Crack, Fights & Looking For Love – Charlie King

Crack, Fights & Looking For Love – Charlie King

Paul’s support group friend has led an astoundingly painful life especially in regard to his mother (schizophrenia, depression), father (workaholic, hoarder), and sister (drug addict). He describes his descent into drugs (crack), emotionally damaged women and violence before finding the key to understanding his behavior.

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. To see if online counseling is right for you go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental and experience a free week. Must be 18.

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This episode is sponsored by Audible. To start a free trial or just see their catalog of audiobooks go to www.Audible.com/mental

Support the podcast by becoming a one-time donor, a monthly donor or use when shopping at Amazon, enter using our Amazon link so they give us some money (at no cost to you).

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Episode notes:

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. To see if online counseling is right for you go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental and experience a free week. Must be 18.

This episode is sponsored by ZipRecruiter. To post jobs for free to go www.ZipRecruiter.com/first

This episode is sponsored by Audible. To start a free trial or just see their catalog of audiobooks go to www.Audible.com/mental

Support the podcast by becoming a one-time donor, a monthly donor or use when shopping at Amazon, enter using our Amazon link so they give us some money (at no cost to you).

Episode Transcript:

Transcription services donated by Accurate Secretarial LLC. You can find them at www.AccurateSecretarial.com.

 

Welcome to Episode 328 with my guest Charlie King. I'm Paul Gilmartin. This is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, a place for honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions, past traumas and sexual dysfunction to everyday compulsive negative thinking. The show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling.

I'm not a therapist. It's not a doctor's office. I'm not even a nurse's aide. I've never even driven an ambulance. I was pre-med and I am a hypochondriac and I do like to Google, so that does count for something, but this is [chuckles], this is, this show is not meant to, oh, shut up. For the love of God, 45 seconds in and I am already hating myself [chuckles]. The Web site for this show is who gives a fuck. It's Mentalpod.com. Mentalpod is also the Twitter handle you can follow me at.

What can I share with you? Oh, we, the votes are in and I finally am posting the 12 favorite episodes from 2016. I couldn't cut it off at 10 because the next two were so fucking good I wanted people to see those as well, so I picked a top 12. And if you go to the Web site, you'll see, you'll figure it out. You're an adult. Or maybe you're a child and you're listening. You're a precocious child.

Hey, here is something that could really help the podcast because we always need more funding, you know. I cannot do this podcast without you guys, and donations are down and I'm a little desperate, but then again, I'm a panicky person. My point being, here's a great way to help the podcast, even if you don't have any money.

Go to our homepage and you'll see a little Amazon link. If you're ever going to shop at Amazon, click on that link and it doesn't cost you anything when you buy at Amazon. Nothing is added to your price. In fact, what would be really great, click on that link and then bookmark it, and then every time you go shop at Amazon, just enter through there. That does help.

I wanted to give you an update on the Marshmallow Diaries [chuckles]. I have not had any, I have not eaten tablespoonfuls, tablespoonsful of Marshmallow Fluff out of the jar at 4:00 in the morning, right before I go to bed, in I think like three weeks, and, by the way, the wind is so strong tonight. It's weird, it seems to pick up on the days that I sit down to do the podcast. I would really like to make that all about me, but I think it just might be a coincidence.

Yeah, so, no entries in the Marshmallow Diaries. I have blocked Ben & Jerry's number, been three weeks since that. And the first couple of days, there was just a real craving for sugar, and then I went to really bittersweet chocolate and I'm to the point now where I'm not even really craving that that much.

So, I'm feeling good, and I think this has to do with the thing that I've been working on my therapist with, which is acknowledging my feelings, because I used to acknowledge my feelings before. That's not true.

There was a time when I wouldn't understand what I was feeling. Then there came to be a time when I would understand what I was feeling but I wouldn't sit with it. And now, I'm learning to acknowledge what I’m feeling and sit with it as long as it takes, almost like a cop at your window when you've been pulled over, you know, just he's not going to be there forever, or she's not going to be there forever. And usually some type of catharsis happens, and I think that is related to not bingeing on the sugar as much.

And I've mentioned before I love my therapist. I found her through BetterHelp.com. They're one of our sponsors. I highly recommend them. If you want to check them out, go to BetterHelp.com/mental. I'll put a link on this episode where you can, if you forget it. But go, yeah, go to BetterHelp.com/mental. Complete a questionnaire. They'll match you up with a BetterHelp.com counselor, and then you can experience a free week of counseling to see if online counseling is right for you. You've got to be over 18. I highly recommend it.

And the thing that I like, too, is she will send me messages throughout the week, saying, hey, here's something to consider, or asking me a question about how is this going or that going, and it's different than kind of any other therapy framework I've had before and I really, I really like it.

As I've mentioned before, I am leaving to go out of the country on Monday. Super excited about it but also a little nervous because a lot of things out of your control when you go traveling, and as much as I love seeing new places, just I get anxious around planes and buses and am I going to make this, connections, that's the thing that stresses me out the most.

One of the things that I love about our digital age is, if you get delayed, you miss a flight, whatever, you have ways to keep yourself entertained, and one of the ways that I enjoy doing that is with Audible. If you have never listened to an audio book, you are really missing out. I have a bunch loaded on my phone. I have Amy Poehler's Yes, Please, and an amazing one that I highly, highly recommend, which is called The Innovators, how a group of hackers, geniuses and geeks created the digital revolution. And I'm not going to give too much of it away. It traces the very beginning of the digital revolution to pretty much where we are today. It's by Walter Isaacson, who's an amazing, amazing author.

And he researches so much about this book, there is, it begins in the mid-1800s with a woman named Ada Lovelace who was the daughter of the poet Lord Byron, and she is credited with being the first computer programmer because she imagined how a computing machine, they were analog back then, could be used to represent things other than numbers or quantities. It's amazing. So, he traces every single step along the way. It's a brilliant book. I highly recommend it.

But anyway, the Audible app is free. It works on iPhones, iPad, Android and Windows Phone, and you can also download and listen on your Kindle Fire and over 500 MP3 players. Also, you own your books so you can access them anytime. They have a great-listen guarantee. If you decided you don't like the book you choose, no worries. You can exchange it anytime you want for another title, no questions asked.

So, if travel delays are wasting your time, buckle up and settle in while new ideas take off. You can't make more time but you can make the most of it. Turn your travel into something more with a free trial of Audible. Go to Audible.com/mental to start now. Once again, that's Audible.com/mental.

I want to read an Awfulsome Moment, and this was filled out by a woman who calls herself Vanilla Oreo, and her Awfulsome Moment, she writes, I am biracial but I look white. The only person who validates my racial identity is my stalker.

 

[Show intro]

 

PAUL: I'm here with my buddy, Charlie King, who I've known for about 13 years.
CHARLIE: Yes, indeed.

 

PAUL: We met at a support group. You've been sober a while now, like what, 11 years?

 

CHARLIE: Two.

 

PAUL: Two?

 

CHARLIE: Two and some change.

 

PAUL: Oh, okay. I couldn't have been more wrong.

 

CHARLIE: I got married and, it's a long story, she was hiding the fact that she was taking opiates and I had a huge patch of arthritis in my low back and tried one and, you know, most people would say, I need to get a prescription first.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Not us.

 

CHARLIE: No.

 

PAUL: Not us.

 

CHARLIE: I just didn't have a mental defense, so I had to start my time over.

 

PAUL: Well, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is we've known each other over the years. Sometimes we don't see each other for a number of months, but when we do reconnect, I don't know, I feel like there's always this, I don't know, this connection between the two of us.

 

CHARLIE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: I've always been, I've always been drawn to people who can get vulnerable and be honest about what it is that they're struggling with. And early on, you opened up to me about your life and about your struggles with using violence as a solution.

 

CHARLIE: Yes.

 

PAUL: What do you remember about that time period? It would have been the mid-2000s, and you I think were still in the midst of occasionally, you know, somebody disrespecting you and you--

 

CHARLIE: Taking things personally.

 

PAUL: --getting into a fight and then being arrested.

 

CHARLIE: I was, I felt hopeless. I felt there was, it was something I could not control. And I would just snap, and I felt like I was going to get locked away somewhere and, in gladiator school, and never get the help that I needed.

 

PAUL: What's the longest stint you've done in jail or prison?

 

CHARLIE: Forty-five days.

 

PAUL: In jail.

 

CHARLIE: Mm-hmm. That was in 1982. But as for my anger, I always got away, except for the last, the last one, and I did, I think I did eight days in L.A. County Jail for that one.

 

PAUL: And were these just men you'd never met before, strangers?

 

CHARLIE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHARLIE: Well, one wasn't. One was a domestic on my wife, which, in which I pushed her out of the door and she scraped her head on the doorway and I locked out and I didn't know that she'd bumped her head and she called the police. And they had me face-down on the carpet and took me away. So, that was a domestic.

Everything I have ever done is a misdemeanor because after one punch I realized what I was doing, I said, oh, my God, what am I doing this for, and I always stopped. So, what determines whether it becomes a misdemeanor or a felony is the amount of damage that you inflict on another person. If you just beat someone down and really hurt them, injure them gravely, it's a felony. It's a felony battery.

 

PAUL: And so you've never had a felony battery.

 

CHARLIE: No. It's always just been one punch, something like that. But the anger and the craziness was always there. I mean, I was the guy who would get out of his car in the middle of traffic and go back to the other car and, you know, and try to get them to come out or pound on the window and stuff.

I've actually had people that knew me that just happened to be at a carwash or something and yelled out, Charlie, what are you doing? And it's just snapped me out of it. I looked around and I was in the middle of the street, going after this person in a car, and I just turned around, I looked around, I said, oh, my God, I'm going to get back in my car now. And he just snapped me out of it.

 

PAUL: So, it's almost like you go into an altered state--

 

CHARLIE: An altered state.

 

PAUL: --like a switch flips.

