Category: Addiction

Runaway Train

traintracksmountainstrainoutsidesomewherebridge-14f856dad59eba5807dca40fd8c0fb19_hAs if a storm of indignation befell like hail from the heavens, emergence of a menacing silhouette ferociously ruptures the horizon.  It’s coming for me – me alone; its illustrious chanting renders resignation into a trance; an infestation of enticing pheromones tortuously taunting and teasing – saturating the atmosphere as the notion of crossing over intensely increases in appeal; far more formidable than remaining aversely trapped at the mercy of everlasting insanity.  The tiny sliver of land where I stand is now steadily shaking underneath tired feet; an earthquake of despair defining this crumbling of reality.  Crisp, autumn air meticulously prodding and biting at the vulnerability of rancor ravaged flesh; I can sense the end is near – this borrowed body all but terminated.  Time is of no existence in this plane of awakened unconsciousness; potion drained from the venom-ridden bottle coalescing with blood pumped from a heart cast in stone takes the stage for an all too familiar tango; dancing as one through the veins of oblivion – proclaiming the audience irrelevant and the trivialities of this world no more than a distant figment of imagination.

It is here I’ll stand alone – covered in the blood of battle; it is here I’ll face the fear –  supplying substance for the sweat; it is here I’ll confront the demons – shedding these tears I could never fully comprehend; it is here on this bridge I embrace what destiny has prepared – for better or for worse; to be granted perpetual passage into an alternate realm where darkness overcomes; to declare my one last foundational cry out to the gods for relinquishment of any prominent power or persuasion; that they may bestow me diversion from traversing the precipitous portage generated in my wake – and so I stood, patiently waiting with no distinct notion of a response; murdering the last glimmer of faith in a god I cannot grasp an understanding of.  So I just stood – almost in silent solitude for the places I have been and the truth I had arrived at.

I commit to holding my high ground overlooking the park where I innocently created memories as a child – much like an eagle majestically mounted on its perch viewing the world from a distant and foreign perspective.  Vigorously pushing present reality aside and sentimentally reverting attention back on a far simpler time, I reminisce and relive glimpses of the past that are rapidly firing on all cylinders.  They breakthrough my disillusionment and appear like a slideshow in the forefront of a now tainted stream of awareness; pondering how every pulsation of my heart, every step with these feet has led me from being that child with infinite dreams to a man shattered at the seams; recurrent botched efforts to gain tangible focus on the definitive turning point and lock it into the crosshairs of my clarity scope; that single second in time I seek above all else where everything I once desired expired and exposed the first perforation leaking down into a bottomless void.

history-lists-8-things-you-may-not-know-about-trains_istock_000021551059large-eMy wavering attention quickly shifts back to the present moment; back to reality or whatever semblance of it still pertains relevant – these tracks and the impending collision with a fate yet to be determined; the massive fusion of steel and brute, deadly force barreling forward; its course to inevitably intersect with the ground I have chosen adherence to.  It’s surreal staring straight down the barrel of mortality; to know it could all be over; to mourn what I could miss; to no longer experience – to plead my concession and allow the void to swallow me up in the ultimate compromise for sustainable stability.  Abruptly a blanket of peace overtakes my being; a rare quieted mind; an unknown solemn spirit – despite all the mess and regardless of the agonizing internal conflicts, I felt a sigh of relief amidst the violent event transpiring in my presence.  Deep in the core of my being, if only for a second, I accepted the coming moments to be my last; that I’d draw one deep final breath into my lungs and exhale into a domain of the unknown.

Suddenly silence sank over the landscape and my encounter on the bridge swiftly turned much slower in motion, as if the world was stuck buffering and any semblance of connection was lost in translation; icy water trickling through the rocks down below merely left to be sensed by the detection of moist eyes; flapping of feathered wings sending ripples of energy through the air and crashing off my chest like blows from clenched fists – I felt a vitality blossoming in the chaos; resurgence of what it felt like to be alive – and almost as quickly as it arrived, the train passed me by and continued on track toward its destination; seemingly unaware of the power it manifested; obviously oblivious to my sickness soaked soul – and so there I remained holding the high ground mere inches from its might as fate barreled by and invigorated a dying spirit. 

