Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Freedom: Part One

Most of the time when asked how I am, I can get away with one of the more traditional responses such as: “fine”, “good” or “go ask your mom”; but over the past couple of months I’ve been fortunate enough to be asked this question in one form or another by people who know me well enough to see through such attempts at deflection.

We should all be fortunate enough to have close people in our lives that keep us honest.

Maybe not this honest.

So, this is for you.  The old teammates, roommates, bandmates, clinicians, co-conspirators, co-defendants, codependent co-ed classmates, ex-girlfriends, and asshole military buddies that have all recently made the same grievous error in judgement by asking the same question my shrink therapist used to bravely posit every couple of weeks:

“How are you?"

In this moment, I’m melancholy.  I’m relieved to “soften this old armor” and finally open-up about my life without serious regard for reprisals.  Simultaneously, I have a natural anxiety over several imminent changes in my life, such as:

  • I’m in the process of moving to a new apartment.  It’s larger and is the next logical step toward my housing goals.  On the flip-side, it means leaving the place that I’ve lived for the longest consecutive time in my entire life.  See, my silly monkey-brain wants to correlate geography with the success I’ve had over the past few years; a concept that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I lived in this apartment for years with nothing but turmoil until I gained access to the mental health care that I desperately needed.  Now I’m just going to miss the view.  I’m not joking. Seriously.  At all.

At. Fucking. All.
  • I have set an intention to advocate for the modern medical treatments that led to my success in recovery.  While sharing anything that could help people in their recovery sounds like an easy decision, it is absolutely guaranteed to enrage a large group of people, which isn't my intention.
  • I recently got back on the mat for the first time in over a decade.
  • This may have been a mistake.
I wish this was a joke.

  • I’m also entering my 10th consecutive term as an undergrad.  I’ll get into this lunacy in a later post.
  • The business side of SD has been worked on from day one, but for the last year I was stuck in that awful “as soon as everything is perfectly organized, we’ll go live...” stage of creation.
  • Fortunately, the amazingly talented entrepreneur and author Chris Guillebeau used just the right method (friendly sarcasm) to get the point through to me that I already had everything I needed.  "RH" goes live on March 31st next year!

Unfortunately, our entire business plan hinges on time travel and cupcakes.

  • Finally, I recently committed to the life-changing decision to finish my B.S. - then apply to grad school - at PSU, instead of pursuing a nursing degree at OHSU.  More importantly, I went from being terrified about sharing my doubts around a career in nursing with people, to setting an intention and changing my path without much regard to how others would feel about it.

Turning my view to the past, it becomes overwhelmingly obvious that I have friends and colleagues going back decades who saw me drop off the map without a word.  I wish I could say that I’ve broken the pattern of disappearing when stressed.  What I will say is that I’ll never stop trying to improve communication with my friends and family.  Luckily they seem to possess infinite patience and compassion.

So, let’s see if I can get everyone caught up on the Drama...

After the Army, I returned to Michigan where I eventually returned to work in law enforcement and security operations.  First for a Fortune 15 Company’s Risk Management Department, then eventually returning to contract HUMINT work on an OGA task force.  I spent several years working under both official and non-official cover, A situation which I used to minimize attention around some unhealthy coping mechanisms and mental health issues.

By “unhealthy coping mechanisms” I mean the big Irish three: drinking, fighting and fucking.

Also known as: "Irish Therapy".

Following a particularly nasty event, the personal identities of several members of the task force were released by an extremely incompetent federal magistrate, resulting in many of us receiving several credible death threats.  More disturbing though, was the actual damage done to several ongoing investigations.  People with badges went to jail.

Ultimately though, it wasn’t a threat to my safety that caused me to “hock my brains, pack my bags and head west”.  You see, there was this woman…

It’s always about a woman.  Write that shit down.

So, I packed up my 1994 Ford Escort hatchback with some gear and drove the 2,300 miles to Oregon to meet an online romance.

I spent the next couple of years between Portland and a small city on the Oregon-California border called “Klamath Falls”, spending time I’ll never recover dealing with the Army, OGA’s and a relationship that could only be described as “unhealthy”.  I’m not pointing fingers - we were both dysfunctional and unskilled when it came to playing grown-ups.

When I came back to Michigan to live with Francis I was in bad shape.  Drinking was a daily event, but even more concerning was the unpredictable capacity for anger I would display when intoxicated.
Fortunately, in addition to being extremely compassionate, Francis was a Sergeant in the Marine Corps at the time. No stranger to addiction - he’d long-ago fought his own kind of demons - and somehow to this day - I don’t know how – recognized that I was drinking to self-medicate something deeper.  Something dark.  He and Bosco (my other brother) had both expressed concern about something deeper that appeared to be haunting me.  They were now in the situation I’d been in for over three decades – knowing something was wrong without any real idea of what was causing it.

I mentioned in “Her - Part 3” that Francis would go on to save my life again; what I neglected to mention is that he did this by means of “forced evolution” i.e. punting me all the way back to Portland.  Years later it occured to me that he might feel some misplaced guilt, even though it was obvious he made the right move.  So I brought it up one day and made sure he understood that I held nothing but gratitude in my heart for saving my life and apologized for putting him in a position that forced him to make a painful choice.

It's good to be back.  Part 2 coming soon.

Semper Anticus,


np: "Lighten up, Francis" - Puscifer

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