The tyranny of substance abuse

Man's wrist chained to a bottle of alcoholHello again, MHT! I’ve typically taken it upon myself to speak here about schizophrenia, but something else has been on my mind recently and I asked Trish if she’d allow me to talk about it here as it’s a more appropriate place for it than my own site. She said “sure” so here I am!

I wanted to tell a story. It’s essentially every part of my life that has to do with substance abuse, yanked out of my biography and left in chronological order. In this saga you’ll see the lasting effects of addiction and how it travels on down the stream of time compounding every other problem of life and creating more that didn’t have to be.

I’m not going to change details, however I am going to leave some out just for privacy’s sake. Please be aware that if there are vague moments, I’m purposefully leaving them that way. Let me begin…

The Genetic Backstory

The start of this story sounds like a triumph until you realize how absolutely heart-breaking it is in the end. My grandparents on my mother’s side are not from the United States, but from a majestic East Asian country that I’m proud to be associated with, however disconnected this association is. My grandfather growing up as a boy and on through young adulthood lived the life of the victim of alcoholism. It wasn’t his own doing. His father was an unapologetic drunk who would be overbearing, belligerent, and violent. As soon as the opportunity arose, my grandfather left the country. He actually lived all around the world before settling in the United States. He put his foot down, pulled up roots and said, “No more. I will not live in this state of anxiety, fear, and depression.” I’m very proud that this man is my grandfather and appreciate the sacrifices he made to ensure a better life for himself, his wife, and his children.

Unfortunately, alcoholism also ran rampant genetically on my father’s side of the family too. Although my grandfather and my uncles never fell into the trap, my own father did and bad. This is the heart-breaking part. My grandfather sought to provide a life free of alcoholism for his children, and my mother married an awesome man who would eventually become trapped in a cycle of addiction.

My Early Years

My earliest memories I can access are those of my father being in a rage, punching holes in the wall, trying to harm the family pets, screaming, and altogether acting the fool. I remember that “Daddy has to go away for a while,” which was his first round of rehabilitation I learned later. I also learned later that he wasn’t just drinking but he was also using cocaine. This becomes relevant further in the story.

My dad did become sober, but what we know as a “dry drunk.” He still acted like a drunk. He was manipulative, oppressive, mean, and controlling. But he was also a good supportive father who taught me great values, provided more than I needed, and made sure that I knew that he loved me. Please realize that this isn’t meant to be a bash-fest of a good man with great intentions. It’s just the reality that once drugs come into the picture, actions don’t always align with intention.

One of the ways people who keep “screwing up” in this fashion show their love is through the giving of gifts. I had plenty of video games, a decent allowance, and the most absurd Christmas mornings you’d ever see. I was embarrassed at how many things I’d receive, to be honest, which is great. That’s how authoritarian style thinking goes. It’s one extreme or the other. And the other was in the picture too. The punishments were as absurd as the rewards.

This affected myself, my siblings, and my mom in ways I can see now. All three children as toddlers learned to express emotions in the only way possible, which was tantrums and anger. This carried over longer than it should have as we suppressed other emotions. My mom became used to the unpredictability of the situation, especially the finances. So when times were good, she’d purchase incredible amounts of dry and canned foods. She’d also refuse to get rid of anything under the chance that we might need it one day (and not have access to new versions). She became a borderline or very light hoarder.

My dad was sober again from when I was about 8 or 9 until I was 18 years old. That time period, looking back, was horrible still. One of the ways I was controlled along with my brother was through being forced to join in on his compulsions, such as extreme fundamentalist Christianity and workaholism. If I wasn’t in school, I was in church or doing ridiculous amounts of yard work for no reason. I have a great work ethic now and a deep sense of spirituality. I’ll salvage that time period by saying that much.

Young Adulthood

Times were better because I went off to college and learned to be under my own rule. As you can imagine, I was an overly responsible young man. I didn’t have a lot of fun, but I did get top grades and awards! It was the same through high school, which resulted in me having a full scholarship to wherever I wanted to go for college. I was an academic success, in great physical shape, had a beautiful equally successful girlfriend… and I was a nervous, over-disciplined wreck. As you can imagine, I had to fend off my father’s attempts to give, give, give, which I now see as an unintentional way of attempting to control still. I didn’t have to, but I began working while in college in order to pay for everything I could possibly need so that I could begin cutting any tie of dependence from my father.

I also began questioning Christianity because it wasn’t capable of dealing with some of the philosophical questions I had, on top of explaining the situation I had been living. I really became attracted to Eastern philosophies, especially that of Buddhism and Hinduism. And this really upset my father. Things got to the point where I didn’t feel comfortable visiting my parents from college because he’d try to force me to spend Saturday night and go to church on Sunday morning, which I did at first until I realized the game would then become staying for Sunday evening service. When I’d explain that I had hours to drive home and still had homework, he’d become angry and start a huge blow-out argument. So I quit going home for a while.

The First Relapse

During college, my dad got a wonderful opportunity to travel to another state for 5 months for work. It was all expenses paid and included a temporary pay raise, so of course he took it. It was a great deal. I visited him a few things were great. He had an amazing apartment, a daily stipend which would pay for groceries and restaurants, a gym, etc. He’d always have ice cream sandwiches stashed, which thrilled me. We’d eat far more than any human should. But upon the third visit, I noticed next to the ice cream in the fridge that there were non-alcoholic beers.

By the time he returned home for good, he was in full-blown relapse. Things were going to be different this time, because I was a man now, right? I tried my best. I stood up for myself and others, resulting in several near fist-fights with my own father. People began to get hurt when he’d throw things. There’d be incidents in public. The DUI’s started rolling in. He was banned from going to several establishments. The years were passing by in this way and I continued to visit and hold my ground, because I loved my parents. I eventually found out that after about three years of drinking, something had started going on.