imagesidvj2rjuBut at my conclusion of confusion, this fresh spark of life was quickly smothered out by a supplemental realization; discernment for the probability I could never refill the void inside me that was rapidly depleting with the passing of every second; that this distinct feeling of freedom I crossed paths with could very well have been as good as it was going to get for the lost and the broken – so sticking with the cognizance of my new self-diagnosed reality, I edged my way over to the side of the bridge.  Almost in ritualistic mockery to the gods I felt failed me, I turned my back to the abyss and gazed upwards in surrender to a baby blue sky.  I obeyed the overwhelming urge demanding its desire for me to let go; to finally hand over the control I had so clearly lost; to allow gravity the chance to showcase its guidance.  Continuing my contempt for the faith I had lost, I lifted my arms and spread them wide while simultaneously shifting all weight backwards, transferring my fate into the arms of its embrace; it was now that I felt authentic freedom – virtually weightless in mind and body; and as I descended down from my conflicted higher ground, the baby blue sky slowly faded as I welcomed the shift into sanctuary of the black.   

Restart This Heart

restart-heartPinned to the sidelines; cast curse on the stars; written an ending; cashed in my scars; detested myself for this mind’s misconnection – total betrayal through misguided direction.  Counted my blessings, no matter how few; scaled up the mountain to seek peace in the view.  Traipsed through the valley where darkness seeps in; hunted by death and conceded the win.  Escaped from its clutches time after time; soul searching through grime as I climb from the slime – adding powers of showers which rained from above; washing clear smut to make room for the love; but still most of all, hope carried me through – when totally lost and knew not what to do.  There must be a reason, for by skin of these teeth; I countered the spiral from way down beneath; breathed in fresh air; felt warmth on my face; vowed no return to that ill-fated place. 

c95b708a5a5f4acf87e7dce318db1315But no sooner than free I fell back in despair –  my fortress of rubble; my grim, dreary lair.  Escape a mere fiction, absconding a dream; deemed to endure its harrowing scheme.  “Where did you go? You thought you could leave?” It taunted my soul and adjourned my reprieve; inhaled me back in with no chance to break loose; seduced and reduced to bear the abuse.  Shackles and chains and poisonous rains; fire and coal that burned through my soul; shreds of the dead breaking into my head; the frontier of fear was clearly right here.  Begging and pleading in hopes to go free; I haggled the demons mastering me; “Just let me die!” I solemnly cry; “I can suffer no more on your blazing hot floor!”  They pointed and snickered; demonically whispered, “you don’t like the heat? Try a violent blizzard.”  A hell that’s now frozen from words I had chosen; a place of disgrace I’m forced to embrace; through all of the hardship, through all of my might; the odds firm against in the arduous fight. 

There’s no easy solution to elude its pollution; from being immersed, ensnared in its curse – for to sustain liberation from despondent damnation; seek a total revamping of soul understanding; it’s bound to get bloody and darker at first, but that’s what it takes to break free of this curse; that’s what it takes to find a way home; to experience life and not be alone; to really find purpose and meaning and grace; forever free from that deepest, dark place; an ultimate unbounding from a cycle of crashes; to restart a heart and rise from the ashes.         

For the Tug of War

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Being tagged with a life in the land of the free seems no more a fairy tale than any conglomerate of characters and their stories most of us connected with as children; aspired to be like – even envied.  As far back as I can recall, I have never been authentically satisfied or content with what I have or who I am, where I am going or where I have been; categorically nomadic in mind; a life spent theorizing and plotting a never-ending series of events; tsunamis of instantly gratifying trials and errors, with a predominant outcome weighing heavy on the side of error; miniscule and temporary bursts of fabricated endeavors to replenish an insatiable hole in a squandered spirit.  Just as these thwarted attempts, the stories, too, morphed into nothing more than fantasy when my mind evolved and the realities of this world fiercely flooded in; characters that never actually breathed life, but were merely made up and left to remain stranded within the pages of imagination; an inability to deviate from the storyboard they were cast into.  The daily war; to seemingly grind through an endless existence with this ill-advised perception of a life without charge, painstakingly begging to be convinced there is no great price to pay is eventually whittled down to no more than a factored in percentage of its masterful deceit; we have never been, nor will we ever be entitled to the concept of perceivable, let alone tangible liberation – everything has a price; something for nothing is non-existent, and deliverance, from where I’m sitting, should be considered one of the most substantial deceptions we have comforted ourselves with as necessary cogs in the societal machine.

