FEAR

MY PERSPECTIVE | MY STORIES

Fear of not being taken seriously.

Fear of freedom and fear of light.

Fear of being superfluous.

Fear that you won’t love your enemy.

Fear of not loving and fear of not loving enough.

Fear that what you love will prove inconsequential.

Fear of death.

Fear of running out of time.

Fear of things left unsaid.

Fear of being forgotten.

Fear that your transformation has gone unnoticed.

Fear that you won’t be fully recognized.

Fear that they won’t understand what all the fuss is about.

Fear that you are too late.

Fear that you never arrived.

 

With sincerity, effort, and error.

Recovery & Stigma​

MY PERSPECTIVE | MY STORIES

I am a recovering alcoholic living with depression, generalized anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. This is not news, but it has been a long time since I have written directly on the topic so I thought I would refresh your memory. My sobriety date is February 11, 2014, and I am without relapse, slip, or any other reference to the use of mind-altering drugs. I lead a fulfilling life with a loving family and a fellowship of people I would do most anything for. I am honest, dependable, thoughtful, compassionate, and spend most of my time of service to others in psychiatric wards, detox centers, an Alzheimer clinic, and as a mentor to a freshman in high school. I am proud of myself and my life, and I wonder how many people can get past the first sentence of this paragraph…

I am not here to defend addicts, and I own my alcoholism well. I do not shift blame to others, I do not play the victim, and my actions in the past are mine alone. I am also not looking for leniency or any other special treatment; I am here to give clarity concerning myself and people like me.


When I finally decided to get sober, I was somewhat shocked at how many people had no idea that I was in need of such a drastic overhaul. Granted people like myself often specialize in secrecy and at times work tirelessly to cover up the extent of our addiction, but to be genuinely shocked that I am an alcoholic took me by total surprise. I hear the same from other men and women every day; their spouse, boss, friends, none had any idea they had gotten so bad. And now we are all together admitting our past and hoping to recover, hoping to earn the trust of those we love and trying to cope with this world without any form of escape.

In many ways I got along pretty well in the world during my life; I was a miserable, dishonest character playing myself but all in all, I looked pretty good on paper. I was hired by well-run companies and organizations and had long-term relationships with women. My life on the outside never seemed as bad as it felt on the inside and of course that was by design; I didn’t want you to see me for who I was because I hated myself and further if you saw me as I really was I would have to admit the truth, I would have to agree this was all real. To admit my mistakes and character flaws were out of the question. I had built up so many defenses throughout my life, and though I had no idea who I was protecting, I was going to protect it to the gates of hell. To the gates I went, and all of my defenses shattered around me, leaving a confused, hurt, ashamed man; my true self as it was at that moment.

My past life is not littered with prison stays, violent behavior, dramatic meltdowns, or any other behavior often mistakenly associated with addicts and people suffering from mental illness. My past is a mixture of insecurity, dishonesty, selfishness, self-centeredness, ego, self-pity, pride, etcetera. My story isn’t fascinating either, at least not to someone who is eager to hear about wild nights, cops, violence, or the like. My point is that my life is not unique, neither astonishing nor deplorable, it is a life. But my life comes with an asterisk at times; I am a walking warning sign, and I entirely understand and accept this. But I am a warning sign because of things I have admitted openly and honestly – my character has been poured over to reach a level of comfort in life I never thought possible. I go through old wounds to find new answers, to find my way to a new life. My life is a work in progress; everyone is either a work in progress or stagnant – nobody is finished. I could have continued fooling some people, continued living a lie and gotten away with almost all of my behavior. I could have continued to live a life that wasn’t mine, but I no longer wanted to, the misery had grown too great, the hurt to others had become too clear, and my distance from humanity was too much to bear.  It was time to admit the truth. It was finally time to do the work, and the work is extensive, and at times it is painful, but it is authentic.


