To Growl or Not to Growl: That is the Question
My Miracle with Zoloft
My problems began, believe it or not, when I was two and a half years old. This I report on good faith from the voice and words of my father. I trust him on this one, and I trust my earliest memories, as well, starting sometime around age four, which are of a child who was always, always unhappy. This “condition,” if you will, continued, or rather persisted, until almost exactly three and a half years ago (if my memory serves me right, and these days, often it does). I am now forty-five, and I’ve been a “different person” since that time. I’m sure at least some of you have guessed the reason: medication, specifically, Zoloft.
I have taken many different medications over the years, including virtually the entire range of SSRIs (selective serotonergic reuptake inhibitors), but this one, for some perhaps strange reason, did a whole lot “more” for me than any of the others. To wax poetic, Zoloft kicked me out of bed. It punched me into alertness and awareness, and it got me going—swinging and ringing and dinging like a Liberty Bell.
Until the Zoloft, I had been drinking, smoking crack and about three-packs-a-day of rolling-tobacco cigarettes, and I weighed some 50 pounds more than I do now. I was in a perpetually agonizing mental condition that defies words. (As a writer, I should try to put it into words, but I fear the length of my possible description.) Suffice it to say, then, crack, and before that cocaine, were the only things that really made me feel alive, i.e., normal. Ritalin “worked,” but was also way addictive for me. When under the influence of crack or cocaine, my symptoms would disappear, and would stay gone for up to three days after the getting high, although usually this respite lasted no longer than two days.
I had been slugging to AA meetings for fifteen years prior to the Zoloft, but to no avail. I had never, as they say in AA, “put any time together.” I’d go a week max, and then “relapse.” (I put this term in quotes because I’ve become highly skeptical of the AA lexicon, or vocabulary. And that’s not all. Believe me. But we mustn’t get angry.) So, after fifteen years of trying to stay off the stuff (booze, cocaine, then crack and cigarettes), I had this psychiatrist at the substance abuse clinic I was attending who tried the generic Zoloft out on me. That’s what Medicaid likes to cover, generics. Suffice it to say that for all intents and purposes, on that very day I crawled out from my chronic, endless nightmare-of-a-shell. Included in this “shell-existence” were shame—perpetual shame; guilt, perpetual as well; envy; fear (shitting-the-pants kind); hatred, loathing and contempt for everyone who wasn’t blood; a gnawing, rotting sensation of all-enveloping inadequacy and inferiority; consequently a jealous, embittered hatred for everyone who made me feel small, which was—and I say this literally per all my age-peers—everyone. Everyone made me feel small. Everyone. Every one.
Am I angry? You bet I am. But at what, one might ask?
I would say the biggest main targets of my anger are those arguably institutionalized belief-systems in the so-called “recovery community” that presume to tell me that I should be grateful, and that I’m wrong if I’m not. Those “in recovery” will deny saying this, but there’s no point arguing with them—much as it’s almost impossibly difficult to argue with any fanatic, or religious fundamentalist of any stripe. Again, the people I’m referring to will deny they bear any similarity to such an ideological “type.”
So, in a sense, I’ve been at war since the Zoloft-induced change. I’ve been at war over two things: 1) As part of an effort to make up for forty years “lost” to virtual functional incapacity, and 2) over those who had and have the gall to tell me how, “spiritually” speaking, I should view such a life-altering loss (with gratitude, etc.). Their merely seemingly benign and innocuous rhetoric, if I’m not careful, enrages me.
For fifteen years I attended meetings, really never agreed with it (AA) at all, but I had, literally, no other free community that even pretended to care enough to offer support. That’s how badly off I was. I stunk. I couldn’t afford toilet paper. I was easing my bowels onto the street during crack-runs to the housing projects, and I looked like the proverbial “bum.” I was knocking at hell’s door (hats off to Dylan).
However, I’m much better now. Thankfully. There. I’ve said it. Gratitude.