I’m going to share personal stories on this blog. It will be a way of helping myself work through issues and hopefully will help others in deciding to begin recovery or continuing their recovery. Throughout the 20 months of my own recovery, it has been others sharing their stories; telling their tales of suffering, often embarrassing and humbling, but with recognizable themes and events that motivated and strengthened me when I was hurt, weak and wavering in my commitment to life and health.
I cannot take credit for my recovery. Yes, I did make the decision to begin it and there have been times, tough times, when I chose not to forgo and give up. However, it was the actions of others, some intentional and some unintentional, that has allowed me to be successful. As you will see, gratitude is a big part of this blog, because gratitude is an important part of recovery; it’s something that very naturally and necessarily comes with others helping you to live. It’s not something I expected when I began therapy, when I gave up booze, when I went on anti-depressants, but gratitude is certainly a very welcome blessing in my life.
The list of who has helped me and who continues to help me is quite long. It is a living list, because, as I am experiencing, recovery from PTSD, depression, alcohol abuse and suicidality is a long and uneven process, most assuredly a permanent process–I begin a new medication today. Waves and troughs of varying durations and intensity come and go, but the good waves last longer over time, while the bad time troughs come less frequently, aren’t as deep and are manageable.
That list of help is populated with family, friends and strangers. My ex-girlfriend who got us into couple’s therapy because I had stopped having sex with her, along with a torrent of other PTSD problems and symptoms; Lenny B, my first counselor who got me to quit drinking and led me through a PTSD treatment program; one of my best friend’s, Van, who told me “you fucking know better”, an auditory slap I had needed for a long time; my parents, of course, who took me in when therapy and recovery had stopped being easy and when I had run out of money; the guys in my PTSD group at the Durham VA, some 15 years younger than me, some 25 years older, some white, some black, but all willing to talk, to share and to be open in order to help one another, to be brothers to one another; my sweet friend who opened her home to me in Maui, basically letting me convalesce and allowing me to see color again in the world, while learning that trauma and suffering is not unique to combat veterans and that there is a universal love that can be found in that knowledge; this soldier, who I will probably never meet, whose testimonial got me to admit to myself and then say out loud I was suicidal; my current girlfriend for her acceptance and for helping me regain the concept of a future…I can go on….
But I want to make sure I make special reference to Shea Brown, the originator of the quote at the top of this blog. It was his kindness over soup, hamburgers and coffee at Liberty Tavern in Clarendon Square that got me to believe in myself again and to this day serves as an inspiration for me. I don’t know if he intended to have that kind of impact on that rainy January day; I suspect not, as I believe both angels and demons have purposes uncontrollable. Regardless, he did, and his kindness is one of the reasons I am alive and that’s not hyperbole, exaggeration or drama.
Peace works both ways. For just as sure as it can be nurtured and grown within you, it can be given to someone else. I’m not sure why it has taken 40 years for me to learn this, but I now know it.