still see her face. Her eyes were almond shaped – Azteca, like an innocent princess, childlike and pretty with black hair that was long. Meanwhile, it was nighttime, dark and late. Her blood was spilling out from behind her head.
I walked out (cold as ice) and stood over her. 

I had seen blood before. I had seen violence before too. I had seen death as well but for some reason, something about this was different. Something about this was cold and heinous because for some reason, I felt nothing.

I learned about the story as to why she was running across the street. I learned that she had finally become a citizen of our country and that she wanted to offer her first paycheck to her husband.

I wanted to feel something. But no, I had trained myself to feel nothing.
I wanted to feel empathy, sympathy, remorse or anything but no. There was nothing and for some reason, I was proud about this. I was proud to be unmoved as if I had succeeded in making myself so absolutely distant that not even death or bloodshed could scratch my surface. 

I was proud that I had trained myself not to flinch, not to cringe, not to make a move either left or right at the sight of blood or death. I trained myself not to care about anyone or anything.

As I recall, the limo driver was hysterical. He was crying and sobbing in his car. But not me. I wasn’t thinking of anything good or bad. I wasn’t thinking about life or the fact that this was a life that had belonged to someone.
There was something about her face though. She was pretty, like I said, as if she came from a storybook about an ancient Mexican princess who everyone in the world adored, simply because she smiled.
I can still see this in my mind . . .

I suppose what I recall most is her face was frozen in its final expression; as if to be shocked, like a deer in the headlights. 

I say this because I know what hate is.
I used to let this fuel me.
I used to let this keep me warm in the lonely months.
In fact, I used to let my hate protect me when I was afraid; hence the weapons and hence the danger of the blade or the fuel to frighten the world.

Do you know what’s funny?
I spent the first half of my life trying not to feel anything and here I am, working hard on a daily basis to expose myself, to feel, to remove the blockages of hate; to surrender myself in any and all humble methods of truth because in all ways, I want to be good.
I want to be pure. I want to build and create as well as maintain my personal salvation.
I want to repent. Be mindful when I say that I want to repent. I do not mean in a religious sense; but more, I want to repent in the aspect that I no longer want to hold the chains of my past or my past hatred.
No, I want to be more to this world.

If I can hate that much, then I can love that much.

I was a hateful man.
Now, all I want to do is love; to give back, to offer you this – and yes, I’ve been burned. I’ve been played a fool; but for now, there’s nobody here but you and I – and for now, we’re safe to be “us” so long as we have each other.

I couldn’t be who I am now if it weren’t for you.
I know this.
With all of my heart and for the rest of my life, I’d like to thank you every day for this and for saving me – one day at a time.

We’re coming up on a date of my last so-called trip “into the jungle.”
April 1, 1991 – essentially this was 31 years, 10 months and 20 days ago.
That’s 1,664 weeks
That’s 11,649 days

At the time when I deliver this, it will knowbe 279,557 hours since the day when I went back to a place that helped me once before.

I drove back to The Farm to tell them what happened.
I relapsed.
I saw a woman who was like ‘mom’ to so many of us . . .

What happened?
I couldn’t even face her.
“I went out,” I told them.
I went right back to it.
Nothing changed
I had a nickel plated .357 underneath the driver’s seat in my car.
I had the remnants of the cocaine bugs beneath my skin.
I had all the regret in the world.

Please allow me to introduce myself.
Hello, my name is Ben and I am a person in long-term recovery.

I’ve never been a tough guy . . .
Not once.
I’ve only been me and sometimes, that’s tough enough. 
With a tear in my eye, gratitude in my heart and all the hope in my lungs, I know exactly where I’d be today without you . . .
And that’s why I’m here to tell you this –

I love you.

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