(7) P.A.I.N. Through Anger

It was Monday of week seven and I was back in the Principal’s office. We were still wearing masks and the office still had nothing on its walls, but this time there was more clutter on the desk in front of me:

“—You wanna explain what the hell you’re doing?”

“What do you mean?” I asked, annoyed by this seemingly unwarranted verbal attack.

Reaching out, the Principal took a few papers and pushed them in my direction on the desk. Staring up at me was last week’s article with the title ‘dIverge’ typed across the top.

Damnit.

Someone had given Principal Sam a copy of my article from last week. My first instinct was to blame whoever it was that gave the principal this story of mine. However, that knee-jerk defense mechanism of mine vanished in an instant. Once it did, I was left feeling embarrassed and stupid; racking my brain in an attempt to figure out what to say to the Principal who was now looking at me with angry eyes.

I spoke the truth, “That was something I wrote for a creative writing contest.”

“Yes, I have heard, but why are the students being told to ‘read and reflect on it’?” asked the Principal.

This confirmed it, one of my students provided the article and was reporting what went on in my class. Understanding this, I answered the question, “Because each week I ask them to reflect on a piece of writing that I provide them with.”

“Yes, I know that Jose. But a story about suicide, with our students— ARE YOU CRAZY???” 

***BREAKING KNEWS***

When I got fired from that first teaching job, I told myself that I would stop using this medicine of mine and put my life back together. I was gonna stop—Tomorrow. Always, tomorrow. 

Eventually, I realized that I couldn’t stop on my own and maybe needed help: I’d do something about it tomorrow.  

I was full of promises back then. I’d get my medicine in me and sweettalk Sirena the best I could once she was done being disappointed with me; “One day I’m gonna give you the world my girl,” I’d say.

(Laugh)

I would say things like this when I was under the influence because my medicine made anything feel possible. I loved feeling like that and would use those positive vibes flowing through me to make certain Sirena knew that one day her patience with me would pay off.

Each day I’d tell myself; and Sirena, “Tomorrow will be the day!” And then wake up quietly hating myself more and more knowing that I was destined to screw up again: The-Drug-Addicts-Groundhog’s-Day.

My relationship with Sirena was not always bad though. In order to make up for my need of constant medicine I did my best to treat her like a queen. I’d do the simple things like make dinner and give our son his baths. Then I’d overcompensate my failures by building stuff around the house and asking her to go for walks. At night I’d go out and get her ice cream (she loved ice-cream; Sad Face): Hot fudge sundaes with fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt, whip cream and extra cherries was her favorite. She’d eat her ice cream while I’d use coconut oil to give her back rubs. Then we’d watch shows together like The Voice and laugh and smile together; both trying to forget how much money I spent that day to “feel normal.”  

Back then I’d do anything I could so that the cracks in my behavior would stay out of the spotlight. This worked for a long time actually. Everything looked normal, or so I thought. 

The ‘medicine’ I keep referring to was Percocet by the way; an opiate prescribed for pain. I eventually worked myself up to taking what were called ‘Perk 30’s’ (thirty milligram pills). One of these would make me a decent human being to be around for a couple of hours. But one was never enough; and I constantly felt like I could be more decent. 

I did not know how serious a medicine this was at the beginning. Addiction was not something that ran in my family so I was unfamiliar with how bad things could really get. When I had first started using drugs, television shows making it entertainment had not yet begun to be popular either. All of this left me “Blissfully Ignorant,” as they say. 

To top it off, I grew up in a suburban, middle-class, white neighborhood. We were behind the curve for a while: and we were too good for that shit anyways. (Insert laughing emoji here.) 

Sirena and I went to high school and college during a time when people were first starting to use this drug ‘recreationally.’ At the beginning of our relationship Sirena and I would actually take pills together for fun once and a while. She was wired differently than me. She could have one or not have one, it made no difference to her. 

I’m not exactly sure when I got out of control, I’m only telling you how it began. And let me be very clear, my abuse of the drug was not Sirena’s fault. At the time her and I had no clue how serious of an issue this drug epidemic would become all over the world. This is not to make excuses; I’m simply stating facts in order to tell you this story. Perhaps we were just stupid; you are free to think whatever you choose. 

When I didn’t, or couldn’t, get this medicine is when things got ugly. Somehow, after losing that teaching job I continued to “pretend to be normal” for almost a year; though Sirena and I were on edge constantly as money was always an issue.  

