We all have our struggles. From the outside, some seem harder than others, but for each of us, our own struggles are just as hard as anyone else. Some struggle with money, some struggle with drugs, others with alcohol, others with anger, and the list can go on and on. Beneath each outward sign of struggle, there is always an underlying issue. For myself, it is fear, for others, it might be something else. I have, as long as I can remember, always had a fear of rejection – along with others, but my “root” fear has always been that no matter what I do, say or how I act, I will never be good enough. Now, my mother says it comes from circumstances in the womb, and that is probably true, but what started as a small seed, grew into a tree so massive that cast shadows over my entire life. What began as something that could be trampled, became something that needed to be cut down. Not only cut down but processed – the trunk needed to be cut into smaller pieces, the branches and leaves needed to be chipped into wood chips, and then after all of that it still needed to be burned. The miracle of that is that the ashes could be used to re-cultivate the garden bed of my soul – turning something that Satan intended for death into something God could use to bring forth life.
Fear, in and of itself, is evil. It is a “base” sin – seen throughout the creation story. Adam needed a companion, not just because he’d be bored – he had all the animals and the plant life – he even had God – but so he would not be alone. Loneliness breeds fear. God knew Adam would be lonely, knowing this He also knew Adam would be exposed, naked, therefore vulnerable to fear. The irony is that with the new creation brought along pride and the eventual Fall of man, but that is another post. However, through the Fall of man, through pride and eventual fear and nakedness, God brought forth His plan of a new creation through His Son Jesus. Through a battle that Satan had won – bringing death to man, God brought forth life through our need for salvation through His Son.
Throughout my life I have been blessed. My parents have loved me, prayed for me, taken care of me, been there for me, etc. There have always been people in my life who were there for me, to listen, to hold me, to cry with me, to laugh with me, etc. However, I found myself throwing them away – taking them for granted – pushing them farther and farther away. Why? Simple, fear. For whatever reason, I allowed fear to grow. Now, many people would say this was influenced bo so and so or such and such, and that may be so, but I am the one who would not truly call for help. Why? Again, fear. I know, seems like a paradox, how then you might ask can you deal with fear if you are afraid to deal with it – or afraid to allow it to be dealt with. Well then, here is my story.
I served my country, the United States of America, honorably in the United States of the Marine Corps for five years. We were taught our fear was good, we were taught to harness it and take control of it. We were taught to use our fear to stay aware and to us it as an advantage over the enemy. For our purposes, it worked. However, the fear still remained. How to cope… well, no offense against military chaplains (especially Padre Steve), but most chaplains I ran into had no clue what to say or what was even going on. Psycologist don’t help – they just want to put you on medication – well, I already had a medication, it was alcohol. At first, drank only on the weekends, weekends became Wednesday too, then Monday, then every night. I didn’t drink to function, i drank so I wouldn’t be afraid anymore. When I drank, I was fearless… hell, I could even evangelize, which is ironic. I could handle all the thoughts running through my head with ease. Whether it was military stuff, or fiancee problems (or girl friend problems), family issues, religious issues, you name it, I could both process it and handle it. Along the way, I lost friends, my fiancee, etc… and at first it brought fear, so I drank – I no longer feared rejection, I expected it. Well, eventually came college once I was out, then my dad has his stroke. I saw my dad’s stroke as God rejecting me… and not just me, but my family. Sure, my mother has always kept the faith, me, I lost it. I didn’t care anymore… I didn’t expect to make it to 25, much less 27, so I drank. In the Spring of 2008 I moved to Athens, GA to attend the University of Georgia. My class size got bigger – I “hate” people (fear of rejection) and I had sever anxiety… so I drank, smoked some marijuana on occasion, and my anxiety left me. I was doing great… then I met my future wife, Ruth Anne.
I don’t remember adding her on Facebook, I was probably drunk – no, I’m positive I was, I lived drunk. To me, to be drunk was to be sober… to be sober, well, I didn’t know what that meant anymore. Did I drink all the time? No, but I drank a lot – remember, it takes 72 hours at least for alcohol to process out of someones system… I probably had enough alcohol after drinking for seven years straight to take God knows how long to process out of my system. I digress, one day in September she messaged me, or I messaged her.. don’t remember, and we started talking… and we talked and talked and talked and… well, in the short of it, she flew from Providence, RI to Athens, GA to see me. I remember some of it, I remember picking her up, I remember our first kiss, I remember Pat giving me the thumbs up sign as he walked out my door. I remember watching Rome (or Sons of Anarchy – I think it was Rome, I think Sons was in January). That’s it… well, I remember a few other things… smoking a joint and other stuff that, well, its private. She came back in January, pretty much the same scenario. I got a call in February from her… she was pregnant. Part of me was thrilled, part of me feared my mother, and the rest of me feared reality – I was going to be a dad. I feared I wasn’t good enough, I even asked God why in the hell would he allow a beautiful and precious woman to get pregnant by a drunk, arrogant asshole like me. I picture God laughing. Her dad, Noel, called me one Wednesday morning right before I had a Latin test… basically asking me what I was going to do. I was so nervous, so full of fear – and he was in Rhode Island -that I drank almost an entire fifth of Evan Williams – btw, I aced my test. After that I had church people telling me to “do the right thing,” to “take responsibilty,” and, “God has a purpose for this.” My response, go fuck yourself. I was scared, so again, I turned to alcohol and other vices, mainly women and marijuana. Up to that point, I may have smoked a joint once or twice a month, now I was smoking one once or twice a week. I got a new girlfriend – a young girlfriend. I drank more then than I ever have in my entire life, until I almost got thrown out of a window. I woke up the next morning scared shitless. I had never been so scared in my life – I was alone, hungover… I prayed, and I made my choice. I was going to say yes… I was going to move to Rhode Island, marry Ruth Anne, and raise a family.
