“Look mummy, there’s an airplane up in the sky”
Pink Floyd, The Wall
Have you ever listened to the lyrics of this song and wondered what they meant. The melody is so soothing but the lyrics are anything but that. The confliction reminds me of my childhood in a lot of ways.
For most of my adult life I suppressed all notion of having anything but a happy childhood. When certain unpleasant childhood memories did breakthrough the phalanx of my suppression, I played my own little game of “trump that”. I just reached into my memory bank of abuse stories that I had collected, all ranked as being worse than any abuse that I suffered and I sought solace in knowing that others suffered worse abuse. Like the woman who told me that eleven broken bones as a child is her badge of courage. Or the man who told me how he, as a child, endured blows from a ball-peen hammer when he failed to memorize math formulas that his father had given him as an exercise. In my mind, those were all worse cases of abuse.
Today, I know that no rating scale for abuse exists. If your soul was pierced as a child, you most likely have a deep wound that, unless addressed at some point in your life, will never properly heal. A soul sickness will remain. That has been my experience.
The older I got, the less effective the trump game became. Why? I really don’t know. All I know is that once alcohol suddenly spoke to me in a different way, in my mid 30’s, I really didn’t need to rely on anything else to cope. And, alcohol came with its own regulator, or so I thought. If I couldn’t escape the memories that had somehow surfaced, it was no problem that a four finger belt of vodka with a splash of fruit couldn’t take care of. If the painful memory lingered on, I would just have another drink…and so on. And on…and on!
I loved playing Little League as a kid. I got to put on a pair of cleats, wear a jersey that had a local merchant sponsors name on it and I got to take my new baseball bat into the action. I became a pretty darn good Little Leaguer with selections on All Star teams in the successive years that I played.
One Little League summer, however, I went into a batting slump that I just could not get out of. I remember feeling all sorts of pressure because my team had come to rely on my bat. But the pressure I felt most came from my father. I could not understand, nor did I really care, why he was so obsessed with my lack of hit production. All I really cared about was having fun with my friend’s on the ball field.
My batting slump continued for most of that summer and so did the rants of my father which had now taken on a more serious tone. It all reached a crescendo on one particular evening when I found myself being hounded by my father from the moment that I left the ball field. His taunting continued on the ride home. By the time I had gotten inside our house and to my bedroom, I was pretty much in an agitated state of panic and fear. After an agonizing diatribe of berating by my father, he struck me with such force that I flew off of my feet and across the bed. The only thing that stopped my flight was the wall on the other side of the bed. I guess that I was in such a state of shock that I just bolted back up on my feet in my state of confusion and shock. My father was gone and my mother, who had cried loudly in the hallway and out of my sight, was also gone. I have no memory of what I was feeling when all of this was happening but I can only imagine that the conclusion I arrived at was that something was definitely wrong with me and that it upset my father greatly. And my mother, for whatever reason, felt no need to come to my aid, nor console me afterwards. That I remember as if it were yesterday. I know that I was very confused and I do know that I felt alone. Heck, I was all alone!
This incident, and there were others, is where the seeds of my depression and anxiety were born. That is what the professionals have told me. As crazy as it may sound, it took several years of therapy for me to believe and accept any of this.
My early childhood was also the birthing ground of what I learned was a “false self”. It is where I created this coping mechanism, an alter ego in my mind that could take on my troubles and conquer anything that threatened me. So much for blue skies and baseball!
I had mentioned in an earlier post that I believe that childhood abandonment (physical abuse in my case) is the root of addiction. That is my personal belief. I know with great certainty that the seeds of my life long battle with depression, anxiety and ultimately addiction, were born in the environment that I grew up in. My addiction became alcoholism. Two other siblings in my family wrestled with their own form of addiction that was something other than alcoholism.
“The flames are all long gone, but the pain lingers on”
– Pink Floyd, The Wall
I built up a pretty big wall of defense over the course of my life. It was out of the necessity to protect me as a child and then it just became a misguided and learned reflex as I got older. When I got sober, I had to work on breaking down that wall so that others could help me. It was foreign and completely against the grain for me to accept help from other people because of my lack of trust “I will take care of myself” nature. But I found it an absolute necessity to begin the healing process. I had to let other people into my closely guarded life and I had to rely on their help. It took a village and I stand humbled and grateful for my family and friends that I finally let into my life.
Today, the pain is all gone. I am grateful!