Saturday, April 19, 2014

Numb, Addicted & Helpless

In Ft. Lauderdale on spring break the kids are getting drunk like crazy. Crazy.

And we are older, and asking why they need to drink so much, holler and gather in a place just to lose themselves in sleeping around.

They seem numb.

I read this book on the plane, "Hush." It's  a true story and the author will not name herself. She lives in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, was raised ignorant and insular. And helplessly watched a brutal crime that tormented her to action.

This woman also talks about numbness, the inability to do anything at the time of the crime or after. And how one day, suddenly from within, she felt excruciating rage that propelled her into doing something.

The actor Rob Lowe once drank and drank, the life of the party, until he wasn't. He talks about his alcoholism - which he characterizes as overpowering - in a couple of books. I read a bit from "Love Life."

In it he shared a story from his rehab. It was about a fellow addict who had a seemingly impenetrable exterior, even in tough and intrusive group therapy.

The guy had numbed himself with alcohol for so many years. As a child some neighborhood kids stomped his infant brother to death. And he, sitting there at age four, could do nothing about it.

The leader had the group wrap this famous man in a blanket, and together they took him back in time. Before the bad thing happened. Before the powerlessness, shame and guilt that turned his exterior emotions to stone and led him to the bottle. 

They held him until they saw him take that crucial first step of letting it go. Only when he was no longer that child could he begin taking back his power as a grown adult.

I was so moved by the story in that book, and by "Hush." I am awed by people who have been knocked down so hard in life and they relentlessly get back up instead of hiding in a bottle, in bed, in the refrigerator or at the mall. 

This is the spirit of the other new book I want to buy, "Own It," by Tabatha Coffee. But I don't think I am there yet.

This story kind of tells why. We were walking on the beach and someone threw a frisbee right in my direction. I saw it coming and froze. Just like in my dreams, where I can see the bad guys chasing me but I cannot move, nor fight, nor stay alive. The end seems predetermined.

Therefore, afraid of the frisbee, I crouched in the sand until it landed. And heard all the players laughing.

I was so embarrassed, but tried to wave it off. "No worries, I am spatially disabled," I said. 

Afterward I wondered what it was in me that left me so immobilized. So helpless and so in fear.

In the end it does not seem all that complicated. Obviously it has something to do with my past, an incredibly sheltered upbringing and sexist social structure where father = G-d. Sure it had good aspects, but overall it left me terrified. Any free thinking meant you were an "apikorais," heretic, evil, cursed, destined to wander alone for all time.

What is frightening to me is that I cannot stop myself from thinking more and more freely with time. And that the more I do so, the happier and more at peace I feel.  Also more productive at work.

I love being culturally Jewish, I love G-d, but I can't tolerate the idea that you must follow a certain set if rules in order to find salvation. It's just bullshit.

At work and at home, helplessness is not holy. Empowerment is.

Here's wishing peace to all people in this world, whom I believe that G-d loves equally. And to those of the Christian faith, happy Easter.

* All opinions my own. Photo by me.