This is the first in a series of articles on overcoming escapism by Brother Jason, a soldier in the Salvation Army. Jason doesn’t have a blog, but you should show him some love here in this shithole.
I have been clean and sober now for 13 years. January 2005 I snorted my last line of cocaine, drank my last drop of alcohol and took my last puff of marijuana. It was in San Francisco. My life had been in a downward spiral for a few years at this point…..it accelerated after 9-11-01 but there had been problems with me beneath the surface for quite a few years before that. I just turned 34 about one month prior to deciding to become sober.
This won’t be some butthurt empathy winning testimony about “if a woman just gave me a chance” or how “my parents didn’t love me enough” then I would not have drifted into these problems. I made the choices in the end. They are my choices to live with, bear and hang my head in “shame” with. There are a few people I have tried to make “amends” with who still have not forgiven me. I can’t really blame them for not forgiving me if truth be told. Towards the end of my addiction……I became a nasty sort of fellow. Ruder, meaner, nastier and badder. Not in a violent sense…but in many ways the worse kind……….the pure “evil” kind. Hoping misfortune on others. Wishing harm and reveling in it when someone got housed, busted, or lost something important to them. It made me smile inside……..thinking that “they might know now how I feel most of the time”. The reality was, most…heck….all could care less about what I felt. My addiction was evil in the end. Very evil. Sneaky. Loving it when a woman got cheated on. Thinking it great when someone didn’t get that promotion. I loved watching people in emotional pain. It almost alliviated mine…..albiet briefly.
If I had been “good looking” on a cultural standard, I could have pulled it off a bit longer and perhaps even gotten away with it. That is a discussion for another time.
My drinking didn’t make me confident. I suddenly didn’t become suave, or cool in a club / party / bar scene because I was drinking. Neither did the cocaine. What it did do was just make me “forget” how useless I felt on the inside. How I was always ignored, or invisible to women. How I was always that guy in a peer group who was “just not with it” like the rest. The times I was flying high or drunk or both on those fog-soaked San Francisco streets……..being in this state constantly helped me cope with my strong but solitary nature. Something I always was. The guy picked last for any team sport. The kid who somehow “messed it up” or “didn’t do it right”
Now, this situation just didn’t start with me taking a line of cocaine, and suddenly I lost everything a week later. Nor did I take a drink in high school while living in West Germany as an American exchange-student and suddenly “had a drinking problem”
It slowly, slowly accelerated. After 9-11-01, like I said above it kicked into overdrive. I kept my haircut. I shaved. I dressed well. I still took vacations (usually to Seattle in those days). I still served on the Board of Trustees of my beloved undergraduate, I was one of the top donars to my college (25K a year from 1998-2002). I suppose I looked okay for my age……but obviously to women and others, I wasn’t. Alcohol and drugs did help me cope in this area. I had an advanced degree from one of the top polytechnics in the USA (Rensselaer Poly). I worked for freakin’ IBM Corporation! I pulled over 135K a year in 2001. I had three patents. I was leading a huge project for their new and innovation Enterprise Storage Server at that time……….a multi billion dollar project in storage technology. I was living in San Francisco, a place so many would want to live in……….my parents of course were proud of me. My college was grateful for my patronage……….and yet……………………………….and yet
A failure with women. Total failure. I was (and am) still a virgin. Never kissed a woman. Never even had a date. I won’t blame, nor lay my drinking and drugs at the feet of women……and I did for awhile. Looking back….ughhhh….THAT was so pathetic. It probably fed into the vicious circle thing…..and just made everything worse for myself and my outward portrayal to women.
This combined with being shy, solitary……alone……..seeing my friends from college and grad school date, get sex, date, get sex, date…….get married…….combined with the lies I had heard since I hit puberty that “women only want a really nice guy” and facing the reality of this not really being the truth. I also was not happy with my job. Sure, I did it and did it well. I didn’t really enjoy the corporate office culture. Forget the “suit and tie” thing……I dealt with that. I hated the politics, the phoniness, the “air family” of fakeness. I hated working in a skyscraper. I wanted to be the guy who BUILT the skyscraper.
This combined with a varity of other things led to 9-11……and my core finally was shaken. Not that I was some “pillar of stability” at that point, but all I had faith in……was shaken hard. Conspiracy theories aside……we had been attacked, and the people who were supposed to protect us didn’t. It became politicized almost immediately and add to the fact…….I was supposed to be there. Two weeks before that fateful day, I returned form a boring business trip from the Tucsan, Az facility. At the Monday morning staffie….I was told to go help configure the new servers that were just intalled in the bowels of the World Trade Center. A coworker, and co-developer Doug asked me if he could go instead. He was from NYC, and he would do the job…………and then take some vacation time to spend with his mom and dad….sister. I agreed. Anything to keep me out of New York City was fine by me. I told my manager Doug was going in my place…and he agreed to this.
Well…..as you can figure out……..Doug obviously died in the attack. No, I was not buddies or pals with him. We worked well together. He was my age (31 at the time), married for a few years. Had the cute wife. A little baby boy. He went to NYC and never came home……….everyone in my department KNEW I was the one asked to go…….and he ended up going….and no, it wasn’t on purpose and maybe it was paranoia……..but I “felt” like everyone in my department wished Doug was still around and I had not returned from a fateful trip to NYC. Doug was popular on the team.
This pushed me into a downward spiral……tailspin………..and anytime I wasn’t at work I was drinking, snorting up enough cocaine that would have even made Kieth Richards raise an eyebrow and say “whoa there Welshman! your puttin’ me to shame!”
I wanted to die. I kicked my feet up and jumped head first down the slide while telling myself “I’ll be dead in a few years….none of this is gonna matter”
Read Part 2!