So there’s something that I’ve wanted to write about somewhere for awhile here. It’s a little more private, so I’m putting it here, instead of where IRL friends will see it and wonder/ask questions about it. It’s concerning the nature of recovery from addiction. I don’t know if I’m actually looking for any comments or advice about it, or just trying to let it out a bit, or what. It just feels like I need to type it out.
In a few days here I’m going to be celebrating 9 months clean from everything except caffeine. I’ve never done this since I’ve started using, at least not since I was like 16 or so. Maybe my first couple of times drinking were farther apart than 9 months, but that’d be about it. And honestly I kind of doubt that they were. So that might even push things back as far as like age 12-14. I’ve not been institutionalized, not had to go to treatment in order to bring this about (this time), I just made a decision, flushed most all of the toxic people from my life, and started going to meetings in order to try to find other like-minded people to share my recovery with, and to get some advice on how to do things from people that’ve done it themselves.
I’ve found as I’ve gone a paradoxical curve to the ‘easiness’ of staying clean. I don’t know if that means that I’m going on in the same ways, like the phenomena that alcoholics call a ‘dry drunk’, or if it just means that I’m experiencing something else, but it definitely sucks, whatever the hell it is. For the first couple of months getting clean and staying clean it was easy. Usually people can ascribe that to being stuck in a treatment facility, where they don’t really have the option to even have whatever substances offered to them, but I did it on my own, and turned things down on my own. It got easier for those couple of months, and then a strange thing happened.
The loneliness started getting to me, for one. I think I really started noticing that after my first sponsor, who came over to my place and met with me a few times, ended up relapsing and stopped answering any texts from me. I think this affected me a little more deeply than I thought it had originally. I don’t deal with isolation well, never have. It’s a damn painful experience for me. I’ve had a lot of times in my life where I’ve been able to go out and meet other people without any sort of problem, but two things were different on all of those occasions. First of all, I was able to rely on a social lubricant to ease things along… Alcohol, weed, or something else; it’s always the easiest thing to have in common with somebody to start a conversation, which makes branching out from there much easier. Second, I was riding an ‘ego high’. I haven’t had one of these in forever; I don’t know if it’s because of the meds that I’m on, if it’s because I’m so lonely and isolated (and thus self-reinforcing), or maybe because of the confidence-depleting life experiences that I’ve been through since the military, but I’ve not been able to go out and introduce myself to somebody with confidence since I was in Germany over 13 years ago now. It just used to be so damn easy…
My behavior at the meetings has changed as a result, as well. There’s a saying at the meetings that a person needs to keep ‘knowing nothing’, because that way they remain teachable. In a way, that’s kind of why I’ve now shut up and haven’t really shared much at meetings in several months now. I felt like I knew a lot more going in there for that first couple of months before the isolation got to me than I know now. All I know now is that it’s even harder, and I even occasionally miss using not for the feelings that it gave, or any of the other normal relapse triggers, but just because it brings people to me. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re there for me or for the drugs, it just matters to me that there are people around so as to not be so frigging isolated.
Now I don’t think that I’m on thin ice or anything at this point. I’ve still got just as much resolve as I started with on staying clean and keeping on the path where I can end up building a decent life for myself and the people I care about. I know that I can’t do that any way other than being clean. But I just can’t figure out how to get back into a mode of operation where I’m able to break through those initial uncomfortable minutes of introversion that are necessary in order to invite new people into one’s life. I know from talking with people where I’m working that I can break into a conversation and get on a comfortable footing very easily when the conversation involves substances. I don’t want that to be the common point anymore, though. Recovery from them is one point that I wouldn’t mind an initial conversation revolving around, but you can’t build a whole relationship, platonic or otherwise, from just that facet. So where do I go next? I usually don’t have much in common with the other people around here. That was something that was easier to deal with in Portland, where I had a lot more in common with the population. Here it’s just everything that seems at odds, though. So many people are racist, so many people are Trump supporters, so many people don’t care about culture, intellectual pursuits, or anything bigger than the next football game that’s coming on, and that’s just not me.
I don’t know what to do. I know I’m supposed to be able to start meeting people at the meetings better by now but I don’t seem to have anything in common with them other than recovery. I don’t know where else to go to meet clean people around here, either.
I dunno, maybe I’ll have more to write about this later. Not sure where to go with it right now, but it feels like I’ve got more on the subject that’s going to come boiling out at some point here.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and I’m just not sure how to get back out of my shell. For the majority of my life I’ve been a pretty intense introvert, only able to really connect with people when I’ve got them in one-on-one situations. In those one-on-one occasions, though, I have a really good ability to connect with just about everyone, including those whose viewpoints I really don’t agree with at all.
