Hooked, Wired & Sunk

Who are we behind the mask?

By: Verna D’Alto



I saw a friend of mine; he was sad, sick and wanted to talk. Ed, came to me with questions. He was confused and said;” I can’t live like this anymore.” I knew he had been to rehabs over the years, but none of it stuck.
I asked him, do you know what it is to have clarity? It is a hard question to ask a man who has lived his life going to bars, getting high from alcohol and drugs. So, I asked him again. Do you know what it is to have clarity? He said “yes”. I thought, before I spoke again, I want to ask you a question, but he wanted to leave. I said “Maybe you think you know about clarity, but if you are still using drugs and/or alcohol, you do not know what it is like to have a mind and body that really works. Isn’t that what you want”? “Oh…you really do not know what I am talking about”. You just want the pain to go away.” The pain from an unhappy childhood, the pain from physical abuse, the pain from overworking and never having enough money, the pain from losing your partner, the pain of being an addict.
Would you consider getting another detox? “Been there done that” was his answer. – I’ll ask you one more question, just one! Did you ever have a life without substance abuse? I can’t remember that, Ed answered. Do you know what it is to have a vision so clear so pure, where you can accomplish anything you want to – and you can. But you have to leave the substance behind. You are hiding your real self. You don’t even know what I am saying do you? No, he said I just want to leave here. I know you for 20 years Ed and you are worse than I have ever seen you.
Do you feel like an animal who is wearing a leash? The substance becomes your master. You are no longer in control. Everyday is the same and you are getting sicker by the minute. Now if you think you had no energy before the drugs, you are helpless now so you seek more drugs. Your addiction increases and you are trapped. The drug or alcohol is always on your mind, it grabs you “like a forklift” and removes you from realty and you do not know what realty is. You don’t care about reality, you don’t care about anything. you are trapped, and that is your reality. You are a freak. A freak that is getting older with new pains from aging. So you take another drink, or another pill not caring if you will die, you welcome death. But that death is not the gift you think it is.
I shared this story with him. “My childhood years were filled with physical abuse. In those days it wasn’t a crime; today my father would be arrested. Though people didn’t see my bruises they did not know how bruised I was inside. My mother was afraid of my father and she did nothing to stop him from his abuse. I felt unloved and for many years; thought I was stupid, that I couldn’t keep up with the rest of my friends, and I always looked at everyone like they were better than I was. It was hard and those years had a brutal effect on me. Only recently I became aware that any failures that I had were due to my not loving myself, my lack of confidence and the hurt I felt from my father’s beatings and the constant reminder “you can’t do anything right.”
These “beatings” as I called them happened when I was not doing what he wanted me to do and that was “shut your trap” – an ugly expression. My “trap” did not stay shut; I was a belligerent child. The rage built inside of me and the anger caused me to break items that my parents thought were memorable. It was the fire inside of me that he hated. The pain of the fist or the point of his shoe was not as painful as the feeling that I was no good. I thought I deserved this treatment. It was the splitting of a personality (which I later learned) that caused me to be nice one moment and in the next moment I was a monster. Of course, I blamed myself.
The suffering continues because there are no answers for a person living in denial. What is the answer? How can you convince someone that their substance abuse is the problem. They do not care; they would rather die than give up this little piece of enjoyment at the end of the day. As a friend of mine said, “look” we are going to die, that is a fact. Yes, it is a fact but if you live with a mask on and only feel half or one quarter as good, it is no good at all, The man who died was too young, smart, except he couldn’t understand how to change his chosen suicide. Many people suffered. He didn’t care about other people. He didn’t care about his family. Addicts are the most selfish people in the world.
Shortly after, I married, I had two beautiful children. But my husband, who was a really nice man, did not know how to deal with a woman who screamed at him for no reason, and my children listened to these loud arguments. For them it must have been hell. At that point when my children needed me the most, I decided that I wanted a divorce. Why? I could not answer that, my friends could not answer that. I wanted a different life. My husband was a salesman and was out of town a lot and it was hard to raise two children alone. He said “why don’t you take up a hobby, get an instrument?” There was my downfall. I learned to play the guitar and joined a group that got together informally once a month to share our songs. A neighbor in our apartment building was a music agent and he said he would book me into a club with a great folk musician. I went to hear Billy play and I liked what I heard. We performed at several folk clubs and were continuing to get booked. I put off my divorce for a while as I thought I could make the marriage work. . But, at one of the gigs, my partner and I were invited to a party after our show. That was the first time I used drugs. First it was marijuana, much later it was LSD, all the hallucinatory drugs.. I suddenly became a different person. I could not wake up early and had to set the alarm to get my children to school. I could not sleep at night. I was a mess. My husband finally agreed to a divorce. After a hospital stay for serious surgery, the pain was too much to bear. I had to get someone to help me take care of the children. I asked my doctor to put me on a strong vitamin so I could function. I was not aware of the Dr. Feelgood’s at the time and I seriously thought he was giving me a prescription for vitamins,. When I started to awake with incredible energy that never stopped, I called a friend who was a pharmacist. What he gave me was an amphetamine, and later a strong sleeping pill. I lived on these drugs and many more to come. I never said NO to any of it.