 

CHARLIE: Can't control it. Or couldn't control it. And it was a hopeless feeling, hopeless, because--

 

PAUL: You had so much shame when you started opening up to me, and I think that's one of the things that, A, interested me in you as a person, but B, also it made me feel close to you because you were so gentle in your self-reflection and desire to change, and it was such a contrast with Charlie as a physically, though you're not that tall, you're, he's a physically fit guy with tattoos all over his arms, and just that contrast, to me, was so, it just always struck me as so complex.

 

CHARLIE: It was. I'm not the kind of guy that likes to go on and on about himself. I mean, when I'm, but I, this is about me so I’m going to go on a little bit about myself. I was born a real sweet person who was naturally outgoing, and at the age of five, I would introduce myself to people and shake hands and speak right up and say, well, my, what a lovely house you have, and just, I was always just a little adult.

You know, I went to a new neighborhood and, at five years old in 19-, it would have been two, three, four, five, six, that would have been 1967, and I'd just walk up and down the neighborhood knocking on doors, introducing myself as Charles King, and do you have someone my age I could play with, and I knocked on all these doors and I finally knocked on the right one and she said, yeah, I do, and she pushed him out and he was my age, and we're still friends today.

But the abuse, the physical abuse and my vision of love, what love is, was so skewed and so distorted because the people that bring you into the world, if they're hitting you and then they're pretending, then they're acting like they're your friend and then they start hitting you again and they act like your friend, your vision of love is going to be very distorted.

 

PAUL: Give me some examples of--

 

CHARLIE: Getting hit, this was not beat up. This was corporal punishment. This was corporal punishment, so it was very--

 

PAUL: But give me some examples, you know, of things that you experienced that kind of involved that.

 

CHARLIE: Being taken down in a dark basement that was unfinished. It didn't have, it had studs, it had like, you know, no walls, just studs. A dark, scary basement and being hit on the back of the legs with a broomstick. Being beaten in the back of the legs with a broomstick and not really knowing why.

Then coming back, coming up and crying on the couch and, man, I can't imagine doing that to a six-year-old or a seven-year-old. You know, I just, I can't imagine doing that now. But that's what was, both parents were doing that. And Mom had a riding crop. Dad had a broomstick handle.

So, when people that are supposed to love you are doing that to you, your vision of love is skewed. And so, when I was nine, my mother ceased to be able to be a mother and she went over the edge and she never got her sanity back. She went over the edge, and she was crying or she was catatonic or she was laughing or sitting there. Like I said, she would be catatonic. She wouldn't speak for weeks. And, I mean, she wasn't my mother anymore. So, after nine years old--

 

PAUL: Had she been diagnosed with anything?

 

CHARLIE: Schizophrenia, depression, and people talk about depression, and I've experienced depression where, you know, you're depressed, but this kind of depression was where she couldn't talk. It was more, it was a huge depression. So, schizophrenic, where she would talk to herself and hear things and thought God and people were telling her what to do.

 

PAUL: Was there--

 

CHARLIE: No cure for that.

 

PAUL: Was there any desire on her part to get better or get help?
CHARLIE: She was gone. There was nothing left. She was just reduced to a child and certainly couldn't be a mother, but she tried. Yes, there was. Yes, she did try.

She tried to pull it together, and she would, and I was angry as a seven-year-old and an eight-year-old, I was angry, and I would send her to the store to buy me toys and she would come back and I'd say, that's not right, go back and get this, and, you know, she had no boundaries. She was just reduced to like a child. And so, I was so angry--

 

PAUL: You would send her to the store?
CHARLIE: Right, to buy me things, because I was so, I was just, I was angry that she was not a mother. She had no boundaries. I had no discipline at all. I was not disciplined anymore. She was--

 

PAUL: So, it went from you being beaten by her--

 

CHARLIE: Being hit.

 

PAUL: --to her not guiding you, even badly guiding you--

 

CHARLIE: Exactly. No guidance whatsoever. So, it was from getting, you know, hit, getting corporal punishment all the time, to nothing, to her--

 

PAUL: Being ignored.

 

CHARLIE: Completely ignored, abandoned and--

 

PAUL: Where was your father?

 

CHARLIE: A workaholic, always working. And soon after he left the state to start a company, he was ambitious and he wanted to have his own company so he left the state and started up this company and left me and my sister with my mom, who was very sick. So, I had nothing, I had no parental guidance, no--

 

PAUL: And was your father aware of the severity of the situation?

 

CHARLIE: In the beginning, I'm sure he was. Yeah, I think so, but he was driven. And, you know, I was born to two parents who had no right to have parents. They had no parenting skills whatsoever.

 

PAUL: To have kids, you mean.

 

CHARLIE: Yeah. They had no parenting skills. They didn't know what they were doing. They just knew how to inflict pain and scare you. And my friend, who I had knocked on his door and met him, he was my age, had two parents that had great parenting skills. His father was a psychiatrist and his mother was studying psychology, and so they both had amazing parenting skills and the contrast was absolutely amazing.

I would come over to his house like a wild Indian, foul-mouthed and just wound up to the hilt, and his mother would say, Charlie, we don't talk that way here, and said, do you want to take off your coat, you're going to get overheated, because you're a little, you're going fast, you're going too fast here.

 

PAUL: Were you manic as a kid?

 

CHARLIE: I was maybe a little bit. Yeah, I was wound up, really, really wound up, foul-mouthed, had no guidance and--

 

PAUL: And had you become violent at that point?

 

CHARLIE: Yeah. There was schoolyard brawls, and as a fourth-grader, fourth- and fifth-grader, I had fighting skills. I had body blocks and I'd punch and kick. You know, I had a lot of fights as a young--

 

PAUL: Would you generally start them? What would set you off? Can you recall any, to just kind of give us some more detail of--

 

CHARLIE: I can't, just, no, I can't recall, it's been so long, but I remember having some moves, definitely having real moves, fighting moves, you know, punching, going down on my knees, blocking someone, tripping them, getting on top and, you know, and--

 

PAUL: What do you remember feeling when you would do that?

 

CHARLIE: You know what would happen, was I would always make friends with the people that I got in fights with. I would--

 

PAUL: Afterwards.

 

CHARLIE: Mm-hmm. It was like over in a flash and I became friends with them. And when I moved, my dad finally got the company started and I moved from Denver to Tulsa, I moved, and I was in sixth grade, the biggest kid in the school didn't like me because I had red hair and I was a little quirky. I was a little odd. But I had red hair, and so he didn't like me and he wanted to fight me.

So, my first day of school, the big football player, big linebacker kid was, you know, punching his hands in his fists, looking at me across the classroom, you know, like it's going to be you and me after class, and when school let out we went down the street, and I remember jumping up in the air and punching him several times, as a 12-year-old. And he, the guy, he was huge and, for me, and I remember jumping up in the air and hitting him. And I won, just because I had the heart, and we became close friends. After that, we became very close.

 

PAUL: Do you feel like you need to punch me for us to become closer?

 

CHARLIE: No.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHARLIE: No. I, I thought, and the same thing when I stopped using drugs and alcohol as a way to medicate, after a few years went by, this anger started coming up, and the drugs and alcohol kept it in check, but once I got clean and sober, it started coming up. And so here I was, seven, eight, nine years' sober and getting into fights.

 

PAUL: So, give me, before we get into your drug years, let's go back to childhood and adolescence and give me some moments, some little vignettes, that you think kind of paint a picture for the listener of who you were like, what your life was like, how you viewed the world, anything like that.

 

CHARLIE: Well, as a youngster, as nine, 10 years old, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, looking back, you know, as a child, you have to just deal with what you're given, and in therapy, I was talking to a therapist, and she said, Charlie, there is no way in the world you could have processed that stuff, you know, seeing your mother go crazy and crying all the time or coming on to me or--

 

PAUL: What do you mean, coming on to you, sexually?

 

CHARLIE: A little bit, telling me I was cute and getting close to me and putting her arms around me and, you know, kissing my cheeks and telling me how, you know, and it just, it was very creepy.

 

PAUL: Yeah, that must have been really uncomfortable.

 

CHARLIE: It was very uncomfortable. But, and when that happened, I was actually a teenager, so I knew that she was insane and I knew, but it still, I still remember it. But, so having, trying to process that kind of stuff as a child, you can't. You can't process. You just have to push it down.

So, I've spent a lot of time alone. I walked to the store alone, I walked up and down the neighborhoods at five years old, alone. I don't know, I don't see any five-year-olds doing that today. So, I had, I was born into crazy. I mean, my mother and sister were both, didn't know how to show love. My father didn't know how to relate to me at all. So, you know, I didn't, my vision of love was distorted.

So, later in life, I spent years, and I'm still doing it, getting women who aren't emotionally available, just like my mother and my sister and my father. So, yeah, some of the earliest things I can remember, getting hit and not knowing why, crying, wondering why someone that loved me would do that.

And it turned around, it came around to bite me because I was always known as the guy that would punch you out, you know, but later in life, when I stopped using the substances, it just got to where I, then I met you in the mid-'90s, or the mid-2000s, I felt completely helpless and completely hopeless.

 

PAUL: I remember you--

 

CHARLIE: Hopeless.

 

PAUL: --went back out and started, and I think you were smoking crack, right, that was your thing back then?
CHARLIE: That was my thing.

 

PAUL: And you disappeared for a while and I remember all of a sudden you showed up again and you, one of your front teeth had been knocked out, and I just remember thinking, that's not good.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: I don't know if I need to ask Charlie how he's doing.

 

CHARLIE: I remember that [chuckles].

 

PAUL: How'd that tooth get knocked out?

 

CHARLIE: Oh, that, that's a funny story because, at a crack house [sighs], I was wrapping up my rocks in a little piece of paper, plastic, and in this crack house, if you played with your rocks too much, you were, they stole your drugs and threw you out, and you were known as a tweaker. So, you started tweaking too much, they would like take your drugs and beat you up and throw you out.