I can’t even begin to explain the hell I put her through. When I was at my lowest, she was the cement keeping those cracks of mine from bursting open.  

I’m not here to tell you about all of that though. The story of what addiction does to a person and their family is now hit TV anyways; I’d simply be showing you a re-run. I can only hope that you, My Reader, have not been affected by it yourselves. If you are going through it, perhaps some of what you read in the rest of this book will help you.

Fair to say that the tomorrow’s added up. Eventually the cracks got too big and I fell through one. That is when I finally found myself in a detox facility in the winter of 2014. Almost a full year after losing that job.  

***End Of Breaking Knews***

When Principal Sam called me crazy, I completed shut down. I had been called crazy so many times that the words had become my kryptonite. 

Quivering in my seat, it felt like the walls were closing in on me. The roof above my head would cave at any second and the office we were sitting in began to look like four white padded walls.

The seconds ticked bye in slow motion, and I felt like I was in restraints; unable to move. The principal started fading away from me; out of focus. Helplessly—I sat there.  

All I could do at that moment was listen; as another dumping filled my ears with muffled sounds….

“…You may leave now,” said the strange face across from me now coming back into focus.

Leaving the Principal’s office, I walked straight to the faculty bathroom after that meeting. I shut the door behind me and locked it. I then turned on the water (HOT!). 

Rolling up my sleeves, I leaned on the counter with my elbows and put my hands under the running water. Slowly, I felt the water get warmer…and warmer…and warmer—Until it finally burned.  

How f***ing stupid…YOU IDIOT! — What were you thinking giving them that article? — You got too comfortable!  — You let them in!  — YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER!

Looking at myself in the mirror I saw that my eyes were starting to look bloodshot and had begun to get heavy with tears. But I did not let them fall. Instead, I fought them like I had become so good at doing.  

What would I do next? …

Debating this, the water mercifully scolded my hands. “Should I play it safe from here on out?” I thought to myself; worried that this program of mine (This Dream) was now dead. 

Contemplating this for just a second, my worry snapped back into anger, “F*** THAT!” I said out loud to the face looking back at me in the mirror.  

It was then, with my back firmly against the wall, that I decided to take Cricket Green’s advice and let the crazy out.

What was there to lose?…

Week 7 (10.23.20): 

“P.A.I.N. through Anger”

People Suck.

Need I say more— Or can I just drop this microphone and walk off stage right now? 

All year I’ve tried to convince you otherwise, but perhaps you are right. Be glad that I am now beginning to see the light. I apologize it has taken me so long. 

This change in attitude began the other day when the Principal and I had an argument over the article I had you read last week.

Criticism is a tough pill to swallow and can make us do stupid things in order to feel better about ourselves; something I know from experience. I have since gotten smarter (I’d like to think) and have certain things I do nowadays to avoid such pitfalls. Taking long walks is my favorite. So, after this little fallout I had with the Principal, when I got home, I went for a walk.

The route I take is always the same. Often, I do my best thinking while walking. On this day however, I was hoping it would help me stop thinking so much…. 

I walk by this same man all the time. He has long hair, a graying big beard, and wears sunglasses most days; he often has a backpack on. Every time this guy walks by me, he keeps his eyes focused on something ahead of him and does not acknowledge me as I almost brush shoulders with him on the sidewalk we share. Many times, I’ve hoped he would stop and say hello so that I could tell him how much he reminded me of The Big Lebowski; one of my favorite movies. On my walk this day I saw him and thought about who this man was a little more than I normally do. I told myself that this man looks to have had a hard life: I did not get upset by his avoidance…and moved on.

A little later, I came upon a lady jogging on the other side of the road. She kept her eyes focused on the road in front of her. Her earphones were in, and I assumed that she was lost in whatever she was listening to. “Good for her,” I thought to myself. If she did look in my direction I would have waved to her of course. But she was pretty, which meant she probably worried that if she waved at me I’d think it meant she was interested in me or something. So, I did not judge her, and continued on.  

I got towards the downtown area and turned left around a corner of a building. A young girl walking was looking on her phone as she moved past me. Somehow, she sees where she is going and moves slightly to her right in order to avoid hitting me. She does this without looking up from this magical device in her hand: the thing that keeps her connected to the world at all times. In truth, I got a little annoyed by this. I thought to myself; “Kids nowadays have no sense of common curtesy; she could have at least looked up and acknowledged a fellow walker.” But then I realized that someone had probably told her to avoid strangers. She probably knows that if she doesn’t get past me quickly that I’m likely to do something awful: The world is full of creeps.  

