As I have mentioned before, addicts/alcoholics, those of us who suffer from mental health issues are great at the “burn down, build back” cycle. This is what I have come to know as “Comfort in Chaos”. We are so good at managing this cycle, because it is what we have always known, chaos that is. And it is a direct result of unresolved traumas and lack of atonement with our pasts. Childhood traumas and really impactful negative experiences place us into nervous system and emotional dysregulation which can last a life time in some cases. As I have explained previously, most of my life was spent “on edge”; either experiencing trauma/traumatic stress or dealing with and living in its after effects. As a result, it became incredibly difficult to find and enjoy contentment and serenity. Boredom, peace, contentment, normalcy, all of these can feel really abnormal to a person who has experienced prolonged and complex traumas. I lacked answers for a long time. Maybe one day soon I would start asking the right questions.
Another way that trauma can leave a lasting mark is through the shame that it breeds. Shame and insecurity themselves can lead to serious self sabotage. Shame can come from a multitude of sources like dysfunctional family systems, rejection, abandonment, parental examples, bullying, and betrayal. I can go ahead and check all of those boxes. Shame then leads to enormous insecurities in one’s life as they grow older and those insecurities can have terrible consequences in relationships later. Not trusting others, paranoia, fear of abandonment, questioning of a significant other, and smothering, these are just a few examples of how we can self sabotage ourselves and our relationships as a result of traumas we experienced as children.
I have pretty much been a professional self saboteur for most of my adult life, but the interesting thing about it is that it is not intentional. I don’t even realize that I am doing it most of the time. Its instinctual, like breathing air. It’s almost like my brain is hard wired to subtly and slowly veer me off my path and redirect me back into self destructive ways. That may be a bit of hyperbole there, that last thought, but there certainly is something to that school of thought. It almost seems like the more turmoil, sadness, and chaos that can transpire in my life, the more I end up gravitating to it. Recently, I have begun a journey of striving for self awareness. But I had to get there first.
I bailed out of jail after “Blotto” unfolded. I was going to be staying with my parents for awhile. My dad and his new wife, my bio mother passed in 2014. This was going to be a difficult time, taking a separation from all that I knew. And this was when I really got back into therapy again. I was seeing a therapist weekly for about a year from the events of that fateful night. Every Monday morning I would spend chopping it up with my counselor about what was going on in my life. She was a highly touted and recommended therapist too, she was in high demand with a waiting list, but a friend of mine was able to get me in with her by asking for a favor. What a great opportunity here! If only I had possessed the capacity, or felt the need to get fully-from-the-gut honest with her. But I was still very much in delusion. I was too hyper focused on “saving face” and maintaining some kind of image and reputation, I had been reverted back into my trauma brain for quite some time, which kept me in the victim role mentality. And as the saying goes, we cannot save our faces and our asses at the same time. So I would spend a great deal of time with this counselor spinning wheels, and playing smoke and mirrors.
I am pretty sure she was able to read between many lines, because she is actually the first provider I have worked with, and there have been many, who has ever brought up trauma so emphatically. I could hear her words, and I could follow her lessons, but I suppose I just hadn’t had enough self inflicted pain to finally open my ears and heart enough to begin some honest soul searching and life audits. Again, I had reverted back to the victim mentality, so everything was everyone else’s fault. My life sucked, blah blah blah.
I continued to see this therapist pretty consistently for the course of about a year. And I did my best to moderate my drinking. I ended up staying with my folks for about three weeks, and then returned home. Prior to my return. and upon my initial homecoming it was all the same shit, bargaining, compromising, promises, plans, etc. All the shit that comes along with loving an alcoholic/mental health client. It’s always the same, with every family and with every client. “The dance” I call it, promises, bartering, manipulating, compromises. Anything we could do to both somehow get our ways on everything. But life did seem to turn around a bit, for a little while. And then the barrier was broken once again, in one of our little compromises and I drank once. And then twice. And then every weekend. And then the benders were up and roaring and once again.
