WALKING ALONE: Addiction and Recovery… Dell Sweet
If you have lived any kind of life at all you have made mistakes. It comes with the human territory; I think it probably comes with any thinking animal’s territory. Those mistakes may be small or they may be large and overshadowing. You may be ridiculed because of them or they may be severe enough that you will have to pay for them. In this country, unless you are rich, that means jail or prison.
You may do time for whatever you did. There is no other payment acceptable in the United States. This country does not believe in rehabilitation, just punishment. I realize this country talks about forgiveness, rehabilitation on the surface, but under that surface it does not exist. But I am not country bashing today or any other day, because despite the issues I have with this country it is probably one of the safest places to live in the world and one of the fairest, considering that there are countries, even countries that call themselves democratic where I could be killed for speaking anything other than praise about the country.
I am pointing it up to help you to understand that when you make a mistake in life there is rarely forgiveness or forgetting. Whatever you did will become part of who you are and for some it is a hard burden to bear: For some people it seems impossible, but it is only impossible because you allowed yourself to look past the truth and see things the way you wanted to see them instead of the way they actually are and you are not alone, many of us do that or have done that. So I am not bashing government at all. The world is the way it is.
Whenever we are outside of normal society we are walking a dangerous line. We know that. We understand the risks. Is that really true? The real answer is yes; that deep inside we do understand the risks. At some point in our lives we have seen people fail, explode with anger, hurt someone or themselves. We have seen others bullied; we have seen relationships that seemed solid fall apart. We have experienced loss, sometime on a close and personal level, and sometimes from afar. We have tried to speak to God and have heard no reply. At least a few of these things are common to most of us and if ignored these issues can lead us to very dark places.
What is outside of normal society: Normal is a loose term: Being normal means that we are with other people who conform to an existing, unwritten set of rules that govern our lives. They are so ingrained that we believe we rarely think about them, they have become part of who we are. See a person with a gun we try to protect ourselves and our family. We move away from that person. See an injured child we become protective and there are dozens of other examples. And although we don’t always believe that we think about those things we do. Everything that questions our beliefs is examined and weighed against those beliefs. In the blink of an eye we reject or accept, and so as we grow we build our character based on that moral code we have deep inside of us.
Today I am talking about people. And I am pointing up people from different walks of life for a reason: Inmates or people who have spent time in a penal institution. Anyone who has ever been bullied, picked on, discriminated against: Drug addicts, alcoholics and other people with addictive personalities. I guess if we are all being honest that should include everyone, yet I know some would never raise their hands and admit to any of what I just wrote if asked to. So I will include people that have these problems, but are still hiding them because A: They don’t want others to know about it out of fear they will be ostracized or B: Because they still believe they are completely in control of their lives and that they can fix their own issues.
All of these conditions can cause problems. Who is equipped to go to prison: Or a mental hospital; or to take that first hit of cocaine, shoot heroin? I don’t know anyone who is. If you are bullied and you do not get a chance to deal with it, it can cause problems. Many people turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with the stresses of this world, some to self abuse, some become abusers, and some find the revolving doors of jail, prison and mental health units and that becomes their life. A few others live their lives tethered to what is familiar. Work to pay bills and then go home. Rarely socialize, keep the circle small, do not trust do not love. That is not living it is existing and I am speaking from experience. We need help.
Here is the issue though. We cannot always fix ourselves. I am not saying we are not strong enough to fix our problems, I am saying that we cannot see them. I know that is old news, but many of us ignored it when we heard it and we should not have. It is true and it should not be so hard to believe. Can you see the back of your shirt? No, we don’t actually have eyes in the back of our heads, and so if we want to know if there is a stain or a tear or some other thing wrong with the back of our shirt we ask someone to look. They look and tell us. That is the only way we can know it. And we trust what they say and go about our day believing the back of our shirt is fine. Maybe it is, maybe it is not.
I say maybe it is not because many of us have people in our lives that facilitate our addictions and our weaknesses. They do it for varied reasons. Some because they believe that were we capable of deciding certain things, or being sure of certain things for ourselves we wouldn’t need them. To them their usefulness to us is tied up in enabling us to be who we think we are and that includes lying to us, helping us to get drugs when we need them. Many enablers love the people they enable. That does not mean they are truly helping that person. Men and women have committed murder in the name of love. Most often that sort of thing starts slowly, a lie here, a little lie there, and then suddenly you find yourself in a position where you are ignoring behaviors. I myself have looked to others asking them to endorse my behaviors when I knew they were out of line completely, and they did. I had surrounded myself with people that would tell me what I wanted to hear or who had an investment in me that they would be in danger of losing if I were to straighten up and fly right.
There was a time when I drank and drugged constantly, yet I made a tremendous amount of money. Stop the medicating and I would fall down, the money would go away and the people I had surrounded myself with knew that. The money was good. The money allowed them a lifestyle they could never had lived: Reason to lie to me; reason to enable me and I am not without blame for that because I knew from the first time that I tested them that they would support me until the end, whatever that turned out to be. And they did. I think many of us who have become alcoholics, drug addicts, abusers, who allow others to abuse us came to be there because of things that happened in our lives. Things we were not prepared to deal with. Maybe because we were too young or maybe because we had no way to deal with whatever was occurring, or maybe because we were in a position where we were forced, where our choice was taken away.
I want to qualify that. I do not want to give anyone a way out. By forced I mean you were actually forced. I mean you were in a position where you were forced to do something that was against what you would normally have chosen to do. I do not mean situations where you or I made bad decisions and we want to put that off on Bob, the bad guy that was with us, who talked us into this or that. No: Those are our own bad decisions. You cannot blame them on others. This walk we are taking requires honesty, so things like that have got to go. If you can agree on that we can make some progress.
I do understand the need to push off some of that responsibility, I have felt it. I have done it. Part of my life was spent on the streets and for the longest time that was my excuse for my bad behaviors. “Well, I grew up on the streets.” Or “Well, I didn’t have a father around when I needed one.” Or “I spent part of my life poor, living in the projects.” Yes those things truly did affect my life. They hurt me. They made me angry but they did not think for me did they? They didn’t. I did that. And because I didn’t really want to think about my life I adopted a workable solution. At some time in my early life I realized that I was a big kid. I also realized that when I raised my voice and came at someone they most usually became afraid: Even older boys and a few times men.
