After being sober for four years, not working a spiritual program, I began faltering. Just going to a job, working out, and having dinner-night with family didn’t keep the skeletons at bay.
I stayed home more than I was working. Thoughts and ideas swirled through my head. I still rocked back and forth on the bed, as I did when I was eight. Fortunately, none of my girlfriends seemed to mind.
Having a tendency to shut out people, my home became my best companion. Days bled into days as I pondered what I thought were life’s questions. As lofty as it seemed, it’s an invisible downward spiral. It whispered its rewards to me. It wanted me to forget about everything and roam the lands, like a prophet, like the Beat Generation of the Fifties. It seemed harmless.
Eventually, my reclusion started to take my confidence away. This confidence is false to begin with, having been created from my adolescent ego. It is leftover from the years I strutted with the false illusion of importance while buzzed on booze.
I’m becoming naked in humanity’s eyes. I’m forgetting how to smile when spoken to, and to laugh at the punch. My PTSD, of the total fear of going into work, trembling with withdrawals, is coming back. After four years, I thought this shit was worked out.
PTSD is a creeper. It’s insidious like a parasite, like a social parasite that eats away the moral fibers and social skills.
The social parasite fed on the long hours I pondered alone. Its seed was in that first beer I ever drank, that gave me liquid courage to dance with a girl. The seed grew the more I depended on the courage in social situations, until finally it took the most valuable thing away: my family.
One night, during dinner-night with mom and dad, I’m telling a story at the table. The overhead light is bright, because my parents are old and need to see what they put their fork on. It’s a normal conversation. I’m telling a story, and they’re smiling and chewing.
Suddenly, the total fear, like stage fright, entered my conscience. It’s like, I’m under a flood light now, doing a “cold reading” at an audition; I’m speaking to my boss, while smelling like booze; I’m driving drunk with a cop behind me. It’s the same fear wrapped into all the same fear. Fear doesn’t know a face, when a cataclysmic match is lit underneath it. It becomes Fight or Flight, and nothing can stop it.
I stopped in mid-sentence and looked at the floor. The audience is waiting for my next line. What do I do? The familiarity of my parent’s faces becomes blurred by the dark tunnel vision that engulfs. My appetite vanishes, my legs tingle with adrenalin, and sweat climbs the leg hairs. I had to excuse myself and go watch TV.
The following Sunday, I had all week to think about what happened. They were my frickin’ parents, how could this be? The parasite had come into my most familiar playground: my parent’s house. It disturbed me and gave me more anxiety. It became a vicious cycle. The more I worried about acting calm the next time, the more I worried.
I tried exercising to get the parasite out of my conscience. My parent’s loving faces, and all those years of memories flashed through me. There’s an unbelievable strength of anxiety that had me running miles without getting tired. I tried drinking tons of chamomile, and getting up at the crack of dawn, so I would be tired by dinner. It was insane, and nothing worked.
The next dinner came, and I steered clear of the table, because that’s where it happened. My parents are thoughtful, and had the brilliant plan of eating in the TV room instead. It partially worked, but the fear of the table loomed. Eventually, I would have to eat dinner at it again, even worse, Thanksgiving with MORE people.
This is when you get help.
Image courtesy of the author