All my adult life I’ve been a sick man, trying hard to understand how to deal with a variety of illnesses that overtook me, one after the other, by surprise, by the age of twenty, at the very latest, when I was a university student down in the deep South. I had no clue about what to eat or drink in those days, or how to take care of myself otherwise, when I was on campus and on my own for the first time, five hundred miles away from home, as a young university student. I was far to wild and unruly in those days.
What I was doing, I figured, was living by the proposition that there is better living thru chemistry. In other words, I started smoking cigarettes as a small child of five, drinking alcohol at the tender young age of thirteen, began taking speed at the age of nineteen, then began smoking grass before I was twenty. Better living thru chemistry. Right. One of my doctors, rather far along the way said, in retrospect, that what I’d been doing was self-medicating, trying to find some relief for the way I felt, in getting drunk and getting high everyday.
I somehow, instinctively understood that there was something wrong with me, that I was not at all well, although you could not have gotten me to say so in so many words, for the longest time. I was mostly miserable when I was young, and had serious difficulties long before I ever got help with them.
My health took a nose dive into a very severe nervous breakdown my second or third year on campus down in Dixie. At that time, I’d been a child prodigy in music, working for a bachelor’s degree in music education, receiving merit scholarship awards quarterly as I went along. But there was a limit to my success which was beyond my own recognition or my own control. I managed to exceed that limit by the time I was only twenty years old.
Getting things done that I needed to get done was just not happening. All that was actually happening, after awhile there, was that I was partying till I dropped, and that was about it. I tried various recreational chemistry, to great excess, and found that I lost myself in my own imaginary world, where inanimate objects were talking to me. I stopped sleeping and eating, and the idea that I did not die outright, is a major miracle.
I was living in such an unhealthy fashion on campus that I came down with an acute toxic psychosis, and found myself in an emergency hospitalization situation at a state hospital in North Carolina, with my hair half way down my back. It was arranged for by the powers that be at the university, and there came a time when I stopped cooperating with the people in the hospital. I realized at one point that I needed help somehow, but it took the girlfriend I was going with at the time, a whole slew of doctors and psychologists, and two of the county Sheriffs, to help make the arrangements to get me the help that I so desperately needed. I had become enormously irrational and out of touch with what was going on around me. I even got to the point where I didn’t know my own name, and did not recognize my mother or my sister when they came to see me at the hospital.
There have always been things that I don’t understand about my life and my illness, but I’ve gotten most of those things covered by this late date in my life. I’m finally getting regular sleep and a regular diet of good food three times per day. At long last I’ve learned that my body cannot tolerate drugs or alcohol, that are not prescribed by a doctor. In fact, by body cannot tolerate any alcohol at all.
My prescribed medicine, which I’ve learned that I cannot do without, has managed to wreck my liver in the process of securing a relatively rational existence otherwise, in my life-long search for recovery. I even know some of the prescription chemicals to avoid by this time in my life. For instance, I know I can’t have Tylenol or caffeine. How harmless. Who would have guessed? I’m very lucky to have the kind of medical help, as well as all the other things they’re doing for me here at assisted living.
I’ve learned that, because I was a chronic runaway from the age of five, that I’ve never allowed myself to be properly parented. It’s not that I’m stupid, it’s just that my father was irrational and violent when I was little, and I never felt that I had a safe home to go to, as long as that man lived there. That fact has heaped a lot of bad habits on top of each other, in the way that I’ve lived, and in all the things that I’ve done to myself.
I’ve finally taken responsibility for my own illness and my own recovery, since I’ve taken hold of my health, and developed a lasting sobriety.