I think one of the biggest torments of severe depression- or any bout with any debilitating mental health issue- is the absolute solitude nature of its torture. The anger, sadness, and frustration intensifies inside you without anywhere to go becoming a venomous arrow paralyzing you to the world outside of your own thoughts. You become a volcano whose eruption only blows up itself- it’s lava pouring back inside the earth leaving the ground trembling with flaming fears. Such intense self-reflection leads to at times periods where our lenses to life are skewed to reality. Self-absorption becomes our sin because connection to others seems so far away- a distant land too many miles to seek out alone. When you are in the midst of a depressive bout the ability to actively connect with others is a foreign language. Spoken words are never understood anyway when you yourself have lost your voice. So you turn even more inwards losing your connection to the outside world.
For me that loss can plummet to even greater depths where death seems like the best option available. When life is strangling you slowly then suicide seems the comforting solution over that ever present drudgery; that is a life that seems to be rather a slow death suffocating all glimpses of hope, love, and life out of it-dooming you to a life lived cursed as a hollow tomb- a Monet to the outside world- but strictly walking dead inside. It’s not that suicide is ever truly appealing- it’s thought of peace it brings that becomes so alluring.
Thinking back to the past seems more like a vivid nightmare than real life-years either seem closer to the past, or, further from the future then they actually are. A kaleidoscope calendar fills out the remnants of my memories of these fractured times.
Back in those dark days gratitude lists got me by. I learned that when your brain is fighting itself you have to become like the dirtiest player in the game, Ric Flair, and use any tactic at hand to win. The brain can’t think of two things at once- so no matter how bad your depression, sadness, anger, fear, or any of the smorgasbord of emotions that are occurring at the time are- you can always mindfully take a moment to barrage it with some goodwill. Because at the times when you are feeling that low it’s those bright moments you can always cling to as you struggle to climb forward. So use gratitude like Omar used his shotgun and leave your brain shook shouting, “Gratitude Coming” across all hemispheres.
Using gratitude is one of the simplest tools you have at your disposal in battling these ailments. Whether it’s starting each day by listing five things on paper, keeping a gratitude journal, or just focusing on a tiny comfort in life like fresh socks and underwear will guarantee your first thoughts each waking morning will be full of positivity, hope, and thankfulness. With practice those peaceful moments can expand to peaceful mornings, afternoons, and beyond. Remember the practice of gratitude is just like lifting weights- the more you work at it the stronger you become. And with that strength comes a better connection to oneself and the world around it. Gratitude started me on my journey to wellness, and you best believe it is indeed part of my “code to living” till this day.
One thing I have learned is closure never comes just because you want it- It only comes like a fog covered peak after miles and miles of a laborious trek. Birthdays are a great time to reflect- I turned 39 the other day and was grateful for how much closure I was recently granted. Closure has come for me many times these past two years- first from myself, from the murders, and lastly the former lovers hearts I gripped way too tight- using them as a substitute for alcohol when life was too frightening to deal with shieldless. My actions when the alcohol returned forever ruined those relationships- leaving me with handfuls of frays of ember burning my skin while I clung to the glimpse of peace they once offered was a truly hard drug to give up. My intoxicated actions forever haunt me- and hopefully this SOS will greet them with peace. It’s the least I hope for those hearts I treated with such previously cruelty in the end. It was never my intention- but that’s the problem in intention- or your reasoning, or any bullshit excuse- it never changes how these actions affected others. I am learning from my failures- the process is ever going- so I am honoring those loves from the past by knowing I will be treating the loves of my future with all the wisdom and care I wished I could have experienced with and giving to them. It’s not enough I know- but it’s the only way I know on how to forge ahead.
My current penance has been reflection- taking a year to remove myself from any romantic relationships with any female- be it mental or physical. I really had to learn who I was on my own-without the alcoholic buffer- to realize what I truly offer a future partner- or even what I am looking for or need in one myself. I am writer- a romantic in love with the chaos of beauty- the passion of instant intense connection- usually formed in unique situations that burn so hot in the beginning that no matter what it’s doomed to an ember ending- smoke signals of cruelty. A love only wonderful in prose- but a disaster in reality. Itself an addiction from reality sealed with a kiss. When two tragedies collide it’s not a recipe for romance- but always disaster. A happy ending is never in a tragedy’s future- no matter how much you will it.