I wonder how rare this type of work is; I wonder how many walking warning signs I pass each day who do not have a problem with alcohol but have problems they still do not dare look at. I see so much jealousy, judgment, violence, dishonesty, and selfishness each day – I wonder if these people have faced their inner demons; I have faced my devil and I know him well – do you know your devil?

I wonder how many of them would sit with another and admit that they are angry, that they feel inadequate, that they hate their job. How many people have to put on a strong face before walking out the door? How many masks does a “normal” person have stowed away in their closet? My secret is out of the bag because I let it out; I wonder if anyone else has one or if it is just us addicts who should be so ashamed.

A therapist once told me that anyone can be in recovery, everyone has things they do not wish to admit about themselves and issues which are holding their life back. Anyone can sit and acknowledge that they are too greedy, angry, impatient, judgmental, overbearing, co-dependent, full of lust, high-tempered, quick-fused, insecure, pretentious, and on the list of flaws can go. But at what price does the admission of these faults come? How embarrassing is it to tell someone that you aren’t perfect? How low does a person have to go until they are able to admit they can improve themselves? For me I have paid hardly anything, and I have received a life without shame, regret, or fear.

And perhaps this is the answer; Perhaps the fastest way to improvement is the complete annihilation of self, something few people have to experience. My addiction has brought out qualities that others see as admirable, others are drawn to me almost magnetically, and this goes for the others I sit with as well. I sit in church basements along some of the warmest, intelligent, charming, and thoughtful people I have ever met. I know many of their faults, and none of these are embarrassing to hear, though for a time they are difficult to admit. I wonder how different people would feel if they could sit and talk to others about their fears, regrets, and flaws and do it all without fear of judgment.

If the non-addict who is riddled with anxiety and insecurity could tell someone how they felt instead of pretending it wasn’t there wouldn’t they feel a sense of freedom? Yet this freedom is in part denied to many for fear of judgment, criticism, and condescension. Where are all of the “listeners?” Being vulnerable enough to share your struggle is a sign of strength; however, others have used it to admonish those as weak-willed and unreliable. What motivates us to demean those who seek help yet reward those who pretend they have no struggle? There is a struggle behind each person’s front door, and still, we see strength in those who sit in judgment and disgust for others! We watch a lie unfold, an act of undeserved superiority, and we accept it because most of us are hiding too.

But I am not here to try and convince others. I cannot will someone to change, to want to rid themselves of their character flaws, to risk a little embarrassment for a wealth of freedom. I have learned that one does not need to go to the gates of hell to work on their flaws and become a better person; it is something I do each day without the pressure of anyone pushing me to change. The feeling that others have that their life is not working, that they aren’t happy, successful, or worthy – this feeling does not need to persist if they would only be honest. I had the fortune of being cornered, and for most it takes that kind of pressure to want to change, to want to become a better person.

Today, however, I can at least give the advice that life does not need to be lived in secrecy. That living a life that is not fulfilling only for appearances is never worth it. That changing your outlook each day does not always mean a radical overhaul of your beliefs. You do not need to identify as anything, you are in recovery from whatever it is that ails you. We recover from pain by facing the challenge, admitting our part and taking action to improve the situation. The more we avoid and deny our shortcomings the more we fall into unhappiness; it is the very thing we set out to avoid which causes the most pain and is the reason for our insecurity and lack of confidence. Avoiding our flaws is a hopeless and meaningless gesture – sooner or later the lock will break, and these secrets will come out. When our hidden life busts down the door it is never worth the years we kept up appearances; these things can be dealt with today and freedom of self would follow.

But I am not a preacher or a mind-reader. Perhaps most people are happy, joyous, and free. Maybe I am one of the very few in this world who needed to improve; perhaps I am the only warning sign on the block. Maybe people go to bed happy and wake up happy – perhaps the use of alcohol by “normal” people is really just for fun and never to cope with the struggle of daily life. Maybe I am wrong on all accounts, and I should admit that us addicts are so different from everyone else and that I am only now understanding what the rest of you already knew. But I wonder why so many are drawn to us, why our candor and compassion seem to take others by surprise. I wonder why people come to me for help and advice when there is a long list of others without my warning sign available.