Freedom: the front page cover story for this life which has me held captive and restricted, not unlike the characters of my childhood that were predestined to suffer the same fate; they, like I, were involuntarily sentenced to abide by its command.  I dreamt of being the characters in the stories of my youth without heeding the repetitive warnings of being careful what to wish for; my dreams, they came true, although blackened and overrun; consumed by a nightmarish tint that blankets the path; nothing like I could have imagined; nothing anybody would wish to embrace.  I didn’t understand the manifestation of their struggle; I couldn’t open my mind to the verifiable torment endured as they trudged the tireless quest; I thought they were heroic and brave; I thought it was uncomplicated and effortless; I thought they were free and even beckoning the question of whether or not the ending would be happy never crossed my misguided mind; as far as I could tell, in my limited understanding, they always were – but I was wrong – so rather now, my mind perceives the once beautifully attractive luring aspect of heroic fairy tales as un-relatable and farfetched, with the dishonorable facet of the incarceration of my beloved characters, however, precariously erupting into the forefront of my unfortunate, yet genuine reality.

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With acknowledgement of most likely living in the minority with my somewhat skewed filter on how I see the world, I’m left with an apprehensive desire for human connection that wages this crestfallen and complicated tug-of-war in my head; a faith in mankind that slips further into the shadows with each exiguous effort to redirect towards any sign of radiance or relief – the pivotal flag draped from a rope dangerously close to the final decision for falling under an eternal cloak of darkness; an assumingly obvious unbalanced battle at this phase of the contest – yet concession has never been granted entry into my inner circle; assumptions can be dangerous, and it’s as if teetering on the edge of madness is a thrill all in itself; testing the boundaries and exploring my limits – just how far is too far? Can I ever let myself get close to a person again or do I keep it safe at the status quo, surface level interactions that allow me to remain wrapped up in my self-professed zone of comfort from a distance? Am I protecting myself? Hurting myself? Maybe I’m I protecting the potential people I would be letting into my world if and when failure comes crashing through again; maybe protection of any sort doesn’t play a factor at all.  With a little over six months off the bottle, the jumbled circus of questions haphazardly floating around my head are adding up, but the answers have seemingly fled seeking safer grounds – a point which has proven problematic due to the over-proven fact that patience, as well, has never been given access to my tight knit, inner circle of self.

Who Ya Gunna Call?

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Green and gooey, this monster-like mass continuously compelled to consume; an insatiable appetite reaching realms of relentless proportions; sludgy, gross gunk left in its wake; a subtle producer of vague chaos; any given kitchen stood a better chance standing its ground against a feral, famished pack of teenagers – padlocking the refrigerator and pantry won’t keep this annoying apparition away.  Home was the Sedgewick Hotel when we first met this anti-social, unfriendly ghost and the staff put up with its shenanigans for as long as they could, making every effort to keep things in check and the establishment functioning flawlessly.  By all accounts, Slimer cared solely about stuffing its face – an affirmative inconvenience, however, nothing uncommonly menacing or violent took place as far as ghosts go.  But in time and under certain circumstances, even that became too much of an encumbrance; it could no longer be contained – situations were becoming increasingly dicey; action was necessary; the issue required resolution.  So who did they decide to call?  I think we all know so I’ll spare the dramatics – Bill Murray & Associates came in and took care of business.

Some kids were militant in their loyalty to G.I Joe while others found their strength getting lost in the pages of comic books.  I was all about the Ghostbusters, for a stretch of time, and when I think about the personality Slimer embodied, I can, to this day, relate my own flaws and character defects to it – particularly the imagery of Slimer chowing down at the room service cart, slabs of food falling straight through and directly down onto the floor of the hotel hallway.  To me, Slimer sort of represents a manifestation of the empty-void I sense within myself – endlessly consuming, in spite of never being filled; leaving behind my own version of unsavory slime wherever I may roam – the wreckage of my past.  For a time, the people nearest me could handle an occasional drunk incident and look past a hangover or ten, chalking it up to living through my early twenties – it’s normal, that’s what folks do in their early twenties – true for many; false for me.  I can’t pin point it, but the day came where I brought my destiny to fruition and crossed the line, flipped the switch; an irreversible switch and a line I could never retreat back across – much to the chagrin of myself and everybody in my life, Bill Murray & Associates weren’t available to save the day.