So, I was wrapping it up in some plastic bags, what grocery bags used to be made out of, and I would pull it with my teeth and all of a sudden my, it popped out my tooth. My front tooth went bouncing on the carpet and everybody put their pipes down and looked at me and said, was that your tooth?

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHARLIE: I said, yeah. And I got up and got my tooth and left.

 

[Laughter]

 

CHARLIE: Left. So, that's the story about the tooth, and--

 

PAUL: How had your tooth become so loose? Was it a fake tooth at that point?

 

CHARLIE: It was a fake tooth. Yeah, it was, it had a little post and it was a cap with a little post into the root, and I just pulled on it just right and it snapped that post.

 

PAUL: How had the tooth originally--

 

CHARLIE: My sister, we were playing and my sister took my head and just pushed it down on the table and cracked my tooth in half. Yeah, my sister was a very inspirational, extraordinary person, who could inspire people, and people would name their babies after her. She has so much passion, my sister did.

In the '70s, listening to all that great music of the '70s, driving around in a VW smoking joints, and my sister was extraordinary and passionate and inspired people and she was my hero, because she was my older sister and I would sneak into her room and listen to Derek and the Dominos and the Rolling Stones and Ten Years After and James Taylor and all the great bands of the '70s. She was my hero.

 

PAUL: And do you remember why she put your face into the edge of a table?

 

CHARLIE: I don't remember. She was playing and she was--

 

PAUL: Oh, so it wasn't like an act of--

 

CHARLIE: No, it wasn't a violent act, no. She was just playing and just kind of pushed me. I don't know if she pushed me down, I don't know.

 

PAUL: Is your sister no longer alive?

 

CHARLIE: My sister is dead. She's passed away. And that's been one of the hardest things ever because all of her passion that she had for life and for music and for everything slowly, slowly slipped away, as--

 

PAUL: As she descended into alcohol?

 

CHARLIE: --she descended into alcohol and drugs, yeah. And then, I knew that she was an addict and she got in control of my mother's estate when my mother committed suicide. Her parents had a considerable estate, with apartments, cash, a nice house in San Clemente by the ocean--

 

PAUL: Who has--

 

CHARLIE: My mother's parent.

 

PAUL: Oh, I see. Okay.

 

CHARLIE: They came from Scotland and they opened a toy store, and they had a nice, they had a nice, she had a nice inheritance.

Well, she got herself in control of that money, and when she got in control of my mother's estate, she got power of attorney, and the houses and the money and the stocks and everything, I went into a support group to get some relief from the way I was feeling, because I was powerless. I could do nothing. You know, she got it all, I got nothing--

 

PAUL: So, kind of a codependence-themed support group?

 

CHARLIE: Yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: Okay.

 

CHARLIE: That would give me some skills on how to deal with being powerless over somebody else, somebody else's addiction. And lo and behold, you know, she ended up, her boyfriend was a drug smuggler or something, and she, somehow he attacked her and she got a huge settlement, and she put that settlement money in with all the estate money that she had got from my mother, and she had quite a bit.

And then so she had a nice three-level house in Laguna Beach, right across from PCH, you know, with an ocean view in Laguna, which was, and I was just staying in the sober-livings, you know, bunk bends, and then I had an apartment, I had a little one-bedroom apartment, and--

 

PAUL: I remember your apartment.

 

CHARLIE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: What, how did you cope with the feelings of that, because I remember you talking about it, but I want to hear you share with the listener what that was like, having to deal with the powerlessness of somebody who had done that to you.

 

CHARLIE: Yeah. It was a sneaky thing, you know, and she knew what she was doing. She was an addict, and so she got in control of it all and got the house and then moved her heroin dealer in as her boyfriend, so he was just--

 

PAUL: Well, that's just polite, I mean, that's--

 

CHARLIE: --he was a heroin dealer, so yeah, she moved him in--

 

PAUL: It would be rude to leave him--

 

CHARLIE: Yeah, so he was just, he was just a leech. He just used her. And together they shot heroin in that nice house in Laguna Beach. But it was really hard because I was powerless and she would, she would try to help me here and there, you know, when I needed money or, and going down to her house for Christmases and stuff, you know--

 

PAUL: Wow, how hard was that?

 

CHARLIE: Yeah. She had a really nice house with like a spiral staircase and a nice convertible in the driveway and the dealer living there, and she was gaining weight because heroin, it slows your metabolism down, and so she was gaining weight and, but she was really happy, you know, because she was blissfully, you know, high on heroin.

And it was really hard, really hard to--

 

PAUL: How did she technically cut you out of the estate that she, while your mom was alive did she get her to rewrite the will, or what did she do?

 

CHARLIE: No. When my mother had, let's see. My mother was alive, my mother committed suicide, my, her parents begged my father, who is an excellent businessman, begged him to help them with their estate, to help them organize it, and he ignored, my father ignored them and wanted nothing to do with my mother's parents, to help them.

So, she, my grandmother, put it into my uncle's name, who was my mother's brother, who was not sane. He was a burned-out old alcoholic who wasn't in his right mind, and so my sister capitalized on that. She knew that Uncle Bob, Bob, needed someone to take care of him, so she got power of attorney to take care of Bob, who the money went to, so the money was actually Bob's, but she had access to it because she had power of attorney, she was taking care of him.

 

PAUL: I see.

 

CHARLIE: So, you know, her and Bob had that house, and--

 

PAUL: And how did your sister die?

 

CHARLIE: My sister never got any help for alcohol and drugs, and so my sister died a very slow death. She went from the three-level house in Laguna Beach to on the streets of Santa Ana.

And one of the first things that happened, well, not one of the first things, but one of the things that happens to you when you're living on the streets is your health and your teeth, because you're not brushing your teeth, you're not flossing, you're not eating the right foods to provide vitamins for dental support, and that's why homeless people have bad teeth, because they're not eating right, they're not brushing and taking care of their teeth--

 

PAUL: And especially if you're doing drugs, that kills the blood flow to your gums.

 

CHARLIE: Right. And so, her teeth started to go and she would pop up in jail. I mean, she would, she always told me when my uncle died that I would get something, you know, a substantial amount of money, and when he died, she never let me know he died. I never got to go to his funeral. I don't even think he had a funeral.

So, she disappeared. When she left that house, she moved to another house and just disappeared and then became homeless and lived on the streets and doing heroin and crack. And so, she was introduced to recovery programs and it never took with her. I just bounced off. She just didn't absorb it.

So, I got to see what happens to someone who never gets in, versus, as opposed to me, who gets in and has gone out a few times for a couple of months and gotten back, I never gave myself any credit for coming back and forth, but now that I've seen what happened to her, I see what happens.

There is a huge difference in someone who gets in and goes out and gets in and goes out than someone who never gets in, because she never got in and she died a horrible death. It was slow. When someone dies of alcoholism, no one is surprised because everyone knows what's going on with that person, so she looked, she was 57 and she looked 75, and her teeth were rotted out and brown.

And she got my dad to pay for dentures, so she got some dentures, and she looked really, really old. And thought that people were hacking into her phone and she was not in her right mind, and I tried to get her into halfway houses and stuff, and she couldn't be anywhere for long without being asked to leave because she was mentally unstable and she would just rub people the wrong way, and just she knew how to get under people's skin, and so she couldn't stay. They would have to ask her to leave.

I tried everything to get her the message and, in the end, she died alone and scared and unable to connect with anyone, any of her old friends, couldn't connect with them, and nothing, none of her old friends, just alone, and was living in my old bedroom with my father, who, my father is a recluse who actually works but doesn't take care of his house, doesn't have any food in the refrigerator, doesn't, lives in a broken-down, dirty, disgusting house, which--

 

PAUL: So, what happened to him financially?

 

CHARLIE: I don't know. He owns a pool company and does fairly well, but he just, he doesn't care about the house. He doesn't care about anything but pools and dating his girlfriend, actually, just pools. He thinks, my father fell in the trap of thinking that his what he does defines him, so owning this pool company gives him his identity.

And so, when I went back for my reunion in 2015, no, 2010, for my 30-year reunion, I saw the house was, had two inches of dust on the carpet, and there was a little trail where he walked from the living room into the bedroom, and there was dirt and filth all over the carpet.

The pool, see, this is the house that he had built when we were, when I was in high school. It was a beautiful, wonderful house with a pool in the back and all this futuristic furniture and a barbecue and everything, and the pool was brown water, half full. The house was a shambles. And he was eating TV dinners, sitting there alone, in the quiet, eating TV dinners alone, by himself.

And I went back, anytime I ever went back to see him, there was no food in the refrigerator and really no reason to come back, because I hadn't seen him in years and I would, we would go out to breakfast the next morning and he would just put the paper up between us and read the paper. And I would say, don't you want to know what's been going on with me, don't you want to know me, and he really didn't. You know, he had no interest in me, actually. So--

 

PAUL: I knew some of your story, but I didn't know the depths of the abandonment.

 

CHARLIE: Yeah. He didn't want to know me. And I hadn't seen him in 10 years. I moved to L.A. He was still in, then he let the house go and he, I asked him, I said, how can you live in filth? And he says, I'm fine, I'm happy, I'm perfectly happy.

So, I went back in 2010 for my 30-year reunion, that was seven years ago, and I actually cleaned up, mowed the yard, vacuumed up all the, there was seriously two inches of dust, and cleaned his kitchen and stuff and--

 

PAUL: What did you feel when you went back and you saw all this and you were walking around?

 

CHARLIE: Oh, man, it's just, complete disconnect. I mean, here's a guy who disconnected from me, but he's also disconnected, I mean, who wants to live in filth? I mean, who would--

 

PAUL: But what did you feel?

 

CHARLIE: What did I feel? A little empathy, because this is not something new. This is all my, my entire life it was, he was disconnected from me. And when, you know, when you're a little boy and your mother's sick and you're struggling, you know, you're going to want to get on one knee and say, what's going on with you, son, how are you doing? You know, that never happened.