Raising my voice and being willing to bluff or even get into a fight became my first line of defense: In other words violence. It worked. It kept others away from me. It became my go-to response. I stopped worrying about solving problems or dealing with situations. I had a secret weapon, the threat of violence. I was safe. All I had to do was react, not think about it. And so I lived my life that way for a while and as I lived that way the person I had the potential to be drifted further and further away. And as I practiced the threat of violence to keep others away from me it was only a short leap until actual violence became another weapon in my response arsenal.
My point is we accumulate damage from the things we become or try to make ourselves into when we are not really dealing with life. When we are aimless, unconnected to society and the rules everyone else has to live by. When we enable others and are enabled by others to stay in our hatred and addictions. Ignore reality.
Prison: I had been in prison a few years, long enough to be transferred to a medium security prison. Two men had been at each other most of the day, back and forth, the larger man taunting the smaller man. I was housed in a dormitory setting, 40 men housed in one area watched over by one guard. No doors, no cells, those were in the past when I was in a Maximum security prison. The last count of the day was taken and the C.O. stepped out to wait for the sergeant to pick up the count slip. I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye as I began to lie down, a shadow raced silently past me, heading away so fast I was unsure I had really seen it. I stood and looked in that direction and caught the shadow slip into the end of the line of beds. That told me all I needed to know. A second later a man screamed, a second after that the one man was shadowed as he leapt up and both shadows began fighting. It was clear to see that the smaller shadow was making stabbing gestures as his hand rushed at the other shadow.
Maybe the entire sequence of events lasted ten seconds. I would be surprised if it did. The smaller shadow suddenly separated from the larger one and a split second later raced past me to the bathroom: Breaking up the home made knife, in this case a pen casing that had been shaped and flushing the evidence. The larger shadow stumbled to the open doorway. There had been so little noise that no one, not even the C.O. standing just outside that door had been alerted.
There are lessons here or I would not have told you the story. The events actually happened just as I said. I told you we had heard and seen the two arguing most of the day, yet none of us did anything. The bigger guy was a bully, stopping him would mean that we night get drawn into a fight, becoming involved in a fight means that we might have lost our parole dates, a thing an inmate lives day to day for. Sometimes that date is all that keeps you sane, and so it is always foremost in your mind. A few minutes later the lights came on and several C.O.’s rushed in. The entire company was locked down for several hours. During that time they found the pen which the smaller man had not broken up sufficiently and bloody clothes he had somehow managed to conceal in that brief time. They also questioned all of us, but no one had seen anything.
What does this have to do with enabling? It is clear cut. When you don’t speak up about the things that are wrong in your world, you begin to stop seeing them for what they are. Living in a violent society such as that one you are subjected to so much violence day in and day out that you become not only accustomed to it you do not even speak of it, and you then deny its existence in that way. You truly turn a blind eye to it. It didn’t happen. I didn’t just see that. Doing that enables the bully, gang members or whoever is perpetrating the violence to continue, and it will continue: Get worse, even more violent as it did with the smaller man being bullied by the bigger man. That is an example of enabling you may not have thought about.
For others it is a need to control others around them. If people can be unpredictable or have been unpredictable in the past they could be again, but controlling what they see, what they believe via what you tell them limits that possibility. It protects that person, not you, you are a means to an end. And of course there are people that have a need to control other people to get them to do what they want them to do. This could be as sinister as a pimp controlling a woman he wants to earn cash for him, or as simple as a man or woman manipulating their spouse or significant other into something they don’t want to do. In either case, or any others you might envision or might have seen, the issue is not the reasoning, the issue is that someone is being manipulated against their will. They may know it. They may even think they need it, but it is not free will.
Let’s say you do that time, or maybe you don’t, but you’ve made your mistakes and you are trying to pick yourself up and move past them. Admirable and that is not sarcasm. Moving forward in life is a big deal. Many people just bury their mistakes and they never deal with, acknowledge or learn from those mistakes so that they won’t do them again. They seem to skate through life, meanwhile there you are, regretful, doing what you can to make amends, sure that you will be forgiven if you do the right things because that is what you were told from childhood. But it isn’t true.
I started this purposely telling you that there is no such thing as rehabilitation in this country and that is true. Maybe I irritated a few people immediately with that statement, but hear me out before you start protesting or whining about what I said.
Check out the law. Take a look at reality. Check the statistics and you will see I am right. It has never been anything else. Confession, admission of guilt will get you past the parts of what you did that supposedly must be answered for, but from there it moves you into the punishment phase, not rehabilitation, and there will never be forgiveness of any kind at all.
Look at the way this country works, not in a critical way, just an impartial way. We say one thing, we do something different. We imply absolution, we give none. We imply forgiveness, we again give none. You may be starting to think I am being hypercritical, but bear with me; I have an end and a purpose for these words in mind.
My purpose is to get you to take a breath, realize the way the world really is, not the dream world we all want to live in, but the real world we all do live in. That is important because even though I said all of that, none of it has to be true, because we as individuals make our own reality to a very large extent.
Yes, just shake your head, clear it. I wanted us to all be on the same level playing field and now we are. The key is, we can shape our own destiny, and we often don’t. Instead, we allow others to shape it for us. We allow others to tell us what their reality is. What they perceive our reality as. We find it easier to go with the flow, to join with the rest of the people that do accept the status quo and just jump in and follow blindly. Swim little fishy, swim. But it gains us nothing at all. It means we gave up our individuality to feel like we are part of something even though we know it is not really what we want to be part of at all. What we really want is to be part of what we believe. We know there must be others who believe as we do also, and there are, that is true. There are many others who see that better way. Dream about it. Almost touch it, but they do not have the resolve to see it to fruition. There is not enough belief inside of them. They are afraid, and fear is a stronger motivator than their desire to realize their own goals: To be individuals completely.