With the Ghostbusters being a generally impractical option, “who ya gunna call?” when that uneasy emptiness inside starts creeping its way into consciousness or our own “slime” in life reaches capacity, breaching the banks of our river to ruin?  The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that once we pass that threshold of no return, the ensuing situation is left beyond any measure of human aid; that a spiritual remedy is required to remain rational; to rise from the depths of distress and climb to that ostensibly unattainable crest of contentment – shattering the sadistic cycle of suffering; autonomy at last.  Still, there is one troubling dilemma blocking my path – I haven’t quite locked in on what spirituality means to me; I’m not confident in what I believe to be my higher power – two crucially important aspects of long-term sobriety that could potentially occupy that void which bedevils me; an antidote to the alcohol, the over-eating, under-eating, women, sex, Netflix binges, isolation, and every other unhealthy Band-Aid solution that materializes in this muffled melon of mine.

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Most treatment centers or rehabs that promote the 12-step path to recovery hold at least one group therapy session to address what qualities your individual higher power might personify.  Everybody then randomly screams out different traits like, “all powerful” or “forgiving” or “unconditionally loving” – occasionally something to the tune of, “major pimp” or “swagged out playa” slips through the cracks – kids these days, ya know? But I think you get the gist; all the while the group facilitator is writing these random, yet positive personality traits on a dry-erase board in list format.  When the board is filled, the facilitator turns around and says, “why not let this be your higher power?”  Now – that’s all well and good, in theory, but it just doesn’t do it for me – I still can’t put a face on it; what do I do? Put Bill Murray’s face to all these character traits and call that my higher power?  Maybe I can pray to Mr. Murray temporarily, but I’m trying to determine or compute what my long term, eternal higher power actually is – for real; what it actually looks like to me; and much to my dismay, I’m not confident that Bill can be my permanent solution. 

There is a lot I still need to look at within myself; a lot of rigorous, honest work to be done – but I’ve recognized that this time around things are slowly starting to feel a little different; my approach and attitude has reached a point of sheer desperation – and no matter how big the mountain gets that stands in my way; no matter how far down the rabbit hole I am or how much life wishes to brew up storms of shit and send them my way, I sense a slight feeling of ease wash over me from time to time; like it’s going to all work out how it’s supposed to.  I’m not sure why I get this feeling; maybe it’s because I feel I have nothing left to lose at this point; an authentic “rock bottom” – and as for answers; I don’t have them; for now, the question prevails: “who ya gunna call?”

“50 Shades of Addiction”

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I spend a lot of time exploring the darker side of addiction, both generalities and my personal experience, because I have spent a lot of time in that darkness; the human mind has a propensity to be attracted to what’s lost in the shadows; the lowdown dirtiness of it all; the shock factor.  Folks may act as though they don’t like to see, hear, or talk about it because it’s “uncomfortable” or “inappropriate” – “what about the children?!?! ooooh lawdy, help ma Jesus” – yet turn on the news or look to our entertainment choices in movies and television – even novels; darkness sells – bigtime.  Facts are facts and the verdict is in.  In any case, I thought I would lighten things up a bit for a change and have a little fun, or at least make an attempt at it.  Although addiction and recovery should be taken seriously, it’s not always a bad thing to poke fun at ourselves or the insane behavior we exhibit along the way; a portion of recovery is to have fun and enjoy life, isn’t it?  Dare I say, I’m seeing a light in the darkness?  I picked out a few of the more colorful to breakdown and analyze…

And so the rituals begin; every group, clique, or crowd has developed their own traditions which become revered and sacred over time; shoes off; form a circle; pass to the left; burn incense (preferably Nag Champa); display paraphernalia, choose the one which best suits the situation and, perhaps most crucial, have plenty of junk food on hand – these are simply some of the classics without delving into particulars or individual details.  There’s generally no contest implying that stoners are an interesting breed of people – intensely philosophical in a “spaced out” sort of way and thoroughly intellectual about subject matter entirely irrelevant to anything happening in the present moment…perhaps entirely irrelevant, period.  Somehow, someway, over the course of a cypher, all problems in the world are solved – typically however, the same conclusion is always met: if everybody in the world smoked weed, there wouldn’t be any more problems because all would be “chill”; the universe would unite in perfect balance and harmony – peace symbol necklaces and hemp blanket jackets for everyone…que up ANY Grateful Dead song and get lost in translation; they all sound the same, sorry deadheads – put down the joint and you’ll see.  Strangely, stoners can see or make the number “420” in or out of anything and, sticking with the theme of numbers, they are practically profits in the realm of fractions for whatever reason.  Meals for the average weed smoker predominantly consist of a buffet of items that do not mix together; a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch paired with a Taco Bell burrito isn’t uncommon and all of a sudden those hot dogs rolling on and on for centuries behind the glass at 7-11 start to look intriguingly tasty – it would actually go quite well with a Pop Tart and that can of cranberry sauce leftover from Thanksgiving dinner.  In an encounter with individuals high on cannabis roaming through the general public’s daily life, one may notice random laughter which cannot be made sense of – do not take offense, they are not laughing at you…or me, birds, trees, clouds, air, rain, buildings, cars, street signs, or the sky; they are, more than likely, laughing at nothing.  It happens – often.  When coming in contact with their apartment or car for whatever reason, don’t be shocked to find an alarming number of empty Visine bottles, that too happens – often.