I had to keep a low profile though, because I had some shit with courts going on so I did my best to manage. It didn’t go so well. Bender after bender. Two, three, four day runs. Vanishing on my family, being a complete and utter asshole. Jekyll and Hyde were back, but had never really left because at this point I was still very much untreated. I was just continuing with therapy at this point to make it look good and maintain some delusion of control over the situation. Again, the less control on the inside I feel, the more I try to control on the outside. And I was grasping at everything. I was still spiraling. My poor family. I couldn’t see it. With mental health and addiction issues, we witness them in first person, we hear the thoughts and the delusions in our own voice. So, even though the things I was feeling and experiencing were very much distorted and sick, I was experiencing them in real time, and in my own head. So the delusions, the fear, the paranoia, the insecurities, the ruminations, the panic. the dread, they all seemed very real. So I continued to drink and I continued to play wizard, trying to control everything because clearly everything that was going wrong was because everyone was out to get me, use me, fuck me over and take me out. My delusions and cognitive distortions and clinical impairment were so major that I literally felt like the world was so focused on taking me out, that I never wanted to leave the house. But it was my guilt, it was my shame. How could I go out there and face the world in this kind of shape? And then I would throw alcohol on it, and kaboom. What used to work to help keep things stuffed down and numb, was now causing all of my pains and hot buttons to bubble out. I was so full and saturated, that there was no where to put anything anymore. Just adding the liquid solution to my body caused it all to come floating to the surface. Nothing worked, no amount of avoidance was effective anymore. The more I tried to hide from it, the more visible I became. In a bad way. This was not the attention and visibility that I wanted.
Weeks went by with little encouragement. Sure, I would feel a bit better after my therapy sessions, but it was short lived and I was reverting right back to my twisted mind and perspectives very soon after. I was treading water in blue jeans and a heavy hoodie. I was becoming more and more weighed down. In spite of my best intentions, I was acting on my poisonous thinking. And that’s the cycle I had been stuck in for so long: “negative/intrusive thought > negative/ugly feeling > negative/destructive behavior”, which took me back to negative thoughts about myself, like “I am no good”. And I stayed stuck in this feedback loop constantly. So, “what’s the use” became my go to, and more drinking followed. Weekend after weekend, bender after bender.
The more I struggled, the more life seemed to throw at me. Like blood in Piranha infested waters. Custody battles are ugly enough, but when a person is mentally struggling and the other party knows it, often times they will do everything they can to kick you when you’re down. Inflation, work stresses, deadlines, court cases, marriage problems, everything just piled and piled, so my mental and emotional stress grew right along with it all. The pressure of it all was too much to bear. Plus, add to the equation that deep down inside I knew that I was a culprit here, and that brought about even more guilt, pressure, and shame. I was breaking again. Damage control, Herb, damage control.
But I was not going to be able to control the damage.
The more I stressed, the more I spiraled, the more my insecurities and fears grew to the point of manifesting right in front of my eyes. As if the very things I was most terrified of were happening in real time, and the more I drank and acted out on those delusions. Bender after bender. More fights, more gas lighting, more blame placing, more hostage taking, more scapegoating, more stress and fear. More drinking. everything was so out of control. So I just drank to escape it all. I just wanted to drink myself to death, I couldn’t handle what was going on in my life or in between my ears anymore. I didn’t know what was real or imagined anymore. Life was toxic at this point. I would tell my wife that I was going for a drive to clear my head often, and I would go on drives, but not to clear my head. I would get out onto highways and take off my seat belt and search for the courage to speed up at crazy speeds and slam into a giant oak tree, or an oncoming semi. But I just couldn’t do it. I loved my family too much. I was too strong for that. I was going to make it. I knew it was gonna suck for a little while longer, but I was gonna make it.
The waters would calm at home for a while, and then things would ramp up again. This continued for a little over a year, and I would find myself back in jail, again. It was time that I finally put my pride to the side, and ask for some serious help. This was clearly something much bigger than me, and the more I wrestled with it, the stronger it got. The more I tried to maintain control, the more out of control it spun. I had seen this battle as far as I was willing to see it. The more chaos that came, the more I got swallowed up into it. I had been running on my sickened mind for long enough, and had completely sabotaged my life as a result. It was time to ask for some much needed help.