You know, so I felt empathy for him and just felt a complete disconnect.

 

PAUL: Did you feel anything towards yourself?

 

CHARLIE: No. I'm still working on that. I'm still working on processing the things that happened as a little boy and as a teenager, growing up without, with a mother who was gone.

 

PAUL: I mean, just me hearing this story, I can't imagine what it would be like to go through all of that shit. I mean, it's--

 

CHARLIE: Well, the thing is, though, my mother suffered. After, when she got sick when I was nine, she suffered. She cried and cried and became catatonic and suffered and suffered and took all these drugs that made her just twist and writhe and none of the drugs did any good at all.

But I watched her suffer for many years, and she finally bought a gun at Walmart and just laid down on the bed and shot herself. And, I mean, I understand that because it was--

 

PAUL: Where were you?

 

CHARLIE: I was in the, I had actually done a stint in jail for robbery and started to get my life together and started going to college, and I was studying in college and I was getting good grades and I was looking to take over my dad's pool company and things were looking up.

You know, I had a girlfriend and I was, I was still smoking some pot, but I would smoke pot after I studied, late at night, so it was, I was in community college and I was at the library studying, making grades, doing well. You know, my whole, all my high school years were spent in a haze of drugs, acid, everything. I mean, I was so stoned in high school and junior high, so now is my time to shine.

So, I had just done some time in jail and was turning myself around, and my mother, she just was tired of suffering, and I completely understand. I completely understand.

 

PAUL: You said she got a shotgun, she laid down--

 

CHARLIE: She got a .38 pistol from Walmart and loaded it and just laid down and shot herself. And my sister found her. My sister called my girlfriend. My girlfriend called me. I went straight over there, and we both found her together. And my sister had called me and then my girlfriend and then she called the police, and so we were in there.

My mother had blown herself off the bed, in between the bed and the nightstand, and I was trying to pick her up and put her back on the bed and there was quite a bit of blood and brains on the wall and on the carpeting by the bed. And I was trying to pick her up and put her back on the bed, and the medical, the coroner or whatever he was, a medical examiner guy, bear-hugged me and pulled me out of the room, and I was so mad because I wanted to be with my mother, and he said, dead people have rights. You can't, you've got to let us do that.

And he explained to me, and I will never forget that. I wanted to be with my mom. I wanted to be the one to pick her up and put her back on the bed. But, so my way of helping was to scrape up, you know, some of the brains and the skull matter and stuff off the carpet and try to put it in the trash and stuff, and my dad and another police officer stopped me from doing that. You know, that was my way of trying to help.

But when my mother passed and she did that, it just, that threw me. It threw me big-time, and I, you know I drank, and I ended up moving to Huntington Beach with a lot of my buddies in Tulsa that were all skaters.

 

PAUL: Before we move on to that, I just want to go back to that moment and, because I imagine the listener is probably feeling and thinking what I am right now, which is, holy fuck, holy fuck, that is a lot to process.

 

CHARLIE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: How, how . . .

 

CHARLIE: I think that's what, that's what made me a complete anger- and rageaholic, is that, because I never really processed it. I drank and then--

 

PAUL: And you would have been how old at that--

 

CHARLIE: I was 21. I was 20, 21, yeah. And--

 

PAUL: You hadn't smoked crack yet.

 

CHARLIE: Nh-nuh, no. I moved to Huntington Beach, I put everything in the back of a pick-up and moved to where my friends were living in Huntington Beach and stayed with them, and it was then that I got introduced to cocaine. And back then it was you had to buy powder cocaine and you had to cook it up with either ammonia or baking soda, and so the minute I tried that, yeah.

But I keep thinking, if my mother hadn't have done that, I would still be, I would have been in college and I would have moved to a university and I would have gotten an education, but, I'm not placing any blame on her because I know why she did what she did, because she suffered for 13 years, and a person can only take so much. And there's no helping her. There was no helping her.

She was a devout Jehovah's Witness and she would spend so much time at the Kingdom Hall and my dad would routinely have the elders of the congregation over to the house for them to explain what they were putting into her head, what they were telling her what was going on with my mother. And he had, you know, the elders of the congregation there regularly, trying to hold them accountable for the stuff that they were putting into her head. She was--

 

PAUL: Trying to hold your dad accountable?

 

CHARLIE: No. My dad was trying to hold the elders--

 

PAUL: Oh, I see.

 

CHARLIE: --of the Jehovah's Witness congregation accountable for what they were, what the programming they were giving her.

 

PAUL: For instance, what was some of the programming?

 

CHARLIE: Well, that Armageddon was coming and that, unless we were Jehovah's Witnesses, we would not be in the new system, and so that, besides the schizophrenia and the terrible depression she suffered, then she also had the notion that we weren't going to be saved, that we were not going to be with her in the new system, and that added a whole other dimension of pain to her life.

And she was convinced that we wouldn't be in the new system and that Armageddon was coming soon, and that's what Jehovah's Witnesses teach, and so my dad, you know, would have them over and hold them accountable and say, what are you telling her and what, you know, that's just what I remember. It's been 35 or 40 years, but that's, I remember that.

And, but I got my first hit of freebase cocaine after she did that, and I was just in a spin, spinning, and my first one, I was an addict from my first one. There was no--

 

PAUL: What do you remember feeling or thinking with that first hit?

 

CHARLIE: This is, this is--

 

PAUL: I've found home?

 

CHARLIE: I found it, yeah, this is it. I found it. And my girlfriend at the time, my beautiful girlfriend who moved out to Huntington Beach from Tulsa with me, tried one, tried a puff, you know, and then that was, she tried it once, you know, and she would drink a little with me, but it wasn't soon after that she--

 

PAUL: She didn't like it?

 

CHARLIE: Well, it just didn't, yeah, she wasn't an addict. Like, it didn't make her world go round, but she had to leave me. This woman was a woman that loved me, that came out from Tulsa with me to be with me, and she loved me. She said, you're in my heart but I have to leave you now, and I was known as the junkie.

You know, back then, people didn't really understand that. I mean, I'm sure there was support groups for that kind of affliction, but she had to leave me, and she still loved me but she couldn't be with me, you know.

 

PAUL: Which was the healthiest thing that she could have done for both of you.

 

CHARLIE: Absolutely, yeah. So, yeah, thus started my love affair with freebase cocaine, and that lasted 18 years. I mean, I somehow--

 

PAUL: When did you jump over to crack?

 

CHARLIE: Well, crack became, that was in, that was in 1988, '89, '89, '90, yeah, crack really swung in, big-time, and we went from cooking it up in '87 and '88, and then another girl I was living with had to leave me because I was going to the clubs and we were drinking and I would bring home cocaine and cook it up and smoke it, and she said, you know, I can't be with you if you're going to keep doing this. And I kept doing this, and then she left me. So, it was another girl.

 

PAUL: Give me, how long typically would you be up on a cocaine run for.

 

CHARLIE: It was, it was funny. In the, not funny, but it was peculiar or interesting, in the '80s, my longest I would stay up would be one night and then I would be coming down and I could still make it to work. I would get high, I would stay up all night and drink and I would still be able to make it in to work.

And in '91, when I got into a support group for that, I got a couple years clean and then went out and spent, then I would spend three days up with no food, no water, just drinking, excuse me, just smoking cocaine. And then, from there, it escalated to five days up, six days up, seven days up, just smoking, not drinking water, very little water, no food, and smoking cigarettes and smoking cocaine and doing crazy sexual things in an alternate reality.

I have no idea how I survived because the human body needed a certain amount of water before you dehydrate and die. I maybe drank just enough to, just so my heart didn't stop. And of course, I would experience dramatic weight loss. As a bodybuilder and a guy who was really lean anyway, I would, I smoked away my body weight and my muscle probably 10 or 11 or 12 times and started over, sold my car for crack cocaine, and started over with nothing probably at least eight or nine or 10 times, where I'd get a bike and I would get into a halfway house, ride a bike looking for a job, get a job, buy a cheap car, drive a cheap car, you know, finally get another place.

I did that probably eight or nine or 10 times, where I smoked my whole life away, all my guitars, the car, smoked the car, smoked everything, and went from 180 or 190 pounds, looking great, to 140. And I had it down. You know, the trick was, I had to give two weeks, let your heart rest. You couldn't work out after a crack run. But I remember being up for six days, seven days straight. I have no idea how I survived it.

But my trick was, rest for a week or two, don't exercise, just start eating, and once I got clean, and--

 

PAUL: I think you should write a book, Pipe to Pump--

 

CHARLIE: --after two weeks [chuckles], after two weeks, then I could start working out. And my muscle memory, within three or four weeks I had my body right back in top shape again, right back to--

 

PAUL: So, you fooled yourself into thinking this isn't unmanageable, I just need to come in from the storm.

 

CHARLIE: Oh, God, no. I think I knew it was unmanageable. It just, I just somehow escaped death and there's been a number of things that have happened. Before I moved to Calif-, well, I came back from California and brought my addiction with me and moved in with a girl named Joanie and she had to leave me because I wouldn't stop.

And I didn't have a place to live, so I lived with my grandmother, my dad's mother, who my grandfather had passed away, and he was a, he was a dean of the Detroit School of Law and he was a heavy guy, he worked with presidents and he wrote books on law that are in libraries and he was quite a guy.

He had passed away, she was living alone, and she had this pristine 1973 Ford LTD, two door, so it was a very long, heavy car with big, long doors and, you know what I'm talking about--

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

CHARLIE: --like the kind they used to drive around in The Streets of San Francisco, remember that?

 

PAUL: Yep.

 

CHARLIE: And it was a pristine, this thing was just mint condition, and here I was, just shorts, no shoes, no shirt, drunk, I'd been drinking all day, driving down the freeway about 70 miles an hour to get a rock, because once I've been drinking I need a rock, and had drifted over in the lane and I was about four inches away from the car next to me.

