Just a Thought, Just Because – Here’s a Thought

So, I have been me for a very long time. In fact, I have been me, all of my life, since the day I was born.
Surprising, right?
I know . . .
It’s a shocker.

However, I have also lived my life a certain way for a very long time and with no regrets on this choice, I understand that my choice of living is something that suits me.

I understand that while many people choose to see me as an ex-addict or an ex-drunk, or because I don’t drink or do drugs, and because I am an open advocate for mental health and for those who struggle with it, I understand that to each his own. I understand that when it comes to mental health, denial and denying the elephants in the room is certainly popular.
Back when I ran a program in a homeless shelter, I remember how people would run from me like I was the preacher on Sunday.
I remember people who would avoid me until something went awfully wrong or until I saw them after being deployed to the hospital and then suddenly, almost miraculously, people were ready to talk.

I am a person who, in no other terms, is someone seeking to change what I see. I don’t see the need to argue or fight or complain about the mess in front of me. Instead, I see more value in rolling up my sleeves and cleaning up than arguing with politicians or public leaders who are more concerned with votes and their public office.

But sure,
I remember nighttime, deadly and crazy, all in search from a symptom and a package to cure the unthinkable, to find the solution to endure the madness to rid the sickness yet the hole dug deeper in silent nods, bending, folding downward, like a flag, sinking to half-mass in solemn beauty, retiring in the midday sunshine of summertime 1989.
I remember . . .

I remember the long tunnel-like movement as if to move me through a porthole of weightless and timeless, endless fascination and again, I thought to myself, “No wonder the first hit is always free.

I remember the out-of-reach feeling and the loftiness of being absent and perfectly detached; as in high, as if to be unhinged and unaffected, and as if to be separated and comfortably apart from the masses in some trance-like state where, on the inside, God, these churches were beautiful. The colorful swirls of semi-conscious abandon are, in fact, more seductive and elusive yet in the depths of gravity as it reversed itself and changed to the polar opposite; the mind is unplugged, unpowered and set to sail in the windless charters of euthanized waters. Inside, I was set free to sail the unburdened seas that die in rebirths of soft waves of nothingness. And yes, I loved the softness of not feeling anything, of course I did. From the inside, the feeling was beautiful but on the outside, I was drooling like a zombie and lost to a social virus more contagious than Covid or anything of its kind.

I remember the hole which you can’t get out of and I remember the commercialized versions of “this is your brain” and then there was an egg dropped in a frying pan, which was followed by the egg frying in the pan and the ending statement was, “this is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”
What a joke . . .
I remember the warnings. I remember the awareness meetings and I remember the people who came into school to speak about the dangers of drugs and drug life.
I remember the people who stood in front of us, like fallen soldiers who were somewhat reborn and somehow stronger as they spoke about their romanticized version of guns and rushing through the streets of NYC. They talked about how they were alive and dead at the same time.

I remember the fascination with gangsters and the so-called education we received.
I also remember what it meant to be weak or be picked on and, more to the point, I remember the internal rebellion and the reasons behind my motivation to rise up and fight back. I know what I wanted to rage and rebel against anyone or anything who stood in my way (or against me).
I know what it meant to experience a thought or a bout with shame of foolishness and then to say out loud. Not me!
Never again!

If you ask me, and then again, this is only if you ask and seldom will anyone ask anybody; the problem is not so much of an awareness level; but more, I think our awareness is pointing in the wrong direction. 

Everyone talks about the problem.
Everyone says they want to talk about the solution. Everyone says, “Just say no,” yet in light of the numbers and fatalities, the death toll is going up not down.
More people are dying. More crime. More suicides. More bullying. More murders. More fights. More violence and sure, it’s easy to point fingers but no one ever points them inwards. 
But I do.
Like I said, I see no help in arguing or pointing fingers or assigning blame to anyone.
Instead, let me roll up my sleeves and fight back or help clean up the mess.
Once we stop the sickness, we can worry about blame later.
How’s that?

See, I know where I was and why. I know who I was and why and more to the point, rather than talk about the things we did, I find it more impactful and useful to understand the reasons why we did them.

Why did I need to escape? 
Why was dying in rhythms of fast light and the chemical reactions of narcotic or opiate patterns appealing to me?
Why is there glory in jail or the tough-guy gangster bullshit?
Why did my mind rebel against my body and why did the blade cut and not sting at all?
Not one bit . . .

See, I understand the folds in these pages can be closed or passed over and I understand that people would rather look away or talk about something (or anything ) else.
I get that.
I understand when people say, “this would never happen to me” or “my kid would never be like that.”
I know a lot of people who believed that,
I heard all about this when I attended their funerals.

I understand all about denial and yet, here it is folks, the damage is mounting and kids are entering an arena we call life. However, my question is this: What are we doing?
What are we teaching them?
What the hell is going on in the world around us?

I was asked about an ex-prisoner who turned social media into a financial empire.
I was asked what I thought and what I would say if asked about his ability to speak to kids.

