Journal Entry January 24, 2013
Today I had lunch with another fellow from the program. We were all forbidden to contact anyone that was in the program while we were in it, but I guess now that we are out, it’s OK to meet up. Truthfully, these are the only people I have had contact with in a long time, other than my family, and P. It makes sense to reach out to some of these people as I am starting the upward climb out of depression and into…what? What? That is the question. Where do I go from here? Am I ready to face a world that I failed miserably in, in my past? How do I know I won’t fail again? Who or what can I cling to when the world around me begins to crumble? But these are negative thoughts. And I’m not supposed to have negative thoughts. What can I replace them with? Surely as a graduate of the program I should be able to root around in my toolbox and find a way to silence the negativity that threatens to undo the good work that has been done, up until this point? Do I detect a note of sarcasm in that statement? Well, yes! Here I have spent all of this time in the program and once I am out, I can’t recall a single strategy to help myself with when the dark clouds fill my sky. That is pathetic! Must I run to my big, blue binder and flip through it to find an appropriate plan of action before I can act independently and come up with a solution? What is wrong with my brain that I have no recall…of virtually anything?! OK. I think I had better do some deep breathing exercises to deescalate. I do remember how to do that.
Anyway, back to lunch with J. I learned today that he is a recovering crack addict! Sheesh! Is there hurt and sorrow everywhere? Are we all damaged? Is there no respite from suffering? J’s story was harrowing…and very real. When he was finished, I asked him when the last time he had used was. He replied five months ago. Five months ago! Five months ago I was buried deep inside the bowels of my soul, unable to leave my bed. How torturous were those five months he must have experienced, but here he was, retelling his life and times as naturally as if he was commenting on the exploits of his children. I don’t think I said hardly anything all the while he talked. He just kept going on, and I just kept listening. When he was done he took a swill of his beer for a long moment. I think he was expecting me to say something, but at first no words came. I was still processing the information. Eventually I opened my mouth to speak, and we discussed aspects of his journey before moving on to more mundane topics.
So this was my second ‘date’ since returning to the real world. I almost preferred R not showing up to this time of J’s self-disclosure. I respect the fact that he wanted to be honest with me, but isn’t there a proper time and place when it is acceptable to divulge the private parts of our lives to one another? It certainly cannot be considered reasonable to spew forth the vile truths of our existence on a first date?! What IS this world I live in? On the surface it is full of people who move about their lives in happiness and harmony, but the dark underbelly of the world is peppered with the outcasts of society of which I am a bonafide, card carrying member. Does it ever make sense? Does the damage ever get reversed? Or do the weak just continue to fall and fall, thus coming undone in the end?
February 26, 2017
The day was a beautiful one. I remember that. I was optimistic that the outcome of this, my second ‘date’, would be far superior to that of my time waiting for R to show up. I mean, what were the chances of me being stood up two days in a row? Now that I consider the head space that anyone coming out of a therapeutic program is in, in the first few weeks of their return to reality, it’s rather amazing that J WAS at the chosen restaurant at the designated time. Although I primped and prepped a little for the outing, I did not obsess about my appearance. I did do my hair though, as my vanity had taken a severe hit when I saw my disheveled appearance in the glass in the doorway at Starbucks yesterday.
When I arrived at the restaurant, there was only a smattering of people seated sporadically around the room. J was sitting in a booth off to the side. When he saw me, he gave a friendly wave and I moved towards him. He helped me with my coat and made a comment on how pretty my hair looked. Take that, R! After we sat, he passed a menu to me and suggested we decide on what it was we wanted to eat, and then we could have a nice chat.
We sat there together in the nondescript booth, exchanging pleasantries, when all of a sudden he hit me with his truth. I was flabbergasted. I mean what do you say after someone says, “Yes, it is a lovely day! It sure seems like spring is on its way. Speaking of spring, could you spring for our meal? I have been a crack addict for the past 23 years, and I don’t have any money.” Talk about harsh honesty. After I propped my left hand under my chin to keep my jaw from dropping open any further, I stammered, “Wow, J. That’s tough. Sure I can pay.” ‘”Wow J. That’s tough???”‘ Not a very astute statement, coming from a girl who prides herself on being a good listener with a knack for coming up with a few select words that are appropriate to the current situation. But this was a situation I was completely unprepared for. What a nightmare story. All the pain that he has endured, and the pain that his addiction has brought to his family is inconceivable. And he looks like Joe Normal! I guess I had a preconceived and judgmental idea of what a crack addict should look like. Shame on me for depicting an image in my mind that was less than flattering. I suddenly developed an acute tightness in my chest, and I found it difficult to take in air. He then smiled at my glassy-eyed gaze. My eyes were open wide for so long they were beginning to dry out. I blinked quickly a few times to moisten them, and for an instant J’s face was colourfully distorted, like when I am looking through the eye piece of a kaleidoscope. The moment was ultra surreal. J appeared completely fragmented. He had broken into little, blurry pieces that shifted unevenly and swam before my eyes. I shook my head slightly in an attempt to clear the picture away. When I blinked one final time, his face returned to normal, and I let out a long, ragged breath in relief.
I must admit, I have a morbid phobia about getting addicted to drugs, although I have never done any, nor do I EVER want to do any. But the phobia has me dating a fellow who has a drug problem unbeknownst to me. As time goes on, I lose myself in him, as always seems to happen to me when I am dating. I am so influenced by him, that in time, I become an addict, too. Like most phobias, this is an irrational fear, but it has had me in its grip for a looonnng time. It is also the reason I haven’t dated anyone in years. Now to be sitting across from a man who actually lived this life was almost too much for me to bear. I felt a deep chill go through me. He continued relating his horrendous tale as I sat, my food growing cold, untouched on my plate. I sat listening to him, transfixed, until he finally finished talking.
I felt emotionally drained. Over the years, and in so many hospital programs, I have listened to a multitude of people bare their souls. Their stories have all been full of pain and pathos, and I have given little pieces of my heart to each person who has had the courage to share. But this confession was different. I think this story touched me so dramatically because it was not told in a hospital setting. And I was not a patient in a group that I was mandated to be a part of. J told his story simply and honestly, and the rawness of the telling cut through me like the razor blades on my wrists had done so in my past.
There was no awkward silence after he stopped talking, and before I spoke. Silence, yes. But is was respectful in nature. When I did begin to speak, I thanked him for his candour. It is an honour to listen to a person bare all, and I wanted him to know I appreciated his braveness. He was concerned that I had not eaten my meal, but I told him I would take it home and eat it for supper that night. After I paid the bill, he thanked me, walked me out to my car, and gave me a hug. I hugged him back, got in my car, and drove away. All the way home I was lost in thought. I think J is a good man. He is definitely an honest man, and his candid appraisal of his life was not short on self-deprecating humour. But his is a damaged soul. Perhaps beyond repair? I guess that has yet to be seen.