There have been several occasions in my life where this has changed for stretches, though. I’m hesitant to go into detail on the circumstances around these stretches, but I think that it has to do with being proud of where I’m at in my life. During these stretches I’m able to maybe not be a social butterfly, but I’m suddenly much more outgoing, and able to connect with people in larger amounts. I’m not such a wallflower, and I’m able to actually make friends, instead of having to rely on meeting people through existing friends. I’ve even had people comment on my charisma and leadership capabilities when I’m in such situations. Seems like such a massively far cry from where I’m at right now.
You see, right now, it’s pretty tough for me to meet anyone at all. I mean I go to some 12 step meetings and the like, but still I’m having a really hard time breaking through my introverted nature to be able to meet anyone. Even if it feels like there is a connection starting up, I’m unable to pursue it to a point where there’s any chance of being a real friend outside of the initial setting or whatever. Then there’s the fact that I ended up in a place where I have no real [local] friends any more, after I realized that I was better off without the ones that I still had here. When I realized that I was selling out my own personal values in order to hang around a person that was toxic, simply because I was afraid of being alone, I finally made the jump into isolation, thinking that it was the stronger and better thing to do.
Now, while I’m still full of conviction on the merits of having gotten away from that person, I cannot help wonder where it’s put me, and how long this isolated state is going to last. I’m doing better at being on my own, not needing others to fill the ‘gaping void’ inside so much any more, but still I crave human interaction. I’m a social creature, despite my introversion. Then there’s my son, whose only real friends outside of the school setting were the [verbally abused] children of this person that I decided to sever contact with. He’s been isolated all summer long, with no respite except for the other kids that he talks to via the PS4 headset when he’s spending far too much time on video games. I’ve hated to limit him too much on that over this summer, when he’s had no other kids to do anything with at all. We moved around so much for his first few years of life that he’s simply never really had the opportunity to build a decent network of friends outside of the school setting.
I need to be back in a place where I’m proud of myself, and what I’m accomplishing again, so that I can break through this isolation, but I’ve got absolutely no idea how long this is going to take. Or, frankly, how to do it. I’m working with vocational rehabilitation to try to get into a field that utilizes my capabilities, instead of just earning the bare minimum that a warm body can manage around here in manual labor. I think that this is the best place to start. The career specialist that saw me yesterday asked me why I wasn’t earning 4-5x more than what I am right now. She told me that I was capable of so much more, and that I should be earning at least $40-50k/year or more with my capabilities, credentials, and aptitude. I have a hard time convincing myself of that. I mean, I know that I’ve got skills far above most of the other people that I work with, in shuttling parcels around onto different trucks, and others in different entry level work fields, but I have never been able to obtain any work in my field of aptitude without having an inside lead on the job. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing wrong, and I don’t understand how to change it, since I don’t know the nature of my mistakes in the first place. I’ve tried for my entire life to break into the field where I have been working on my own, in my spare time, and I’ve only managed on two short stretches. Unfortunately, during both of those stretches, my life was too chaotic for me to be able to properly maintain those positions and grow from there. My life is stable now, but these opportunities with an inside lead seem so rare in my life that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to break into the field again.
Not sure what I hope to accomplish by writing all of this. It just seems like too much to hold in right now, so I had to put it out there. It sucks not having any friends locally to talk to about all of this. Hope you’re all having a good day, and not having to deal with such heavy thoughts early this morning like I am. Heh. Take care, y’all.
Meditation this morning was heavily distracted by thoughts of an encounter that I had last night, which should’ve never happened. After a little over half of the session that I was originally planning to sit for, I ended up putting an end to it. I wasn’t able to find enough time in the clear/flow state. Yes, I know that it’s still beneficial, so long as you’re trying, but I guess I let the frustration and impatience get the best of me. It was exacerbated by too much coffee this morning, as well, so I figured that it’d be better to wait for a time when I’m not having to battle my own body chemistry in order to find the peace that I’m looking for.
After this sit, I decided that it was time to update my ultra sekrit paper journal with information about what happened last night. It didn’t take me very long to realize that the same pattern of events has been happening for quite some time, nor did it take long for the follow-up to hit: I’ve been battling this, without making much (or quite possibly any) measurable progress for my entire life.
My guess is that the problem stems from needing to be remarkably attuned to the wants and desires of my parents at any early age. I had quickly learned that if I didn’t attempt to placate their every whim that things would rapidly worsen, and end up biting me in the ass in physically and/or emotionally painful ways. Hell, I’m still dealing with it, with my adoptive mother, and it’s just bitten me in the ass within the past 2 days.
