This part of my life, from age 14 to 22 or so, is the nutty part. This is where I went off the rails. I really can't explain what happened to me. It's as though somebody came along, whacked me over the head, and I just sort of slept my way through this part of my life.
This was a time in my life when my ego was forming and was at it's very worst. That false sense of self that we present to the world. We become the lie. I was certainly not immune to this. If we tell ourselves lies often and long enough- there is a dangerous chance that we may actually begin to believe them. This is who we become.
Years ago in New Orleans, I was sitting in a coffee shop trying to sort out and convey these life events that I am writing about now. I wasn't able to do it. It sounded like a pity party because I simply could not see the value in all of the bad things that had happened to me. I hadn't found any solution yet.
I am writing here now because all of that has changed for me. I see tremendous value in all of the bad things that happen to us and even in some of the bad things that we do to others.
One caveat that I would like to warn you about here. There is no solution in taking on a victim role. Even if it is justified. Victims get hijacked. I don't care if you grew up in this worst house on the planet with parents dealing dope and turning tricks. That kind of environment would certainly have a negative impact on you. However, there is no solution in self pity. We simply take stock of what has happened, how that has negatively effected us, and we plot an emotional solution. It doesn't matter if your father beat you up 100 times- we are here to get well- and getting well will not require us to wallow in self pity or demand apologies. Your dad beat you up. That is over now. It is time to fix us. Heaping shame on someone else for their mistakes will only cause more damage and waste additional time. How do I know this? Because I have made every one of those mistakes.
We want to spend our energy on getting well- not wasting time demanding apologies because our fragile egos think we need one.
I don't think it's really necessary to list all of the stupid things that I did in this time frame. But I think I need to describe it a little. So I will just speak about many of these things in a broader sense. By the time I was a freshman in high school, I was routinely drinking and smoking pot. I was still playing sports but my grades started to deteriorate. I was sneaking out at night and stealing stuff, shoplifting mostly, and returning home before dawn. I was still playing sports but I wasn't doing too well.
My father had moved to Idaho and was working a new job and that provided a little relief for me. The war zone between my parents had a temporary cease fire. After only a year or so after that move, our family moved to Idaho. So the cease fire, as it turns out, was rather short lived.
Idaho was like getting tossed in the deep end of the pool for me. I didn't like it. I often look back on my life and think that I developed a bad attitude that I carried for a long time- shortly after my arrival in Idaho. I was 15, going on 16 that year.
I quit smoking pot after arriving in Idaho. I never really liked it anyway. School was so much easier in Idaho that I didn't have to do much to get by. Sports were far less competitive so it didn't take much to land on the varsity football and basketball teams. I landed a decent job after school during the weeknights and I bought a hot rod. I wrecked it in a drag race, drunk- 6 months after I got it.
I got in a lot of fights with my parents. Some physical and violent. By the time I was 16, I started fighting back. That slowed my parents down. My childhood from age 8 to 16 was just another part of that war zone my parents called a marriage.
Drinking was becoming a bigger part of my life. I graduated in the bottom third of my class, primarily because I just didn't care. I had no plan beyond high school. I was living my life day to day, unconsciously. My father got caught cheating and that was the beginning of the end. That happened the night before I graduated from high school. The day of graduation, I was drunk. In fact, I think I went on a three day drinking binge about that time. I went to work for my uncle in Wyoming that summer and my drinking just continued to get worse. So that was my theme all the way through college and into my working life. I drank to feel better about myself.
I didn't examine this behavior of mine until some 25 years later. This was that unconscious part of my life where I developed an out of control "survival" ego that was completely self absorbed and self centered. All I ever really thought about was me and I think I learned this because my parents were so fully self absorbed themselves. As long as I got what I wanted- that was all that mattered. In fact, I didn't even know that there were people who didn't live this way. I just assumed that everyone took care of their own best interests in some dog eat dog- sort of fashion.
Deep down, I never really felt good about myself. I always thought I was a bad human being and I honestly thought I was responsible for the war zone that was my parents' marriage. I compensated for all of that by drinking. Drinking became my biggest coping mechanism.
I had developed some other issues as well. I didn't have the slightest clue on how to have an intimate relationship, yet here I was running around and dating women, doing all of the stupid stuff that young adults do. I had anger issues and abandonment issues. Think about this. The only relationship guide I had was my parents' constant fighting and their marriage. Wouldn't you have just loved to date me? I was a neanderthal.
It is a quirk of the human ego, that we all think we are incredibly smart. This is a shame- because as a result of this vast intelligence that we think we possess-we sure create a lot of heartache and damage. Imagine how much better off we'd all be if we collectively decided we were stupid. We would be forced to behave with humility and kindness. We would be a whole lot less judgmental because we had already decided we didn't know much. We would be humble and kind because we would know our place as students rather than teachers. Oddly, I think the world would be a much kinder, gentler place- if we could all simply agree that we really don't know how to get along that well. That we are all a lot less smart than we think we are.
So that's it. By 22, I really didn't know much about anything but I thought I did. In college, I had switched majors twice. In 1982, I graduated from college. From full fledged juvenile delinquent to police officer. As odd as this all seems, it makes perfect sense to me now.
Addictive personalities constantly want to to change the way that they feel. I was one of those types. I chewed tobacco, I drank daily, I gambled every chance I had. I couldn't engage in drug use because it was such a no-no for law enforcement (polygraphs) even though I knew a couple of cops who did.
Relationships were impossible. I had no clue how to "have a relationship.". I just knew I didn't want to fight every day like my parents. I figured that much out.
I think I tried very hard to be a "nice" guy in as much as I was capable. I still had a conscience.
I became a cop shortly after my 22nd birthday. It was January, 1983. I had a lot to learn and life doesn't really care if you are ready or not- it just does what it does. The world turns.