The news, it can erode you

February 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

In the past month or so, I’ve seen quite a few news stories that affected me personally because they reminded me of myself. It’s a kind of narcissism, I suppose. Why don’t I take every story of tragedy and pain and internalize them? Well, I don’t do that because I would fucking die. Sorry. It’s a selfish choice but I love my wife and the life we have together and I want to keep living it, so I’m simply going to try and not let every story of injustice, pain, fear and the selfish cruelty of human to human seep into my soul.

But I can’t keep it all out. I doubt anyone with a shred of empathy can simply shut out the entire world, especially when it sneaks in under your defenses by being so close to your own experience. For me this month there were three stories – the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Dylan Farrow’s open letter, and the suicide of a man named Justin Carmical. I did not know Justin – I occasionally watched a video he made, and that was about it. He and I were the same age, had similar interests (he was far more into Japanese import games that I was) and last month, he took his own life. I’m not privy to the personal details of his life, so that’s about all I can say on the subject.

I’ve struggled with drug and alcohol addiction ever since I was thirteen years old. In my case, I started sneaking booze out of my parents’ liquor stash because it allowed me to fit in with other kids I was trying to hang out with, and because it helped me blot out the pain of other things that were going on in my life (I talked about one of them yesterday) and I kept drinking until my 29th birthday. I discovered other kinds of drugs after my mom died, when a cousin introduced me to opiates at her funeral in an act he probably intended as a kindness. Those I was on for about a year before I managed to stop. I’ve taken other drugs – some, like the mushrooms I consumed for psychoactive purposes, I still consider somewhat harmless, while others, like the speed I took while trying to stay awake for weeks at a time in grad school, I definitely do not – but I have to admit that for me, none ever took the place of alcohol, my first and greatest addiction. To this day, I think about drinking almost every single day.

My use of opiates (medical ones, stolen from a supply my grandfather left behind when he died) started up just before I attempted suicide. So for me, alcohol and drugs, suicide, and my survivor issues have all dovetailed – these things are related in my mind. Would I have attempted to blow my brains out if I wasn’t coming down and saw no way to get anything to ease the pain, at the tail end of a three day booze and morphine jag? Possibly not. Would I have done those things if I hadn’t been sexually abused for three years, and had my ability to cope with pain and loss ripped out by the roots? I have no idea. I don’t know now, I didn’t know then, and I don’t expect I’ll ever know. My mother’s death also played a part, of course. She was the only person I ever believed actually gave a shit about me at that point. Even so, I never told her the truth – not about the abuse, not about my stealing her booze, none of it.

I’ve seen variations on the idea expressed before that for those that have been there, no explanation is necessary, and for those who have not, none will suffice. If that’s true, then I’m wasting time writing this. This month, I’ve been forced to come face to face with the deaths of two men which could have, at one time or another, been my death, and see the courage of a woman dealing with something very similar to what started me down the path towards those two deaths that still wait for me. Seeing the agony of suicide always makes me shudder, and imagine the life I’ve had that I wouldn’t have had – I find it impossible and disgusting when people stand in judgment of someone in that kind of pain. Seeing someone lose to drug addiction is no easier – addiction is like knowing that every day, you’re at risk of being mauled to death by your own actions, that all it takes is one mistake and your gone.

Everyone’s life is unique to them, even if it contains familiar elements we can recognize. My own life is no less so – but ultimately, it’s the only real perspective I’ll ever have on the world. I can’t drown in every tragedy, can’t weep for every lost soul, or I’d run out of tears. This month, though… some months you feel more than you want.

I hope you all find your way through. I hope I do, too.

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