Let freedom ring!  All those thoughts and ideas floating around inside the brain that should remain there, don’t remain there.  Evolutionary barriers that were put in place for a reason go down and the decision maker doesn’t make such good decisions anymore, but it doesn’t always start out too bad.  A long night of drinking with buddies has, for lack of a better word (and trust me I wish I had one), led to many “bromantic” situations.  “You know what dude, I like, really, really love you, bro…like I should say that more often, why don’t we? like, like it was just meant to be this way, you’re soooo my wingman for life!” and on and on, usually involving some type of unnatural hugging, and the next morning all parties involved try to act as though not a memory could be had – some portion of the conversation or events can usually be recalled, but it’s ignored nevertheless.  An alcoholic beverage is sometimes referred to as, “liquid courage”; most of the time this fabricated boldness only proves to work against whoever ingested it – the guy at the party who thought it would be a commendable feat to jump from the third story balcony onto a parked car or the fella suffering from napoleon complex that picks a fight with the biggest, toughest guy at the bar – neither of which are effectively wise decisions, but watch an episode of “Cops, Spring Break Miami” – that packages it nicely, topped with a bow.  On the subject of out-of-control, drunk college guys and gals, it’s not out of line to say alcohol could be a contributing factor to the over-population of the world, is it?  Walk of shame, ladies? One high-heel on, the other broken and stuffed into your black hole of a purse, smeared make-up and joker-like hair, cursing your girlfriends by name in your head for letting you do this – again, cannot confirm whether or not a stop at the pharmacy for “plan B” is necessary so it’s just wise to do it exclusively out of precaution…need I say more?  Didn’t think I was going to let you ladies off the hook now, did you?

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Out of all the various types of addict and the unavoidable tragic, odd behavior that plagues us, my personal favorite; the most entertaining, maniacal, crazed, and winner by a landslide is, no doubt, the tweaker.  Without question, methamphetamine thoroughly sends a person flying aimlessly into another dimension altogether.  The shadow people; they’re out there in the bushes – they can be spotted while peering through the blinds of a motel room or from across the parking lot – they can never be caught though, just a bunch of tweaker Peter Pan’s out there that’ll never quite get it, so don’t bother trying.  As the shadow people retreat for a bit, that desktop computer starts to make itself known; it’s breathing out questions into the room like, “how do I work?” or “what’s inside these outer walls? Take a look why don’t you.” Before the questions are done being asked, the entire computer has been dismantled and laid out all over the floor around said tweaker.  Then, a sudden, but brief noise resonates outside – it’s probably nothing, but it could be a S.W.A.T. team or the U.S. Army finally ready to invade – run to the door and lock all 14 deadbolts; move the couch in front of it for extra security; peer through the blinds again – nothing there, it’s drones…they’re using drones!  Must hide; wait; cameras were planted in the light fixtures, or behind the paintings, or in the television – they’re might be one in that disassembled computer.  No.  Nothing there – wait; the webcam! They’ve tapped into it; they know everything – they’re coming for sure now…I’m finished!  After a few hours of running back and forth between peering through the shades and hiding in the closet, the pieces of the computer look like they need to be put back in place – okay, computer reassembled – time for more tweak.  It’s been five days, no sleep – more tweak…..S.W.A.T.……drones………..shadow people……………..disassemble…………………reassemble……………repeat.

There you have it; a little comedy out of tragedy.     