So now I trek tenderly ahead. Avoiding the fire and easing into the ocean of connectivity. Treading softly for the future hearts I may encounter.
It’s just over 365 days since my last sip of the devil’s elixir. That’s one year alcohol free-it’s got me feeling like I am CM Punk. It’s funny it probably took me about eight years just for this one year to happen. The amount of time I spent in the ring boxing with the legends of depression, ptsd, anxiety, and booze earned me a PHD in getting my ass whipped. In those early fights I hadn’t learned yet not to lead with my chin-or leave my body exposed for those breath crunching kidney shots that will have you pissing a red amber color witnessed only by fisherman on nights when the sea turn angry. Over the years those rounds left me bruised, beating, and frozen with scars of failure. I couldn’t properly fight back because I had grown accustomed to the misery- that misery seemed the lesser of the two evils- the latter being honestly and truly exploring my emotions to find the root cause of my pain, and engaging in a plan of action to overcome it. I began to be more comfortable living in the misery of the terror- than in the thought of embracing the horror of what was to come. Some rounds I become so intoxicated with hate and anger I would just take an old school beating like Rocky Balboa-just to feel the pain. Other times I would come out swinging- knocking down some of these foes- but always eventually forgetting my way- and getting knocked out once again. Eventually I learned to slip a punch or two, and jab when needed. I learned I could take a punch, and punch right back- till eventually I learned my own unique fighting style and began knocking out these demons one by one.
My loyal readers will know that this blog started out as an outlet to try to find some clarity- well let’s be fucking honest- it was so I wouldn’t kill myself. I was at a point where my head was slowly convincing me that death was a good idea- and I knew if I wrote about it honestly it would be out there- a reality because it was typed. I couldn’t pretend everything was all right if the internet already knew the truth. So began my long complicated journey for mental health clarity, and I knew the only way to get there was to eliminate alcohol. It was the one x-factor that clouded all judgement- and conveniently also been my most effective and best developed coping mechanism since graduating college. Alcohol by the end only brought out the ugly in me. All my self hatred came out through vicious words and thoughtless actions. I still feel the sting of this in wondering if some friendships just became lost due to time and miles away- or did my years living in between blackouts destroy it. Those things still haunt me. Choosing alcohol over love that still haunts me. But alcohol, itself, that shit doesn’t haunt me anymore.
For I learned it never really held any power over me- rather I allowed it to be all powerful over me because it seemed the most endurable terror at the time. Luckily I found you don’t have to endure terror if you are willing to grind for mental peace instead. So grind I did, and one year later I am booze free. And now mostly demon free. Still a work in progress- but now a much less haunted one.
And thanks for all those that been reading from the start- I promise I will post more from now on.
I was lost in thought the other day- half way between meditating and thinking of new ideas- when I had this moment where I realized my life was no longer consumed by my previous PTSD/Depression. No longer did my identity revolve around the murders, or the harmful ways I attempted to address that pain. For the longest time I didn’t even realize I was living this way. PTSD and the depression that sprung forth stripped away so many things I loved. I even stopped enjoying djing for awhile. My heart wasn’t into it, and the fact that not having that love didn’t even feel off to me- looking back at those times I didn’t fathom why I no longer cared that something I loved so much I could brush aside so easily. Or why I would get soul crushing anxiety anytime I would have to play out in public. Thats the real crime of depression is it robs you from experiencing the things you love to the point you can’t even remember why they gave you joy in the first place. It was so bad that I didn’t even make a dj mix for over five years. Music become a chore- something to be endured not enjoyed. So in the past year being able to experience the joy of djing brought me all the way back to my teenage years in my basement mixing records. Having that passion rekindled in me has been beyond a blessing, and a blessing I will soon be able to share with you with a new mix in the coming weeks.
But before that glorious day my hours passed in a fog of frozen hell. I had no idea all those years later that the despair I fled in the wake of the deaths would eventually wreak so much havoc in my subconscious, and subtlety weave it’s way into my whole view of the world. It was as if I was wearing those Roddy Roddy Piper glasses in They Live- but instead of seeing aliens my eyes were clouded lenses of tragedy and fear.