So what good is it all if no one makes it to the end? I never said no one makes it. People do make it. My illustration is that it is a hard road. You have to want it badly. More than you want to fit in. And that brings me back to my beginning. The major force, fear: That which holds us back. It is wielded by others whenever we make a mistake. You will meet people who will let that pass, but you will meet people who will not. Unfortunately there is always something about that other person that keeps us with them. We find things that are redeeming in them, about them, all we need to do is change, and give up that dream, maybe all we are really doing is growing up, after all. And so why not do it. Look at what we can have.
The problem is blinding. It is so hard to reason past, see around, that we give up completely more often than not and join that irresistible force that compels us, but the entire premise is flawed. Forgiveness is not a human trait. Neither is forgetting, and those are the things we really require moving forward if we have invested in their answers, their ideals. Forgiveness and forgetting are supernatural things, things we assign to divine beings, and we do that because we know deep down we are not capable of them ourselves. Yet we still expect to receive them from others.
To me that is like believing in the Easter bunny, or Santa Claus, but if you give it some thought we are a race of beings that love to make up fairy tales, tell stories, weave fiction into reality and so we subvert ourselves because some of us never stop and lay it all out. Tell ourselves what our truths are. It can be that simple. It certainly doesn’t need to be complicated, it only needs to be explanatory, and it only needs to be for us, because although there are physical laws that equalize all of us, our motivations, goals and dreams make us capable of being vastly different from one another.
So we do not have to become someone else to realize our dreams, in fact that absorption into someone else’s dream is what will kill our own dreams, usually for good. All we need to do is stay the course, and let me explain why.
One of the things you will notice when you step back to really look at your situation is that after a very short period of observing how things work you will see that your protagonists, the ones who want you to change so badly, to see the world as they do, are very insecure themselves. They need you to change to reinforce them, not to help you. You can easily see this because they give up very easily and move onto someone else if they don’t get results and if you happen to see them change someone to their thinking you will see the positive reinforcement this gives to them. That doesn’t mean they will never try again to change you, they will, it only means that like you they need positive reinforcement to move forward the same as you do.
Positive reinforcement: It is undeniable, powerful, and it is most often the reason that powerful people exist at all. The intoxication they feel when they bring someone into their line of thinking, make them see something they did not see before, did not conceptualize without them showing it to them. That is a feeling that is not unlike a drug: Once they taste it they will want more of it. Whether they are on a true path or destined to become wreckage may no longer matter to them. Think about that. They are bringing you along, who knows how many others and they don’t even have a pilot or a map.
So what to do? It is obvious that not all of us are leaders. It is equally obvious that some of us do need to follow. I am not questioning any of that. Leaders and followers is the natural order of things. There could be no Gods if there were no people to follow them. No great men or women. I believe it is inside of us, lead or follow. I know there are those who say there is another way, the ‘Go my own path’ way, but that is bull. The go my own path people have their own branch. How could that be if they are all alone? It couldn’t be. It is just another path to be part of a whole, while attempting to deny the need to be a part of something when that need is undeniable. Water the grass and the trees and they will grow. Withhold sustenance and all will die. If there truly were a path alone you could withhold all there is and they would continue unaffected. So while I understand that need to be an individual, it can only go so far. In the end you follow or you lead.
The choice is not to do something outrageous. Yes, some do choose wild paths and some do succeed on those paths. That is not what I am saying. Outrageous implies spontaneous reaction, and reaction means you gave it no thought at all. I have watched some of what appears to be outrageous and it is sometimes, but there are times when it only appears outrageous to you or I because we have never seen it, never considered it: That does not mean it is outrageous.
In my experience there are those who do those outrageous things with no planning and they always fail just as we know they will as we watch the outcome or the events leading to the outcome play out. We say to ourselves, “I saw that coming.” And you did, so did I, but what about the times when we say we didn’t see that coming? When we turn to the other in awe? Have you ever jumped into those times and asked questions: How did this happen? How did you get here? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t, but I have and I have because I have seen it happen a few times and I didn’t ask any questions. I assumed it was luck, but have you ever really looked at luck; the odds of this thing happening over that thing, for instance winning the lottery. The odds of winning are so far against you that you may as well not even try. Now if you were calculating the odds of losing that would be a pretty good bet. Say if you chose to bet that you would lose: No book would take the bet, odds are you will lose. Weighing those odds it is easy to see the other end of those odds, how wildly hopeful you would have to be to expect to win. Yet some people enter into everything they do believing just that: That they will win. And when they do all the bystanders will be in awe, just as we are when that person wins the lottery out of the blue.
So what is the secret then? How do we live life in a world that is weighted against us? How do we trust, who do we trust? What do we hope for and how do we know we will get it? The first thing we have to realize is that our destiny is in our control. We are the ones responsible for our ultimate destination.
Break the law and wind up in prison? You made that decision. Yes, I know that there are men and women who sometimes end up in circumstances wrongly. I get that. I have seen it, but the percentage is low. And most often when I hear that argument it is a last hope argument. It means “I have not taken any responsibility for my own life and I know it and so I need to put that blame off on someone else because I can’t function under that load.” Or the reality would be that the person is completely unaware of their circumstances. Very unlikely, very unlikely. And I am not speaking about an experience of some other person. I am not guessing. I am talking from my own experience. What I have done, what I have tried to do, and what I have seen that other people have tried to do.
There is a point. Maybe not when we take that first step, but there will be a point after that first step when we know we are wrong. Not where we should be. Not following the path we wanted: Even doing something illegal and there will come a time in that walk where we will say to hell with it and walk it anyway. I know that because I have done that and I know men and women who have done that. And if I am completely honest I have done it more than once. I was more than a little thick. It took me time to realize that although I thought I was just going with the flow: Along for the ride, I wasn’t. I was moving my feet. I was making choices every second of every day that lead me toward that bad end. I did that. It was me; no one else.
I don’t think that is an uncommon situation. I think many of us do just that. We follow when we should lead, because there is a part of our life where we absolutely have to be a leader, and that is when it comes to direction: Choices, destination, plans, goals, hopes and dreams: The things that really matter. And yet many of us fail to do any of that. I never did. I truly believed I had no choice at all. Then when I realized I did have a choice I truly believed I was making decisions when all I was doing was reacting, putting no more thought into the situation than I would be about not stepping on a crack as I traversed a sidewalk. Deciding? Yes, after I got myself into a bad situation: After I quit my job; after I married that woman I had only known a few months. After I decided to go for a ride in that car when I knew bad things might happen: After I had a beer or two and then decided to argue knowing that alcohol affected my thinking processes; lowered my inhibitions. Then I took time to think, and that thinking went something like this “Why did I do that? Or “What the hell was I thinking?” or “How am I going to get out of this one?”
