Before Recovery: Part 3 – Worlds Colliding
This is the story of my terribly traumatic childhood, the teenage years of self-discovery and chaos, the onset of alcohol abuse in college, my life as a soldier, the years of drug use, the disintegration of my family, and the dark descent that landed me in jail. I wrote this portion of my story as part of a recovery exercise while I was in treatment. What it lacks in detail, it makes up for in the sheer volume of chaos that alcohol wreaked upon my life.
In the summer of 1982, depressed, tired of skirmishes with the law, lonely and defeated, I decided one day just to hitchhike out of my hometown, Manchester NH. I had no idea where I was going, but I didn’t care. I ended up getting a ride from a man who would later attempt to sexually assault me.
This happened to me frequently; where I would be accosted by homosexual men or beat up for no apparent reason by other vagrant kids. So, for the most of the summer of 1982, I slept on the beach in Laconia, NH. I eventually got a job during that summer and saved enough to rent a small apartment. It was then that I started drinking heavily.
After I lost my job because I lost all hope and I attempted to cut my wrists in the public bathroom at weirs beach. Someone in the next stall saw the blood and got the police, who took me to the hospital. At the hospital I was introduced to a catholic family who agreed to take me in. That would begin a series of movements within various catholic families.
I wouldn’t stick to curfew, or I’d get into little arguments and they would just shuffle me to another family for a few months. I could not handle the warmth and affection these families would heap on me. I retreated into the recesses of my pain and misery further and further. With my first true friend of my life, Troy, I drank and smoked pot and listened to loud music to numb myself from the reality around me.
Being a new senior in a new high school was emotionally difficult. I was an outsider and they let me know it. Nobody liked me no matter what I did for them, no matter what…It was around this time that I began having shifts in moods that would become a pattern of super highs, and super lows.
I would be exuberant for a while, and then become buried under the influence of a major depression for weeks. I had no idea why my emotions would get so helter skelter. Fortunately my pot usage stemmed the tides of discontent and seemed to ease the panic attacks, headaches and my nightmares.
Through that year; however, I was doing very well in school, so my Guidance Counselor encouraged me to apply to some colleges. I never imagined that any school would want me; after all, I was always in trouble and most of my high school grades were lousy. But, in the summer of 1983 I learned that I had been accepted to Plymouth State College to study to become an English Teacher.
Because of the work Steven Geddes did with me, and because I didn’t ever want a kid left out on the streets like I was, I had decided I wanted to go into teaching to help other kids avoid the path that I had experienced, and to share my love of reading and poetry. It was during this time that I discovered I flare for writing poetry, it was an outlet from the expression of all my pent up angst.
During college is when I began to discover there were two “Rob’s” to my persona. Rob1 was chaotic, impulsive, depressed, and angry, didn’t seem to be aware of consequences, and hated himself. Rob2 was responsible, intelligent, controlled, could be funny, loving, and a problem-solver if he allowed you to know it.
All of my college years would be a contradiction of my two “selves.” I suffered terrible insecurities and anger at being first rejected by a fraternity that refused my pledge efforts, and then again chastised by my peers for my long hair and my proclivity for solitude. My days were spent studying hard, looking for girls to spend time with, writing poetry and isolating.
My weekends usually started on Thursday and didn’t end until Sundays late. Those were nights full of chaos, heavy drinking, promiscuity, impulsivity, the drinking spiraled out of control. Somehow I always managed to reel it in for my school work.
It was exhausting and caused many headaches and panic attacks and flashbacks (as well as horrendous nightmares) were the flavor of the night. If it weren’t for the Dean of students, Richard Hague, I probably would have been kicked out of school for my many transgressions there. It was always stupid things that led me to his office, never anything serious enough to warrant real discipline.
For some reason he seemed to have a soft spot for me and saw my potential because of the terrific grades I got. Also, if it weren’t for Dean Hague, I would have been homeless much of the time during the School Breaks. I did not have the support of any family to speak of, so I rarely had places to go when school let out.
All through college Dean Hague assisted me by allowing me to stay in the dorms a few times, without supervision. The rest of the time I stayed with professors, friends, girlfriends. Somehow I managed to graduate College with a 3.52 G.P.A., one of the few sources of pride for me in my life. The few other proud moments were being accepted into the military, fatherhood, my sobriety, and my current relationship with my love Bec (much more on that later).
My adult life after college became a series of calamities and fire extinguishing. I found solace in drinking, women, pot and poetry. The time between my graduation in 1988, and the time of my entrance into the Army in 1991 continued to be littered with depression, poor decision making, nightmares, disassociation, poor emotional regulation, and even worse impulse control.
I was fired from or quit dozens of jobs. I went on a tear of promiscuity, wanting to find love, but then running when it seemed too close to bear. My drinking was not a nightly thing yet, but there were hundreds of binge nights. I didn’t even stop to consider I might have a problem. I just kept on keeping…to be continued.