Thinking back the dogma of AA prayed upon and played into those fears for many years. I was indoctrinated that I drank- not because I hadn’t properly dealt with some serious emotional pain I was suppressing- because all my pain was just resentments that the fourth step would cure with the turnarounds. For those not aware there are 12 steps in AA. The first three are basically saying you are powerless to alcohol and only god(higher power- something greater than yourself can save you from your drinking.) Alcohol is this big boogeyman in AA always in the parking lot doing push ups, and other body focused isometric exercises. Alcoholics do some terrible shit while drinking so AA professes that deep down all alcoholics are selfish and resentful at their core, and thus it’s not really your fault since you just never were were not giving a proper design for living(aka Big Book and 12 steps)before to deal with these bedevilments. So the fourth step is where you first write out all your resentments to the world- so anyone, or anything you felt has wronged you during your entire life. This is also the step where you have to to do a turnaround on said resentment- which is where you show the role you played in the resentment. For example the resentment of my brother murdering my sister, niece, and nephew was my fault because my reaction to the trauma was to drink to avoid it. Never mind the batshit logic of having to explain where your at fault for a murder is fucking nuts. Even worst AA loved when I said that. Real taking of accountability the old timers would snarl- but if you look at this beyond the surface why the fuck I am exploring such a deep and nuanced subject based on anecdotal science from a hundred years ago with a sponsor(for god bless their souls and my past ones were the best people!) whose only qualification for exploring this process with you is they themselves completed the steps. These are not licensed counselors you deal with- just normal people. So imagine the type of harm that can happen from these types of exercises even if the outright intention is not malicious. After completing the steps, sponsoring others (three of which who were in their early twenties who passed on), going to multiple meetings daily, and running a sober house I still wanted to drink. No matter how much I prayed I was still miserable. So I would drink again and then have to go back to AA and grab a newcomers white chip and start all over. And have to lie when I shared that I didn’t trust god with all my heart enough as the reason for my drinking again- not the mental anguish and toil going on from unstable brain chemistry mixed with unresolved emotional trauma. Nope just not being 100 with GOD. Or I drank because I didn’t pray hard enough, or I just didn’t want it enough- because AA is not for people who need it, it’s for people who want it. Looking back the whole process makes me want to puke.
In AA everything centers around alcohol- and the program becomes all consuming in your life where meetings serve as your new addiction. I know today I can not drink- I ruined that ability in the midst of trying to avoid my emotions. I abused this liquid escape to a point my body can no longer consume without being a total asshole that you don’t want around, who will sabotage anything good in his life. I am at peace with not drinking- plus drinking makes me fat. At my peak depression about five years ago I weighed 280 pounds-this morning I weighed in at 221(more nutrition posts to come I am into overnight oats now) But just losing the weight didn’t make me happy either. Long story short what made me happy was a long and arduous journey of self-discovery full of too many failures to count. Being able to write while feeling joy is something I feared I would never be able to experience. If I followed AA’s path I would still be stuck in that purgatory pain fog which was a living death. But as a part of my journey I am thankful for the lessons I learned along the way in AA, and the amazing people who came into my life because of it. I am not here to destroy AA- because for those it works for it is a beautiful thing. But for the others struggling today to I want them to realize there are different paths to happiness, and to keep searching to you find the right one.
Yesterday was James Baldwin’s birthday- an author whose words always leave me in awe. So today I reflected on one of his quotes, “To accept one’s past—one’s history—is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought.”
So in the past few weeks I have been really diligently trying to be mindful so I don’t return to my past harmful ways of thought. It means having to be truly insightful, and honest of my past behaviors- especially the selfish ones that came from fear. It meant embracing the fact I hadn’t truly been pushing myself for being stagnant is oh so comfortable. It’s realizing I feared failure more than I desired success. It meant looking in the mirror and deciding I was not going to let my old ways of thought bury my future happiness . And it meant learning past failures are key for they unlock the skills for future joy. And most importantly it meant sacrificing immediate happiness and comfort to experience the discomfort of growth. Which I exemplified by not pursuing a relationship with a truly beautiful girl because you realize lust is not a foundation you build relationships on. That looking outside for validation only ruins yourself and the other soul’s ability for connection, and ultimate growth. That two boats letting in water don’t fix each other’s holes- and in the end it just leads to two people drowning even quicker. Each an anchor preventing one another from reaching the shore ahead.