The fact is, just a few minutes of thought beforehand could have changed everything completely. Where might this lead? What are this persons true intentions? What could happen? Am I prepared to take those consequences if that thing happens?
The fact is almost all of us wish we had made that time for thought: Bounced some ideas off someone else if we had, had the chance, or just thought it out in our heads. Are we stupid? Did we really never give any thought to it at all? I can’t answer for you, but I can answer for myself, and for myself I did not give anything like real time to myself to think things out ever. I felt I was worthless. I had grown up worthless, I would always be worthless and so why should I bother to do anything at all? Make any decisions at all?
The answer is evident, because I am not worthless any more than you are, or anyone else. We all have purpose, and that purpose shouldn’t be tossed away, spent in the backseat of a car, or wasted in the passion of some violent crime, or thrown away on an unremarkable life. It only takes a little thought. Sit down: By yourself if you have to, with a friend if you have one you trust well enough. And if you do it with someone else you don’t want someone who enables you: Someone who tells you what they know that you want to hear. You are going to be bouncing real things off of them so you want someone who has their head together. You might want to observe your friends and family for a while. Who seems to have it together and who seems aimless? You probably have had enough aimlessness, which is not what you need. What you do need is sound advice if you ask for it.
That brings you to what you need to do once you have sat down. No rocket science here at all. You simply need to be completely honest with yourself. I am not saying be mostly honest with yourself, but be completely honest with yourself: All the way. That does not mean you need to bare your soul to someone else too. In fact I would not recommend that at all. Is there a time for that? Yes, there is, after you find more of your own kind. The people who are like you, and then from there someone you love. Not lust, not find yourself attracted to, love. Then go ahead and bare your soul. What if you have done something truly horrible? I will have more to say about that. For this time all you need to do is be honest to yourself in your head. Lay out the truths about you. What motivates you; what is dangerous about that and what is good about that. What you have to watch yourself about.
For me it went like this: I am an alcoholic. A good drug will sidetrack me too. There are times when I feel I cannot resist a woman. I can be compulsive. I tend to stuff anger and then explode. I can be impulsive…
There were more things. The point is, get those things out of you. If you are in a place where you can write them out and you feel comfortable doing that, do it. It is not a big deal to tear up or burn your list after. I mention writing it out because that is exactly what I did. I want to remind you about the people in the world that will use you, use information like that against you, and so you should take this step seriously. Don’t jump, remember, this is about thinking and every step of it requires you to think. Weigh the danger of what you say to another person. Yes, some things need to be said. I personally put myself in a position of honesty about some of my life, the drinking, womanizing, drugs, because I knew where those particular things had taken me and they were very bad places I did not want to find myself in again.
Compulsions, impulsive behaviors, giving no thoughts to what I was doing or where I was going, reacting instead of thinking. I laid all of that bare because I knew I had no choice if I wanted to find my way. No choice at all. I was at the edge of “It is all over” and I knew it. So, honesty is what matters here, no half measures will do. Think it out, write it out. I wrote it out because you cannot argue very well with the truth that came by your own hand. That is if you are being honest, because let’s face it, if you are lying to yourself you are dooming yourself to fail. Let me repeat that, you will fail because you have already doomed yourself. How can you win if you have lied to yourself? And, more importantly, how do you think that you could lie to yourself: You can’t.
Let me touch on truly horrible things. I have met a few men in my life that I believe were true sociopaths. They had no regard for others at all. I didn’t believe that at first, but after observation and prolonged exposure to them I realized it was not a crazy act; in other words an act by them to convince me that they were crazy: They truly were disconnected from feelings, caring, compassion, and empathy. Their lives centered around themselves and nothing else. That is a horrible place to be. And there does not seem to me to be a way back, at least I have not seen any of the men that I met in that situation come back from it. Yes, I have heard them act; say the words, but I have seen no real change in their actions, lives, feelings, mind set.
Truly Horrible Things: An exception to my keep it to yourself rule, and I will tell you why, it can make you a person you will grow to hate. The steps to get from who you are now, hiding that truly horrible thing, to who you could become are short. One day you are not and the next you are starting down that path because in order to keep your world okay you have to hide that. Every day in all ways, and maybe there are compulsions that come along with that, you have to hide that too. You cannot truly love or trust anyone because they might find out, sense it, feel it, figure you out, and that cannot happen because you have denied that behavior even to yourself, left it unacknowledged because you don’t want to face the consequences of it.
This path will kill you, or someone else, or both. These horrible things may not seem so horrible to someone else, maybe only you. On the other hand they may be horrible to anyone who hears about them. We have all done things that are horrible to us. All I can tell you is that it is best to pull the plug on those things. Get them out in the open. This isn’t Hollywood, there will be no happy ending despite these things; these things will instead destroy you. So do what you should do. If you need to confess these things, confess them and deal with the consequences, because removing the blocks in your life is essential to moving forward. One cannot be without the other.
Maybe your concern is the punishment: Prison, ridicule, maybe you will be laughed at. But circumstance can be overcome, guilt cannot. That is because you can fight against your circumstances, learn, find new paths, but guilt is locked away inside and can never be changed unless atoned for according to the moral standards you were raised by and that were set in your mind. There is your judge: Your own moral code.
That is where I believe sociopaths are born. Somehow the moral code inside of them is vastly different from you and I. Their moral code says things like “Another Persons Rights Do Not Matter” or “There Is No Guilt Associated With The Things That I Do.” This is not a place that you want to be, is it? Were you raised so differently from me: The person next to you?
I was raised in a torn family until the age of about 11. At 11 I found others who had the same kind of pain I had and had no real ways to survive with it and so we were all looking for solutions. No, at that age we were not thinking in those terms at all. We were wondering, questioning why me, when will this stop? And we were out late at night having sneaked out of our homes, trying to find answers, although we didn’t know they were answers, anymore than we knew that those with us were very nearly the same as we were.