The bank accounts were empty and being over drafted daily. In one year, the money was completely gone. I confronted him in a heart to heart and he admitted to having used cocaine when I was younger and revealed that at a bar someone invited him to try smoking crack. And that’s what was going on. And he wanted out of it. The escape is never that simple.

The Critical Moments

Just because you want to quit doesn’t mean you can quit. I’ve learned that people with little self-esteem have no rock bottom. Things can go to completion, if you know what I mean. Before the next three years were over, my father had lost his job through poor performance and absenteeism and failing the three opportunities they gave him for inpatient rehab. The company appreciated him and forced him to retire instead of being fired. He then had access to his stock options and retirement accounts. Before you knew it, they were gone too. The house had been remortgaged and they now owed more on it than the value of it ever was, after being close to paying it off completely. It got so bad that he never came home on Christmas morning. He literally abandoned us at my grandfather’s funeral (the one who tried to put an end to this cycle for his family). He missed the service and went to get high instead. And then, ultimately, there simply was no more money, no more credit to be extended, it was over… except the drug dealers began fronting him his drugs. Then they came to collect.

He began trading his vehicle so the dealers couldn’t find him. But then he’d go back and have to trade cars again (in his mind). He couldn’t have them seeing him driving around town or following him home. After trading the value of his car down to almost nothing, he was driving a junker and they still found him. This is not how the story was revealed to me (I was told it was an accident), but this was his first trip to the hospital for stitches on his head and a concussion. They beat him in his own driveway. At this point, my dad was able to quit using crack.

However, he never stopped drinking. This resulted in a car wreck into a ditch and being airlifted to the hospital for head injuries again. This resulted in my mom “tripping” several times, breaking her wrist and her knee. This resulted in them falling down the stairs together with her snapping her leg and him with head injuries for the third time. Finally, following my lead and beginning to accept that he had issues, he saw a psychiatrist. Mental illness wasn’t real, he had said for years, despite me explaining that I was having success with medication for anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. It was his panic attacks that drove enough desperation in his heart to get him to accept medicine. The doctor fortunately gave him medicine panic, anxiety, and to help him stop drinking. He finally was sober again after eight more years of this nonsense.

My Experiments with Psychedelics

You see, I had finished my first degree just because I was so close, and I went back to study Psychology. Due to living around addiction my entire life, I pursued a career in the field and even worked as a substance abuse counselor at a treatment center for years. I’m still involved with a website with my friends from that job, trying to fight the good fight. But during that time in college I had become interested in psychology while studying the different spiritualities and philosophies in my own free time. This also led to me discovering the psychedelic community, of which my brother was already involved in, so I had easy access. It was during the middle of my father’s eight year relapse that I began exploring my mind and soul in a very serious way and I was convinced that there were tools that could help me. What started with marijuana led to mushrooms, LSD, and other things. I did learn so much from these times. I was never a recreational user (except marijuana for about a year) and I took these experiments very seriously, being as cautious as possible.

My friends and I realized that I was unique amongst our group in that I was very sensitive to these substances. I would “go farther” than they would on the same doses so I had to use less. Without delving deep into it as it was already explored in my other posts here, this is what uncovered my latent schizophrenia symptoms and drew me into an entirely new chapter of my life. Before I understood what was going on, I spent a year dealing with constant panic attacks, anxiety, depression, and two full years of derealization and depersonalization. Derealization and depersonalization, I’m convinced, are some of the worst psychological symptoms anyone can deal with, as many of you know.

The Second Relapse

And here the story ends. This is my reason for writing this post. My dad lasted one year before trying to obtain another job. He found someone willing to hire him but he had to go for a two-week training session in another state. This was horrible. It was recreating the exact circumstances of his first relapse. As it turns out, he didn’t even make it out of town before he was drinking hard liquor. He had ordered drinks on the plane before it even left the ground. He ended up sabotaging the possibility of him having that job by being drunk and attempting to fight his co-trainees. He came home and blamed everyone and everything else for this disaster. Things got bad really fast. He was back to where he was and worse.

My mother, for the first time in my life, had had enough. She left home and would go stay with her children in their various homes and would check in on the weekends back home. Things were only amplifying and getting worse. He began calling all of us non-stop threatening to hurt us, but he was never able to get into his car and drive due to the breathalyzer installed.

Remember before when I said, “Hey, I’m a man now and I’ll stand up for myself”? That has now evolved from standing up for myself to not standing for it at all. My mother’s co-dependence got the best of her and she returned home. I called one time to tell them that I could no longer be a part of their lives. That even if things got better, there was the risk of relapse at any time. I couldn’t bare to watch my mother work two jobs any more so she could enable my father to continue being a violent drunkard.

Conclusion

And I’ve stood by that. I’m done. I don’t know what’s going on with them right now. It’s been months. This isn’t the tough love approach. This isn’t trying to save anyone or help. This is finally following in the footsteps of my mom’s father who said “no more.”

Substance abuse effects more than just the health and mindstate of the individual using. It destroys relationships and causes stress to everyone you know and everyone they know. It destroys finances, careers, and reputations. And worst of all, it has a lasting impact on the hearts and minds of the children who have an entire lifetime ahead of them. Who have to go out into life a mile behind the starting line, learning how to deal with fundamental emotions, seeking out positive role models, attempting to understand what is normal or not.

Sure, many of us are stronger for having had these types of experiences. But that doesn’t stop us all from wondering what it would have been like otherwise.

 

Image credit: Imagens Evangélicas

 

Schiz LifeJared’s experiences with schizophrenia inspired him to start an information hub concerning all of the information surrounding this mental illness.  You can find this information and more at his website: www.SchizLife.com.

You can view all of Jared’s MHT guest posts by clicking here.


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