Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The wounds that never heal can only be mourned alone.

A friend recommended a book to me a few weeks ago. It's called "A Million Little Pieces," by James Frey. It is apparently this man's account of his battle with drugs an alcohol as a young man. I didn't know what the book was about when I got it from the library. I love to read and I love it when my friends recommend books to me.

Had I known what it was about, i probably wouldn't have read it. Some of it hits too close to home. As it is, there's been some sort of controversy over this book; apparently Frey fabricated a lot of it. For some reason, that makes it easier to read.

My dad was an alcoholic. I was scared for him for most of my childhood, and I decided when I was very young that I would never drink. My dad wasn't a mean drunk. He wasn't even a mean sober. He drank to keep the nightmares away. That's what he told me once when I asked him why he drank. He saw and experienced some horrific things in Vietnam, and I remember thinking I would probably do the same thing. He talked about the war when he drank. I knew the stories. They gave me nightmares, too. Night terrors, though I didn't know what those were until a few years ago.

When I started regular therapy (for the first time in my life) at the beginning of the year, my therapist told me I have PTSD, and that I also secondary PTSD. I asked her what that was, and she told me it's when a person suffers PTSD symptoms from a traumatic event, even though they never experienced it, because they live it through the person who told them about it. In other words, I was (still am) effected by my dad talking about the war. I felt/feel, on some level, the same fear as he did because he told me so much. I've been having apocalyptic, end-of-the-world nightmares since I was a kid. My sister and I have had trouble sleeping our entire lives, too.

I started reading up on PTSD and I hadn't realized how much of how I am is a result of it. I am mostly talking about this feeling of "disconnect" from other people. I thought it was just introversion, but I think it goes deeper than that. I shut people out and try to drive them away, I feel like I'm worthless and useless and I'm almost always tense and I walk around in a constant "flinch," waiting for the next blow.

My dad did a lot of the same things, only he drank most of the time. I was very conscious at an early age of how easy it could be to escape your troubles through alcohol. And I've never pushed that. I read something somewhere..."we're all addicted to something that kills the pain."

I saw how easy it was for Dad to escape into a bottle. I saw how it hurt him, and I saw how it hurt my family. To this day I have never been drunk. I've been buzzed and a little tipsy, but I never have more than a few drinks. I've never seen the fun in drinking. Rather, I don't think it's worth it. I always feel sick the next day, even if it was only one drink. I'd rather just have a root beer, honestly.

The most I've ever had to drink was this past March. My friends and I went out for karaoke to celebrate my and a co-worker's birthdays. I'd never done karaoke before. I love to sing, but the crap that comes out of my mouth sounds like a giraffe trapped under a burning hippo. But I made a decision, when I started therapy, that I would find one thing that scares me and I would confront it and move on to the next one.

My first real hurdle was the Warrior Dash last year, and I figure if I can survive heat, water, obstacles, barbed wire, mud and fire, I can survive just about anything.

So I sang "Fool in the Rain." Out loud. In public. I had one drink and two shots beforehand, and that helped. Later on I had a duck fart at another bar, and I paid for it the next day, but I'd had a lot of fun. Totally worth it.

Drugs are another matter. I had absolutely no experience with them until I was 24-years old and living in upstate New York. A couple of my friends were potheads, and it was a fascinating (and slightly scary) world to me. I observed but never partook, and my friends were always very respectful of that.

I never tried it myself until a couple of years ago. Then again a year later. It didn't do much but relax me and make me sleepy, but unlike alcohol, I always felt fine the next day.

I've been having some pretty serious sleep problems over the last few months. It's gotten to the point where I'm lucky to get four hours of sleep in two days. I've passed out on more than one occasion. My doctor prescribed Ambien and it helped for a little while. Melatonin used to do the trick, but not anymore. Then a friend gave me a "present" which took me a long time to finish, but I'd have a little toke every morning before bed (I work graveyard, which is a big part of the problem) and sleep like a baby without waking up once.

So while it is a wonderful sleep aid, I've never smoked to excess.

I didn't know what serious drug addiction was until I moved to the Pacific Northwest. Had no idea it was such a huge problem. It scares me more than alcohol, and not only because it's so unfamiliar to me. I can deal with drunk people, but I'm around tweakers a lot when I ride the MAX and there's an unpredictability there that puts me on edge. I lost a good friend to heroin overdose and I know others who have purposefully tried to o.d.

It hurts to have spent your life watching the people you love destroy themselves because whatever it is they're running from is so terrible they can't bring themselves to face it sober. And there's nothing you can do about it. Ever. At the most, you can only wait to help them pick up the pieces, but you can't predict when or even if they'll break. And if and when they do break, there's no telling whether or not they'll ever stand up again.

My dad fell. So many times. And I wasn't there the last time. But I live with that pain not because I think I deserve it, but because it means I'm alive. And I survived. And I wish I could give some of that strength to the people I love, the ones who are struggling, the ones who have given up, the ones who are lost and hopeless and afraid.

But I can't. All I can do is what I'm doing: going to therapy, working, living, fighting. I hope I can be an example to the people I know who are struggling. I know it's not easy, but it's a thousand times more bearable when you know that you've got support.

In every pothole there is hope...

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