From the age of 11 until 14 I might have appeared in school a handful of times. No one did anything or raised any alarms. The few times I was there, there were incidents, sometimes violent. I felt apart, as though I did not and could not belong, and so I fought everything about it. At 14 I wound up on the streets where I found even more similarities between the street people and the person I thought that I was. My moral code had been changing, adapting to my circumstances. The truth was I had never adopted a moral code, or so I thought. Yet inside of me I had real conflicts. I can’t do this; I shouldn’t do that, so obviously there was a moral code in there at work, even though I didn’t believe it.
I spent two years on the streets and the moral code I started with broke down further as one by one my objections to the parts of my life as it was fell away. I left the streets with a modified moral code, one that said “At times I will do this to survive.” A lie, because they were not things I did to survive, they were things I did to stay in that situation: That situation where I did not have to take any responsibility for myself or my actions; that place where the world and my view of it never changed and I could always point to my succession of failures and point out that it was because the world was against me, society. If not for that who knows what I could have been.
All bull, all lies and that is how we keep ourselves in our circumstances. Lying to ourselves, but I already told you. Lying to yourself is impossible, so what is the truth? The truth is that we ignore the truth. The truth requires sacrifice, action, real work. A lie is right there on the lips. It rolls off. All that it requires is your own willingness to stick to it. I spent two years on the streets where I did things that were completely against my moral judgment, or so I thought, where I used drugs daily, drank alcohol daily, engaged in risky circumstances daily, and I did it because I did not want to admit that I was there because I had lead myself there. Because I wanted to be there, or I believed that I should be there. That is my upbringing and that is not so different from yours, is it? Are there things you can relate to? Have you engaged in risky things to get the drug you wanted? Broken the law? Gone to jail, prison, and mental institutions? I have also. Overdosed, tried to commit suicide, sold your body to a stranger? I have done those things.
I have known many people in that same situation and I never met one person that had arrived there alone. Yes, they did bring themselves there, but they also had help, the same way I had help. A deadbeat father, no roots at home, and early drug and alcohol dependency, low self esteem, strangers who were more than willing to take advantage of me and lead me down paths that would help them to use me. In that sense we had help getting to those places. Don’t think I am not acknowledging all the people that steered us, but you are the captain of your own vessel, and your feet; one in front of the other led you there. You could have walked another way or even walked away and you did not. I know that is the truth because it was for me. Unless someone kidnapped you and held you slave or hostage you could have walked away; like me you did not.
The reason why I keep bringing it back to you and I is that there can never be any real, lasting work done until you acknowledge the fact that you made your own decisions. Yes, it is embarrassing. Yes it means telling the truth after many lies and it means it may not be believed. Yes, it might even mean there will be consequences over and above what you expected or thought you could handle. Yes, it might also mean you will lose some things. Yes, it means that many of the relationships you now have will end.
This is not a joke. This is not just another reaction to your problems. This is sitting down with or without help and working through the lies and deceit in your life to get to the truth, find some answers, set a new course, and believe me, if that truly is your goal this is one of the things you should prepare yourself for, loss.
Loss will come. Loss will begin the instant you begin to pull away and it is the major reason so many fail: Whether it is pulling away from an addiction, an abusive relationship, a risky lifestyle; or the edge of a thousand foot drop. It means changes are coming. It means you will lose the comfort of sameness, of being with others that also suffer, of suffering because you have come to believe you deserve to suffer. That sameness, that suffering, is sometime all we have allowed ourselves to keep from the wreckage of our former lives and to lose that it must seem to you as it did to me that the world is ending, and in many ways that is true.
When you throw out the poisonous stuff there will not be much left. When you throw out the relationships that help to keep you in your situation, that entire world will be gone. When you go to work to earn a living instead of flagging down cars, shop lifting, selling your body and soul, it will be a world that you might know nothing about at all. So in that sense your world is ending and the one that is coming is one you will fail in unless you are prepared for it. Unless you have sat yourself down and had that talk, figured out where you want to be and told the truth about where you are and where you have been.
Are we all equally lost? No. That is another misperception. We all have different temptations; we all have different demons, compulsions. All of us have commonalities too, but that doesn’t mean we should lump all of our circumstances together and make common decisions for all of us. I have been in treatment programs where I have seen that approach used and it is hopeless. It is breaking down with your car and then walking down a road that parallels the main highway. You can see the main highway and cars zipping by. Help is there, but there is a twenty foot high fence topped with razor wire in between your road and the highway. You will never get there. That is because what you need is not the same as what I need. Your wants, goals, future, will never be the same a mine. Think about it. If that were the case, if we were all that common in our needs, marriages would never fail. We would understand each other. One trip to jail, prison or rehab would be enough and it isn’t. That is why you must sit down and have that talk with yourself. Figure it out. Get it straight in your head before you ask for help to make the changes you are going to make and there are reasons to do it that way.
The first reason is you may make some decisions based on what you think you know that turn out later to be wrong. They become wrong because you learn as you change and we come to realize that what was right yesterday is not right today. And you will change. You will change because even in your circumstances you change every day: Every minute. If you tried to stay the same you couldn’t. Everything that touches you changes you. You think you are static because you do not acknowledge that change. You stay in your circumstances because at some point in your life something happened and you froze, slapped a coat of paint on who you were then and called it good enough. It wasn’t good enough. Not even close.
At around the age of five I was molested by an aunt. I don’t say that to shock or disgust you I say it to illustrate my last point. The abuse was ongoing and at some point in there I stopped growing. I considered it everything I could do to survive what was coming each day and so I stopped growing mentally. I slapped up a few defenses, whatever a five year old can, mainly to cave in, admit I am worthless, go through the pain and get it over with. I stopped my path to the person I was supposed to be and became that little person I was at that time for many years: With just those basic defenses to protect myself. My views of women stopped developing and became based on her actions and so the hatred I felt for her dominated my feelings about women. I became a man who acted like a child; thought like a child, behaved liked a child. A child cannot live in an adult world where they are expected to be adults. So I was rejected. No one was going to stop and take the time to talk with me, get me to see what I had done; was doing. I was rejected and that was all that I felt. The world made no sense. I had no mechanisms to help me survive. Alcohol and drugs seemed to provide answers and so that is the road I took. I had relationships that did not last because I was a child playing at being an adult. I had chances to prosper, trust was placed in me, and I failed again because a child is not up to those tasks.
