WARNING: There is a graphic description of panic attacks, which are nearly impossible to put into words, but it could be a trigger to those who suffer from them. I suggest that section be skipped.
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|A world I never understood|
To a terrorized boy who gazed into cracked mirrors, who navigated rolling floors while tiptoeing through the fragments of brokenness, whose emotions were as fluid as a shape-shifter’s without ever assuming any kind of shape, and whose soul was dying anyway, alcohol was the perfect answer because. . .
. . . for the first time in my life, I was experiencing pleasure instead of pain, a feeling that neither God nor any human being had ever been able to give me. No one, absolutely no one, knew how much I was hurting inside my mind, or how incredibly scared I was, or how fuckingly lost and how fuckingly alone I was in a world that I did not understand, that I was never ever a part of, and that I was never quite sure even existed.
Alcohol, like all my boyhood books before it, was an escape. But while reading was an escape from others, alcohol was an escape from me.
I just wanted me to leave me alone.
* * *
It didn’t work. Wherever I went, I went with me.
Me and my shadow. Two of me but never twins, never a pair and never a match, not a soul double but a soul ripped in half. Two halves more sick than the whole, each half with its own sicknesses feeding the sicknesses of the other half.
Panic. Without any warning I am suddenly overcome with indescribable terror and the little boy inside me starts to scream, louder and louder and louder, “I have to get out, I HAVE TO GET OUT, I HAVE TO GET OUT!” and I try to get out of my mind because I am going mad, I am losing control, I am puking and shitting and sweating all at the same time, I have to get away from me some way, any way, both physically and mentally, I want to rip my head open and tear my mind out because that is where the voice, my voice, is spewing its filth at me, “You’re worthless, you’re all wrong, everything about you is all wrong, you are bad, everything you do is bad, every decision you make is bad, you’re nothing but a mistake, a freak, a bad joke,” like a tape on fast-forward but perfectly clear played at warp speed, and I suddenly know with bowel-emptying dread that there is no escape, that if I thought I was hurting and scared and fuckingly lost and fuckingly alone before the booze then I haven’t seen anything yet, big boy, welcome to the big-time and the big-top where it only gets worse, where the merry-go-round stops for no boy big or small and hold on tight, boy, because I’m dizzy and I can’t stop trembling and I’m drowning in sweat and I have to throw up again and my gut explodes and the shit is pouring out of me until there is nothing left and several agonizing minutes after the little boy started screaming . . .
. . . the panic attack is over.
That is, until the next one.
* * *
The big time, the show. Alcoholism. For twenty-five years. One of the slowest suicides in history, except my soul refused to die. It cannot die because it is eternal. I have no proof of course, nobody has proof, but I believe it all the same. Otherwise, why am I still here? Otherwise, why did I choose to live? Otherwise, why did I become the decent and good and loving person that I am now?
I make no excuses for my alcoholism. I blame no one or no thing for my alcoholism. It was not a flaw in my genes, nor was it ever a physical disease which is a lie, nor did my sorrowful growing up make me drink. No one or no thing ever forced me to drink; the decision, no matter how wrong, no matter how ill advised, no matter how incredibly stupid, was my decision alone. I am solely responsible for all of the chaos and carnage I caused to myself, both boy and man, to the girl-woman who loved me because she never stopped believing that I was loveable, and to all of the innocent people I did or could have harmed—or killed.
No excuses. No blaming. Responsibility for my decisions, for my actions, and for my behavior is mine. Anything less and I would be a lie. My hard-fought hard-wrought recovery would be a lie. My whole life would be a lie.
But I’m not a lie, and my little boy knows it. He lies within my breast, comforted, and he is at rest.
The merry-go-round has come to a stop.
* * *
|The Unknown Woman|
She was right. I did fine.
That was the day I completed a thirty-day alcohol treatment program in the California desert. It was the day I started my life all over again. It was the day I had my first spiritual experience.
A hug by a total stranger on the sidewalk. It doesn’t sound like much, but in those few moments the Unknown Woman taught me that spirituality is about people. For the short time she held me I felt one human soul, hers, reach out to another human soul, mine, and touch it with love, and kindness, and understanding.
Selfish person that I am, I wanted what the Unknown Woman had.
* * *
Change can only come from within; no one can fix me except me. I embarked on a years-long journey of introspection. I studied me with a mental magnifying glass, including the deepest parts of my soul where human darkness lay. And that was where I found the answer. Because of all the pain and shame during a quarter century of drunkenness, I had never forgiven myself. Never once during my life had I ever told me that I loved me.
If spirituality is about people, then I was working with a one-sided equation. I could not give my whole Self because my Self wasn’t whole to give. After several years of sobriety I had missed the major component of true recovery: That I must forgive myself. That I must accept me and love me for who I am. That, as I am, I must work on changing the things about me that I can.
I believe spirituality is this: It is acceptance, both of self and of others, purely and unconditionally. It is relationship, the giving of me, wholly and freely, to my fellow human beings whenever they need me. It is understanding, not only of the empathic kind, but also from hard experience. Only then can there be the touching of my soul to another.
Only then can I be the Unknown Man.
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[For anyone who would like to leave a private comment and preserve your anonymity, email me at callahanc1 AT gmail.com]
[The link to TechnoBabe's post as a keepsake for me.]