my life is a *trigger warning* – just say that numbing my feelings is the only way i knew to survive

my life is a *trigger warning*

notes on surviving ritual abuse

part 10

just say that numbing my feelings is the only way i knew to survive

i started drinking and smoking pot and/or hash at the age of 16.  i quickly began using both as often as possible, as well as other drugs, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin mushrooms.  i never used LSD or ‘shrooms that often, as they were harder to get, and didn’t numb me the way that i wanted – they were fun, but also emotionally and physically exhausting.  at 16 years old, it was still hard for me or my friends to get alcohol.  we also wouldn’t have any reliable connection to get marijiana for another year, at least.  this meant that, for the most part, i only got drunk and/or high on the weekends.  as i got easier access to both pot and booze, and became more determined to get both, i began getting high during the week, during school, whenever i could – same with alcohol, although i avoided going to school drunk.

   most of the other teenagers i knew also drank heavily and/or did lots of drugs.  most of my family members were also heavy drinkers (aka alcoholics), and also sometimes used drugs.  this meant that at the time i didn’t even really think that i was drinking or smoking that much.  and despite the fact that i sometimes got too drunk and regretted my actions the next day, i don’t recall ever thinking to stop partying.  I would keep drinking heavily until i was 34. 

   by the time i ran away, i was certainly not feeling well – i had recently tried to suicide, and i was both worried that i might try again, and that i was not in control of myself.

  it is important to remember that what i’m recounting here is how i, and my life, seemed to my main personality, which was a personality that was oblivious to the fact that i’d been born into a cult, and that i was desperately trying to escape from it.  this personality wasn’t aware that my “friends” were cult members, and that some of them had been raping and abusing me throughout high school.

   i remember feeling sick of myself, sick of ottawa, and determined to leave:  maybe being in a different place would be better (it was) and maybe i’d feel and be different if i was elsewhere (this turned out to be somewhat true, but not so much as i would have liked).  although i only ran away from home once, i left ottawa many times, mostly to live in europe, and each time was another attempt to make a different life for myself, one far away from the cult.

   it wasn’t only my high school “friends” who were raping and abusing me.  my biological father still abused me in various disgusting ways.  he even claimed that my allowance was my payment for the rape, and abuse he did!  at the time, i didn’t argue, as, since i wasn’t able to stop the abuse (i had dissociated identities that weren’t able to move, see, or talk), i had long ago decided to get whatever i could out of it.  it was a decision i made as a child, and as much as a hated being raped and abused, and as much as i hated pretending feeling anything other than loathing for the abuse and the people who did it, it was a good choice in terms of physically and psychologically surviving my childhood and teen years.

   additionally, my biological mother and her family also continued to abuse me, although she and they usually waited until i was at the family home in arundel.  we went there for all of the holidays, and often during the summer, and i was there regularly.

alcoholism: causes and consequences

   first, alcohol helped me cope with the massive traumas from the thousands of rapes i’ve experienced, and the hundreds of times i’ve been tortured.

   as i mentioned in an earlier blog post, “wake up! you can’t remember who you are” (https://stonesandsticksandwords.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/my-life-is-a-trigger-warning-wake-up-you-can-remember-who-you-are/) i have taken a wide variety of drugs during my life, but it was alcohol that i got addicted too, and that was both such a pleasure, and such a problem.  partly this is due to simple facts, such as that alcohol is legal, easily accessible, socially acceptable and reasonably cheap.  psychologically and emotionally, though, what it did was numb me in exactly the way i craved, and, also, maybe surprisingly, it was also preventing me from remembering my abuse – i started remembering the abuse when i stopped drinking (not that i’m completely sober yet, but i am close).

  another important effect for me was sleep, and sleeping.  when i was about 26, i worked hard at reducing the amount that i was drinking.  what i found was that i got severely insomniac, and severe insomnia was really fucking rough.  i would be up for 2 – 3 days at a time, then sleep for 12 or 18 or 24 hours, and then be up again for 2-3 days. there were days that i chose to drink in order to deal with my sleeplessness.  i didn’t know what else to do – i had tried all of the herbal and natural sleeping remedies, and none of them did much of anything to help me sleep.  sleeping pills in the quantity i needed to sleep left me feeling as bad as i would have if i wasn’t sleeping to begin with.  given the options, sometimes drinking a bunch of beer or wine seemed best.

   certainly i increasingly noticed the negative side effects of drinking heavily:  impaired judgement, health problems, aggressive and disrespectful behaviour, hangovers that only got worse as i got older, and increased anxiety when i wasn’t drinking.