Hustle or Bust – Act 1

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My well had run dry – both the liquor that customarily inundated my bloodstream and the great American dollar I relied upon to obtain it; the catch – money essential to fuel my alcoholism could not be traceable by my wife, which, to say the least, was not an easy task; she was annoyingly scrupulous and thorough in regards to our financial situation which forced my hand into adapting a very elusive, clever, and creative skillset to carry on in my ways.  I had started to exhibit faint signs of the shakes; ensuing symptoms of cold sweats and hallucinations were more than probable occurrences should I not scheme up a remedy for this particular predicament in a timely fashion.  The demon inside demanded to be pleased and satisfied or misery would surely be headed my way, sooner rather than later – and trust me when I say I would always rather deal with consequences later – preferably never, but surely not sooner. 

Triggered into a trance; I frantically parade around my basement, sporadically reaching up into the ceiling to reclaim lost treasure.  Within fifteen minutes, I was madly and meticulously draining diminutive drops of liquor from the empty whiskey shooters I kept hidden and haphazardly placed about in black baggies above the ventilation systems and ductwork of my home.  Hundreds of miniature bottles stood at attention, united as one flowing entity with a common mission; an army amped up; obeying the command of their General, strategically spread out and categorized by rank in a grid on the surface of my washer and dryer; soldiers I had formerly tucked up and away instead of providing a proper burial for; all in preparation for just an occasion such as this; the obsession that never ceased thinking three steps ahead to ensure my well would remain perpetually plentiful.  

After an hour of this astonishingly unorthodox undertaking, I had extracted enough booze to fill one shot glass or, in my case, the medicine cup that accompanied the bottle of Tylenol in the cabinet – It was in these moments of desperation that the disease completely hijacked all rationale and the age-old-alcoholic insanity showed up to prove what lengths we are willing to go to for even the tiniest taste of relief.  This sickness that plagues me; it disgusts me at times and I myself get perplexed trying to make sense of or decipher the depths I would sink to in pursuit of relieving my undesirable discontentment.  I wish I could say the insanity stopped there, but one shot would never hold me over, let alone subdue my compulsive craving for more; I still found myself needing a means in which to feed the beast; alcoholic activated – welcome to my hustle.

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I’m not the alpha male type that strolls into a bank wielding a gun on the hunt for cash – the risk doesn’t match the reward; percentages favor the house leaving my chances of getting caught far too high, ultimately interfering with my agenda; how to successfully arrive at the liquor store undetected each day.  So no, my hustle never involved violence, grand larceny, or any category involving a major felony; I had to face the facts and accept that I would make a shitty criminal.  I found my strengths, my “calling”, if you will, was in the art of denial, deceit, and manipulation.  I bagged up the entirely empty pocket size vessels of anesthetizing solution into a large garbage bag and crept slowly up the stairs and out the side door like a deranged and maniacal Santa Claus hoisting around a sack of certifiable nightmares.  Across the street from my house was the town’s high school; an optimum and favorably anonymous dumping ground; under the blanket of night I could finally bury my valiant soldiers virtually undetected.  After making gesture of my final salute for a job well done, I retreated back across the street to my house, hamster wheel spinning rapidly in my mind – forecasting direction of the next act in this nonsensical shit show; a quest to fulfill an insatiable inclination that cannot, in all reality, ever be filled.

(In act 2, I will delve into my own personal various hustles over the years and how low I would go to feed this addiction. I’ll also explore some of the ways in which other people I’ve met along the way have fed their addictions over the years.  Stay tuned.)        

A Walking, Fearful Contradiction

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A scorching hot, August sun incessantly beat down over New Jersey as electrifying screams reverberated far into the expansive and virtually endless rows of parked cars.  The presence of my family there was merely a fraction in the midst of an immense crowd – thrill-seekers, teenagers, and families of every kind still lively and boisterous, even despite the ascension of mother nature’s thermometer.  Adrenaline junkies had come from far and wide to fill their ever depleting tanks due to daily life trapped in the office; teenagers traipse around, encountering a newly found freedom from the dictatorship of their parent’s kingdom; young families spending time together out of the house – bonding, laughing, and enjoying a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. 