Well, I moved to Rhode Island, married Ruth Anne – then Katherine was born, then Johnny, then Karl. I was afraid. So I drank… smoked a little bit (maybe four joints over four years), but I drank. Not only did I drink, but I began at times to talk to other women. Not for any sexualy satisfaction, I would drink and my fear would be gone so I would feel like I could pour my soul out – and honestly, guys aren’t always the most fun people to talk to – and so, well… I wanted, I needed someone to talk to, and I felt like if I talked to my wife… who by this point wouldn’t talk to me anyways because I was drunk – I would be rejected, well, in a away, I felt like I was being rejected. I told myself that no one understood – and truth be told, my wife and her family didn’t and still don’t – but that is not their fault, in fact I think that is actually a blessing, but neither did the people I was talking to. Besides, I was so full of shit it wouldn’t have mattered anyways. I told myself, well, I’ll only drink on the weekends, and I would find myself waiting anxiously for it to turn Thursday – the day we get paid – so I could go buy my twelve pack and my liter and a half bottle of cheap vodka. Little by little, I kept crawling down the stairs into an abyss that I thought was actually a garden, until finally I free fell.
LAst Thursday night – September 5, 2013 – I hit bottom. I drank (it is a common thread throughout this piece) and I got into an argument with my wife. The reason for the argument is not important, the outcome is. Eventually, the argument reached its climax, Ruth Anne took my vodka glass and threw it against the wall and turned to walk away. First, she threw my glass… anger sets in… then she walked away… rejection sets in… anger + rejection * drunk = Jared goes from being a normal nice asshole to well… it isn’t pretty, it isn’t nice, it is beyond asshole or hardass or whatever you want to call it… its more like the bombs dropped on Japan to end WWII. So, in that rage, I threw a beer bottle in Ruth Anne’s direction. Thank God I didn’t physically hurt her… but that isn’t the point. I eventually calmed down, went upstairs and went to sleep on the couch. I woke up a few hours later to find five Providence Police officers in my living room, and we all know what happens next, I got arrested for domestic violence. Thank God Ruth Anne talked to my brother JAcob who told her to call the cops, thank God she listened – if she would have let me be, I would not be writing this right now. So, to make this long story short – I went to jail, got arraigned, released on my on recognizance, no contact order, etc, etc. I had finally hit a bottom that I could not get up from by myself. I realized that it no longer was just me that was affected by my fear and drinking, it was Ruth Anne, Katherine, John and Karl – it was my family and Ruth Anne’s family. It was my co-workers and friends (practically family) – but obviously the most important of those groups is my wife and children.
I’m not going to go into all of the particulars of that night in jail or the days afterwards until now. Some of you who read this will have the unfortunate opportunity to actually read the journal I have been keeping – up to 22 pages so far. I cried out to God, and for once, for whatever reason, I actually felt peace. I cried, and He whispered to me, “You are a Daniel,” something my mother told me a long time ago. I told God words my father told him six years ago, Father, whatever it takes… I was so afraid I had lost everything… I know people say that all the time, but it is not the same, I was so afraid my life was over – of course, if I hadn’t ended up there, I probably would not have seen 34, I don’t think I would have seen Christmas, maybe even Thanksgiving. My wife would have had to deal with losing a husband to fear and alcohol, my kids, losing their daddy, my mother, losing her oldest son, her son of promise (she wasn’t supposed to be able to have kids, but Jehovah Remembered His promise -hence my middle name Zachary – also my name saint for confirmation) before she lost her husband. I got released, and I am, for the time being, staying at my mother and father-in-law’s house – they have been wonderful. I see my kids at least once a day, but I can’t see my wife yet, and I know it is killing us both – probably her more than me. I know longer fear – do I still get anxious, yes, still worry, obsolutely, but instead of trying to deal with it or cope I hand it over to God. There was no way for me to conquer my fear, therefore there was no way for me to conquer my addiction – only God can, but I had to come to that place where I actually wanted Him to, I had to come to that place where I realized that I do want to live, that this life is worth living, that my life is worth living, and most importantly, that God and my family is worth living for and that I will not be rejected, I will not be pushed away, that I am loved.
I have been sober now for eight days, the longest period in a long time. I voluntarily decided to start going to AA, and I actually like it. Will I always go to AA, I don’t know, but it is refreshing to be around people who are just as afraid and messed up as I have ever been, and to hear their stories of both triumph and defeat, to hear their fears and to hear their stories, and to realize that I am not alone. It is refreshing to be able to open up my heart and share and not get advice… or have some priest or pastor who hasn’t drank in his life or had an addiction problem, or anyone, not just clergy – tell me how I should fix it. IF you have never been addicted to something like drugs or alcohol… something that is quite frankly death, then you have no idea. You may know drunks, your parents might have been drunks or addicts or both – so you know how to be the victim, but you don’t know what it is like to live within yourself and be able to see out of your eyes and yet have no control… and to fear it when you are in that state, but long for it when your not. I know it isn’t going to be easy… and I don’t take that for granted. I also know I can’t do it by myself, I can only be healed by the Grace and Mercy of God. I also know I have a wonderful pillar of support from my wife, she is the most amazing, beautiful and wonderful woman I have ever known… I am so blessed to have her and my children, and I can now honestly say I wouldn’t trade her or my children for anything else in the world.
To finish, I was not able to spend my fourth anniversary with my wife, it was Thursday, September 12. However, I know when I do return to my home and her arms, whether that is Monday or Tuesday – or Thursday, it will make up for that and then some. For everyone who has been praying, I thank you, you all are such a blessing.