   i had, since my early twenties, tried to regulate how much i was drinking.  i would take a week or two off.  once or twice i might have managed to go 3 weeks.  and i tried to control how drunk i was getting – no hard alcohol, eating and drinking water or other fluids.  i did have some control over my drinking, but i wasn’t able to stop – usually i didn’t even consider stopping.  there were a couple of years in my twenties that i thought i’d gotten it under control, but a few years later, mostly due to external stress and the fact that i had more money than i was used to, as i had a good job (that i was bad at), i was drinking as much or more than ever.  

i had been arrested for the firebombing of a royal bank of canada branch, and although the charges were eventually dropped due to lack of evidence, the combination of a short stint in prison, and, more importantly, the publicity during and after was hard to handle – i had difficulty being thrust into the spotlight, even to the limited extent that i was actually in the spotlight; stories about a bank burning down were big news, but stories about my getting arrested and having my charges dropped, well, not so much. 

granted, part of my lawyer’s strategy was to avoid media attention, so i was also avoiding journalists.  but i can say that being inside that particular shitstorm as it whirled around was edifying in terms of how the police and the media work (and i’ll write more about this later when i talk about that arrest).   

in terms of my drinking getting increasingly out of control, that was connected to my emotional state being one of feeling consistently triggered due to the abuse i’d experienced as a child and adult, and i didn’t have a fucking clue how to deal with them.

   i knew that the drinking was a problem, but drinking was the “solution” to a whole bunch of other problems, so what was i to do? knowing i had a problem, in this case, didn’t really help.

   my drinking was one out of several reasons that my most recent long-term love relationship ended.  and it has hurt relationships with friends, and with people in my community.  although it saddens me that there are probably people i like and care about, even love, who will or might choose not to be my friends due to past drunken behaviour, i think can understand.

   my relationships with both friends and partners have been and are deeply important to me: first, i like and love my friends, and these relationships are central to my own happiness and well-being, but, also, these are some of the small number of people that i’ve known over a long period of time who are not cult members.  which is to say, they are some of the small number of people that i have known who have not been actively abusing me, or complicit in my abuse, and, furthermore, who have not been engaged in who knows what sort of horrific activities when i was not present.

   maybe it is illuminating to think that, despite how important all of these relationships were, and despite the fact that i knew at some level that my drinking was damaging them, i still chose to keep drinking.  in fact, it wasn’t until i’d been in counselling for 8 – 10 months that i (fairly suddenly) decided to stop drinking, and that i have, for the most part, managed to stay dry.  i had been stuck in a pattern: i couldn’t stop drinking until i began remembering and healing, and i couldn’t remember and heal until i felt safe enough to do so, and the only way i knew to feel safe was to drink.

regrets, remorse and violence

   there are a handful of things i’ve done as an adult that i deeply regret and feel remorseful about.  these are the small number of times that my actions have hurt others in ways that are, potentially at least, serious.  most of these times, i was drunk.

  there are two instances while i was “crazy” – as in i was soon to be hospitalized in the psych ward of the local hospital.  

in all cases, i am so sorry for the harm i did to others.  most of the time i don’t know what or how the other person feels about what i did, or what happened.  

whenever possible, i have made amends, or tried to do so.

   for the times that i was “insane,” i also recognize that it is different from if i had been sane, or even “normal”.  i was not entirely in control of my actions.  this isn’t an excuse, but an explanation.  my responsibility is to take care of myself and my mental health in order to ensure that i don’t end up in that state again.

   i feel the need to repeat the fact that, despite the ableist script and stereotypes that exist, “crazy” people aren’t more dangerous or violent than others – “normal” people do far more violence to themselves and others, and the normal functioning of society – prisons, poverty, war is far more violent than any individual actions by crazy people.  “crazy” people are, actually vulnerable, hurting, and in need of compassion, loving attention and help, not fearful judgements.

how do i honour my journey through alcoholism?

   it was more than half my life, so i’d better be able to find something good during that whole time!

i’ll never know what i would have done otherwise.  i wish i could have found another way to cope.

  i certainly had fun…and met many people i never would have met if i hadn’t been partying.  many of them were good people, and good friends, even if we only knew each other briefly.  i learned a whole shit load about addictions!  i lived in and travelled around europe!  and, most importantly, i escaped the cult i was born into, although this was not due to alcoholism.

   how else could i have coped? i do not know.

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