There was a time when hell seemed like a nice vacation. Pain, drugs, alcohol will distort the mind with any excuse to stay in a closet with the doors shut.. You are like a diseased animal waiting to be eaten alive. I realized much later that it was easy to become addicted. After being in pain from a childhood abuse situation, a drug which could take the pain away was a miracle. I never thought of it as something bad, nor did I think I would want more and more. I never wanted to stop taking whatever I could get, just to take the pain away. So I continued to get jobs with Billy. He thought we were good enough to get into a recording studio. So we auditioned for many. At last Smash records, a part of Mercury Records picked us up. We recorded two songs and they started to get air play. While we were on tour for the record, my partner was arrested and put in jail for rape of a minor. That was the end of his part in our group. We tried other guitarists to replace him and went on tour. But, it wasn’t working out. Depressed and strung out, I continued to play in the band. At the same time, a producer for Paramount films (Ralph Bakshi) wanted us to record the background vocals for an 8 minute animated film called “Marvin Digs.” It was a great film about a long haired hippie who made his parents proud of him. I recently looked at You Tube and found the film and it was exciting to see it and hear the background vocals. Probably the only good thing I did in my career. But my addiction became worse, it was the 60”s and my apartment was filled with people night and day. There were rehearsals for our gigs, and then people just zoned out and slept the night. There were as many as 30 people in the living room on the floor. My oldest daughter took attendance. My son could not care less.

This article is much shorter than the original version. There were the great parts of the 60”s, there were the horrible parts like having the FBI visit my apartment to wire me for information. There was the sadness my life caused my children and family.

What I have to say about anyone who is an addict, the main thing is, as much as you want to rid yourself of the drug or alcohol, and you finally detoxify and follow a program, you feel so good you can’t imagine yourself ever considering addiction again. You can’t believe you took drugs at all. The real problem is that once you know the feeling that was produced from the high, it stays with you throughout your life. If you are not constantly working on using the tools of any program you have been in, when the feeling comes on and the drug is available, you can easily go back to it. At first it is just a little, and then it escalates and becomes the monster it always was. The beast is always there. And the pain from anything in your life makes you feel that you deserve to ease the pain by taking a drug or a drink.
But why do people put themselves in that horror movie? They don't know what to do; they are facing the biggest challenge of their lives. They are scared. They can't enjoy the simple things in life as when they were younger. Their bodies hurt from the work they must do to stay alive. They think the drink will help them to ease the pain of the day and they feel that it is worth it. But as time passes on and becomes years they still have not challenged the problem. Their problem is FEAR:
Do you think you have a chance to improve your life? Are you willing to work harder than you did on any job? And it is a short term sentence, not a life sentence. Is it easy? NO…is it painful?…sometimes. Will you survive this infection that has entered your body and soul and make you free again? YES. Do you believe that your entire life can change? YES!
I can’t live like this anymore.
During the sixties, I loved being controlled by drugs. I smoked, swallowed chewed, any drug whether it was on paper, in paper, in a bottle, etc. The years were getting harder; my brain had lost synapses that could not grow back again. I was confused, I hung out with all the losers and I lost a lot. Then, my therapist told my husband to meet me at her office. She said he was going to take me to a hospital to detox. I screamed and ranted and tried to run away from them, but deep in my heart, I knew it was time to make the change. I went to a hospital, got detoxed and then to a 28 day program. I followed the rules when I came out, saw a therapist twice a week, make 90 meetings in 90 days. I got a job and at last I knew what it was to feel again – But, there was no stopping the work, I continued to stay committed to my new life.
When I became sober I realized that I had a brain. I was creative and I could paint, write and play music. Some years went by and as I got older I knew there was a crazy lady living inside of me, one who always hated herself, but I decided to change that. With a clear mind, I could do anything I set as my goal.
My children paid for the life I chose. I was not even aware of how much I didn’t “feel” anymore... I was wood, I was wax, no one could touch me and I finally felt that I was betraying my own children. After several weeks, of sobriety, I felt better and the wax melted. Can you ever make up for this? No, you can never make up for the lost time you could have spent being a caring loving person to them. But you can share the truth with them. The truth is one action they will understand.
Now when someone says (I can’t live like this anymore.) Do they mean it? Do they want to work harder than any job they have ever had? It’s not the end of your life, it is only the beginning. You choose!


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