So it is the child’s fault. No; that is not why I bought you here. It is your fault. I am giving you an answer I found after I sat down and had that talk, and after I participated in groups and spoke to counselors, and after I had some time away from those behaviors I had practiced and achieved some clarity. And I started these particular verses out saying we are not all alike, and we are not. I do not know what led you to where you are. I do not know your circumstances. What I do know is that we do have similarities. There are common areas we can explore, learn from each other about, identify with and there is hope in that, because if there were no common ground we would be lost.
Common ground: The human experience; addictive behaviors and substances, past abuse, anger issues, prison time, jail time, psychiatric hospital time, time on the streets, coming from a large family, coming from an abusive home, being sexually molested… The things I have listed are only a list. It is to illustrate what you can write about yourself. This is a way to find common ground and in my experience common ground is important.
I opened my eyes one morning and saw the familiar institutional color of the wall next to me and knew there would be a cell door of some type before I ever turned my head. After I looked, for a very long time I laid there and cried: I did not know what I had done on the surface; it was all lost at that point and some of it I was keeping myself from acknowledging, but I knew that once again I was in a county jail and I was feeling sorry for myself, not for my actions, for myself.
Days slipped by, weeks, and I came to know what I was accused of but I did not believe it because I had no memory of it: Convenient, maybe, bad if it is the truth and in my case it was. I said way back at the beginning of this that honesty is the only way to reach the goal of living in the world instead of dealing with the world, and that is true. As the weeks slipped by I began to acknowledge the fact that I did have some memories and although they were only partial they supported what I was accused of. I also realized that no one would believe me no matter what I said. Not about what I had done, but if I said I wanted change. That fear kept me undecided, but the truth is it doesn’t matter who believes you. No one has to believe you and if you have lived a life of deceit and lies, most likely no one will. This is a personal journey. There are no passengers on this train. It is that simple. You have to decide to tell the truth and live by that knowing full well there may be few people who believe you or believe in you. If you cannot do that you are setting yourself up for failure. The common ground came after I admitted the truth to myself. I felt isolated. Who was like me; who could help me, what should I do next?
Next was a drug and alcohol meeting where men and women came in from the outside and talked to the inmates. They held them on the weekend and so I had to give up church to attend. Church where I was doing my best to persuade God to help me. Could I afford to take a day off of talking God into helping me? Don’t get me wrong. God can do miracles, but I have never seen God set a drug addict or alcoholic, or both on their feet in one setting. That is because we aren’t quite sure about God and what God can or cannot do. We have lied all of our lives, so we think that maybe God lies too. You can convince yourself of anything.
I went to the meeting expecting absolute salvation and deliverance from drugs and alcohol in one setting and then the judge would hear this and release me and I would get a real job and enter smoothly into the real world, the world the straight people, the squares lived in and life would go on forever so happily, and I would be so grateful: All bull. I also went there thinking “This is a waste of time.” I went. I had to sign up for it and so I was on the call-out and when they cracked my cell door I got in line and I went.
The speaker was so-so. He talked about drinking, losing his wife and home and job. I listened but it meant little to me. Then he said, let me introduce you to two men who have been down some of the roads you have. Something like that; I paraphrased it, but I’m pretty sure I got it right since it was a very important day in my life.
The two men came up looking embarrassed to be there, same as I would have been; a little overweight, normal, not super stars, not polished like the counselors always seemed to be, but real people. They had my attention because of that and here is why: I had heard they were beginning, in counseling and mental health facilities, to use ex addicts, ex alcoholics, people who had been abused and others that understood the situation because they had been in it rather than people who had gone to school and really did not have a clue what it was like to turn a trick, or score some crack, meth, hustle, sleep in a doorway. That impressed me and it impressed me because these were men like me: Men that had looked into the eyes of the same monster I had been staring at for years and had managed to look away.
As they talked I found I believed what they had to say. They spoke the same language I understood, and as they went on one of the men began to tell a story and I realized I knew that story. Not that it sounded familiar, but that I knew it. I knew it because I was one of the people in it., That man told a story about me when I was younger. He was talking about his own circumstances, but he described it so well that I knew it was that time and place from my past. The year, the time of night, the place and the crowd of kids that was there. I was one of those kids. In fact I was the one that was showing out the most the way I always did to impress the people around me, to be noticed, to get attention and a funny thing: I could not remember a single name of any of those others I was with that night, or much about them, but I remembered the one guy who was now talking in that concrete block room in the county jail, his circumstances and that night, that place perfectly well.
That was all I needed: The beginning of the end for me; I believed him. I believed his recovery; his transfer back to society, how he learned to be a man. How he put the past behind him. Not covered it up, but let it go, dealt with the consequences and began to live. He finished and asked if anyone else wanted to share and I found my hand shooting up and he called on me. I froze: I knew what this moment was and what it could mean. I stopped and thought; I really thought and then I spoke. I told him who I was and what I was there for, accused of, and then I admitted I did it, broke down and thanked him for his story and what it gave me.
When I finished I thanked him again and although a few guys had tried to make me see reason; that criminal moral code, never be honest, he had encouraged me to speak and I had. You never saw so many guys reaching for pencils to write down what I said, but they had none. You cannot bring anything to those meetings. When we got back I saw those same guys calling their lawyers, looking to trade information on me for a deal. For a second I panicked, but my resolve was good. I did not know what this new road was, but I was on it. I had found my common ground.
Understand this was a process. There was no flash of light and then I was absolved of all wrong doing. I was only taking that first step. I was still a criminal, still hated and still a liar in many respects. No one began to love me because of that, many people even seemed to think there must be an angle I was playing. Guys even came up to me at recreation and asked me what that angle might be. There was no angle. I had my common ground. That man and I may have had nothing else in common, but we were both alcoholics, meth users, and we had been on the same path. Apart from that he had found his way out before I had, his life was in a direction I didn’t know or understand, and he could not help me in my choices or walks or even talk to me apart from that one conversation.