Though it was a survival issue while I was a child, this quickly became a handicap in my dealings with other people. I really hit a breaking point in my teens, when I started rebelling against my emotional, and often physical, captivity, and started telling my parents to pound sand, in much harsher terms. So with them, it hasn’t really been an issue since that point, at least not on as major a scale. However, when placating every whim became a survival strategy, it didn’t discriminate between parents and John Q. Public. Hell, there have been multiple incidents in my life where this usually bogus strategy has actually saved my ass, also, due to other people being dangerous, so it’s gotten positive reinforcement on that front, too, making things even more complex. The main problem with things here is that while I learned to tell my parents to pound sand, I never learned that ability with any of the other people, whom I cave to far too easily.
This cycle, almost utterly lacking in assertiveness, has been in place at least since I’ve hit the double digits in my childhood. Looking back at things, I know for a fact that it’s caused me to have higher stresses almost every single day in my life. Barring, perhaps, the days and times that I’ve spent purely in solitude. I say perhaps because during those times I don’t doubt that, in at least half of them, I’ve spent a portion of the time pondering and agonizing over situations that I’ve trapped myself into, due to not saying my true feelings, and not standing up for my own needs and wants (in situations where wants are applicable). A good portion of these stretches have been long lasting periods (still occasionally haunting me) where I’m utterly unhappy because of being utterly trapped by not being able to say no. A few of them have ended in disaster, due to my caving in to people leading me down pathways, and initiating chains of events, that I knew would lead to destructive outcomes.
So I really need to work on this assertiveness. Hell, it’s a big enough issue so that I think it may well warrant a tattoo, to remind me, daily, to focus on it. It’s one of the largest catalysts to spawning my own unhappiness that I can think of right now; I’ve got several ongoing issues that would’ve been solved long ago, if only I would’ve done the assertive thing and stood up for the best outcome immediately. My life would be much better right now if I’d have focused on it. You can only start in the present, though, so I need to be starting on things now.
I just wanted to take a minute, especially after that last entry that was so full of the ‘mystic’ side of the potential benefits of meditation, to mention a little bit about what I have found to be the #1 reason that I meditate. It has nothing to do with any sort of mysticism, or psychadelia, so those of you that are ‘heavily wu-resistant’, you don’t need to stop reading just yet…
I found myself in a discussion about meditation with a life-long friend last night. I don’t remember what prompted it, but at one point I felt it vital to point out that “…when I meditate regularly, I don’t blindly react, I consciously make a choice, and calmly act.” Now that is not to say that I’ve not had a day where I’ve meditated, and then been triggered into a knee-jerk angry reaction and resultant fulmination. I’ve had days like that, and some of them have been pretty bad, considering the PTSD-exacerbated nature of some of the triggers. I do find it important to point out that the really bad examples were, in fact, exacerbated by other ways in which I’d let my defenses down, however.
Meditation has cumulative benefits, though. I feel my ability to deal calmly and rationally with emotionally triggering events basically increasing, as the weeks go by. There are local maxima and minima in the trends, of course, but the general trend remains correlated with the amount of time that I meditate each day/week. I hope you all know how it feels to go through a situation which would have once put you into fight-or-flight mode with only a slightly elevated heart rate, no words stated in anger or other defensive measures, and the ability to [relatively] easily shift concentration away from the event afterwards. It gives me hope for the future.
I think it’s only fitting that I take a few minutes today to retell a story that gets me ostracized by nine out of ten groups that I make the mistake of recounting it to. Well, nine out of ten in the upper midwest; maybe only four out of five when I’m on the coasts.
Yesterday: EMDR Therapy
So yesterday, I was at my second EMDR therapy appointment. I had originally been told that we would be going over incidents regarding situations of impending or immediate homelessness that impacted me traumatically. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to break down any of those memories and start putting them more into a logical category, instead of the PTSD-triggering, emotional response linked, ‘issues‘ category that has caused me so much trouble, with all of its content.
After we covered the homelessness, and some of my bogus relationship history, we somehow stumbled onto the topic of suspicion and paranoia; specifically, the onset of my largest multiplier for that factor, which was my experience at MiSU while dating the [separated] wife of an airman from the Minot AFB. I’m not sure if it still is, but on this fateful day in our past (9/11/01), it was the NORAD command and control center, handling all of our air defense capability.