I looked over, and I jerked the car back away from that car, started fishtailing and, was fishtailing back and forth, and then end up rolling the car at 70 miles an hour, rolling it, rolled three, four times and skidded to a stop upside down. And I was just, no seatbelt, no shoes, no shirt. You know, I could have, most people are thrown from the car. They get thrown out the window, or they're crushed.

I just stayed right in the middle, had a little cracked rib, had a laceration on my leg, and the car stopped upside down, caught fire, and I crawled out of the car, upside down, and crawled over to the side of the freeway and there were about four or five lanes of headlights all just shining right on me and this burning car, and me sitting on the side of the freeway.

And the ambulance came, took me away. I never know what happened to my grandma's car. I guess it went to the impound and went, it was totaled. It was burning. It was totaled. And went, took me to the hospital, gave them a fake name, got stitched up, because all I had was some stitches in my leg--

 

PAUL: And why the fake name, because you were drunk?

 

CHARLIE: That and I didn't have insurance. I didn't know how to pay for it. I gave them a fake name because they could have got me on DUI. And I remember my father coming to pick me up, and he didn't say a word. He looked at me in disgust, and he didn't say anything. My grandma's car was gone.

I was calling those 976 numbers at her house, talking to girls on the phone, you know, sex talk, and running up her phone bill, and my dad found that out and he said, you've got to go. So, I was just useless.

He arranged for me to go to an apartment. I got this apartment, went from job to job, was, this was, I think I was 28 years old and I became a sacker at the grocery store, I was a sacker. I got fired because of my anger. I was at the pay phone, slamming the receiver against the pay phone. I broke the phone. Somebody that worked there saw me and reported me and I got fired. I was a cook at Holiday Inn. I quit that job New Year's Eve because I wanted to drink.

Finally, my sister came back and she had gotten the inheritance and she had, she came back and she flew me out to California. This was in 1990. And it was just insanity, because this was before the house in Laguna. She was living in these really nice places in Laguna with Uncle Bob, really high-end apartments and houses and townhomes and never gave me a key. I'd have to knock on the door to be let in, and ended up throwing me out.

And I went to this place called Paradise by the Sea. It was in Laguna Beach, run by a guy named Father Colin, and he was a father, and his is how I know I'm an addict. Can I say that?

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

CHARLIE: This is how I know I'm an addict, because Father Colin had one thing. He said, you just can't, you can't get loaded. I'm going to drug test you. You're going to pee in a cup for me. And as long as you don't do drugs, you can stay here for free and you can eat. And it was right on PCH, right in Laguna Beach, and I could not stop.

I went down from Paradise by the Sea, walked down to the, to Heisler Park in Laguna, to Main Beach, knew how to score cocaine in the bathroom at Main Beach, scored a little, $25, a paper of cocaine, snorted it, went back to my little room at Father Colin's place, stared at the ceiling all night long, trying to, you know, come down, and peeing in a cup the next day and getting kicked out, when all I had to do was just not do coke and so I could stay there. And that's how I know I'm an addict, because Father Colin, you know.

And so, what happened to me was, was I met somebody at a Cinco de Mayo party. It was a woman who was seven years older than me, and we had both been drinking and we hooked up, so to speak, and she lived in North Hollywood.

Now, I'm a beach guy. I live on the beach. I skate and surf. And she lived in North Hollywood and she drove me back to North Hollywood for that night and we spent the night together, and I just didn't, I never left. I moved right in. I became this installed boyfriend. That's how I did things. And so that's how I ended up coming to the Valley from--

 

PAUL: There's really nothing in your life in moderation.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: I mean, it is all or nothing, at least what you have described so far, and obviously, you know, for us addicts, that's pretty typical. But, oh, my God.

Share, if you can, because you're sharing a lot of the external stuff and a lot of the situations, and while I do want to know that stuff, I also want to know like internally what was going on with you then, your thoughts, your feelings, how you viewed yourself--

 

CHARLIE: Oh, it was horrible.

 

PAUL: --how you viewed the world.

 

CHARLIE: It was horrible. It was horrible.

 

PAUL: Talk about that.

 

CHARLIE: I was in this apartment with the girl. She had a two-bedroom apartment. And I was smoking crack when she was at work, and I felt so low because I would, I knew that she was coming home at 5:00 or so and I would go drink some beer and sober up and just act like nothing happened and just day after day after day like that, I felt just lower than whale shit.

 

PAUL: You know you are a coke addict when you're like, I got to sober up, where is the beer?

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHARLIE: Yeah. So, she was okay with drinking and she smoked a little pot, and she was high-functioning. She was, you know, successful, and so I would have a few beers and pretend like nothing happened, and I was able to do that.

And I hadn't yet had my, you know, two-day runs. I would just do it when she was gone. And the feelings, I felt so worthless, feeling completely worthless, not working, not contributing anything, and using this woman for a place to live and a meal and smoking crack when she was gone.

 

PAUL: What were some of the things that you told yourself?

 

CHARLIE: I told myself that it's going to be okay, I'm going to get a job, and I ended up, I ended up joining the Navy.

 

PAUL: Your story--

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: --is, I would hate to have to flow chart your story. There's not enough markers in the world to flow chart your story.

 

CHARLIE: I ended up living with her and joining the Navy, and that, if you want to hear about that, there's a whole story about that, but I felt so low about myself that I, I'd done some collection work as a collector, a phone collector, and I had gotten a job as a collector, I didn't last very long.

I got in a fight with the manager and I got my check, and I was walking down the street and I looked down the street and I saw, that looks like a drug neighborhood, so I walked down there and it was and I got a rock and I went back, and that's where I scored the rocks. I would have no car. I would ride the bus over to Blythe Street, Blythe and Savannah. There's a McDonald's there now, but it used to be the Blythe Street Gang, and you know, white guys didn't go in there.

There were murders. There was all kinds, the Blythe Street Gang was one of the biggest gangs in L.A., but somehow they didn't kill me. I walked in on a daily basis, I'd get off the bus, I'd walk in. I'd buy my rocks and I'd walk back out and they just left me alone. And I felt lower than whale shit. I felt like there was no way I could stop and I didn't have anything to live for.

 

PAUL: So, what changed for you? What helped it turn around?

 

CHARLIE: I think--

 

PAUL: Especially internally, what helped.

 

CHARLIE: [Sighs] Just being, being in the company of others with whom the problem had been solved. If it weren't for--

 

PAUL: Support group people.

 

CHARLIE: Yeah, if it weren't for others, yeah, because feeling as low as I felt, and, you know, seeing everyone else driving around in cars with jobs and just getting ejected from the Navy and going back to crack, it was extremely hard. Somehow I made it through and met the guy who was to give me a place to live and spoon-fed me the right information.

 

PAUL: Support group information.

 

CHARLIE: Just healthy information, spirituality and the correct way to think, you know, because my thinking was skewed, and this guy loved me. He loved me. He showed me love where I never have ever experienced that, because I had two parents that didn't know how to do that.

 

PAUL: Can you be more specific about what the love looked like and felt like and what form it came in?

 

CHARLIE: It was somebody not trying to make me feel bad, somebody, because my father always pretended like he didn't like me. He loved me, but he never let me know, and I was scared of him.

And so, I remember I got bit by a spider on my back when I was in seventh grade, and they came to pick me up, the whole family was in the Pinto, and when I got in the car I was sure I was going to get screamed at, and my father said, you got a bad bite, huh? And I said, yeah, I had a bad bite, and I was just sure that he was going to just start in on me.

So, this love came in the form of being accepted as a human being and not being belittled constantly and not being hit anymore. And so, he loved me and showed me what love was.

And it was really cool because he was a music producer, and me being a guitar player and stuff, I had, I think I had 15 years in as a guitar player at that time and he had an artist that he was doing an album for that lived in a house, in the back house, and I met this other guy, who is a genius, and he, now he lives in Nashville and he's a big thing, he's a big deal now, but he was a big deal then, but he was a staff writer at Warner Bros. Records and J.C. was, or my friend J.C. was doing his album, and then I met him. And--

 

PAUL: I remember J.C..

 

CHARLIE: Yeah. And J.C. and, if I can say, Phil Brown, Phil Brown is one of the greatest guitar players ever.

 

PAUL: Amazing, amazing guitar player.

 

CHARLIE: You know him?

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHARLIE: Oh, he's, if you look him up on Spotify, you can hear him.

 

PAUL: Yeah, and he played with Little Feat.

 

CHARLIE: He's brilliant.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHARLIE: So, they were doing an album in the studio, but Phil was a master at recording himself, so he would do the, it was back when the eight-tracks, you bounced everything over, to free up the tracks, you bounced it over and everything was on cassette, and so he influenced me.

And when I got two years' clean, J.C. said, it's time for you to fly and do your thing and it's time for you to go, and I had my own little studio and little four-track and did what Phil was doing and learned how to do it, bounced everything over and it, you know, so I learned how to do that.

 

PAUL: And by the way, J.C. was the guy that wrote the song Green-Eyed Lady, lovely lady [singing]--

 

CHARLIE: Right, he was, he was that guy--

 

PAUL: --boop-boop, boop-boop, boop-boop, bom-bom-bum-do--

 

CHARLIE: Yes.

 

PAUL: --one of the best bass lines ever.

 

CHARLIE: One of the best rock anthems ever, ever recorded, this will be on the greatest hits album of all time, it'll still be there, yeah.

 

PAUL: Was it the Ides of March, who was the band? I can't remember.

 

CHARLIE: It was Sugarloaf.

 

PAUL: Are you sure?

 

CHARLIE: Green-Eyed Lady was Sugarloaf.

 

PAUL: Oh, okay.

 

CHARLIE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: All right.

 

CHARLIE: So, J.C. wrote it with Jerry Corbetta from Sugarloaf, but J.C. lived off that song, basically.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHARLIE: But J.C. loved me, and that was the first time I'd experienced love and not being belittled or hit or beaten and--

 

PAUL: It sounds like he saw the real you and said, you're enough.

