Present Tense

Broken people…

I’ve never wanted to kill another human being.  Never thought about it, never toyed with it.  In fact, I’m the type of person who rather than kill a bug or a spider,  will catch it and take it  outside.  You’re probably like me.  You get angry or frustrated with other people; you’ve even made jokes about rounding up all of the ‘stupid’ people, but we’d never actually act.

I’ve never wanted to harm another person, but I did want to kill myself.  I’m an alcoholic.  I have been since I was a teenager and although I don’t know a lot about mental illness, I do know about addiction and I suspect that there are a lot of parallels.

I’ve been on and off the wagon several times as an adult and each time I fell off, I landed in a deeper hole of addiction and several years ago, in the grip of this addiction, I thought the only way out was death.  The pain I was causing to me and to my husband and family was too much to bear; all I could focus on was the next drink and the guilt of succumbing to that day after day.  I had stopped drinking before and so intellectually, I knew that I was capable, but physically and emotionally, I was too hooked to grasp that.  So, I thought about dying.  It seemed rational at the time.

As we struggle today with the horrible slaughter of so many innocent souls in Connecticut, we keep asking ‘why’?  Why would someone do this, how could someone do this, what happened to this person to make them do this?  I don’t know and I am as paralyzed with grief as you are, but I’m going to admit something that you’re not supposed to say.  I have a twinge of empathy for the obviously broken young man who did this.

I talk about my experience because unless you’ve experienced the total loss of control that can happen to any one of us, it’s hard to realize the root problem that we face.  It’s too simplistic to blame guns.  We need to look a little deeper and have a frank and open national conversation about the issues that we must address as a society.

Like addiction, mental illness interferes with your ability to function as a normal human.  It robs you of the ability to think rationally; it makes you incredibly selfish and obviously can result in violence.  The general consensus is that an act like this can’t be perpetrated by one of our fellow ‘humans’.  We viscerally realize that an act like this can only be committed by a monster.  We can’t wrap our brains around how anyone could gun down innocent children.

As I said, I have very little experience with mental illness, but we’ve seen it too many times in recent history.  These type of mass shootings are typically perpetrated by someone who has a history of mental illness, but is not given the proper treatment.  Substance abuse is rampant in our country; legal and illegal drugs are common and in the case of alcohol, embraced and endorsed.  We need to change and recognize that this is what’s driving these violent acts.

As someone who has felt the grip of addiction and how it can make you loathe yourself for your ‘weakness’ and inability to function like other ‘normal’ humans, I can see how mental illness can take over a person’s humanity.  It can make you lie, steal, drive drunk, treat other people horribly and it can make you violent.

Like mental illness, our culture generally judges addicts as ‘weak’.  There is a stigma that we need to get past.  Families are afraid to seek help in both instances because it somehow reflects badly on them.  People tend to not want to admit weakness or that someone in their family is broken.  There are more of us than we would like to admit.  People who’s lives, emotions and mental health is spiraling to a very dark place.  As a nation, we can no longer ignore it and hope for the best.  It’s too dangerous and painful.

Addiction and mental illness are both treatable and need to be acknowledged and recognized.  We need to get past the stigma and begin to accept that unless we are proactive and loving in helping each other, these types of acts will continue and sadly, grow.  We need resources for people who are suffering and who have family members who are suffering.  Stop judging and start helping.  Our lives may depend on it.

December 15, 2012 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , | 21 Comments

My so-called virtual life….bah!

I’m trying to figure out when I abandoned my real life for my virtual life.  I’m pretty sure that I crossed over after I opened my Facebook account.  Several friends were urging me to sign up in the same way that I encouraged some of my high school friends to start drinking.  “Come on, what can it hurt?  If you don’t like it, you can stop.  Beside, everyone is on Facebook….”

So as a strong, productive, successful middle-aged woman, I bowed to peer pressure and quickly became a Facebook addict.  With my predilection for things that spark the pleasure centers of my cerebral cortex, I should have seen it coming.  You can lurk and spy and surf your friends’ photos and statuses, all while sitting on the couch in your PJs,  drinking hot chocolate (or wine….you know who you are).  It’s creepy and voyeuristic and a hell of a lot of fun, particularly when you live in a very small town, with long, cold winters.

And of course, being the addict that I am, I couldn’t stop with one; I opened a second Facebook account for my radio show. That meant more friends for me to spy on and chat with.  The vast majority of them are complete strangers, for all intents and purposes, but I happily inject myself into their threads; kinda weird for a self-proclaimed social retard.

Next up, a Twitter account to publicize my blog of course, but I never tweet.  I lurk, reading other people’s 140 character masterpieces.  I’ll be honest, though;  I really don’t ‘get’ Twitter.  Maybe it’s because I have a radio show, where I ‘tweet’ everything that’s on my mind for 4 hours a day.  My brilliance is on display every morning on Mix 100 Denver, so I don’t have a burning desire to share every thought once my microphone is off.  It seems like other media types are smitten with Twitter; maybe they just have bigger egos than I do.   Or they don’t have a blog…..

What really kicked my virtual life into turbo-charged, high gear was the adding an iPad to my arsenal.  Even thought it’s an awesome device, the iPad is a digital crackpipe.  I do nothing useful on it.  It’s hard to type on, so I don’t write or create; instead I creep and I surf.  I’m surprised that I haven’t drooled all over it as I robotically mouth-breathe around the ‘net for hours.  Add in a Blackberry and I’m in the grip of some major league time wasters.

I read a blog this past week that eloquently expressed my subconscious discomfort with all of the time I waste on Facebook.  Amy Taylor writes about people beginning to turn off the bells and whistles of their smart phones and ignore their social media connections.  She calls it “The Return to Real Life”.

Well, I’m stealing that concept and I’m returning to real life.  For a week, anyway.  My the goal is to spend less time on the mindless surfing that causes my brain to flat-line and commit to spend more time in the present; reading, writing, walking, talking, eating, thinking, watching, feeling; I need to awaken from my digital semi-coma.

You’ll know it’s working, if I post an update within the week; if not, I’ve fallen off the wagon.  Logging out……

September 22, 2011 Posted by | Musings | , , , | 4 Comments


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