The theme of this site is ‘Recovery from Pathological Religion.’ I suppose I owe someone, somewhere, an explanation for that. It’s important that we give people what we owe them.
My parents worked a lot when I was young. They were very loving and supportive people, but they were very busy in those days. Out of necessity, I was raised mostly in a variety of daycare situations. This meant that I spent all day every day either in somebody else’s house, or in some type of institutional setting. This was just fine, and not weird at all, until I was three, because the places I stayed up until then were nice, basically.
(Edit: I want to make it clear, gentle reader, before I continue, that I bear this woman and her family no ill will. I need to be truthful, though, about the things that I am about to describe, in order to explain how I got to be in the state that I found myself in years later, trying to drown out the voices in my head that I thought were God by drinking myself into a blackout state every single night for years on end, and to explain how I eventually was able to get free from that pattern, and from all the diseased thinking that had precipitated it.)
When I was three I started staying at Carol’s house. Carol had two kids of her own. The major defining characteristic of these people’s existence was that their entire consciousness seemed to center around always being very, very serious about making sure that they weren’t going to end up in Hell when they died.
The atmosphere at my own household was very much not like this at all. My folks were pretty laid back. Because of this, every day was something of a culture shock for me back then, and I never did get used to it. Punishment was a major part of each and every day’s activities. We weren’t supposed to call it punishment, though. According to Carol and her two kids (who were less like kids and more like weird little robots who floated about silently, casting oddly forlorn, judgmental stares around the room at the various different activities being carried out) it was actually “discipline.”
The rhetoric went something like this: “Punishment is just the arbitrary infliction of pain, and is carried out purely from a spiteful motive, whereas discipline consists of the infliction of pain for the purpose of teaching you not to do bad things anymore.” I was given to understand that the consequences that I received at home for my negative actions were punishment, while chastisement at Carol’s was strictly discipline.
I was instructed to be fully aware that the discipline that I was receiving came from God, that I might learn not to sin, and thus perchance (by some miracle) escape being tortured forever with fire in Hell after I died.
I remember standing in the corner most days. Spankings were also frequent, and often delivered suddenly, without warning, and in response to actions that I honestly had no clue were to be considered worthy of…discipline (often, I would find myself being suddenly paddled for something that I had not even realized was wrong before I did it.) It was the weirder stuff that really stuck with me, though.
One time, I’d heard one of the bigger kids outside in the neighborhood refer to me as a “little shit.” I was mortified (I was probably five at the time) and raced into the house to tell Carol what had happened. As soon as I’d delivered the news, I knew instantly that it was something I should never have done. I knew this by the ice cold wave of pure condemnation that began flowing into the room, petrifying my young mind, and transfiguring Carol into the very incarnation of God’s holy wrath being poured out over me as I stood there in the entryway, shrinking smaller and smaller, wishing that I could disappear somehow.
“Now you’ve brought evil into our house.”
The words, the look, the feeling they conveyed…everything about the situation…it all seemed to communicate to me, in no uncertain terms, the sentiment that I was an unparalleled specimen of unadulterated failure as far as children were concerned, and that one would be hard pressed to produce an example as thoroughly depraved as myself, even should they be given the annals of all human history and time sufficient to scour them thoroughly.
Some of the memories cut out in the middle, suddenly. They’re not like normal memories of situations that happen, where you simply can’t recall what happened next; it’s like someone actually physically chopped up the rest of the memory, scooped it out, and threw it away. I’ll give an example.
My mom used to buy my pants a size or two bigger than I needed so that I’d grow into them. You know, to save money. This resulted in my pants riding low a lot of the time, and usually I would be showing a little bit of my butt. Carol hated this. I mean she really hated it. One day she took me by the hand and marched me up the stairs, away from the play area in the basement, away from the other children, and into the front room of the house. Most of that house was like a museum. Nothing could be touched. Only in the basement, where the toys and things were, could you touch things. So there we were, in this pristinely kept living room, with couches and chairs and end tables with expensive looking things on them, all of it looking like it had been delivered straight from a top-tier furniture store about five minutes ago, and I was just sort of looking around, still not understanding why we were up there.
Then, suddenly, this lady was pulling down my pants. I remember being shocked out of the reverie and fighting with her to keep them pulled up, sort of panicking. She was a grown woman, though, and I was not much bigger than a toddler. I gave up and she pulled them down.
Then she pulled down my underwear.