Go figure, it wasn’t long after, though she disclaimed with the assertion that she ‘had no reason to disbelieve anything that I claimed’, that she started mentioning that she thought I needed to be on antipsychotics, and started delving into whether or not my personality had always included certain aspects of paranoia…
Seventeen Years Prior: Shit Hits the Fan
Though the events earlier in the day are somewhat amusing to recount, with the previous night’s massive college binge drinking setting the scene for interesting humiliation and depravity, this anecdote really starts at the point where I finally drug my shaky, hungover corpse out of the dorm room to trudge down to the student union for a meal.
Something wasn’t right, while I was on the way there. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but then again I was busy trying to shove back the massive alcohol withdrawal anxiety to a secluded corner of my mind, where every set of eyes that came near me wouldn’t send me hiding under the nearest rock. The physical discomfort didn’t help much, either.
When I finally got to the student union, on my trusty mountain bike, I noticed a distinct lack of people in the halls, for that time of day. That changed when I passed the game room, though, where the big screen television was kept. The place was utterly packed, with everybody gawking at the tube. I went in to see what all of the fuss was about, and was treated to my first view of the first plane impacting the WTC. It didn’t take long for the current situation to become apparent, with the constant recapping on CNN. Clearly we had suffered a violent catastrophe of some sort. As the situation evolved, with the second plane hitting the other tower, it became apparent that it was a deliberate attack (if there had been any doubt).
I hurried back out of the student union, to my bike, in order to get back to my dorm room to give my roommate the information as to what was going on. All thoughts of breakfast/lunch, and going to class, had been dropped on the game room floor at the student union. I actually was in such a frantic dash to get back to the dorm room that I ended up totally forgetting about the speed bumps throughout the parking lot; I was just passing a group of female students, when I hit the first one at a fast clip, utterly unprepared. I flew over the handlebars. It was somewhat humiliating, but the events of that day had an impact that overshadowed that pretty quickly. I guess it just goes to show how very significantly this event affected everyone that was aware at those times.
My roommate and I shared our shock & disbelief of what was going on with each other, and ended up discussing the matter with some people around the dorm. That took a few hours. After awhile, my girlfriend at the time, Ambra, ended up coming over from the Job Corps facility there to hang out and discuss the day’s craziness with us, as well. My roommate was very good friends with her, so it was a tight crowd. The conversation went much as it does in these massively significant incidents where you don’t have any control over what’s going on. We talked about all of the facts that’d been rehashed in every way possible, already, yet another time. After awhile, my roommate had left, and Ambra and I were laying on the bed together, just enjoying each others’ company.
Eventually, her cell rang, and she answered it, though it was a number she didn’t recognize. It turned out to be her husband, who was on break from his post at one of the radar stations at the NORAD control center. She was laying right next to me, and we were intertwined, so she was taking this call with the phone literally right next to my ear. The first words out of his mouth were “Now do you see why I haven’t been able to get back to you about that stuff you need from the house?”
Instantly, the world folded out into a new, more complex and sinister configuration, and changed forever for me. “No advance warning,” had been the words out of Dubya’s mouth. Over, and over, again. She had the same realization immediately, and sat up straight to take the call. He proceeded to explain that they had been on communications lockdown for several days, and that nobody had known what was going on, just that there was some type of threat. Eventually, after being incommunicado from friends & family for so long, one of the airmen (being in a more plush, and less secure environment than I’d been in, in the Army) was able to sneak in a cell phone; he passed it around to the other radar operators in the control room, so that they could all let friends & family know that they were safe, and maybe give a little bit of a clue what was going on.
He told her that he had gotten her messages, and understood why she was pissed about not being able to pick up some more of her stuff from their house, but that he didn’t really have any choice due to being in the military when national security was involved. He said that they’d known about this threat for weeks (the world went sideways for me again a little bit more at this point), and that he didn’t know when they would be off of lockdown, but that he’d be in more contact as he was able, and that she wasn’t going to be able to get any stuff until then, and didn’t need to be blowing up his answering machine.
So yeah, that was my first big glimpse of the rabbit hole. I ended up diving in head first, when I realized that I needed structure to save my life, and had nothing to lose, and joined the Army, knowing what I did. I guess most people don’t really understand the logic that led me to that decision, at this point, but that’s a topic for another day. For now I’m just going to get this out. Hell, maybe I’ve already written about why I went into the Army, knowing what I already did; I certainly don’t have a full recollection of all of the posts that I’ve written, since I started this blog in Portland.
I think that’ll probably be next up on the list, if there isn’t already an essay filling that spot.
