With Love for Newtown, Ct – Children First

Four times I’ve faced a gun at close range.  In 1984 the trigger was pulled. I was shot in the head. The bullet is lodged in my brain. I do all I can not to remember the terror before the trigger was pulled and before, in the other instances, I escaped.

I’ve tried with all my heart and soul not to think (feel) about what those last moments were like for those innocent  people (20 children!) in Newtown, Connecticut.  I’ve tried and I failed. It dawned on me, as I was writing to a close friend this morning, that this may be a healthy thing. If we as people, people!, don’t really digest this horror, and decide that first and foremost we must do all we can to protect our children, nothing will happen, nothing will change, and we will all be accomplices in maintaining the heartbeat of this gun-soaked addicted-to-violence society we live in.

The lack of responsible gun control in this country plays a lead role in the 30,000 deaths a year by gun. As Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times recently pointed out, “More Americans die in gun homicides and suicides in six months than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.”

One of the tragedies in all this is the instinct of some to protect guns before protecting children. As some have already pointed out,  if members of congress and community leaders and every citizen displayed a fraction of the courage the teachers and principal and school psychologist in Newtown displayed trying to protect the students of Sandy Hook Elementary School, what a difference we could make.

Connecticut Medical Examiner Dr. Wayne Carver said every one of the seven children he examined was shot from three to 11 times, some were shot while clinging to each other!  We must put children before guns. We must do something,  now. If we don’t, more children will die.

Call me sinner, call me man

Call me sinner. Call me man. Call me a human being doing best he can. Nothing always easy about the lifting veil to change. New beginnings, new muscles, or old ones long unused being called on again. It’s down to the pen from here on out. Words against violence I must write, many of them. Violence. Been done to me and I done to others, men and women; this crazy sickness besetting so many, all only getting sicker in their silence.

I ask no favors. I ask no sympathy. Will any of this be easy? No. But easier than living nothing, of that you can be sure. Men and women, boys and girls, all walks of life need to know that there is no difference between the alcoholic-addict clinging to the porcelain throne swearing he or she will never use again and the wrenched-up sobbing man or woman swearing they’ll never strike their family member again. In both moments both people are being honest, both can pass a polygraph with flying colors (never known flying colors to do shit for anyone). But both are wrong. Without treatment there will be more using and more violence. The diseases of both are bigger and stronger than anyone’s will power. Will power is not enough. We are talking about two real diseases, addiction and violence; I know this to be true because I’ve had both.

There is no healthy reason on planet earth to surrender decision making to addiction and there is no healthy reason on planet earth to be violent to another person, family or stranger, not unless you are defending your life.

I don’t know how many years I have left in life. I am two strides from 60. I do know that I can’t undo my past and undo the wounds I’ve inflicted on others, particularly my first wife, a woman who will always live full length in my heart and soul. I do know that I can, even with just the written word, maybe, just maybe, help others.

For those on the out-of-control addiction and out-of-control violence fronts it is time to surrender to the reality you are grappling with and get help. You are not responsible for the sickness, you are for those you hurt while you are sick and you are responsible for your recovery. You need and, more importantly, deserve help – professional help. It took me years of treatment to get well on the violence and addiction fronts. It will likely take you years to get well too. But, it is time well spent. It is a blessing, a tears of joy blessing, to be forever freed of the urge to use and the urge to strike.

For those on the receiving end of these behaviors…there is no healthy reason for you to stay around. I’d go through getting shot in the head 10 times over to both spare my wife the hell I put her through and the hell of losing her I put me through. But here’s the thing, her leaving me on February 12, 1981 was her last gift to me. It was my bottom on that front. It is what sent me into therapy where I worked with all my might for years, where I held no one but me accountable for my behavior.

When my time comes, if I know it is coming, I’d like to be able to close my eyes that last time knowing I did all I could to make amends, help others, breathe love and kindness into the world, add some peace.

Now soon I move and the focus will be writing, and doing so honestly,  and as courageously as I can.

Peace.

AFTER TRAUMA, REMEMBER THE BASICS

Life happens to us whether we like it or not. All of it, including trauma, and the numerous experiences that fall under the umbrella of trauma: accidents, acts of violence, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, home, friendship, the onset of disease or disability. The list goes on.


There are no magic answers to managing trauma other than to give yourself permission to go through the experience and seek the kind of support, not that you need, but that you deserve. There is something else too. Remember the basics.


When I say remember the basics, I mean exactly that. Do your best to remember to bathe or shower. Don’t forget to wash your hair, brush your teeth, wash your clothes, change your clothes. If you’re having a hard time finding your appetite, try to eat some healthy foods. If you find you can’t stop eating, again, healthy foods. Your body deserves as much respect as your heart, mind and soul. Remember to keep clean sheets on the bed. If you are prescribed medicine, remember to take it. See if you can tidy up your living area from time to time. If you find yourself struggling with these things, try and let someone know. I don’t for a second think you need help or need support, I think you damn well deserve it. We all do when life takes a hard run at us.


If you are struggling with the basics it does not mean there is something wrong with you. It does not mean you are flawed person or, for that matter, a weak person. It means that you are a human being and there are times life dishes out experiences that still our regular life patterns and knock us down. No matter how difficult and grueling the experience of being one can be from time to time, being a human being is a good thing. It may not always feel that way, but I believe it always is that way.


Allow yourself your humanity. When you remember the basics, even if you can only manage some of them, you are remember to take care of yourself in a very real way. Taking care of the basics forces us to remember ourselves, and tend to ourselves. And that, I promise you, is a healthy thing – and a healing thing. Remembering the basics is you taking care of you. And if there is anyone you deserve support from – it is you.



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REFLECTIONS AT STOKES

In a quiet cabin in New Jersey’s Stokes State Forest my mind can unclench and breathe. This year has been the most grueling one for me in many years. However, lest you think I am on the pity-pot, think again. When one begins to break free of the emotional bruising of betrayal, and proceeds to fracture the grip some of the greedy have had on his (or her) life, a welcome sense of freedom and possibility emerges.



This sense of freedom and possibility is an independence reborn. In the magic place linked so powerfully to my father, I can sit and watch the flames dance in the wood stove and let my mind, heart, and soul, relax, breathe, ponder the possibilities. And there are many.

I am rethinking all my connections and relationships in life. I think I remain linked to some more out of habit and ritual than need and desire. I don’t know how this process will tease itself out, but it’s just a matter of time before it does.



I am starting with those things I know for sure. The realities that are, for me, the non-negotiables. Realities I will not relinquish and, in some cases, defend with my life.



My friendship with Michael Sulsona along with his sons Vincent and Philip will never end. We are all more than friends. Michael and I refer to each other as brothers from time to time and the boys have grown up calling me Uncle Peter. And they are, in my heart, my nephews.



There are others in my life who I love very much too. But those who know me well and know me deep, know that Michael and his boys have a place in my heart and soul like no one else. Why? We are, in the real heart-meaning of the word, family.



There are other non-negotiables as well. An obvious one would be this; I will give up my sobriety for no one. Moreover, I will, with all my might continue to work against our society’s addiction to violence as well as the right every person has to be who they are fully and safely in the world. In other words, I will not set aside my penchant for working against the unhealthy forces of bigotry. I can tell you that I am taking a look at how best to do that.



Anyway, enough for now. I’ll talk to you more soon, in the meantime, be well, take care of yourselves…and remember to live.



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