I say that to tell you that it is not an easy road to honesty. It took me some time, weeks in fact, but I also say it to come back to common ground. Although I was becoming convinced that I had a drug and alcohol problem I would not allow myself to consider what that meant. I am sure that you know what I mean. Your thoughts start down that path and you stop them. You stop them and begin to think of something else. That is what I was doing. I had not taken the first step because there was nothing compelling me to do it. Honesty? Honesty is a lot of work! Who will believe me? Who even cares? Why should I do it? I’ll have to pay for that, there will be serious consequences; and so honesty is not a possibility. I found I could deny everything I saw and heard because; after all I had been doing it for all of my adult life.
But an encounter that happened to me changed it all. It made me able to take that first little step. And a little step is all it was. I had taken a step that was going to cause me to spend a very large portion of my life imprisoned, maybe all of it: I did not know. What I did know is that I was being honest. I didn’t matter if people thought I was playing an angle. It didn’t matter if people hated me; it only mattered that I could stop at that point and begin to think instead of simply reacting, clear my head, all because I had found some common ground. So although we are different there is common ground we can meet on; agree on to begin to accept and give help to get one another moving in the right direction. It doesn’t mean you are agreeing to become just like everyone else, it only means there is common ground we can meet on and begin to address our lives, what matters.
We are back to our original argument. We do know the things we do are wrong. We pretend they are not wrong, or we simply react and think that saved us the decision, but that is bull. We know exactly what choice we have made, and again if you are reading this my assumption is that you want to change. I cannot change you, nor would I want to. That goes back to being a follower again. And you may end up following someone, but the point is to follow someone, something worth following: So no, this about you changing yourself; you, not allowing others to do it. Not just living and thinking it is all fate, but you being responsible for you and the choices you make, so me saving you is not on the table. The information I have is. And I believe that information can help you. It is you that will have to implement that information and the changes it can bring into your life.
I hope that you are not disappointed, but if I did what I set out to do you should not be. If you are honest you can sit down and do this. I don’t know what you will sick up, and it isn’t my place or anyone else’s place to know that, except you. You are the one that needs to know. You are the one that will know whether you are once again blowing smoke or if you are being honest. I hope for honesty and I believe you do as well. Even so, sometimes we can believe we are too weak. We can believe that since we live in this country, this world where forgiveness is not a given that everything is stacked against us and we cannot do a thing about it. I can only say, go back and read this again and compare the things it says to your own life. You should see some truths there. No one can stop you from doing this except you.
In closing: Let’s go back to the beginning. When I started this I was speaking about the world, how unfair it can be. How there is no forgiveness, no forgetting and I don’t want you to forget that, because the fact is that, that is the way it is. Family, lovers, and people you meet. Very few people will truly forgive the things you have done. Forget the mistakes you have made. As long as they are in your circles, around you, maybe as long as you live they will still feel that way. In short there is nothing you can do to change that. Yes, you could run away from that reality to another reality, but there will be new people who will discover your faults, mistakes, crimes, because things like that tend to continue to turn up until we take care of them permanently: So new people will feel the same way. You will have done nothing except set yourself back in your goals and dreams. The answer is not to change them: To make them see you differently, the answer is for you to see them differently.
Have you ever hated something someone has done? Not necessarily something someone has done to you, just to someone else in general. I always used the analogy of what if it was something that happened to someone you love. What if it was your brother someone killed, your sister someone murdered, raped, how would you feel then? Don’t just dismiss that. Think about it. There really are people you love and if someone hurt them, cheated them, you would have emotion tied to how you felt about it. The line I am drawing shouldn’t be hard to see. You have done things. Maybe they are minor things compared to what I just mentioned, maybe they are worse. No one has gone through life without impacting someone. You sometimes have to hurt one person’s feelings to save another person’s feelings.
Life is like that, so no matter who you are you have not come through this life unscathed, there are people that do not like you, and, surprise, there are people that don’t like you because you are different from them: A different sexual orientation, a different color. Right, we know all of that. I say it to make you think about it. There are people in your world that will never let you alone about real or imagined things they do not like about you, and there is nothing you can do about it. So you can let them push you, shape your life, bow to their idea of what you are capable of, what you should be, or you can sit down and have that talk with yourself. Make the changes you need to make and start guiding your life to the place you want it to be.
The other side of that coin is the reason that you may decide that nearly every person now in your life may not be in your life much longer. Not only will they continue to remind you of what you were, they will be a constant reminder to you of what you were and could be again. Many of them may also be enablers. They have known you and your needs. Maybe that was good for them. Maybe you changing would take away their stability, their need to fix you so that they do not have to look at themselves, fix themselves.
That may seem ludicrous, but it isn’t. You may passionately love someone who is also an addict, alcoholic, involved deeply in the criminal life, or a dealer, or your main enabler. How is maintaining that relationship going to help you recover from your own problems? It isn’t. Sure, you can go to them and lay it all out. In fact I encourage you to do that because it is the only way to break that bond: If that person means that much to you take that time, in fact you truly do owe them that time, and it is a cowardly act to simply walk away without explanation. But having said that you have to know where you are, how strong you are. Can you have that conversation right now and not cave in; maybe not you, you are not me you are an individual and this is walking alone not in a crowd. My only point is there is a reason why these relationships we had in our addictions and compulsions do not very often come through with us. They are part of the support network we have built around us to continue in our life of lies. We could not do it as well as we did without them, but if we are truly on the path of change we do not need them any longer and if you cannot face them without fear of failing and falling back into who you were and understand so well, the explanation will have to wait until you are strong enough to give it.
That does not mean we run crazy and screaming from that life. Reasonable people, people who live in the real world, handle things differently. If I have a problem with Jill, Keisha, Johnny I don’t just drop them, add them to the list of bad people I have in my head, maybe punch Johnny in the face because we no longer see eye to eye. Picking up the real world means we are no longer apart from the laws that everyone else has to live by. It means we have excluded ourselves from those laws and now we have acknowledged that we are willing to be held to those same laws that the rest of the world is held to, and that same loose set of rules civilized people live by.