NOTE: The following is an excerpt from an assignment that I’ve been given by my EMDR therapist, in order to help her get a better view of one of my primary (recurrent) triggers with the C-PTSD; it’s not a bad first assignment, as it also covers what is probably the most commonly invalidated point of dispute that I have with my adoptive mom, thus leading regularly to C-PTSD episodes of high magnitude. Also, it should be noted that this is all first draft, completely unedited & unproofread material. I’m just throwing it in as the verbatim journal entries where I started recording the incidents.
So, due to a cancellation, it appears that my first EMDR session is scheduled for tomorrow morning. That means I need to crack the whip on this essay on the most traumatizing encounter with homelessness that I’ve had, while being solely responsible for my son.
I’ve have a hard time picking between the mid-winter ejection to the lizard’s household in 2012-2013, and the one around the time of my dad’s death, which ended up with that terrifying night in the back woods of Arkansas, and the final mad-dash back to the hell where it all began anew, over the mountains in a blizzard with severe mechanical issues happening in tandem. How many times has my life, or our lives, now that D is established with me, as well, been playing dice with death for completely avoidable reasons… (**NOTE**: It occurs to me here that they are all reasons based upon America’s promotion of greed as the number one human virtue to be extolled, and compassion and humanity being looked down upon as weakness, shed helplessly by failures to the unworthy.)
Though the incident was more distant than the winter ejection to the lizard’s place, I believe that our exile prior to my dad’s funeral was far more full of actual increased risk of life & limb. I also believe it to be more emotionally traumatizing, being as I had only had custody of D for just over a year, so I was still learning the ropes of single parenting, and I was suffering massive emotional aftershocks from immigration separating his mother and I from being married, as well as my dad dying an uncomfortable and protracted death. Honestly I can’t think of one sector of my life that wasn’t racked by basically the highest level stressors that a person can endure, at that time.
The actual ejection from the premises was much more of a traumatic & emotional/angry mess, at the winter ejection, too, but the original one shattered my heart the most. Maybe it had to do with the way my parents could so callously scatter me, with an innocent child of <3yrs of age, to the four winds with no place to go and no real safety net in play other than their rapidly diminishing charity. I don’t even remember the actual event where my mother delegated from my father (too weak to breathe & talk easily at this point), that he ‘couldn’t even take care of himself, so how was he supposed to take care of me’? Have I mentioned that the only reason that I had no income/stability at this point in the first place is because of the damn IRS computers going down, causing my 1st semester of year 3 of my bachelor’s degree to go to shit, causing the defaulting of my $7.5k of student loans. Otherwise, the employment situation would have been a million times easier to deal with during the intervening break.
It was obvious that I was being told to get out of Bismarck, and that I had no place to go in the slightest. The homeless shelters wouldn’t take us because I’d already had to stay at Ruth Meier’s twice by the time I was 19 (their lifetime limit of provided shelter). My parents had just kept luring me back with offers to help, and then kept throwing me out on my face, in the dirt, when I had absolutely no legs to stand on. If I were to survive, I would be requiring periodic cash infusions for gas, shelter, food, and absolutely anything else that was to pop up along the way. How could I get a job while having no support in the vein of helping with my acclimating 3-year-old son, freshly transplanted from Germany?
Needless to say, it worked out exactly as I told them that it would. If they could have spent the $7.5k for the school, I would have been able to handle the rest, and never had to fight the employment market so very much. They would have saved countless tens of thousands on assistance dolled out into ineffectual directions at unwise times. Somehow, no matter how many times repeats of a similar choice in front of them would (or do) ensue, they could never see a long-term trend, or risk factor, no matter how hard they looked. It was always better to be conservative with the help, and take the rest on faith in their cult deity who had led them down such a path was suddenly going to make things better, instead of doing what it’d done every single other time.
I still have selfies taken, during the long hours on the endless expanse of highway, down the upper midwest from ND to IA. I think things were just too razor’s edge dangerous, beyond IA, for me to engage in such foolishness. I guess I took them because they represented how fucking utterly alone, and helpless, this new father-in-training trying to take cart of a totally helpless, dependent, and innocent life, felt when faced with all of this. Trekking through economical hellscapes, and wastelands, chock full of physical danger. There were etched lines of the shared tracks of many tears over the hours behind the wheel in that SUV, standing out in stark relief against the grime, after having no facilities in which to take care of bathing in.
We did have a brief respite from the stress of all of this while we hung out with those chill friends in IA, though. It was not to be a permanent situation, however. The first night after we hit the road from Cedar Rapids, I knew that literal death from one of many possible sources was a very real possibility.