My answer is this:
What do you think the kids see?
Do they see the warning?
Or, do they see the strength and battle scars and while the message to steer away from the bad life is clear; the urge to be tough or to be a bad-ass, or to be this unmistakably unstoppable and intimidating force is more of a draw than to live quietly and innocently, or to stay out of trouble, to never be social or have at least a semblance of popularity or an ounce of flash or desirable nature.
What do you think the kids see in this ex-prisoner?

For some, maybe they see their pain and in their depths of shame, they might want to take on the appeal of being strong or want to learn how to be stronger. But what message do they receive? Stay in school? Take your vitamins?
Is this person a gimmick?
Maybe they are.
But this person is far more successful than I am, so?
What does this say?
Maybe nothing. Maybe it says everything.
Or, maybe to each his own and everyone has the right to choose their inspirations.
(I guess)
And sure, not everyone sees it this way; however, let’s look at human nature for a second.
Let’s look at the pecking order. Let’s look at the mentality of socialization and how identity can become everything, especially in a young person’s mind.

I once did a presentation in a roomful of seniors in a high school classroom.
I spoke for approximately 15 minutes.
The students asked me questions about my heart and my feelings. They asked about my story, which was truly interactive.
They asked me about my anxieties and my depression.
Rather than preach, I broke life down to an understandable and relatable topic.

The students asked me about my motivations and the reasons why I felt as I did. So, I answered honestly and without pride or any personal decoration to make myself “look cool.”
I understood the fascination of euphoria which, if we are being honest – this makes sense.

The world is too fucking intense sometimes. People can suck. Life is more often unfair and the crowds and the different divisions of social popularity can be intimidating and unfortunate.
I talked about the draws and my reasons for searching and looking for ways to stand out or to survive the emotional quicksand; in which case, I talked about the reasons it seemed as if I were drowning alive.
Then with all the students nodding in agreement, I was asked a question by a curious teacher in the back of the room.
The teacher wanted to know more about the drugs I chose. They wanted me to discuss the drug life and while I touched on this as a means of reaction, the teacher wanted to know why I didn’t touch more on the nature of drugs I used and the drug culture.

My answer:
I am not here to be a commercial for drugs or drug use. I do not do war stories or glamorize something that has already been overly glamorized enough.
I told them, these kids know more than we do about the drug culture. They see more than we see because our focus is shifted in a different direction.
Maybe we should be listening to them about what they see instead of telling them what to look for.

My answer to that question is this:
I do not want to treat symptoms.
I want to solve problems and hence, the symptoms will go away.

I know why I did what I did. I understand why I couldn’t get away from myself.
I wanted to cut through my life as if the membrane of my skin was suffocating me and ah, let me cut through this shit and get out of this, just so I can breathe.

I’m no guru.
I’m far from a know-it-all.
I’m simply another human in this world who lives through my own head and somehow, for some reason, I have built a life around the absence of any mind-altering substances. Therefore, in the face and the defiance of the predictions that were once against me, I have learned to live and overcome.
I have learned to live with a daily understanding of social anxiety, medicated resistant depression, rejection-sensitive disorders and with what some call addiction, alcoholism or more to the point of political gentleness, and while using the acceptable terms of substance or alcohol use disorders, I am person who understands addiction and alcoholism to be a self-destructive response disorder. 

So –
What do I say now?
I say the same thing I’ve always said –
teach a way to replace the pain or the fears or the social ills with something substantial.
Learn to touch the reward system of a person and see what happens when the rewards flood the bloodstream instead of the poison that nearly kills them
And let’s face it?
Isn’t this what drugs do?
Doesn’t the drug change our chemistry, to flood the blood, and leave us feeling lofty or high.

I want to feel high too.
The only difference now is my highs don’t come with damaging half-lives or deadly trips to the E.R.
Sure, I experienced crashes. I go through lows.
But I’ll never be locked up again. I’ll never be on the wrong side of a hospital bed or be added to the list of tragedies.

No, let’s get one thing straight.
I’m a statistic alright.
But I’m on the other side of the margin –

I am “recovery.”
I am this person.
I am alive and well in spite of the popular belief that says once a junkie, always a junkie.
But that’s not true and that’s not me. 

Sure, I know there’s a stigma on all of the above.
I know that as a mental health supporter and professional, there are people who would rather run from me (just like the preacher on Sunday).
But first off – let’s get one thing straight. I do not preach. I’m a fun person, I do not reflect the televised bullshit of how the dramas depict people who live with depression.
And sure, I know for a fact that my social openness has limited me professionally.
The fact that I speak openly about mental health and mental illness has certainly cast a shadow on me in some regards.
And I know that this has been said to me too, quite honestly, “We don’t need that sort of thing here.”

And that’s fine.
Believe what you want
I know I do . . .

Oh, but before I go,
I do mental health first aid discussions now in corporate environments
A few years back, I did a presentation in a corporate setting.
Most people enjoyed it . . . however
There was some push back about this.

Someone said that this topic was not needed!
We don’t need to talk about mental health here. . .
We don’t have these problems here. Besides, this is a business.
We’re professionals!

The next day,
there was an article in the paper about a worker in this same company.
They were based out of a different office and the news was tragic
I suppose murder/suicide of an entire family would apply to mental health
But no . . .
They’re a business.
They don’t have those kind of troubles there.


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