She was sitting on the couch in front of me, and I was just standing there with my junk hanging out. My face was burning, and the tears were starting up. I was angry, so I held them back. She just looked up at me with that cool, condemning gaze.
“Now don’t you feel stupid?” She asked.
Then the memory stops. It’s not like I just don’t remember what happens next; it’s like there’s a big black wall right there in my brain, separating that point in the memory from the rest of the universe.
Another example, a little bit later: I might have been six or seven at time. Maybe I was still five or so, I’m not really sure. It was during nap time, though. For an hour each day, we (there were maybe five or six of us who stayed at the house every day) would be separated into different parts of the house and given a blanket and pillow to take a nap with. I wasn’t able to sleep on this particular occasion, and had begun passing the time by…well…messing with myself.
Now, what happened next was really weird, and to this day I have absolutely no explanation for it. There I am, naked. Suddenly, Carol bursts into the room, as though responding to a scream or an explosion. She looks straight. Down. At. Me.
I had no idea what to do. I remember instinctively smiling at her and saying, “Hi!” My thought was “I have to be cute! If I’m cute, maybe she won’t get mad!” It didn’t work.
She tore across the room, and the last thing I remember was fighting her tooth and nail, desperately trying not to let her get ahold of me. Just a flurry of arms and legs, and then nothing. It’s literally like the whole room just goes dark, and then that’s it. What is that?
I explain all this only to provide a basis for explaining why and how, later in life, I somehow found myself caught up in an unending waking nightmare of absolute certainty that God was going to “get me” somehow, unless I could be ‘good’ enough, and all the while being irrevocably convinced of my own absolute depravity, and the utter hopelessness of ever being able to escape divine wrath, no matter what.
I had recurring night terrors to this effect when I was seven years old, for three months straight. Every single night.
I would find myself in this unending expanse of shapeless, colorless wasteland, fleeing some sort of pursing entity. I had been responsible for something, some sort of machine upon which the functioning of the entire universe had depended. I had done something wrong, and the machine had failed. The entire universe had fallen apart, and it had quite literally been all my fault. God was chasing me into Hell, and there was nowhere I could go to escape Him, except further into Hell.
Every morning I would wake up, completely unable to believe that it had all been just a dream. It would feel like I was trapped in that world, running from that Thing, with nowhere to go but into that Place, for years and years. Whole lifetimes. And then morning would come, and I would snap out of it…always so suddenly.
My parents said that I would walk around in the middle of the night with my eyes wide open, moaning and crying, while I was having these dreams. I remember them asking me what the dreams were about, and me not being able to tell them because I was completely and totally unable to talk about it. In fact, I was unable to tell anyone about the dreams until years later, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I could talk about them without crying. I mean, I would just totally break down if I even thought about it.
Years after this, when I was eleven and twelve, some more things happened that I won’t discuss here, but that fully sealed the deal with regards to my being certain of my complete and total worthlessness, and that was basically where I ended up psychologically before beginning to take up drug abuse as a serious life pursuit.
Drugs led to trouble, and the trouble led me through the weird, winding path that I’ve begun to describe through my posts on this blog.
There came a point during the trouble at which my obsessions and compulsions (for this is what they were) began to veer away from chemical dependency, and take on more of a religious bent. I believe that the catalyst for this change was a very good, positive even in my life, and that what I then perceived as direct contact with the Creator of the universe was, in actual fact, a genuine spiritual awakening.
There are many forces at work on us in this life, though, and unfortunately, due to the fact that people can be really terrible in the way they choose to interact with others, a lot of those forces are altogether toxic. Some that pretend to be the most good and holy of all tend to actually be the absolute worst. I had the misfortune of ending up being victimized and exploited by more than one of these. My reactions to these abuses started out negative, and ended up becoming more and more so as time went on, until I found myself actually at the very end of my rope.
People talk about hitting bottom, and how it is necessary, when you have patterns in play that tend to control your life, for you to reach the end of your rope before you are able to really, honestly see that you need to make a choice to change in order for things to be different. (“If you do what you’ve always done, then you’ll get what you’ve always got.”) I think that it would be nice if that rope had ended at the same time as it reached ‘the bottom,’ because mine was quite a bit longer than that, and what ended up happening for me was that I crawled around, broken and bleeding, in the dark, at the bottom, continuing to follow that rope for a long, long time before I actually reached the place where it ended.
This blog is the story of that rope, what the bottom was like while I crawled around on it, and what happened after I actually came to the end of it and realized what had been really been going on the whole time.