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Before Recovery: 52 Years In 7 Chapters

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.

Before Recovery:  Part 5 – Constant Chaos

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.

Part 1: Trauma LegacyPart 2: Wandering LostPart 3: Worlds CollidingPart 4: Heavy Burdens
Constant Chaos
Matthew – Nick – 1997

…..

I went outside my marriage many times. It was easier to have those kinds of experiences rather than to devote anything consequential to my marriage and child. I was devoid of emotion. I was a highly functioning man with hell living in his soul. I began to collect Article 15 Discipline Reports for stupid things: For showing up late for formation. For talking back to an NCO, uniforms not up to specifications…I stayed away from my young family for entire weekends isolating and drinking and suffering. Toward the end I was a drunken mess.

As my orders came through for a deployment back to the USA, I rotated my then again pregnant wife back to the States and promptly got myself charged with an OUI in Germany. In August of 1994, after such a brilliant start, my military career was over. They started Separation Proceedings on me for “habitual misconduct;” this, just after I received my Good Conduct Medal!

I was discharged in August of 1994 with a General under Honorable Conditions. Even though it was an Honorable Discharge, it was a crushing blow that I never recovered from. My lovely second son, Matthew was born 5 days later. It didn’t matter; my life would never be the same again.

Filled with sadness and misery, resentment and depression, I spent the majority of my adult life drinking and drugging my life into ruins time and time again. From 1994, until my divorce in 1997, I drank and began doing cocaine on a nightly basis. I used to only drink on extended weekends. However, since joining the car business, my frequency ramped up in a hurry. The automotive industry was an environment full of anything you wanted, when you wanted it. I was extremely successful and worked as many hours as I could, barely present in the home. I couldn’t handle the newfound wealth. I blew most of it and still had money to pay all the bills. I acquired and lost many, many jobs during those 3 years. I alienated nearly all of my friends with my drunken babblings and blackouts.

Nick’s Holy Communion – 1998

My relationship with my wife and her family was irreparably damaged. Eventually I spiraled down to the point that I simply left my family and moved back to NH, hell-bent on regaining my footing before I completely destroyed my family. But I had already told my wife I was leaving her in the Fall of 1997, and she promptly served me with Divorce Papers. I couldn’t blame her one bit.

I was never fully present in that relationship. I didn’t know how to be. Prior to my divorce, until I started getting regular visitation, I never gave fatherhood a chance. I was too distraught and too (seemingly) bent on my self-destruction; fixated on watching my world disappear into an abyss of drinking, drugging, nightmares, and misery. It took a mere three months for me to fail; for me to alienate dealership staff.

I was fired because, though my customers liked me, dealership employees hated me. I always thought it was because I was better at my job than they were. Yeah, boy was I ever wrong. I descended into the black wormhole of my despair and self-loathing, although I had no money to drink or drug. My nightmares, flashbacks resumed with a vengeance and I had panic attacks every time I heard noises outside my door.

I blacked out all the windows in my apartment. I ate toast and drank water. I went into the worst depression I had ever known. I lay on the couch for so many days straight I had to be given morphine for a massive ear infection I contracted for being on one side for so long.

I was not drinking or drugging the entire time I was in NH; perhaps that is why I crashed, I really don’t know. During the last week of January, 1998, I purchased a gun and ammo. I threw out most of my belongings and packed up the rest. Before I decided to kill myself, on my 35th birthday January 27th, I called to say goodbye to my children and my ex-wife promptly called the police who were charging through my apartment door in what seemed like minutes. It scared me so badly I vomited and threw the gun into the kitchen. I voluntarily committed myself to the Portsmouth Pavilion Hospital in Portsmouth, N.H.

Portsmouth Pavilion

After being an inpatient at the hospital for nearly two months and getting medications that turned me into an unfeeling zombi–I left heavily medicated—I left feeling guarded optimism. I secured a new position in the car business and my drinking was curbed to almost nothing. After about 6 months I was offered a better position at the Ira Motor Group, made too many drinking and drugging friends, and quickly fell back into the pattern of being a huge success in the car business and an utter failure personally. Cocaine had contributed significantly to my depression and ever-growing paranoia and panic attacks I experienced. But under its pull, I felt invincible and took the punishments with the highs…to be continued.

Part 6: Balancing Act

Before Recovery:  Part 4 – Heavy Burdens

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.

Part 1: Trauma LegacyPart 2: Wandering LostPart 3: Worlds Colliding
Heavy Burdens

….