 

CHARLIE: Yeah, he loved me, yeah--

 

PAUL: You're lovable as you are.

 

CHARLIE: --because he had this thing about birds, he loved birds. He had a parrot. He had this whole aviary with birds. He had chickens out walking around. He just loved birds. I didn't know anything about birds until I met J.C., but he called me Charlie-Bird, so I know he loved me because he loved birds and he called me Charlie-Bird.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHARLIE: So, eventually, my sister, if I may, she, and my sister shows up and my wife had just left me and I had totaled my car and I had just started this job as a telemarketer because I couldn't find a job, because I have tattoos and I have all those misdemeanor battery convictions, and I couldn't find a job so I was going to start, I was starting as a telemarketer.

So I had to get up and be a telemarketer, and I was so distraught and I was so, my nerves were just so raw that I couldn't let my sister stay. I should have opened up my home, because I did before. I got the call the next day from dad that my sister had passed. And we weren't shocked. I mean, she was, it was terrible. And--

 

PAUL: Go ahead.

 

CHARLIE: When somebody dies that way, they have, the state demands an autopsy, so my friend in the support group took me down to the coroner to get her car and her effects and to identify her, and--

 

PAUL: And so you had to identify your sister.

 

CHARLIE: Yeah, but this was after the autopsy. And when you, when someone on the streets or in a motel or whatever, someone, a drug addict has a drug-related death and they do an autopsy, well, my experience is they treat you like a piece of meat. I mean, she was, you never, first of all, for anyone listening, you never want to see a loved one after an autopsy. You never want, just don't do it.

And apparently they had laid her on her face and cut her open from the back because her nose was all smushed down on her face. Her nose wasn't the same. And my sister always had these beautiful green eyes and I would always use that line when I was a younger man, I would use that line, you have pretty green eyes just like my sister.

You know, my sister had great eyes. And I wanted to see those eyes again, you know, and she was all wrapped up and I couldn't touch her, she was all cut up and her nose was flat and she hadn't been embalmed. She was just after an autopsy, she was just, had been dead for about five days. And I opened one of her eyes to see those beautiful eyes and they were not the same. They weren't. They weren't the same anymore.

And I'll never forgive myself for that. I should never have done that. So, I spent some time with her--

 

PAUL: Wait, stop. Stop right there. Never forgive yourself for what?

 

CHARLIE: For looking into her eyes, for opening her eyes.

 

PAUL: Charlie, that was a beautiful moment.

 

CHARLIE: I wanted to see them, and they were all spotted. They were covered in spots.

 

PAUL: Charlie, every person listening to this right now is thinking that is the sweetest gesture, that you wanted to see your sister's eyes--

 

CHARLIE: Yeah, I wanted to see her eyes.

 

PAUL: --and how you could take that and--

 

CHARLIE: Turn it against myself?

 

PAUL: --turn it against yourself. I mean, that was like the sweetest gesture.

 

CHARLIE: Well, you know where I got that is from my dad, because my dad said I should never have done that and I got what I deserved. He didn't say I got what I deserved, but, you know, I was really upset after that, and he said, I'm not surprised and, you know, you should never have done that, you shouldn't have even gone to see her. You know, he just shamed me.

 

PAUL: Fuck your dad. Fuck your dad for that. I mean, you dad sounds like a really sick guy.

 

CHARLIE: Well, I had to, I had to spend some time with her, you know, so I did, and there she was, all cut up and wrapped up, and I spent time with her. I spent time, and a song came out of it. I got this song out of it.

But it was, I don’t think I should have gone because that's, that's the last image I have of my beautiful, extraordinary, passionate sister who lost all her passion from the disease of alcoholism, it all went, and she was just existing and she had nothing. And it was extremely hard to see that, to see her like that.

 

PAUL: Let's have the next thing, and I think we'll wrap up after this.

 

CHARLIE: The recovery from rage?

 

PAUL: Yes.

 

CHARLIE: Yeah, let's go there.

 

PAUL: Yes.

 

CHARLIE: I was hopeless, and can I say our interaction together?

 

PAUL: Yeah, yeah.

 

CHARLIE: I was hopeless, and you had sent me to your doctor, who got me on some medication.

 

PAUL: My psychiatrist.

 

CHARLIE: That helped me, it helped me sleep. It actually helped my life, but I continued to act out and I continued to rack up battery charges. I had, I have six battery convictions. They're all misdemeanors, and that's not counting the ones I got out of, because I learned how to get out of them. I knew how to get out of them.

And I had one where my girlfriend, she was sober, she gave me up to the police and said, well, I have to be honest in all my affairs, and so I gave the police your name and number [chuckles], so they were calling me.

 

PAUL: But it wasn't her who you had--

 

CHARLIE: No, it wasn't her. We were just at a concert and somebody got in my face and stuff. But where was I?

Oh, the recovery from rage. I was hopeless, and you had helped me, and I continued to rack up batteries, and the, what saved me, this is what saved, this is what turned it around for me, is moving in with somebody, an alcoholic woman who was being wracked by the disease through eating disorder, through spending disorder, through opiate disorder.

She would spend money on things that she had no business buying, so many pairs of shoes, so many shirts. I could just see that she was, and her mother was paying off the credit card, so she was just in this codependent thing, and she was buying stuff that she had no business buying. She had so much of everything. It was just a pure addiction.

But this woman would say things to me just to hurt me, and she would say things to hurt me because she was, that's what she does. She hurts the people that she loves. And that used to, I used to freak out and like throw bottles into the TV sets and grab a television and throw it across the room and grab her and shake her up and pull her hair, and I used to do things just to get back at her for being so mean.

And after I got out of jail, when I went to jail for domestic violence, I realized, we moved back in together, and she continued to try to hurt me, because that's what she does.

 

PAUL: But this was, she was just a roommate to you.

 

CHARLIE: No. We were back together. We were back together, husband and wife.

 

PAUL: Oh, oh, the woman, the coma wife--

 

CHARLIE: Yeah--

 

PAUL: --the coma wife.

 

CHARLIE: The coma wife. Yeah, I had a domestic violence, and I grabbed--

 

PAUL: She's the one you pushed through the door.

 

CHARLIE: She's the one I pushed through the door and she bumped her head on the way out, and so, but I, being married to an addict that would do anything to hurt me is what made me grow up, because I finally grew up and I finally realized that this person is saying these things and it's not about me. She's saying these things and it has nothing to do with me.

It has to do with her and her evil mother that she still was using for support and had a huge, terrible enmeshment with, you know. She should have been broken free from that, but she had an enmeshment with this terrible mother who, and she would say anything to hurt me. And who, I just couldn't, it was just so over the top that I realized that she was saying things to me to hurt me and it was nothing to do with me at all.

 

PAUL: Nothing.

 

CHARLIE: It had all to do with her.

 

PAUL: All.

 

CHARLIE: So, I learned how to say, I'm sorry you feel that way, I'm going to go over here now, and I would, I just stopped reacting. I stopped yelling. I stopped everything and I just stopped. I just stopped.

 

PAUL: Where did you learn that?

 

CHARLIE: I learned that when I was living there with her, when she was saying mean, evil things, and she ignored me. Not only--

 

PAUL: But who had taught you this, or did you just pick it up on your own--

 

CHARLIE: I picked it up. I picked it up on my own.

 

PAUL: Wow. That's a big leap.

 

CHARLIE: I said, me, me going against her and yelling back at her and throwing things at her and breaking TVs isn't helping, I've got to find something else.

 

PAUL: Well, it depends on what was on TV.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHARLIE: It wasn't helping. So, I devised this thing, I said, look, I've just got to realize that it's not about me. I've got to stop reacting. I've got to let it go, because it's not about me. It's about her. It's her opinion, and she will say anything to hurt me.

I had this CD of me speaking, and I was a good speaker, and then she threw it at me, said, you're not a good, you're not any kind of speaker. She just would do anything to hurt me.

So, I realized it's not about me, and what I did with that is I transferred that out into the real, into the world, and I realized that the guy that was tailgating me, who I used to, I used to have a system when someone tailgated me. I would slow down, they would try to go around me, I would move over so they couldn't go around me, and that would just freak them out, and then they would get so angry that we'd pull over and I would get out and I would bang on the window, or they would get out and we'd have a fistfight.

But I transferred that it's not about me to driving, to the guy who's tailgating me. He doesn't know me. It isn't personal.

 

PAUL: Exactly.

 

CHARLIE: It's not personal. So, I learned to not even, well, I had a world of road rage. I had nothing but road rage. I learned just to let it go and to not even look at them when they passed me, because I'm going to keep going the speed limit. If they want to tailgate me, they eventually go around you, and I learned not to give them the look, I learned not to give them the finger.

 

PAUL: Yep.

 

CHARLIE: I learned it's not about me.

 

PAUL: It's not.

 

CHARLIE: And so, I take that into the world, and whenever somebody does something to me, because I treat everyone with respect now and I keep my side of the street clean, I treat everybody with respect, I treat everybody nicely, if someone doesn't like me and has a problem with me, I know it's not about me. It's their opinion. It's not about me.

So, I turned that whole world of rage around, and now I find strength, and this is going to sound corny, but I find strength in being patient. I find strength in knowing when to say I'm sorry when I'm wrong. And I find strength in being able to forgive other people. And the forgiveness is the hardest one, because forgiving, we can forgive for a minute, but then we want to take it back and not like that person again.

So, the forgiving is hard, but, it's in a book I read, it says, though people who offend us may be spiritually sick, though we don't like their symptoms, they, like us, were perhaps possibly spiritually sick. So, I took that into the world. The driving is completely a whole new thing for me, because it's not about me. They don't know me. It's not personal.