Is that offensive? It might be, but the fact is when citizens, a regular Jane or John Q looks at you they are afraid. You live a life amid circumstances they find disturbing, crazy even. They read about people like you and I in the paper, hear about them on the evening news. Or maybe you are a statistic. The point is they go to work. They pay their bills. They contribute to society. It doesn’t mean they understand every aspect of our society, like every aspect of it, agree with all of our politicians and politics, but they are invested in it, involved in it. And overall they believe it is a good way of life. You may disagree. Maybe that is why you went down the path you did.
Age 13: I took an overdose and nearly succeeded in my goal which was simply to stop living. I was serious, but I didn’t know enough about the drugs I had taken to ensure that they would work. I only knew there were a lot of pills and they seemed to be enough to get the job done. They weren’t. They were only enough to almost kill me, ruin my stomach for the rest of my life and leave me in intensive care. When I was released from intensive care I was locked up in the hospital’s Mental Health ward.
In the mental health ward I learned that depression is suffered by many people. I was not special, I did not want to actually kill myself I only needed some attention. That was all news to me because I did not feel that way that I knew of, but then again this was help from outside of me. Help I did not understand and help that came from a system that was ill prepared to deal with drug addicts who were so young. So they cut me loose and I went home to my crappy life, my alcohol addiction and speed addiction and a few weeks later I tried again, taking even more pills. That got me locked up for over a month in a mental health unit.
I talked to a young counselor there a person who had been through some rough patches in their life. A week, week two, then week three of one on one counseling and I decided I trusted that person. I told them then, of all things I could have told them about, what my aunt had done to me. Later in life I came to realize why that was the thing that came out, but at the time I was as appalled as the counselor was. The counselor excused themselves and a few minutes later I was talking to a psychologist and then to a psychiatrist: For whatever reasons I never saw the counselor I had come to trust again. I was not believed and a few days later I was cut loose without any sort of real explanation.
I think there was fear, I think there was disbelief, and I think that I should have gotten a better break back then, a better set of ears, and had that happened maybe I… And what does that line of thought do? Derail me. I have heard too many criminals, addicts, alcoholic go down that road. That road only leads to “It Was Someone Else’s Fault Not Mine.” It is a dead end road. It means nothing, it accomplishes nothing; it goes nowhere. It happened, maybe something like it happened to you, or something similar, but it doesn’t matter, because we are living in the real world now and in the real world that sort of stuff is pointless. It doesn’t solve anything, heal anyone and it wastes time better spent dealing with real issues.
The other thing is that it scares people, back to that argument just a short while ago. It scares people because they do not understand it. Yes, a psychologist or some counselors are trained to understand it. That is because they have read it, and maybe in a few case they have seen it in action and so they have a better grasp of it, but they have not lived it: Even so they can deal with it without surface fear of the things you are telling them, the average person cannot. If you think that is a stretch, consider this, almost everything we do is motivated by fear. I won’t get into a long explanation about it that has been covered and covered, look it up, read it, but understand that this is not an abstract idea, it is true. People will be afraid of you. Afraid of the things you say, the ideals you promote. They will be afraid because people who are considered normal don’t live those types of lives. And they will be afraid because they will know that it is like a disease, let it in and it could infect everything they love. It can do that because it is the opposite of all they have worked for.
For you and me, if you are an addict or a criminal, it might not be a stretch at all to witness violent crime and do nothing, say nothing, certainly we wouldn’t report it. That is part of our moral code, not to call the cops and we understand that, people on the up and up in society don’t understand that. Their first thought would be to stop it. Their second thought once they realized they might get hurt themselves trying to stop it would be to call the police, 911. That thought would not enter our minds. You might think, So what: Big deal; if they were in our circumstances they might act the same as we do! Another diversion, because we do not want them in our circumstances, do we? No we want us in their circumstances. We are trying to get away from that reasoning, those moral codes that we lived by and learn how to live in the real world. Well, that is the real world right there.
I point that up so that maybe you can get an idea of how vast the gulf is between them and us. And really I have to say them and you, because I have crossed that gulf. I also want to point up that in a great many people’s minds it changed nothing at all. They still hated me. They still doubted me and they are still afraid of me. Don’t harbor any illusions, for the most part that is the way it will be and you need to remember that because if you come into this thinking it will all be good and all that old stuff will simply fall away, you are wrong, it will not; but that does not mean there will not be encouragement, help, and probably that will come from some of the people and places you hated the most when you were in that life, the people who are in charge of that world; authority figures: Police, Parole Officers, Psychologists, Counselors, Psychiatrists, Mental Health Facilities, Prisons and Jails.
Authority Figures: My thoughts twenty years ago when it came to authority figures was like this: Don’t trust them, tell them anything real, lie to them, hate them just because they are trying to control me. I don’t think that is exaggerated at all. It was who I was and how I thought. My attitude now is vastly different, and if that makes you think you should not believe in the things I say then so be it, because the world needs to have authority figures. There needs to be someone in charge that can be the go to person that takes responsibility. I know that might sound crazy to you, but it is an absolute. If you are a religious person read the Old Testament, New Testament or the Quran whatever religious documents you adhere to and you will see that authority is an absolute. Without it there can be no fairness for anyone, any group of peoples, religions, small countries, impoverished peoples. There has to be authority figures to apprehend that thief, rapist, murderer so that they can pay for what they have done. There needs to be authority figures to guide us too. No religion has ever worked without them. This means that you will have to revise your thinking. You will have to bend to that loose set of rules I was referring to earlier if you wish to be considered acceptable in a real society.
Last words: This is not a magic bullet. Just because you put yourself on the right track does not mean that all the problems you created just reacting to life are going away. If it were that simple we would all have done it long ago. All it means is that you have set goals and you are working for them. You are giving yourself time to think. That is something you deserve. You are saying no to some situations and you are aware of your weaknesses and how they can lead you to bad choices, bad places. It also doesn’t mean that everything you want will be attained. Goals are made to be changed, expectations lowered. Winners know that: Dreamers tend to believe that things will rise to meet their expectations instead of them lowering their expectations to meet life. So, don’t think unrealistically. Make that one of things that you talk to yourself about. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time. That is really the way I have lived my life for several years now. I think it is the only way to do it and win, Dell…