In all of my questioning, the only thing I actually wonder is if people realize that at any moment they can improve themselves, find broader and stronger happiness, and do it all without embarrassment or shame. I share with you my flaws so that you feel comfortable in feeling your own. It is none of my business how clean your side of the street is, but it doesn’t mean I cannot look across and see the piles of wreckage and pain. It also doesn’t mean that I am judging you, I only want to give you proof that life is never beyond redemption; I am your proof and it is never done without help and never in silence.

Experience has taught me that to make an impact on this world I must truthful in my actions. I must lead by example and show that my actions are the reason for my freedom. When you get to know me, when you see my work with others, the words recovering alcoholic and mental illness begin to drift further from the mind, meaning less and less over time. I will be open with you so that you may be open to yourself; we all have to start somewhere.

To Love, And Have Courage

Essays, MY PERSPECTIVE | MY STORIES

Though I am the bearer of fragility and foolishness, I harbor no hatred. I am the spark before judgment, the ghost disguising pride; I mustn’t give in to hatred. But you! You can tell me what it is like to hate with fury. Deliver me from naivety and expose the shadows running through the heart of every man and woman. I know these shadows; you have become your shadow. You furiously cast fear and hatred into empty vessels. I have only sadness and compassion for your malice. Do not mistake my depression with despair. You are the one who is full of despair; You feel so weak in your ways that you turn to hate. Ashes embrace you but are fleeting.

Memories of those forsaken soon spell disaster on your tongue. And where has your arrogance led you? What path trembled, split and shattered beneath your feet? Who is to blame for your disillusionment? How much is your love worth now? No longer able to bear your reflection, you cast shadows on those around you, but this is not the world’s fault; it is your fault. You are too scared to see it, but you must. I will guide you through the desert, and you will confront the truth. Your mind cannot breathe as burials burst from beneath and settle on the surface. You are falling apart. Your lies collapse into your chest; your legs shake as exhausted bridges plummet from the air. You have a tenuous grasp on reality, and beneath it all, you are full of fear.

Because of this, you have my love; Do not mistake benevolence for weakness. It is because I love that I may see you as God intended. Everything exists because I love; life is love. Your hatred does not succeed because there are those who will continue, into the abyss of time, to love one another. That is my answer to your hatred: to love. I feel heartache because I love and gratitude because I love. You and your hate will burn, and burn out.

The Fall of Love | A Path To Love

MY PERSPECTIVE | MY STORIES

   OUT OF SPITE I LOVED YOU.

RESISTING THE TEMPTATION OF REASON

                 IN SPITE OF THEM ALL, I LOVED YOU.

OR, I NEVER LOVED YOU IF IT EASES THE TIDE

 I MUST LOVE SOMETHING, SOMEWHERE.

                 THE DOOR HOLDS, WATCHING THE HINGE BEND

I cannot define love, but if I could, I would say that my definition of it has changed drastically over the last two years. Or rather, my sensibility surrounding the essence of love has changed a great deal. Judging by my current belief, I could say with some confidence that I never actually loved anyone in my life for the first 30 years; aside from natural, instinctual feelings primarily towards my mother as a young child. In fact, I would go so far as to say that none of my emotions, my feelings, were genuine for the first part of my life. This does not mean that my past is some demonic dwelling or scorched earth. There were plenty of notions floating around of love, forgiveness, sadness, anger, etcetera – I just experienced a perverse version of these emotions.

