• David Sales

Manchild - Book Excerpt 1

I will post from some excerpts from my recovery book ManChild - Learning to be Me. This part of the book deals with my experience early in my counseling. This book has been extremely hard to put together, but I am slowly getting there. This picks up mid chapter...

The following piece of journaling became one of my early blogs, and provides me a good example of how confused I was. When I read it now, I see depression, loneliness, desperation, judgement, resentment, grief, and a lack of identity.

The day itself was one of victory, but I was oblivious.


Raw, defeated, and spent, I watched the world go by through the dirty window. It wasn't my world and never had I felt less part of it. The bus, it's forward movement taking us from stop to stop, in conflict with my regression. Despite what Jennifer said, I was going nowhere.

When the shade hit just right, I saw my aging reflection as it stared into nothing, knowing that it was too late. Without the possibility of a meaningful reincarnation, I was a ghost, drifting to the edge of surrender. I longed for a sign that I was changing, but felt the same old emptiness.

I had tried, but another month of worthless sand had fallen through the hourglass of my life, providing affirmation that for me, being alive meant being alone. It had been the loneliness in recent weeks that had weighed on me, and I lacked the energy to concoct a fantasy where those I loved would accept me. I wouldn't punish myself much longer with such an unbearable existence.

10 years of futile attempts to recover, maintain sobriety, and treat whatever was wrong with me, was enough. I didn't fit anywhere and all my life, I danced between imposter and outsider. Imposter when I had energy to pretend, but an outsider when I had to be myself. I didn't know which was which anymore. I had lost my identity and felt like an empty husk of what could have been.

I had not used alcohol for months, but the closer we came to my stop, a compulsion to drink grew. I would get off one stop early, walk 30 yards to the liquor store where things were emotionless and transactional. They see would me. They put my vodka bottle on the counter. I would give them money. I would leave. No longer was human interaction required here. They knew, as did I, that awkward embarrassment didn't exist amongst the walking dead.

The self-sabotaging power of addiction. A primal need, like being buried alive and gasping for one last breath. That the air of that breath would kill me was a mere pittance for the momentary relief it would provide. My hand tightened on the handrail as I prepared to get up, but I closed my eyes as the store went by.

Not today. I promised. Tomorrow.

The crying, sweating, and vomit inducing work I had just done in Jennifer's office had pushed me to the edge. But I didn't go over and pulled myself back at the last moment. I kept my promise - more to her than myself. She had asked for my trust and I had asked for hers. I had trusted her even when I didn't believe.

She would do the believing. I would do the work.

I had heard the recovery stories of others. Over the years hundreds of them, tales filled with the catch phrases I detested. One day at a time. Don't quit right before the miracle. Attitude of gratitude. It works if you work it. Each time they entered my ears, I had the urge to punch myself in the face. Stuck in my mental maze, I did not believe in miracles, let alone 10 cent slogans.

When I stepped off the bus at my stop, failure rested heavy on my heart. How weak I was, to think of throwing away such hard fought sobriety? My stupidity disgusted me..


With the gift of time and hindsight, I recognize my inability then to see anything beyond that moment. Trapped in a distorted view of myself, exhausted from an intense counseling session, I was doing what I knew. I was beating on myself, seeing only my weakness, and seeking to affirm a belief that I couldn't get better. I always failed. I always relapsed.

I was beating myself up over a relapse I didn't have. I stayed on the bus and stayed sober, but it wasn't until recounting the experience at our next session that I could see it. I didn't need to punish myself for having negative thoughts, urges, or desires. They weren't real unless they turned to action. Simple now, but then... I couldn't separate the two. Today, I can and have it as one of my sobriety commitments.

Sobriety Commitment: I will accept thoughts of negative behavior and self-harm as a natural part of my recovery. They will not be part of my sobriety.

From then on, I treated my sessions with Jennifer as more than just an hour. I couldn't just go through the sessions and move on with my day. Not then, it was too intense, and I planned post-session recovery time where I could keep quiet, rest, and let things process in the background. It made an enormous difference in my progress.


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