With my life apparently going nowhere—I was unable to secure a job as a teacher upon graduating from College—I thought it would be great to serve my country and see the world.  I have always been exceptionally patriotic; something my friends during those years used to think was ridiculous. I did not.  I found something to believe in when I had no faith in myself.  My first attempt at joining was in 1990.  While I awaited enlistment far from my home in Trenton, NJ.

I had tried to get a teaching job that had forced my relocation from New Hampshire, and had gotten fired because I lapsed on my car loan and couldn’t transport one of the directors around–I tried to bury my depression, nightmares, loneliness, and self-loathing in a constant haze of booze and then, for the first time, cocaine.  I was told I was denied entry due to acne, but I know my enlistment officer knew I was getting high as I lived with him at the time.

Devastated by the Army’s rejection, I took my enlistment officer’s .357 and put it to my head and was going to kill myself; however, of all things, I let the fact that his kitten was looking at me freeze me in my tracks:  I didn’t like the idea of doing that to the animal.  I managed to save my money from waiting on tables for the mob (who paid quite well) and from selling shoes.  I saved enough to get myself to Massachusetts, where my two closest friends resided.

I managed to stay gainfully employed as a cook at the Mug N’ Muffin, my best friends family chain of restaurants, for nearly a year when the Persian Gulf War erupted;  it was then that I decided I would try to enlist again.  It was around that time that I met my future wife.  Exactly the same day I told her I was enlisting in the Army, in February of 1991, she informed me she was pregnant.  I decided for once that it just wouldn’t be right to leave her hanging with this baby by herself, that I would grow up and take responsibility and try to somehow make it work.

Though Basic Training was tough for me—I was 27 surrounded by much younger kids able to adapt more quickly than me—I was enthralled to be serving my country.  I think that experience somehow forced my hand by having me prematurely propose to my girlfriend on the phone during Basic Training, knowing full well my gut was telling me NO! I would have to hide in the latrine and cry and wretch as my nightmares threatened to collapse my sanity. But I gutted it out. I made it through Basic and completed my Advanced Individual Training in the top 2% of my class.

I married days after graduation.  In that dark and dreary church, with two friends, I knew I was making a terrible mistake.  But, true to form, I simply was incapable of thinking for myself and did it anyway.  I was assigned to Augsburg Germany as a Records Specialist straight out of AIT.  I loved being able to serve my country but I was very unhappy about being assigned to a country that committed the atrocities that it did. 

Before my spouse was allowed to come over, I had to make preparations and finish entering my duty station.  So I went to Germany and was alone from August of 1991 until early October.  Then the worst thing possible happened: my phone woke me up in the dead of night; my wife was screaming into the phone that she had lost our baby; that she had a miscarriage.  I will never forget what sounded to me like my mind literally tearing.  I will never forget telling God that night that I hated his f*&$-ing guts. 

A few years after I exited the Army, and only after many hours and hard drinking, the friend who had driven to South Carolina to be in my “wedding” years later, finally managed to convince me that my ex-wife had made up the story that she was pregnant.  After all, where was the body of my 8 month old dead child?  At what hospital did she have this miscarriage?  How did it all go down? 

After investigating those and other questions through hospital channels in and around Milton, Ma., I discovered the disgusting truth—though she never discussed it or would admit it—it was an impossibility that she “lost” our baby.  It took me a long, long time to forgive her for that.  I knew I had to if I was going to be, and stay, truly recovered.  I hadn’t given it much thought then.  But at the time of our marriage I did wonder why she didn’t show at all in August.  I did wonder at her seemingly calm demeanor through it all, when I was a hot mess.  Anyway, it must have creeped into my unconscious as our relationship eventually unraveled in time over in Germany.

I barely managed to keep things together with such back to back terrible incidents in my early military career.  I excelled at everything military and I quickly racked up military accolades and received a merit promotion with less than two years of service, even passing the Officer Candidate School Exam after two tries. 

However, Rob1, carrying heavy burdens from his youth and the sudden loss of his child, was slowly festering with a deep, unending sadness and depression. My highs and lows got higher and lower. I was slowly beginning to drink more heavily, retreated further into myself and withdrew from my ex who by then was pregnant again. I welcomed opportunities to get extra duty so I didn’t have to manage emotions, just manage the undemanding work of guard duty. Even the birth of my beautiful son Nicholas couldn’t save me…to be continued.