Love has always confounded me, and somewhere along the way I picked up the impression that many people loved one another by one person showing dominance towards the other, often instilling fear to get their way. I was turned off by this approach but had never picked up an alternative, so I created my own, as a child, and as you can imagine it was terribly flawed. My idea of love was one where I would do anything for another’s approval, anything so they had no reason to be upset or angry with me, and once I did I considered it love. I wanted so badly for others to accept me, for others to embrace and approve of me that I was like a wounded puppy, always expecting to be cast out into the storm unless I lay on my back with gifts and acts of submission. And as so often happens people begin to treat you as you show them how to use you – I was your “yes man” and you had no choice but to take advantage or to leave me. Few people wish to leave the wounded – and fewer realize the power they take; yet I allowed all of this and created much of this because I wanted to show you I loved you. I instead showed you I was dependent upon you, and when you left, I cursed you. I was a sick man, a wounded man, and you sadly tried to rescue me.

All of my emotions were based in fear; everything I felt was a safeguard against me feeling inadequate and not in the actual emotion itself. I felt pride when I sensed you were proud of me, yet I never felt pride alone. I felt anger only at myself, blaming all of your actions as reactions to my mistakes. Sadness came in the form of self-pity and forgiveness was used to avoid confrontation. Loneliness was perhaps my most genuine emotion – but I have always felt alone. Amongst millions I have felt loneliness in the pit of my stomach; In the darkest hours, I searched for isolation to rid myself of this feeling. I found a friend in my loneliness – I embraced my negative, harmful emotions because they accepted me. However, they failed me time and again; this foundation so weak that I fell further and further until I had felt nothing at all. I became numb. Finally, I became something I could live with.

Numbing pain, a numbing hatred, all directed inwards. I was able enough to take the hate, yet I was far too weak to be honest with myself. At this moment, I created my most delusional emotions, my most intense feelings of love and sadness were paper thin and frail. No foundation, no mortar or brick, nothing at all. 27 flights up and I felt the cool breeze – nothing and yet everything in front of me. My complicated emotions also saved my life – for it was pride that brought me back inside and onto a new life of genuine, painful, and confusing experiences.

And at times, it is just as lonely – but the utter sadness and hatred are gone. Loneliness beckons me, but I resist the depression and self-pity. Instead, I confront these feelings – I am ok with this loneliness. I step outside and ask to be placed in a position to be of service – to comfort those who feel they are without value. There those who seem to have no worries at all; there was a time when I seemed to like this to many. I can be of service by listening to people and understand that I never know what someone is going through. When others lash out it is because they are hurting, and I can be there to practice tolerance and compassion. It is not my turn to lash out at the world – I do not need to turn to hateful words. I understand this sickness, it makes us bite, bewildered and afraid. It takes control of our minds and hearts, and we are so vulnerable we don’t let anyone close. I won’t try to control you; I’ll wait outside, and my story won’t change. You always come out to me when you are ready.

This is my love – to be patient and to not control. When I love another, I want them to find happiness and fulfillment even if that doesn’t include me. I can work through the pain of loss because love tells me I am not losing anything; To love you is to want your brightness to reach its peak, and I remove myself and my pride. My love is not selfish – I know that you have your path in life. Sometimes our paths run parallel yet most times our paths go opposite ways and in these moments, I rest easy knowing I never tried to control you or bend your will to mine. I do not force you to come with me when your path winds the other way. Most times I don’t understand your way, but I support it.

Today I tell you that I want many things that I never receive, and I can smile because I know they weren’t meant for me. I know that my life puts me in a position to have positive experiences beyond my design, so I let go of the desire to design. My plans force you to be in my life; they force you away from your life, and I don’t want this.

I am myself; I am intense, overwhelming, passionate, sensitive, emotional, and I have a hard time dialing it all back. I can exhaust you, I can inspire you, I can turn you away or brighten your eyes. It all depends on you – there is no magic in my words. If you want what I have you will want more – if not you will continue. There is no trap outside my door, no poison to stall your steps. I only attempt to be as genuine as possible, as honest as possible, and as authentic as I can be. It scares most to hear such honesty and to many it is inappropriate! It is too much! But to me, it is all I know to be true of myself. My small talk is riddled with nervous apprehensions; I don’t know what to say. I can listen for hours, but I cannot listen to an empty heart.

