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.

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

Death of a relationship | Continue

MY PERSPECTIVE | MY STORIES

If I should be brought before you

And am asked to skim the trees

To recollect my fondest thoughts

Amid a wasteland of memories

I should dig deep the shallow trenches

I will seek out every eye

For my past bear’s strong resemblance

To the ones I stand before

And I will know a soft resistance

As I push off from the shore


I wonder how all of this will come to pass; How you and I will remember one another. I don’t sit with this for very long, for I know where my mind often leads me. I do not drift to positive places. Instead, my mind seems to embrace the negative and haunting spaces. But I must think of this, of you and I and our past. My past, as it were, is what I must think of.

You were gentle with me; virtually every memory tells me this was your way. You knew that anger would cause me running, and your job was to have me stay. And at times you were overbearing, you wanted for yourself my good health. You wished my mind would pause, and you could rest. You cared much and sometimes in the wrong way. But I forgive your co-dependence, your expectations, and your disappointment. I overlook these things because I, too, am full of error, and I am not here to blame.

I am here to recover the past, not for keeping but to learn. What was it about our relationship that you wanted to hold onto? What was it about me that you seemed so keen on keeping close? I have asked myself this question, and sometimes it makes perfect sense. At times, I was honest and pensive, but others I was a complete waste of effort. Who holds onto the daily garbage? One who is sick themselves I believe. I look back with compassion, not wishing to change you, and this is not meant to enlighten you. This I doubt the entirety of you will ever read.

I can remember when you embraced me, and my embrace was a lie. I remember when you embraced me, and I felt your heart pouring into my chest. I heard your heart pouring into my chest, its crimson waves exposing the emptiness in me. I felt you sometimes, and other times you left me frozen, or I left you frozen.  We were just friends. We were lovers. We were enemies. All of it was real, though. You failed me and used me selfishly. You were so many people all at once; it’s no wonder I completely lost you at times.

But you are not unique … Christ, neither am I. I considered you less than you deserved and became the type of man I have always judged, hated. My selfishness knew no bounds and still, it was suffocated time and again. I had fallen so short of breath that our relationship had to change. All I could do was start over. I had no idea what this would mean but it was time to tear each other apart and continue, alone.

The beginning was beautiful. Leaves fell hard in those first few days, and for some those leaves are still rocks on their backs. But it was no longer excuse enough for me to hide behind. I loved them dearly, I truly did. I love them today differently because I am different and they are different. They are whole but hard to see. I send out eulogies because I was not always there when the moment surprised and seemed to ambush us. I am here now, I am here for the ones who wish to hear me.

I still seem to lose you at times, even though I feel we have been doing everything well. We outgrow each others usefulness, we no longer need one another. When you no longer need something it becomes a weight around your ankle unless you part ways while still feathers. In the beginning, it feels wrong; it angers me to part ways. But it is the best for both of us and the best way for the whole of us.

Sometimes I glance out the window and see your birds singing. Other times I turn my back to you, wishing you would at once turn away from me. I love you, I have forgotten you, and I hope to love you. Before the earth, before the lovers and the users and the apathetic bystanders, I hope I give you something you cannot hold but can use. I hope you see me and know that the past is real, but it is gone and only alive in your mind. This moment is real as well. I hope you see the power of this moment, and I hope you forget me and move on if that is what you must do.

You have nothing to say to me, and I nothing to say to you, for the most part. One day I will sit down and tell you what it all means, but today you must work on it yourself. It is your world that you must save from forever wilting. You do not live for me, I do not live for you, but we live for a purpose higher than both of us. I cannot define yours, and I know you cannot give me the relief I once sought. I appreciate you for who you are, and do not want you to change your colors to draw me closer. If I speak a foreign tongue to you and you wish to retreat, I do not blame you. Those who are meant to be in my life will be; others will become useful by becoming more like themselves.

I love you, I hope to love you, and I have forgotten and forgiven you. Do not fear whatever lay in front of us, it is meant to be there, and we no longer need to embellish who we are. This is the death of our relationship.