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The “Dark Night of the Soul” was the title of a poem written by St John of the Cross in the 16th century. Although the poem itself seems cryptic and esoteric, the title has been co-opted into the vernacular to mean a period of desolation and despair, when hope is lost to uncertainty and confusion.

In Free World Man we find one who is lost, confused, hopeless, and hurting. But even more, he recognizes he can’t continue on as he had all his adult life. He is at the edge of an abyss that is dark and foreboding. He has been circling up to the edge of the abyss and then backing away for years. Every alternative he could imagine he tried. Nothing worked. Nothing served to provide the freedom and ease he had a vague inkling was possible.

The man was razed in a middle-class suburban family by being neglected and bullied. He suffered insecurity and low self-esteem, as people do in epidemic proportion in the industrialized world. The bane of his existence in his youth was his deep sensitivity.

As a boy, the man walked through his days continually confounded and knocked off his axis by the strong feelings coming into his awareness from all directions. He experienced morsels of feelings like jigsaw puzzle pieces sharply penetrate him as he moved among people. These were puzzling pieces of feelings that could neither be joined into a coherent picture, nor really even fit together. As a preteen he began to question his sanity as a result of the thoughts and feelings billowing through him as if carried on a mystic wind that could not be empirically experienced.

That’s were alcohol came in. The boy realized that drinking alcohol enabled him to be alone in his head — most of his other voices were quelled. Of course the voice from the spirit in the bottle was a bad influence, but it would take years for the boy/man to figure that out.

Alcohol addiction was circumvented by an increasingly acute allergy to drink, but by then the man had added a myriad of drugs to his escapist strategy, so he was free to blithely continue on his egotistical and ignorant way. He had all but quashed the dissenting voice beyond reason that kept tugging and trying to nudge him back to sanity: the drug program was working! The unimagined side effect was drug addiction.

Even though the man grew into a high functioning addict steeped in denial, he was unhappily attending a tenuous balance — it was only a matter of time before he would topple, and of the collateral damage? By then he had married and fathered two children. There was great potential for disaster.

Before long, and inevitably, the man distracted himself a little too much and lost his balance. He and his fragile reality crumbled around him. In the wake of the crash there was nothing left, but neither was there a reason to go on, or any way to backup and undo the calamitous events. He had neither tools nor courage to do other than writhe in misery amid the wreckage, wonder up to the sky, and weep.

The devastation was so traumatic, expansive, and overwhelming, the man was shaken from his drug addled mistaken perspective. For the first time since before his fifth birthday — when he was initially broken by childhood abuse — the man started getting real.

The first step in the recovery process is recognizing and accepting there is something from which one needs to recover! The man has reached that point and it is there we find him.

Salud, mente y cuerpo
21 marzo
Alexander MacDonald

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