Wednesday, May 27, 2015
I finally feel that I am gaining a solid footing on the threshold to my future. It has taken a bit of time for me to reach this point. One thing that has helped me reach this new place is the resilience and strength of other human beings.
I read an opinion piece in the New York Times today. I have been doing a lot more reading of the New York Times lately ever since I bought a subscription to access its online content…a perk of my new job I suppose. The piece in question was written by a woman who lost her husband to the destruction that untreated alcoholism can too often eventually lead to. I felt sad reading her piece. I could also appreciate the depth of her devastation. Certain conditions devastate not only those directly consumed by them but also the lives of so many somehow connected to the primary victim. I would count alcoholism among such conditions.
Before I go further I feel I should clarify that my life has been relatively unscathed by alcoholism. I thankfully have never struggled with a temptation to drown my sorrows with alcohol. I learned to use television as my primary means of (unconsciously) practicing dissociation. I still consider it unfortunate that I took the path that I did. But I suppose it’s a better alternative as compared to alcohol. I have a friend I first met in California years ago who struggled with alcoholism. There was a time when we spent time in the company of the other quite often. I am fortunate to have witnessed none of the closest members of my family of origin struggle with or succumb to alcoholism.
I felt more than sadness and vicarious devastation as I read the piece. I also felt inspired. I also felt reassurance. I also felt a renewed sense of hope. Some of the comments on the piece were extraordinarily warm and kind. And some of these came from others who have also lost loved ones to alcoholism.
As I read through this woman’s heartfelt reflections I had this scene simultaneously unfold in my mind. I saw this person emerging from the loss of a spouse like a person emerging from the twisted heap of a car accident. Like a car accident the consequences of alcoholism can require the intercession of a number of helpers to rescue and then restore those who are harmed. I thought of my own journey of recovery from trauma. I have had many helpers. I have enjoyed the great blessing of health care practitioners including my therapist, acupuncturist, chiropractor and physical therapist. The beginning stage of my process was, quite honestly, grueling. There were many days when I felt positively pulverized by the demands of what was before me. It was very much like those first moments when first responders arrive on the scene of a car accident to assess damage and rescue those still alive and able to be rescued. It was very much like the stories I have heard of the first days and weeks after an alcoholic person hits rock bottom and realizes the true scale of the dysfunction gripping his life…and the true demands that recovery will likely make of that person.
People walk away each and every day. People walk away from devastating car accidents. People, as individuals and as groups, walk (or run) away from their homes as they burn to the ground. People ensure their own safety as those close to them suffer catastrophic breakdowns and then reenter the fray once it is safe to do so. Human beings have the potential to be incredibly resilient in the face of immense catastrophe. How would we as a species even still be walking the planet if this weren’t the truth?
There have been many days throughout the last two years when I found it a bit challenging to not spend too much time thinking about my earlier life history. It’s the equivalent of emerging from a car wreck and constantly looking back at the scene of your moment of immense suffering. Sometimes our lives crash and burn and if and when we emerge we can wonder how in the world we came to find ourselves in such a mess. We might repeatedly ask ourselves the same questions:
- “How in the world did that happen to me?”
- “Why didn’t I see that coming?”
- “How could I have been such a fool as to trust that person?”
- “Why didn’t I work harder to overcome the obstacles before me?”
One way I have found myself sometimes (needlessly?) reliving the past has been wishing that I had been introduced to EMDR therapy earlier in life. As I have recounted elsewhere in my writing it was a combination of EMDR therapy and shamanic journey work that proved to make such a difference in my life. These have to be the vital ingredients because they are the only aspect of the treatment I went through that were not an element of past courses of treatment I experienced as a younger man and as an adolescent. I have wondered to myself “Who could I have been if I had been introduced to EMDR therapy when I was a kid?”
There is one problem with that idea: EMDR therapy didn’t really exist when I was still a minor. If you look over the history of EMDR as recounted here you will see that the creator of EMDR, Francine Shapiro, didn’t make the observation that served as the genesis of this therapy until 1987. I was starting high school in 1987. And I was living in Texas. Texas is a state well known for its conservative (which I would argue is often synonymous to regressive) politics. The chance I would have heard of EMDR before I graduated high school and left home was essentially zero. Studies to determine the efficacy of treating PTSD with EMDR therapy did not really begin to unfold until 1989. EMDR came to be known as such in 1991…the year I began college. A few years later, in 1995, a professional association was established to create standards for training and practice of EMDR therapy. So there was essentially no possibility I could have encountered EMDR as an impactful treatment while I was still the legal responsibility of my father.
Perhaps it is only human for us to look longingly at those younger than us who are more likely to benefit from advances in medicine and other disciplines that did not exist when we ourselves were younger. It’s not as if I am an old man now. I am not. But it does seem quite natural to me that we mourn when breakthroughs, technologies, techniques and the like don’t enter into our lives as early as we would like them to have done. But then again I am still alive. Who knows how many people who had PTSD died long before EMDR even became available as a form of treatment.
And there are many, many people out there who know the feeling of hoping to find a treatment to rejuvenate or even save their lives. Emergency medicine, prosthetic limbs, organ transplantation and the like are innovations our ancestors of only a few generations ago could never have realistically dreamed of benefiting from. And I am speaking as someone who grew up in the industrialized West in a nation that is highly developed and wealthy compared to many other places on the planet. For all the misfortune I have experienced I am still quite fortunate compared to the average global citizen…whatever such a person would look like.
If what I have written sounds like some long discourse that has only previously unfolded in my mind then you have perceived correctly. I am recounting some of my recent thought processes here in my blog. Sharing my thoughts these last twenty-two months has been exceedingly therapeutic for me. And it seems my documentary of my journey has inspired at least a few people.
I am so grateful to be finally decisively emerging from the fox hole.