My love took me to Bellevue psychiatric ward again tonight to speak to those who are sick and suffering in their right. And as I do with you I do with them; I sit outside and hope for a chance to share my song. I don’t pressure the vulnerable; I don’t lie about my life. I tell them the difficulty I have had, of the pain I have felt, and of the joy, I am fortunate enough to experience on a daily basis if I choose to experience it. They sense that I do not want anything from them just as I do not wish anything from you. Being allowed to share my song is enough; everything else is controlling and forceful, and I do not want this. I do not wish to deceive you, and I will not be whoever you think I should be.

I am myself, on my path, and I can love you from oceans away if I must. I will never try to change you, and I will never let you change me. I love you for everything you are and for your pain and your happiness. You let me sit outside the door; I expect nothing more. The moment you are ready I will be here; my message does not change. You can always find me on my path seeking balance amid the chaos. I fall over and over and over again, and my lips and knees are bleeding. But my heart and my mind are still and I get back up over and over and over again. I do not have to be right, I do not need to be perfect, I do not need to be understood. I only wish to be given the chance to know how you feel, to be a body to sit next to, to be someone who only wishes for you to find your brightness. I am always part of this when I take myself out of it.

I am one, and they are all

Essays, MY PERSPECTIVE | MY STORIES

I know I cannot help it

Someone asks me what the cost is,

I close my eyes, relax my hands and stop

What change did you expect?

A search is on and you can’t get away from it.

Ain’t that a six-inch stone in your wheel?

Don’t you get the shakes when it’s gotten too late and the brakes on your door aren’t working?

And the stove coils in your head are heating up an’ burning

So you curse yourself and you assume someone out there is tricking you, someone out there is kicking you.

That someone is caring too much and maybe it’s the wrong way.

And you can’t figure which temperature feels good and you don’t even know if some out there do.

And what do you do if everyone thinks of you badly?

What do you say when the feeling that’s got you wrapped up in knots is paranoia and you try so badly to rid it from you?

How do you sleep when your brain is mad at you?

Do you look into others eyes for a choice or ought you to think that there’s a chance you may be right?

And ain’t that some kind of feeling?

Isn’t that something you aren’t sure you want but feel you know you need?

What do you do when the tricksters are planning?

What do you do when you feel you can’t be wrong it’s that all things thinking of you are meant for deceiving?

Do you try with your whole soul best to follow your head and stick to your breast?

Should you hope for a reason to convince you on what you’re feeling?

It’s when the river bed can be seen by a bird with one wing that you know you’re bleeding.

When the whole sky and all its friends can put on a sheet and worry you when you sleep. Is it the letters that decide the end or is it the season?

When you wake with London’s sprinkling you can’t go back to dreaming for the best of your reasons.

You can act like a rebel or sing on a step.

You can hope for the night to come down but you know you can’t help but not believe it.

So you drink ‘till the plastic guards start retreating.

You hurt your chest so badly it starts caving in behind you and soon enough you’re bound to find the things that held you are now the things you must carry around.

And they want to go this way or the other and no matter what choice is made your brain won’t be bothered.

And you start seeing pathways that you haven’t gotten but have been given and you try to cry with all your might because you know this ain’t the usual gift-giving.

But you can’t cry ‘cause your souls been hidden.

Your mind’s been delivered but it ain’t your name on it written.

And it scares you half to death even though you don’t know if you believe in the thing you keep searching for.

You can’t excuse yourself anymore.

You can’t keep asking for a sentence.

And all you want is someone to show you where it was you went missing.

And no one believes you because nobody here listens.

What do you do when the price has been lifted?

When their patience wears thin and you think it’s them that are sinning?

Do you think to yourself while kicking god, what’s their thinking?

Didn’t they go to school or were they the whole time just whistling?

And you don’t want to think these thoughts in the worst of your seasons but you can’t help but think it’s them that are cheating.