The more popular rides on a hot day like that are the ones featuring water – a nice, cool break in marching from coaster to coaster waiting in hot, ostensibly endless lines.  That seems to be the real “theme” when spending a day at the theme park – wait in line for three hours to ride a coaster for three minutes, but we do it nonetheless because we’re all presumably robots.  But, it gives us a chance to have conversations with our friends or family; it gives us a chance to bitch and complain about our lives; it gives us the opportunity to brush up on the art of combating enormous amounts of bees – trapped in line, there’s really nowhere to run and we’re forced to confront our fear of these tiny, little ninja black and yellow bastards.  Even with all this going on in our frenzied state, we’re feverishly scoping out the area for line cutters; the equivalent to murderers and rapists in the world outside a theme park; when spotting a violator, our minds automatically think, “where’s the guillotine!?” – don’t lie to yourself, you know you think it. 

We waited in line to ride the log flume for a while before it was finally our turn.  I sat in the back, holding my two-year old daughter in front of me; my wife (at the time) sat in the middle holding our son in front of her.  At first, the ride was calm and refreshing – my little girl was having a blast, gazing around, taking in new sights, sounds, and smells.  She giggled as splashes of water breached the wall of our log and sprinkled over her as if the clear blue sky was producing a mid-afternoon rain shower.  We were genuinely bonding, laughing, and enjoying time together as father and daughter when suddenly the mood shifted.  Looming just ahead, the calm tube of water we had been meandering through disappeared, opening up into a wide view of the park below; the only way from here was straight down.  As we reached the point of no return, the grasp my daughters hands had on my arms transformed from lightly resting to super-human strength – digging her nails into me and holding on for dear life – by the time we reached the bottom she had actually left marks on my forearms.  She had experienced true, certifiable fear – and fear, in all its varied forms, is what holds us all back from experiencing the extraordinary and achieving greatness.

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Don Miguel Ruiz talks about fear in his book on Toltec wisdom entitled, The Four Agreements, “If we look at human society we see a place so difficult to live in because it is ruled by fear.  Throughout the world we see human suffering, anger, revenge, addictions, violence in the street, and tremendous injustice.  It may exist at different levels in different countries around the world, but fear is controlling the outside dream.”  He goes on to say, “That is why humans resist life.  To be alive is the biggest fear humans have.  Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive – the risk to be alive and express what we really are.  Just being ourselves is the biggest fear of human beings.”

I can remarkably relate to what he describes here, especially as an alcoholic and feeling that overwhelming desire to numb life out altogether – my personal fear of the risks involved to be truly alive, but I have come to find and play around with two large subcategories within myself that, although contradictory, would be the biggest personal fears I face on the grander of scales: Fear of succeeding and fear of failing – I wrote letters to each, as suggested through sessions in therapy.


Dear Acheivemephobia (fear of success),

            We have navigated paths together periodically, seemingly always embodied in a temporary transaction of good fortune, true love, consummated promises, and tremendous achievement.  You actually dangled the keys to all my wildest dreams right before my very eyes – even passed them over, providing a peek into a world I could exist in; keys that would unlock doors of happiness and joy; fulfillment and purpose; like I somehow matter and have a secure, resolute place in this world.  An advancing career with a great income, a gorgeous wife, beautiful children, a house, two SUV’s, a loving family and in-laws – you tantalizingly let me form an intense attachment to it all for a while, before savagely retracting your offer, leaving me crippled; critically incapable of accepting the truth, consequences, or real world circumstances of what was literally unraveling; my perfect excuse to numb it all out and be absent from the torment; from the anguish; but mostly from the heartache.

For lack of a better word, I’m completely PETRIFIED of you.  I yearn to set goals for myself; I crave to live out my dreams; I long for my son and daughter to grow up; notice me as that success story; a dad to be loved and respected; a dad that lives with dignity, integrity, and class – who didn’t throw a potentially meaningful life away – who overcame the captivity of a vicious disease for so many years.  Yet still I’m afraid to try and reach or live them; to get back to that place I worked so hard to arrive at, just to have it snatched away once more – I don’t believe I could handle it; hell, I couldn’t really handle the situation I’m in now.

The things I had were never enough for me; I suffer from an adversity that virtually could not allow me to ever feel totally successful in the first place; something, somewhere was perpetually superior to what I had or where my life was heading; I felt stagnant; stationary; essentially lifeless; in other words, the “I’ll be happy when I get…” mentality prevailed steady within my being.  It was discouraging to say the least, arguably incapacitating because I could not locate the motivation to even grant success a fair opportunity to enter into my existence.  I really hadn’t formulated a running definition of what success looked like for me anyhow.

