I really was struggling hard during this period. I remember in the days and months before I finally decided that going to work and being miserable was accomplishing nothing my wife and I would randomly stop what we were doing and just be looking at each other – both knowing in our hearts that these kids, our son and his new wife, were going to die. They were going to be in this losing battle of goddamn heroin addiction and they were going to lose…and so were we. We were all going to lose everything. Can you imagine just every single day being certain of nothing else but that?
Only if you are living it. Only then. But I will try to convey it as best I can because it is important to know that there can be recovery. It isn’t perfect – but I begin to think that ‘perfect’ is a made up word. It’s meaningless really unless you are defining nature – perfect sunset, perfect wave, perfect stillness, perfect day…
So after many days of not sleeping at night, dragging my sorry depressed ass to work, pretending I was ok, not talking about my problems to anyone, and trying like hell to make it to the afternoon – then noon, then mid-morning, without getting pulled down to the floor emotionally I finally stopped leaving the house at all. Now – I was a field rep. an outside sales rep for this company I worked for. It had been a small chain of a half dozen stores in the western US that had just recently been bought out by a large multinational corporation. Of course as is common when that happens (the last outfit I worked for pulled the same crap) the monkeys running the small company inflate their numbers. They falsify accounts, receipts, ROI, anything they can rig to make themselves look more profitable…they also cut payroll to the bone and overwork the remnants of the very workforce that got them going in the first place – but I digress. This company was far more aggressive in the ways they had manipulated their books than my previous employer – and some of those people were dismissed with the option to be taken to court and charged with fraud.
I had never seen so much ‘creativity’…and mind you this was after the sale had been consummated. I had been hired in the aftermath of the sale and they had already downsized. I was told that I would be part of the new, focused growth. That this was to be the beginning of an expansion period and reinvestment into the local market. Unfortunately – and unbeknownst to me – they had done so much monkey business in the months leading up to the deal that now they had to scramble to maintain the lies..make the dust settle more slowly than just dropping the game altogether. The people at the big corporation were beginning to smell things but they were so large and so diverse, with holdings in electronics, automotive, heavy machinery, distribution of all kinds – and now woodworking – that they were slow to get a handle. Why does this matter to the central cause in this writing? Because it was a blindside hit. This outfit was not planning on expansion at all. Within six months of my hire date we learned there would be a complete change in the business plan. Instead of a large local inventory and warehouse operation we would be relocated to a storefront and transfer materials from Los Angeles to fill orders. We were going to let a few people go as they say..and I was the newest hire. This entire experience was just one fiasco after another. Now, I don’t know about you but when I go to work in the morning I like to think the people around me are all generally pulling in one direction. However in this environment you have to do three times the work because no matter what, you are bound to run afoul of one gimmick or another. Someone is manipulating pricing to get a better ROI on their spreadsheet so suddenly your contract pricing is gone..that means all of your customers just got billed at prices far higher than their contracted rates. Arbitrarily. Fuck! Someone else wants the inventory costs to look good for the month – so they hold all incoming merchandise on the loading docks til the first of the month before they let it be received and sent on to customers…in some cases adding more than an unexpected week to customer delivery dates..in an extremely time sensitive industry. On and on like this it was. The last week that I worked there I didn’t see a single customer. Now – I never stopped taking calls and placing orders or anything else I could do without looking people in the eye..but that’s just not good enough. So I took a leave of absence thinking it would just take a few weeks or a month to clear my head.
Fuck – If I had known how far we all had to go in our lives at that point – my wife, me, my son and daughter in law…together and separately to get to a place where we could relax and begin to move forward I probably would have found myself in the doorway a lot sooner.
The only other thing I failed to recognize properly at this point was how my age was going to interfere with me getting back into the mix, getting back to the workforce. I have had some very interesting interviews in the last year or so. In the past, if I could get an interview I was hired. But it has been more than twenty years since I’ve been in that position. Now it’s the job sites, emailing resume’s into the black hole and in the rare cases where I have gotten a call back, I get ahead with the recruiter and get the interview. But when I get through those interviews and I get the sense that they have gone well I am passed over. FUCK! Enough of this though for now. It’s just sauce anyway.
A word that initially means nothing until it comes to mean everything. For us, I thought it was all about them. They needed to recover from this addiction. They needed to figure out how to manage their lives without drugs – without chemically numbing their emotions and their anxiety. It was a word that had meaning for them. As far as I knew it was a word meant only for them. Wrong.
Addiction is a family disease. I know this now. I know now that some of the things I did when I was raising my son were wrong. The behaviors that I had developed as coping mechanisms in MY life were contributing factors. They were based on my family history. They were partially caused by the events in my early life but also by events that ruptured my parents lives because those events shaped them and who they were. Those events played a role in the way they raised me and my siblings and then those experiences shaped the way I thought about things and problem solved and my personality. In turn, I was not a healthy parent. I didn’t know it at the time but the fact remains..I was compromised and it affected my kid.
In order to find recovery we first have to really see ourselves – sounds simple but it isn’t. You first have to accept that you are flawed. That you might not have had the answers you thought you had. That you might have been wrong. To do that you have to see examples of what is right. To see the right way to process information in a given situation and make the honest comparison to what you had done when in the same exact situation. Let me tell you how that shakes the earth – how it flips your universe upside down.
What IS recovery? Because I had to know what it was I was seeking, I had to define this thing carefully. At first I thought of it as a goal line..a place. I am ‘here’ – and I need to get to ‘there’. It’s just automatically the way I think people approach it, and maybe that once we are ‘there’ we will know it and we will be ‘done’…recovered. That sounds great but is completely wrong. Eventually if you are working the problem the right way you begin to understand that that is wrong. It’s not a destination. You are always working on recovery. It’s like being a good pilot or a good doctor or teacher. I know one of each of those and they will tell you – the minute you think you have nothing more to learn, you are in trouble. Recovery is like this. It means working every day on your approach to life. Being able to admit mistakes right away and owning them, apologizing for them if they cause harm to another person, and learning not to repeat them. To get to the point where you can even see your life in this way you have to first have your eyes opened. For me that meant counseling. It is vital that you find a professional to talk to about these things. A friend is good for so many things but this isn’t one of them. A friend will not have the experience or the patience or the time to devote to your problem. Only a professional can hear you out, formulate proper guidelines and reading material and keep themselves properly distanced emotionally from your experiences. The biggest change at this point of my recovery and for you will be YOU. It was the hardest thing I have ever tried to do and I am still working at it. This writing is part of it. It will never end..the searching that is, not the writing. I am still changing the way I look at the world and internalize that, and changing the way I feel about challenges. Learning not to just react to those challenges with emotions but to be mindful – to take the time, to apply reason and accountability and have patience first.