Lessons Learned From Years Of "counseling"A valued friend on EP messaged me recently that he'd begun to read my stories and experiences other than my sexual ones and is coming to perceive me as "something more." I take that as a compliment and value that special friend's opinion and comment. Another person here recently reached out in a way to ask for help with something intensely private in his life, and I feel a sense of responsibility that he sought my "counsel." That responsibility is a heavy one, to be certain, and it forced me to ask myself how I've come from where I started to where I am now.
If I were to quantify the time I've spent in my lifetime in "therapy," "counseling" or "treatment" or in whatever other program we can concoct, I suspect they would total years. Or, at least, I've probably paid for a few shrinks' medical education. In hindsight, I think I expected "counseling" to serve up a "magic bullet" that would "cure" all my ills and, through the years, those ills were diagnosed as neuroses, clinical depression, alcoholism and post-traumatic stress syndrome. But it took being the intended victim of a crime of horrific violence little more than 10 years ago in which I shot one of two would-be assailants with his own gun that, no pun intended, I got that "magic bullet." It was the understanding - finally! - that therapy or treatment simply gives me the tools that might make my life a little better, a little more bearable, but that it is up to me to pick up and put those tools to work.
In what has been my last retreat into "therapy," - at least to date - the psychiatrist who today I credit with literally saving my life and for whom I genuinely thank God for "sending" my way, a simple answer to a question I asked made years of complications so very simple, so very clear. As the shrink dictated to his office assistant the presc
Even now I choke up remembering that statement, word for word, and, then, when I first heard it, tears rolled down my cheek. The years of "counseling" I had before had paid off - finally - in that one comment. I knew with the certainty of truth that, no matter what happened to me after that, even if I were to be charged with murder or end up in a locked psycho ward, that I would be alright because - and a very important concept - I had been "empowered" to be able to say "no" to a wrong choice and that someone, although a doctor, said I was "strong enough" to make the right choice.
And I was alright" - and have been since. Not only have I not had even a temptation or thought of again using alcohol as a "crutch" - because I don't need a crutch anymore - I realized that all the years of therapy had always given me the tools to make better whatever was wrong at the time, but that I hadn't picked up those tools. Today, those tools have simplified years of unneeded complications, and those tools come down to three basic concepts: choices, consequences, and personal responsibility. That is, whatever choices I make will generate consequences as all choices do and, in the end, I and I alone will be responsible to those consequences. And if I don't want to be responsible to consequences that might be too high for me, the choice is logical: make the right choice.
Today, I have no need for self-pity that "justified" my years as a drinking alcoholic and of self-destruction. I have been humbled by the reality that I have no qualification to judge anyone else for their mistakes, and I have more constructive use of my time than recovering from the fall-out of my mistakes. In short, I haven't got time or need for the pain anymore.
I will concede to someone thinking that I make "it" sound "too easy," maybe even "smug" or "self-righteous." Practical application to real life is work - a lot of work. But I have to accept that life, when it throws a curve ball, isn't going to change to accommodate me. I have to be the one to change to accommodate life without self-destructing or sacrificing someone else. Nor can I allow my regrets and shame of my past - and they are plentiful - confine me anymore; I understand now that to re-live and languish in yesterday takes me out of today, and what I might learn today will be missed and make my tomorrow maybe a little less productive.
I am not perfect but, today, I understand I don't have to be. But I do expect myself to make progress. And I also understand that the mistakes of my yesterdays have to be used now only to make my life a lot better than yesterday AND today.