Part 5: Constant Chaos

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.

Part 1: Trauma LegacyPart 2: Wandering Lost
Worlds Colliding

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.

Part 4: Heavy Burdens

Before Recovery: Part 2 – Wandering Lost

This my story before recovery. It 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.

Part 1: Trauma Legacy
Wandering Lost
Me-1978

….

After a few months’ probation realized my terrible circumstances, particularly the frequent bruises and welts I had during my sessions with them. They removed me from the home and placed me into a home for troubled teens. I was the youngest resident. I had terrible difficulties there. I was teased and picked on for my long hair and quiet, withdrawn disposition. It was then that my behavior of lengthy angry crying outbursts took flight. I would cry hysterically for hours.

The staff would have to restrain me and as I screamed and cried out my rage; no doubt releasing the years of horrible treatment and sexual abuse at the hands “family.”  Around 13 the courts ordered me to return to my home. I will never forget my mother’s hysterical reaction; she was so angry, she left the courthouse without giving me a ride home. I cried and shook with fear and begged my probation officer not to take me home. He had no choice in the matter.  During that half a year  stint I was either locked up, or locked out of my home, left to roam the streets.

My parents wouldn’t come home for hours after school let out and I was forced to remain locked out until they returned. I couldn’t be trusted they said.  I needed to stay outside and let off my steam they used to tell me frequently.  After a particularly bad streak of beatings, I ran away from home.  I was picked up and placed in the care of probation who returned me to the Webster House for troubled teens.

It wasn’t long before I made friends with a kid who smoked pot and began smoking it regularly.  I was caught and immediately kicked out of the Webster House and sent to the Youth Development Center, a juvenile lockup facility.  I will never forget the utter despair I felt upon hearing the heavy wooden door slam behind me as I was thrust into a filthy cell room.  I was left in there for about 6 or 7 days before I was allowed into the population.

Mom-Me-1979

Because I wasn’t a violent criminal, I was sent to a less restrictive community-based house of the YDC.  It was during my time at the Friendship House that I got to experience hiking, fishing, camping, jogging, and many different types of gym games and activities.  I was also to be challenged to my emotional limits in the youth groups which were mandatory. 

I was often removed for various emotional outbursts and spent much of my time planted at an eating room table, on restriction.  I could be very cutting with the wit and sarcasm I developed as my main defense mechanisms if I felt threatened or attacked.  I experienced frequent flashbacks, nightmares and minor panic attacks and told no one about them; making my stability precarious most of the time.

I rejected anyone who attempted to befriend me or who was being nice to me; though I did develop a love hate relationship with my direct counselor, Steven Geddes. But I do recall many fond memories there of learning how to ski, to play pool, and being challenged physically and emotionally on serious hiking trips into the White Mountains.  My love of nature continued to unfold and gave me some sense of peace and serenity in an otherwise chaotic existence.  I almost felt “normal” when participating in all kinds of activities at that facility.

From 14 to 18 I spent time in and out of that YDC home, group homes, and foster homes. I did not adjust well having to always move from place to place; always having to live in varying degrees of restriction. Invariably most of the Foster Homes would have kids with similar problems as mine and who tormented me and made fun of me because of my long hair and inability to interact well with other kids. I exhibited patterns of behavior that were self-sabotaging and unpredictable.

Youth Development Center-Manchester, N.H.

I continued using pot and I also was introduced to acid and LSD, which I did regularly, particularly my senior year of high school. Drugs not only helped me to escape reality, but they also provided me great relief; not only from my harsh realities, but also from my mental health issues as well.  If it weren’t for that one counselor keeping up with me, I am not sure I would have pulled myself out of the terrible angst I was experiencing at the time. My grades were barely good enough to move through 12th grade.

Me-High School-1983 19 yrs. old

However, when I turned 18 that frigid January of 1982, I was released from YDC and put out on the streets with no place to live and no money.  I felt alone and miserable, and rejected and forgotten and retreated further into me, lashing out at anyone who tried to come near me.  I was homeless for the remainder of my senior year in high school and began to get into more stupid trouble. 

I stole albums so I could eat. I slept in hallways and would constantly get spit at, kicked, and thrown out.  Try as I might I couldn’t attend enough school—embarrassed by not showering for days, and dead exhausted from lack of sleep at night—so I failed my senior year of High School, which was devastating to me…to be continued.

Part 3: Worlds Colliding
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