So Instead of drowning in past failures I am actively learning from them. Some days I still want to drink, and instead of simply running with the thought and mindlessly allowing for it to occur; I now challenge it. Realizing that maybe that thought is occurring from a lack of connection with others; my own loneliness gutting through my belly causing such feelings of emptiness. Maybe it’s the routine of the past, and a desire for a return to turbulence out of the current tranquil waters I swim in now. Maybe it’s just my brain firing on old pathways I haven’t successfully rewired yet. Either way the only thing I know for certain is today those pathways have a big ass detour sign in front of them blocking those shortcuts of sabotage.
For I agree with Baldwin that our past always shapes us, but it never defines us. With our first morning breath we choose which path we will follow today. Our footing as solid, or perilous as we wish for rock solid foundations are only built with time and effort. Each day I am putting in the effort to reshape my future. Each night knowing my past has helped guide the way to this current future. And each day struggling towards a better tomorrow.
The last couple posts I been talking about failure a lot, and one thing I am glad I failed at was committing suicide. I am not going to lie, I kinda half assed it. I didn’t follow any of the the Gravediggaz advice from “1-800-Suicide.”
I didn’t run to the zoo and lock myself in a lion’s den, didn’t confront an alligator and let it eat me raw, or even just hang myself with a fucking barbed wire. Nor did I even follow the plan I had thought of before. To be honest it just kinda happened- it was very passive. I just got to the point where I didn’t want to feel, and didn’t care if that meant not waking up the next day. It started with mixing Ativan and a pint of vodka. That combo proved too weak- it just left me feeling sober. My existence was still on fire- my skin a vampire in the sun. So I added a big bottle of wine to the mix. And still nothing. My brain was still firing missiles in all directions; a kamikaze bombing of my consciousness creating a maze out of doubt, fear, and self-hatred. I was blinded, lost, and just wanted out so next I found an almost full bottle of gabapentin and those easily found their way down my neck into my belly. And finally a handful of sleeping pills to blot out the rest of my existence. Then I found the peace of my bed. I laid down and enjoyed the high I was finally feeling. I had no fear left. I was weirdly at peace that maybe the next morning I wouldn’t wake up; a feeling I wish to never have ever again. The morning did come and I was grateful as hell to see that sun. You see I don’t want to die, and I sure as hell don’t want to live in a world of numbness. My brain loves to trick me into that existence, but today I fight it with the guerrilla warfare that is mindfulness. It is with ruthless aggression I fight for my existence. I am dropping nuclear bombs on the tricks my mind uses to play on me, and embracing the love that surrounds me. Today I want to fucking live, and that feels pretty damn good.
My brain is still a bit foggy like the grave mist of dawn in a land of ghouls. But writing keeps me sober so I type these SOSs to the world. Failure keeps you hungry and hopeful. And I have failed enough to remain hopeful as fuck. I am grateful for failure. It’s how I learn. It’s why I have this chip on my shoulder because I don’t think anybody truly believes I will stay sober- that July 15th will just be another day- just another broken resolution. That my resolve will falter, and my belly will once again surrender to the swill of liquor cascading into its center. But I have a feeling this time you will be wrong. And what’s different is hard to explain- that feeling deep inside your gut can’t always be explained. But when you feel it you know it. And today I feel it. Today I know it. And tomorrow I will keep on showing it. Because these SOSs of heartbreak might not mean that much to many, but at least they get me through the day. And each day that mist will feel further away. And each day my vision will get clearer. And each day that ghoul that clutches on my soul will get easier to push away. For embracing failure gives you a power you never knew existed inside you for it takes away the control that fear has over you. And without fear on your back you can achieve anything you want. And even if you fail at least you learned the next time what not to do. And through that failure you learn most importantly what you need to do. For heartbreak and surrender are the only true path to real love. Be that a love for oneself or another.