What do you do when you think you are wrong?

When it’s you and not them that have been misspelling your name all along?

Do you think these thoughts ‘till your brain starts un-weaving and your bridges come down heaving?

Or do you think it best to hit the road on all fours and stop at the very last fever-torn store to figure out just what you’ve been reading?

If you can’t find it where you’ve been looking is it best to stick to those thoughts or do you think it’ll help to quit thinking about whatever it is you’ve been eating?

And if that ain’t it where do you look?

You can shake hands with each doorknob but you know it might lead you somewhere you’ve been before.

Down a road that’s no good anymore but you go because you’ve forgotten yesterday and more.

And maybe down the weakened path, you’ll find a heart that can bring you back.

But you get hesitant when you see that hand coming to yours because you know you could be wrong and if you are you fear you may lose the thoughts in your head that have kept you running for so long.

So you hold onto these thoughts with shovels already in their hands.

But isn’t it going that way these days?

You can’t lay right cause the things you think are true just won’t stop bothering you and the thought you might be wrong keeps you hurting all night long.

And you feel guilty even though you aren’t sure why and the thought of any happening makes you feel your stomachs filled with fire-flies.

And you wonder why you feel so bad and you say you try but you hardly do.

And you want to blame somebody but you don’t know who.

And when that feeling comes you stop in your tracks because you don’t know where to point the finger at and you’re scared it might get bitten off by ideas you thought were long written off, better left alone, or put in a retirement home.

So you feel tricked and embarrassed because your ropes are tied too tight on the harness and you act harmed by the ones thought to understand you best.

Are you wrong for shining your sword too long or practicing your whip too strongly?

Are you understanding at all or are jokes thrown at your name behind the mall where you thought the kids once crawled but you know they might be the ones with the ball?

And you don’t want to feel this way but others think you do.

You try and help the cause but can’t stop thinking all the while they’re hurting you.

So you surround yourself with very few in an effort to produce just who it is you’ve been calling “you”.

But that ain’t what you think you want to do.

So why does the sound of voices bother you so much until you crack and crunch the idea of being in touch?

What do strangers tell you that not even your closest crutch could?

What answer do you give when the lights are on so bright it burns your eyes all the way thru to the inside?

If your marbles are too slowed down do you kneel to the chrome buildings and give in expecting some sort of healing?

And you start running sideways and get all turned around even though you know this ain’t the right way into town.

So you build a wall of sand that blocks the beggars from your hand and all the while people question where you stand.

You aren’t sure yourself but it seems a better way than winding up lying down on 6 pieces of wood with a person only known as a saint and you think she’s no good.

Do you keep pushing even when the feeling is gone?

Is it best to keep up construction even though you know that it’s wrong?

And if you hear that you are the one holding the wrong cards do you continue to weep even when the royal clown comes knocking at your door.

So you’ll wait and wait ‘till he’s been at your door too long and starts moving on. And in your church, you sit and think if you’re going in the right direction or if you should cut off your feet.

You can choose to save your water and walk down that street or you can hope for forgiveness on the other side of the parade that’s lit up with people who’d rather stay awake than sleep.

You feel you’re right though you’re told you’ve been wrong before.

But it doesn’t matter anymore cause your captain’s already heading to the shore opposite the one that holds the people you’ve denied once or twice or more.

And behind they sway their hands and shout to you through the waves.

They cry for your return but you can’t go back again seeing as it’s too far a swim.

And even if you could you feel you’d be giving a lie you’ve already shown once to them. So you jump off the boat and can only hope that you’re right.

But you cry in your hours when you’re locked up inside and you think to yourself if your thoughts are really yours

And you open up a door filled with questions you ain’t seen before

And want to shout out but there’s no one left standing by your door

And you wish you hadn’t been asking questions full of scorn

But you did and you’ll find that people don’t care for poor souls anymore

And even if they did, in the end, you start back all over again