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Life has a funny way of reminding you who you are and where you started from time to time. People from your past seem to find a way back into your life. That is one of the great things about the social networking sites like Facebook or Myspace or a number of others. They keep you connected with friends and family who may be thousands a miles away or just to busy with life to connect regularly. I mean don’t get me wrong, nothing can beat the actual physically connection of being with loved one and sharing a meal or a day together but network sites come in an acceptable second place.
Every now and then as direct result of reconnecting and the cycle of life you are brought together with someone who made an important difference in your life. Maybe the difference that made the difference between success and failure or even life and death. For me throughout my youth and early adulthood survival on a daily basis was all that mattered, literally speaking. When things were at their worst and my outlook its darkest there was few people around to help me make it through. I had either pushed them all away or they had run away and probably rightfully so. That was when the Doc came into my life. I will call him Doc Carl for the sake of this writing as I have not asked him if I could use his name. It would be as result of a conversation with a mutual friend and the irony of life that the Doc would come back into my life after almost twenty years.
I met Doc Carl back in the early 90’s through a dear friend of mine Irish Pat whom I am not sure is even still around much less alive. (Some months after this writing I found out Irish Pat had died in a hotel room of a drug overdose.) Irish Pat and I were two of a kind, products of the street who enjoyed being on the street and operated as such. Irish Pat himself was a degenerate gambler and like myself an opportunist so to speak. If there were an opportunity to make a few bucks or more on the street we took it. We seemed to get into more than our share of problems. We came from similar backgrounds and we were both exceptionally good at boozing, womanizing and jailing. There weren’t too many places that we could still drink in as we had been barred from most and several irate boyfriends or husbands that were looking for us as a direct result of our total disregard for anyone else and indiscretion with their significant others and jail had become a revolving door. I tend to make things sound better than they really were. In actuality they were pretty bad and between drugs, drinking, thieving, jail time the street chances of survival were slim to none.
Doctor Carl is the kind of man who had made the choice to give of himself to helping others in life. He worked with guys who no one else would bet a dime on much less give a chance. There aren’t too many people that can show others another way to live from their own experiences. Anyone can hang a sheepskin on the wall and say they ‘know’ but few can show by their own life experiences. Doc Carl knew how to show and he truly does ‘know’. He showed me how to learn from myself.
At a particularly vulnerable moment in life when I was trying to get off the street and having a difficult time and for many other reasons the culmination of my life came crashing down on me. Irish Pat recognized this and came to my rescue. He more than most knew the chance of me deciding to check out on life prematurely where perhaps greater than they had ever been. Cornered and hopeless he mentioned he had a friend, a Doctor, whom had been of tremendous help to him in his time of need and mentioned he might be able to help me as well. After initially rejecting his offer I realized that the internal pain I was experiencing was too great to not give it a shot. It was my last ditch effort at survival and self preservation. At that point in life I felt that if this did not work all was pretty hopeless.
I remember Irish Pat making the call to the Doctor Carl for me and setting up the appointment. All I had to do was get there. Believe me that was one of the hardest decisions I would ever make. To sit in a room and share my deepest, darkest secrets was good for others just not for me. By no means was I opposed to therapy and truly believed it was a great thing as long as I was not the guy on the bed telling the secrets. I was used to sharing my secrets selectively and even then in the comfort of a dark room behind a screen to a man of cloth who could not see me and had taken an oath not to share what I told him. But that just didn’t work anymore and the place I was at in my heart and head was deep and very dark. I no longer felt anything, trusted no one and spent most of my time depressed or unable to sleep as a result of bad nightmares. I was tired of living like I was in jail all the time even when I was not. Crazy as it sounds you can learn to live that way. Sometimes comfortably so and that scared me. I was ready to do anything.
I recall walking into Doc Carl’s office in a nondescript building just up the street from a social club/cafe I hung around out that was run by one of my buddy’s fathers Babe. It was not what I had imagined in my mind to be and was actually the exact opposite. It was bright, colorfully decorated and generally had a homey feel to it. It made me feel comfortable. The Doc came out and met me and was not whom I had envisioned either. He looked nothing like a crazy doctor looked like or at least nothing like the vision I had conjured up in my head. He was handsome and comforting and shook my hand firmly and warmly. He made me feel right at home. Doc Carl had an ease about him and he took the time to explain to me who he was before asking anything about me. He wasn’t the normal doctor in that he knew the people on the streets and knew how they lived and operated and he drew from his own life experiences. He also knew about mental illness a condition that plagued my family well before me, all through my childhood and to a large degree had affected me and my thinking. And we were off to the races.
I had twice in my life been diagnosed with (PTSD) Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome but had been given no counseling to address it much less been informed on how to understand what it was and its causes. For those of you who don’t understand it I guess the best way to describe it is being shell shocked as result of traumatic moment or few traumatic moments from in life. What those moments were is for another day and ranting but the result was in short that I was screwed. I was definitely broken and had been for some time. I had little reality in my life and lived out of social norms and was on verge of becoming a full on sociopath not to be confused with psychopath. But I definitely suffered from a severe personality disorder and plenty of antisocial behavior.
In the time I spent with Doc Carl I learned many things about myself. Most of all he showed me that the choices I made in life were based upon how and what I had learned or in many ways had not been taught. I first had to discover who I was or who I wanted to be and build from there. I was confronted with making decisions on whether I wanted to stay on the street which there was nothing wrong with if in fact I wanted that life or if I aspired to something more for myself. Basically I had to make a choice before I could move on. He showed me I was worth saving and was indeed a good person who had made some bad choices and to continue to make those choices would eventually make me that bad person who made bad choices. I was the point at my life were I would make or break who I was and who I would become.
For me it was the beginning of a new life that would take several more years to take root but was without doubt started in Doc Carl’s room. He seemed to understand me unlike others before had. Or maybe I was hurting bad enough and just ready to listen. Maybe it was because he had a way about him that opened me up not only to him but too myself and the prospect that there was really something better out there for me. All I had to do was make a decision to do positive things and allow positive things happen to me. Sometimes easier said than done but I was ready. Bring on the growth and bring on the pain.
The next several years would be a slow process of living, learning and ultimately breaking away from what I thought was living and then really learning how to live. It was not by any means easy and was more often than not filled with hard choices, anger, fear, crying and a whole lot of pain. But like the Doc had said it was my choice how I wanted to live my life. After having no control over events in my childhood he helped me become responsible for my adulthood and my own humanity. The Doc set me on that path of self discovery.
I do my best to make good choices and live the best I can and I continue to grow and I’m having fun doing it. I care about people today and care about myself. No one can ever take that away from me. I learned no one ever took anything from me, I gave it away. I don’t have to do that today.
I have Doc Carl to thank for that. Maybe one day I can help someone else.