So, here was this guy, he didn't want to stop. He didn't see me. So, he almost hits me, so I get by and he stops just enough to let me by and then he guns it right behind me, and then I, my mistake was I went to old behavior and I looked back. I gave him the look. I should have just ignored it, but it was such a close call that I looked back and I gave him that stink-eye look.

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

CHARLIE: And he said, he said, you got something to say? And then he kept going, and I, I stopped the bike and I did something that I don't do anymore, and I slipped up and this is, this is a mistake. I said, well, maybe I have something to say to this guy.

 

PAUL: [Chuckles]

 

CHARLIE: I mean, I didn't want to hit him, but I wanted to be right. It was that need to be right, which I've learned not to do--

 

PAUL: It's a state of insanity.

 

CHARLIE: --I want to be right.

 

PAUL: You wanted to change him.

 

CHARLIE: Yeah, or to let him know, yeah. So, I said, maybe I have something to say, so I rode my bike where he went and I found his car and he had pulled over in front of the dry cleaners, and his father got out. And so I pulled up and I said, hey, remember me?

And his father got out of the car and came around with a handful of shirts and clothes to be dry cleaned, and he said, I'm the father, what's wrong? And I said, well, wait a minute, you're not the one behind the wheel, he is. And he said, no, I'm the father.

Meanwhile, the driver is this 23-year-old guy, unshaven, and going berserk, going berserk, screaming, yelling, calling me every name in the book, saying he's going to get a baseball bat out of the thing, to get out of his face, get out of his face. I was about 20 feet away from him, get out of my face, get out of my face, I'm going to get a baseball bat, and he was just screaming and yelling.

And the father was saying, I'm the father, I'm going to handle this. And I said, I leaned in to the father and I said, how did he get that way? This is the God's-honest truth, I looked at the father, because the father was obviously taking responsibility for this kid. He said, I said, how did he get that way? And he said, he just came back from Afghanistan, he's been killing people, and he thinks he's a killer. He can't get over it.

And the guy gunned it and just took off, and the father was, I was standing there with the father with the dry cleaning clothes, and he said, oh, no, he's going to leave me. And what happened was, he went down the way and he turned and he parked. And I looked at the father and I said, God bless, God bless. And I got on my bike and I rode, and as I passed the car, I didn't stop to apologize. I didn't stop to say anything to this kid.

There was nothing I could do for this person. There was nothing I could do. I'm sorry would have just, I don't know, but I just kept riding. And that was my last mistake, and it was, it's been a long time since I've done that, since I've taken anything personal, because being on the bike, you know, people don't want to stop for you, and I forgive people all the time.

Like, you have to forgive. And I see people, they're going through the crosswalk, they get all upset because cars don't want to stop and they give them the finger and they start yelling, and I've talked to people in the crosswalk, I said, look, you just got to let it go. You can't let it--

 

PAUL: Let it go.

 

CHARLIE: --you can't let it bother you.

 

PAUL: And you were able to have empathy for that kid, who, I assume you have empathy for that kid--

 

CHARLIE: I did. He was going through one of the worst cases of post-traumatic stress syndrome I had ever seen, and so that was my last, you know, last mistake, but it was a big one. And I've just learned not to take things personal, and what it took for me, I grew up.

And now, I'm able to have adult conversations with people about things and stay adult and you would not believe how many people are unable to do that. I was working in a nice, big company with a manager who I tried to have those adult conversations and he wouldn't. He would just go straight to ranting. He would just go straight to raising his voice, cutting me off, talking over me. And I said, but wait a minute, I’m trying to have an adult conversation. He says, no, you're not, I'm sick of arguing with you. I said, I'm not arguing. I'm standing here, calm and trying to have an adult conversation.

So, I've learned to have those adult conversations where you keep your tone down. You have an adult--

 

PAUL: Don't escalate.

 

CHARLIE: No, you don't escalate. You stay the things you want to say in a non-hurtful manner, where nobody gets upset. Yo would not believe how many people can't do that. It just fries their brain.

 

PAUL: And the great thing is, is that you're not the person doing that anymore. You're not that person.

 

CHARLIE: I'm not the person doing that. I finally, I don't know how, but I think it was being married to somebody who was that sick and that eaten up by the disease of addiction, seeing her try to hurt me so many times, and the length that she would go just to hurt me for no reason, because she was hurting.

So, I finally grew up, and now I wouldn't think of putting my hands on anybody. I wouldn't cross my mind. And I hit the heavy bag. I do boxing. I hit the bag. I've got, you know, I know how to fight, but I would never even think about doing that to somebody, because I finally grew up. It finally happened, you know.

 

PAUL: Buddy, thank you so much for sharing your story, being my friend and--

 

CHARLIE: Thank you for all you've done for me. You're somebody that from day one was into service work and helping people, from the start of when I met you, and I have seen you before get completely vulnerable and have no self-pity whatsoever and be completely in the solution, and that is a shining example for the people around you who are suffering from the same malady.

 

PAUL: Let's wrap this up before you start listing the bad things about me.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHARLIE: Okay, all right. No, but thank you for all you've done, too.

 

PAUL: I love you, Charlie.

 

CHARLIE: I love you, too.

 

PAUL: What a sweet, sweet man. Before I forget, I want to mention this episode will be soon be transcribed and available on our Web site. Many thanks to Accurate Secretarial for donating their time and helping out the show by doing that.

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I got an e-mail from somebody that brought up a really interesting topic, and it was how do you know when something is your issue or the other person is really being annoying. And I'm paraphrasing, but that was essentially, you know, wanting to know whether or not your resentment is justified.

And I wrote back and I said, I don't think the other person, their flaws need to be figured into your resentment. You know, just because someone is flawed doesn't mean it's healthy to hang on to that resentment, because it's not about determining necessarily who's right as much as it is about letting go of the negative emotions.

You know, that's not to say that you shouldn't say, hey, you know, what was the appropriate thing that was done by you or to you, but for me, the real thing to try to get out of examining something is, what feelings were brought up in me by this conflict or [chuckles] passive aggression or whatever it is, and for me, what I usually look to get from it is clarity on seeing something in them that I also have in me, and that helps me have compassion for them, because I can't judge somebody when I truly know I share the same flaw that they do. And that, for me, releases the anger, because then I'm reminded of how many people gave me a wide berth when I was stepping all over people's toes and just oblivious to how selfish and hurtful I could be.

You know, it's really about getting to what the fear is underneath the situation, because when I'm scared, man, that's when my flaws flare up, and it's usually just like the person I'm resenting, and there's a saying in support groups that, if you spot it, you got it. Now, that's not true all of the time, but for me, about 90% of the time, if I really break it down, what I am hating on somebody for is almost always something that I hate about myself.

And that doesn't mean that I'm going to go ahead and be a doormat, but tempering it with some degree of compassion for that other person helps me deal with the situation with moderation, diplomacy and timing. Timing is huge. Sometimes waiting till the next day to say something can make all the difference in the world.

So, I hope that made sense, and if it didn't, you know what you're free to do. You know where to go do it, and you know which finger to do it with [chuckles].

This is a Happy Moment filled out by Will, and he writes, I love, I love ones like this because they're so subtle. And Will writes, raking the leaves in late November. It was a clear afternoon and everything had a sort of glow about it. I had spent most of the day watching Portishead music videos and having discovered their music the night before. This was from years ago, he writes.

I felt like a lot of my discontent from the past year had just lifted off me and everything felt really clear and beautiful. Words can't really explain it. Thank you. Thank you for that.

I love moments like that. And then part of you is like, why does this feel so good? Why is this, why do I feel better here raking leaves in my backyard than I did graduating high school? There seems to be no rhyme or reason, and I think the answer is because you're not surrounded by a bunch of assholes when you're raking your leaves. That was Mean DJ popping in, Mean DJ Voice, turning everything negative.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by a woman who calls herself Call Me Anything. And she is bisexual, in her 30s, raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment. Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? She writes, yes, and I never reported it.

She writes, my mother had no sexual boundaries. She often walked around in, quote, long T-shirts with no underwear. Every time she bent over or reached for something, her unshaven bush would be visible. She would also make excuses to be in the bathroom at the same time as you. She seemed to like watching people use the toilet and would also take the occasional peek at you in the shower.

She liked us watching her nude and using the toilet as well. She would use everything from, I'm just putting towels away, to I just needed to ask you a quick question. She couldn't ever explain why she couldn't wait until she was finished using the bathroom to speak to us or why the towel would sit folded on the downstairs table all day and just needed to be put away at the very moment that someone was getting into the shower.

When my brother and I were old enough to start locking the bathroom doors, we did. This led to many yelling fights for a week and the threat to remove the doors of the bathrooms if we continued to lock them.

That is so fucked up. That makes my blood boil. And by the way, this is so common. And most people don't even realize it. Their body registers it. They feel angry and disgusted and unsafe when it's happening, but we have been, this is a thing that is common, and I know so many people, after I started sharing about the things that happened to me, and this is textbook, when mothers incest their children, this is the most common way that it takes place.

And yes, this is incest. If you talk to any mental health professional who understands sexual abuse, you don't have to touch your children to sexually abuse them. And this is the classic way of mothers doing it, and dads do it, too. But it's usually, it gets on to somebody's radar a little more when it's a dad because we don't think of mothers as being capable of doing this.

Continuing. My father finally intervened, simply saying, there is no longer a rational reason for you to be going into the bathroom when they are using it. If they kids want to lock the door, they should have that right. God bless your dad.

Her response was, well, who are they afraid is going to be walking in on them? Huh, me? It's not like there's anything I haven't seen before. That's exactly what my mom used to say.

We continued to lock the bathroom door. The walking around flashing her bush continues to this day. I'm 36. As an adult, I refuse to enter the house until she puts pants on. I also refuse to sit on anything in the house and I don't eat there. You just can't get comfortable when it is feasible your mom's pubes can literally be anywhere, on anything.