A minute later I see a group of boys riding their bikes laughing amongst themselves coming towards me. They jump off the curb in front of me so that they will not run me over; “How nice of them,” I think to myself. Three boys, all wearing helmets: they must come from decent homes I conclude; someone has clearly taught them about safety. Racing by me, in a rush to get absolutely nowhere I assume, not a single one smiles at me; or waves; or thanks me for moving over slightly. Now I’m starting to think way too much. “What do they teach these kids in schools nowadays?” I think judgingly to myself.  

I continue my walk and try to think happy thoughts. Approaching an intersection, I stop and wait for a car to let me pass. I am in no rush: they can obviously see that. The cars know I do not need them to stop as I do not push out into their way—Where they are going is much more important than me on this mindless walk of mine. Eventually I realize that I must creep into the crosswalk so that I can pass. The driver of the car entering the intersection gets annoyed with me, he lifts just his middle finger off his steering wheel and wiggles it at me as a sign to let me go….

—People Suck!

Not one god damn wave. Not a single hello. Not even a smile. But hey, I was at least acknowledged with that one middle finger.  

I wish I was invisible.

Maybe then there’d be an excuse for no one caring about me, and things wouldn’t hurt so bad. 

Did any of these people know how much I would have appreciated seeing some kindness that day?  

Dear Squad, I’m sorry for voicing my negativity with you here, but this is what happens when I get angry. I figured why not try to get some use out of it and make it into a lesson?

Criticism is hard to take and how we are treated by others is something we carry with us for a long time. We are all sensitive in certain areas of our life. Those that say they are immune to this stuff are lying to themselves. I clearly let my argument with the Principal spiral out of control that day. By the time I sat down to write this article I decided that I’d use this article to vent my frustrations with the world. I hope you don’t mind; I’ll be done shortly….

“I’m (blank) and I’m (blank) and if I don’t stand up for myself no one else will.”

We are living in a time where everyone seems to have a sign around their necks with their own words filling in the blanks to this little quote. It is the chip on our shoulder we all seem to carry so loudly nowadays. 

It is Us verse Them. Where the Us is often just Me, and the Them is very often Everyone and Everything.

In some circles this is referred to as The Victim’s Dilemma: An individual’s battle to prove that they are more a victim than the next person.

We are angry— We are being pushed down— We want to be heard.  

In order to fight for a change in our circumstance we go on long rants (like I’m doing right now), and make sure we are doing our part to make things better. Or at least to make certain people know we are pissed. 

But is any of it really working?

Just writing that makes me want to duct-tape my mouth shut. I know that I’m getting myself in trouble with all this: “The first rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club!”

In our world everyone is talking all the time. No one knows how to listen. I’m no better, just look at what I’m doing with these stupid articles I give you each week.

Let’s face it, we live in a time where most people would do anything for fame. Anything to escape the cage that is their life. Anything to be heard…to be appreciated…to be recognized. 

The things we do is absolute Ridiculousness (And Yes, I’m referencing the MTV show).

People today are more likely to believe in ghosts, or that the world is flat, than they are to believe that someone is genuinely a good person. This fact upsets me more than you can possible understand.

In a world this divided, this selfish, (THIS STUPID!) how do I expect to be a voice that can unite?

How foolish of me. 

People want to be entertained, not united. It’s all so clear to me now. This anger has woken me up. 

I like to think of myself as a strong person after everything I have been through, but maybe I am not yet strong enough. Maybe I have more to learn, or maybe now is not my time, or maybe this world doesn’t need me quite yet?

While writing this for you, everything I’m doing here seems a bit pointless. 

It is times like these that I question what faith has to do with any of this: “Maybe faith is simply stupidity by a different name; or perhaps it is just a mental illness like they say?” 

Whatever, I’m going to bed. Today, you win. I’m done thinking good is stronger than evil—People Suck!  (Mic Drop)

QUESTION FOR REFLECTION:

Is anger a motivator?

The Teacher’s Playlist:

“I see you’re not satisfied.”

—Mirror by Lil Wayne (feat. Bruno Mars)

(Click here to continue to next chapter)

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