My dear readers you can rejoice for I have returned. I apologize for the delay but my brain’s been a bit foggy these days. The words scattered in my skull; my thoughts a jigsaw puzzle floating through outer space as I desperately fly to each piece to sort them together. The aftermath of my last post led to a stay in the hospital where I came off a cocktail of 8 meds to a new lean new two piece of a mood stabilizer with a shot of antidepressant. So far I feel decent- not too high, not too low. So of course for me that means I feel uncomfortable. It’s funny how we get so comfortable in those undesirable emotions such as turmoil, depression, fear, or pain. Those feelings are like a warm blanket to me compared to contentment, and well just the fucking normalcy of the day. I also hadn’t been able to write so I thought I would cure it with a drink. I figured the drink would spark everything back and break me out of the void I had falling into. In reality it was just my brain tricking me into a return to an old comfortable feeling- the numbness and escape that first sip brings. The fleeting myth you chase every time you succumb to your poison. So I embedded myself into the alcohol, like a journalist in a war town country to a squadron, and gave in and drank. And of course James Baldwin did not enter my soul and come out through words on my paper. In fact the only words that did were lies to myself and others. The lie that alcohol can somehow make me whole- while in reality it’s just making the hole inside me even bigger. The hole of self doubt, hatred, insecurity, and fear. The hole you fall into where lies become the safety net. The hole you know you will eventually be buried in if you keep down the path that the drink wants from you. And a hole dug so deep I didn’t want to tell anyone I had fallen into it again. So I just pretended it didn’t happen, and let the halo on top of my head fashion into a noose. That noose got so tight I needed a drink to loosen it- and since I hadn’t shared my shameful secret from the night before the alcohol slipped right in like a Viking from the shore. His battle-axe a pint of vodka to my heart. I know my defense now is just being honest. Being vulnerable letting everyone know I failed another alcohol test. I gave in like a chump. But through failure comes knowledge. A loss is the best way to learn how to win. So I woke up early determined to write words. To prove to myself I don’t need alcohol to write. To prove to myself I don’t need alcohol to live. And to prove to myself finally I don’t need alcohol to survive. So today, July 15th, I declare my goddamn independence from that demon alcohol. And already I feel that noose loosening from my neck as the sun gently rises on a new day ahead, and I embrace this new journey where getting really fucking uncomfortable is going to be me striving for my new norm.
Saturday my mind played one of the greatest tricks on me yet. It’s terrifying what lengths it will go to give me an excuse to drink. I was doing my morning meditation which was a focused hypnosis on clearing subconscious negativity. However, I allowed it to imprint a false so-called repressed memory to throw off my whole balance and well-being. As soon as I latched onto this awful thought it became for that moment real, and the only way to get rid of it was to drink it away. My brain was a terrorist who hijacked my common sense, and knocked down my defense system as easily as if it was a tall tower in the N.Y. skyline.
What followed was a drunken stupor of a maze of falsehoods that I tangled myself up in as if it was a comforting cloak of barbwire. Fallacy turning into fact. Hope trampled beneath granite boulders busting my spine. Leaving me paralyzed in thought with hopes there was a dagger resting on my heart. Or an ice pick to silence my brain. Luckily neither was close by.
I wonder how long I am going to stay on this path of reacting and writing versus writing then reacting. There is a big difference between knowing and understanding. Knowing means you can decipher the proper course of action for prevention. Understanding means that a course of action is in use prior to stop the maladaptive behavior before it occurs. It’s why some of the smartest people in the world can be so goddamn dumb sometimes.
This distorted logic is like seeing a chess board two steps ahead of your opponent, but moving your pieces one step behind. It’s ludicrous yet I do it; staying a pawn instead of the goddamn queen. It’s not fate because my own actions cause it to occur. My mind might be playing tricks on me, but I am supplying the ammo to make sure the shots stick. A country rube in a world full of carnies. Allowing myself to be conned every step of the way.
I have a problem with being honest. Not on this blog for it seems the one place I do get honest; but in terms of my abuse of alcohol to cover up for many things I struggle with, and the fear I foist upon myself. From last Thursday to Monday night I couldn’t even tell you how many lies I had to tell myself and others. Those lies bottled up inside me like delicate tiny ships forcing my soul to walk the plank plunging to the cold waves to drift forever away. In these times the lava of self-hatred washes over me, and I can’t remember the last time drinking even was fun. All it is a momentary reprieve into hollowness, like a diseased tree tucked away in a forest of purgatory.
The funny thing is being honest feels better than being drunk. I don’t know why I don’t chase that feeling more than the numbness that lying provides me. Mindfullness helps in honesty because if you are totally in the moment you can’t be trying to scam the future. For a lie is just a momentary reprieve against the consequences of actions that violate your code. And like the wise man Omar said before me,
Even as I write this a twinge of the thought of drinking arises. My brain distorting those memories of truth I know deep in my marrow. It’s the anxiety of living that scares me today. For an unspoken desire soon twists me into liar, and that is not world I want to inhabit again.