I, I would laugh if that wasn't so fucking sad, because this kills children's souls. Well, I shouldn't say kills. It wounds them deeply. This affects their ability to trust, to be intimate with somebody, and, you know, I don't hate those moms or those dads that do that. I hate what they do, and I don't know how many of them are conscious of what they're doing. I see them as sick.

And it's really heartening to see that your dad stood in there and advocated for you. You know, that, and it's so awesome that you have set a boundary that you won't enter the house if she doesn't have pants on. That is, that's huge. That's huge.

And if the person who is reading this wants to be connected, who filled this out wants to be connected to some support I know around this issue, contact me and I will talk to you more about it, or somebody hearing this read and is like, oh, my God, that is my story, contact me through the Web site.

To the question have you been physically or emotionally abused, yes to both. My mother is an untreated borderline. When my brother and I were younger, she would make up imaginary offenses that we were to be punished for. She didn't believe in timeouts. She would categorize her parenting style as strict, but I have come to learn that is code for I beat my children.

At the age of nine, my mother was in a rage and needed to get it out. Hitting us was the way she would relieve her aggression. She started to attack my seven-year-old brother. As she closed in on him, he started screaming at me to help him. I went a little mad. I jumped on her back and started to beat the hell out of her. I knew she was going to kill me, but the sense of panic and fear his screaming put me in, I think I reacted like a trapped animal. I was so terrified of what I had done, I wet myself.

After my attack on her, she seemed shocked and very hurt physically. I think I scared her. She realized I had become physically stronger than her. My mother is under five feet and 100 pounds. She didn’t hit my brother or me after that, but the emotional abuse continued until we moved out.

I have read so many surveys in the five-plus years I've had these on the Web site, where a parent is almost like snapped out of a state when a child fights back and it never happens again. And I'm not giving any kind of advice here to anybody.

It's more of an observation that it almost seems like it's waking them, it's waking that person from some, almost like a dream state that they go into, like a blackout, like an anger blackout. I would love to see somebody do some research on that, because it's also interesting that then your mother continued to emotionally abuse you.

Anyway, any positive experiences with the abusers? No. She has never shown me love, support or kindness. I can't even recall a single memory of a good moment.

Darkest thoughts. Killing her. I'm not ashamed of it. I think it's appropriate for the way I was treated and raised by her. I don't get a lot of understanding from people. Most people love and respect their mothers.

Darkest secrets. I was crazy into BDSM until I had a therapist who told me it was common. Quote, most people fetishize their abuse. This crossed my fetish with my mother in my head. Now, when I try to fantasize about my fetish, my mother pops into my head and I go numb. It has killed my fetish and cured me of my mid-afternoon jack-off sessions.

Darkest secret. When I'm jacking off, thoughts of my mother pop into my head. Normal or not, this is not okay with me. It's very triggering at a time when I am supposed to be enjoying myself.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. The standard BDSM scenarios, being dominated by a male or dominating a female. I also fantasize about laying naked in an empty grassy meadow with my partner, just laying in each other's arms watching the clouds and just being.

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? It's small, but I would like to give people small compliments if I could, like your hair looks great, or I love your shoes. It's small. I know how sometimes a small compliment is the only thing getting you through the day. I would like to do that for people.

Well, I wonder if you, it's not clear from this if you have, and if you haven't, I'd highly encourage you to do it, because sometimes something little like that can also make my day, if I'm the person that gives the compliment, because it reminds me that I am connected to other people, I do matter and I can be a vehicle for love and goodness in the universe.

What, if anything, do you wish for? To have been able to protect my brother better. If we are speaking presently, I would like to become whole. I would like to glue the pieces of me together so I can be a whole, healed person.

I really hope you contact me because I have some good resources to suggest, especially the book Silently Seduced by, why am I blanking on his name? I was just talking with somebody about it today. But it's a fantastic book. I'm hearing great things about the book The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller.

Have you shared these things with others? Yes, my partner, therapist and psychiatrist know all of it. I have shared in my thoughts and feelings to my mother. She was a little surprised that my hate for her was so complete and raw because she forgave her parents for their abuse and she had it a lot worse than I did.

That's interesting that you shared it with your mom, but you didn't really say how she reacted to it, or maybe I didn't glean it from this.

How do you feel after writing these things down? It was triggering. I still hold a lot of hate for my mother. I know she is ill. The thing I can forgive her for is she knew it and knows it. I wonder if she meant can't forgive her for.

She also has the means to get help. She doesn't want to because she/we are not worth it. Is there anything you'd like to share with someone who shares your thoughts or experiences? You can fix them, take it back, or make it right. You can only, I think, again, she meant to type can't. You can't fix them, take it back or make it right. You can only keep yourself safe and give yourself time to heal.

Any comments to make the podcast better? I debated whether or not to read this because it touched me so much and I figure, with all the beating up I do of myself on the podcast, it would be nice to show that I can also take positive things in and, but I'm, of course, the part of me that is so worried of appearing full of myself, I debate whether or not to. When people compliment me in the surveys or in e-mails, a lot of times I won't read that aloud, but every once in a while I like to.

And she wrote, you rock, Paul. Keep it up. I would like to send you a thank-you. I fall into the serial killer/murder documentaries when I am down. I was looking for more audio material when I came across your podcast. After following you for a few months, I believed I would benefit from therapy. I'm a few years in. I've had great success with managing my PTSD and have been diagnosed with hypomania. I've been on meds for a year and haven't been more stable and happy in my life.

I know you get thank-yous and you've-changed-my-life, but think of this. I am an unknown, random person in the world who heard your voice one day and it completely altered the path my life was on.

That is such, like when I'm having a really shitty day and I read something like that, it helps snap me out of, for one, it feels good, but two, it snaps me out of the sickness in my head, which convinces me this is all about you, you're cut off from everybody, and that's one of the biggest lies our brains make us think, is that we are this island trying to survive, and we're not.

I was at my support group tonight, and my favorite support group, and somebody posed the question, what brought you here, you know, what was the final straw that brought you here, and when it came to me, I said, I knew that I was going to kill myself if I didn't, and I didn't want to come, but there was a part of me that knew I had more purpose in my life, and I didn't want to throw that away. And I didn't want my last minutes on Earth to be filled with shame.

And I also shared that if I were to die tomorrow and was able to express any thoughts before it, knowing what was coming, A, after everybody had cleaned up the feces, I'd give them a nice hug, thank them for cleaning up the feces, but, in all seriousness, yes, I would be scared, but I think I would feel peace about what I had done with my life. I would have wished that I would have started it sooner, but, you know, we, I wasn't ready to see how much of an asshole I was and how selfish I was. And I couldn't see the abuse that was going on around me and the abuse that I was raised in.

But if I hadn't gotten to the point that I knew I was going to kill myself and I didn't want to throw my life away, I wouldn't have gotten help. And if I hadn't gotten help, I wouldn't have been able to do this podcast. And if I hadn't been able to do this podcast, she wouldn't have been able to hear it. And she might have gotten to therapy eventually, but to me, that just shows how interconnected we all are. It's just on a scale that we can't readily see, so we forget. I forget. Maybe I should just speak for myself.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by a woman who calls herself Am I Helping. And she writes, I couldn't decide if this would go in this category or the Struggle in a Sentence one. I'm a senior in high school and every senior at my school has to do a big project on whatever they want. I have in the past dealt with the basic high school starter pack, [chuckles] anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation. I wonder if there's a patch for that.

So, I thought of focusing my project on mental health. I had to interview a lot of people face to face for this project on their personal struggles. One of the people I talked to was a friend of mine. She was trying to say why she began cutting and was responding to the question, why don't you just stop hurting yourself. She said, it's not like you just stop. It's got a fucking futon in your mind. It'll sometimes just come, walk in, fold it down and spend the night. You just have to deal.

At that moment, we were both laughing at the metaphor she used about the dark topic of self-mutilation, but I couldn't relate to her more. Thank you for that. That was beautiful.

That's kind of really this podcast in, boiled down into a sentence. And finally, this is a Happy Moment filled out by a non-binary person who refers to themselves as, or themself, as Hurricane Kitten Surprise. And they are 16, and they write, my family is hella stressed right now. My dad just quit his job and money is getting tighter. He's been gambling several nights a week lately. I've stopped asking where he's going. I haven't had a meaningful conversation with my parents or siblings in years. I don't feel like a functional part of the family unit. I'm not out to my parents and I feel incredibly ostracized at times.

So, understandably, I get tremendous anxiety when I found out that my dad and I would be traveling alone for three days during spring break. In particular, during the second night of vacation, my father took me out for a nice dinner and said he wanted to tell me something.

I braced myself for the worst. He knew I was queer? He was getting divorced? He had a gambling addiction? The answer was nothing I could have predicted. He said he'd been dealing poker every week in order to set aside money for me to go to therapy if and when I needed it. Although I just replied with a quiet thank you, in my head I was forgiving him for every late night, snarky comment and angry insult we had exchanged in the past year. We may not be perfectly functional, but we know how to love. I may not be perfectly whole, but I'm not wholly broken.

Thank you so much for that. That, what I love about that, too, is it's such a realistic portrayal of what getting healthier looks like in a family. It's never on the time table we want. It never takes the form we predict. And so much of it is just about trying to be in the moment and be diplomatic without being a doormat, and sometimes that's so hard. But what a lovely, lovely moment. I appreciate that.

I hope you heard something in our episode that stuck with you. I hope, I hope you heard something that brought you comfort. I hope you liked hearing Charlie tell his story as much as I did. Like might be a weird word because some of it was so painful and, but, my God, what a spirit that guy has.

And, you know, as I always like to say, I hope that if you're sitting out there listening and you think you're alone, you've realized that you're not and that there's hope, because help is all around us. We just have to reach out and ask for it, and I'm so grateful that I did because now I have you people in my life. And it, it really makes my life beautiful--

 

[Closing music swells]

 

--it really does, and I never thought I would hear those words coming out of my mouth, and thanks for listening.

 

[Closing music]

 

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