My only saving grace will have to arrive through connection with a power greater than myself; God; a guiding light who reveals the genuinely legitimate way towards prosperity; to help me comprehend that there is a very distinct difference between what I actually need and what I think I need for wealth and well-being.  Success is in the daily journey; doing good deeds and helping people in need, not any form of self-seeking final destination because, in all reality, when my time is up, I can’t take any of the material things with me; the things I coveted more than anything else; the stuff that gave me the illusion of success.  I can, however, look back on my adventures through all the trials and tribulations of dark times; be proud of what I was able to accomplish and overcome; the changes I made in myself, and the way I was able to finally understand how to live with honesty and integrity.  In my book and in my mind that will be genuine and authentic success.

Sincerely,

        Chris


Dear Atychiphobia (fear of failure),

I nervously took in the sight of you from my vicinity opposite the room; I was quivering and trembling so you instinctively took notice of me as well, peering diabolically back as our eyes laser locked on to each other like past lovers in the dead of an eerie night – time stood still; it was haunting, yet mysterious – I sensed I knew you and your self-professed irresistibility; by all means I wanted to confront, but my fear was so intoxicating; a paralyzing intimidation; an obvious advertisement of apprehension that left me unable to allow myself the engagement in that desirable showdown.  I can still feel your laughter and pity virtually every day of my life – it resonates within the confines of my head; it produces still more fear, embarrassment, disappointment, and an extreme sense of low self-worth.  You have that influence over me; a perplexing power to command my surrender; to make me throw in the towel – waive that immaculate white flag.  As soon as I perceive your alluring vibe in my presence, I dwindle into a morsel of the man I fiercely want to be; I want to be strong and courageous; exhibiting respect, exuding integrity, and transmitting the wisdom of my experiences to those who may be traveling down the same ill-fated path I have been tirelessly trudging for far too long now.  In lieu of elevating to the coveted status of, “Knight in Shining Armor”, I turn timid and hesitant; I become the soul crushing, seemingly heartless beast that lets everything and everybody down because I’m so afraid to revoke your perpetual power over my contemptible condition.  This incapacitating phobia of you is like struggling against quicksand – the tougher I try, the more I’m sucked in.

You have remarkably presented the case to judge and jury that I could never be desirable or good enough.  So much so in fact that I might as well plead guilty and accept the plea bargain which, to say the least, is an ego-crushing blow; like I shouldn’t even make an attempt at constructing or rehabilitating a worthier life for myself because it’s only outcome is failure anyhow; if I don’t try; if I just plead out, I cannot fail; essentially that takes you off the table altogether; it relinquishes your power over me and then you’re the one that dwindles away into nothingness or at least becomes forced to go leach off somebody else for a change.  However, deep in our beings, we both know that this is an unlikely scenario.  You’d likely still cast me down into the ever blackening abyss no matter what I do or don’t achieve, or how I perform, subsequently leaving behind the broken shell of a man that maybe could have done great things in the absence of your influential oppression.  I always wonder what people think when you have me held tight within your indomitable grasp, like a serpent squeezes the life from its prey; how interest must finally be lost in me or if folks have smartened up and just conceded to my inevitable demise altogether; how I’m forever broken, that’s just the way it is, and no more time, energy, worry or effort should be afforded the issue – lock me away in a padded cell somewhere and get it over with; at least family, friends, and society at large would be a little bit safer.

It’s been said time and time again that contrary action can be an effective source of solving a problem or conquering an issue – contrary action is, for all intents and purposes, doing the opposite of what’s deemed comfortable, living outside one’s comfort zone; do the opposite of what feels normal or what the instinctual action might be.  For example, if I were afraid of the water, I should get on a boat and dive right in; if I drink too much soda, it would be wise to start drinking more water and phase the soda out.  This leads me to believe that the only way I’ll conquer my fear of you, being failure, is by facing you head on; by taking contrary action; approaching what I could only ever see as the unapproachable; dart across that room and show you I’m not a scared little boy and I know you’ll always be there in my life from time to time, but it’s okay; understanding that if and when I fail, there are lessons to be learned and ultimately growth to be obtained.  You don’t have to be intimidating or diabolical or even paralyzing – but rather educational; a means in which to learn what ways do and don’t work.  As long as I can take you for exactly what you are: opportunities to find a better, more effective way to accomplish the task at hand and provide a much more meaningful and fulfilling life, not just for me, but for those whose lives I impact on a regular or even daily basis.

Sincerely,

            Chris