Chapter Two ... The Trials and Tribulation of YOUTH!
Let's return to Mark's past for a while! On the night his father died, Mark sat quietly, contemplating and looking back over his life. He wasn't as upset over the passing of his father than he was over the inability for each of them to build a father/son relationship. He felt the pangs of loss ... a loss that was there when his father was still alive and of which he really felt should never had been ... The more he thought about it the more upset he became. The only comfort was the realization that the last few years before his dad's passing they were able to reconcile, at least on some level. Mark's thoughts began to run amuck. For the most part, he was unable to look at the positive aspect of his life ... a life that really was very rewarding and full. No! Mark thought of his younger, less attractive years. But that was Mark! He found it difficult looking at the things he had instead of the things he didn't have.
Although Mark realized that he had a very good upbringing, still it was difficult at home without a father to mold and guide him. Mark tried to think of the earliest memory of his father. He was six years old. His mother explained to the family, his three sisters and two brothers, and himself, that their father was coming home from Montreal. They would be moving to Fredericton, New Brunswick. Mark's parents had been separated for sometime up to this point. He was very excited at the prospects of being acquainted with his father, a person he really never knew. Mark was also excited at the prospect of finally getting a real family ... one with a mother and a father. He dreamed of father and son outtings, of fishing trips, of ball games. The final day had arrrived. His family reunited and moved to Fredericton. A dream come true! Six months later, Mark's deepest, darkest fears, once again, came true. His perfect family, once again, fell apart! As young as he was, Mark was devastated. His father returned to, who knows where? The family returned to their small town roots. "So much for bonding", thought Mark.
Time stops for no one and eventually Mark began to forget ... or at least bury the dream of having a wholesome, somehow normal, family life. He knew that his mother and grandmother deserved appreciation and even amazement at the great job of raising the family. But with mostly females around, Mark had no real male role models. His older brothers were either away or much too busy to bother with a young kid like himself. After all, they had their own lives and problems! By the time Mark was a teen his brothers were gone ... one joined the army, while the other travelled Canada ... by rail. He almost earned the name of BoxCar Willie. But he eventually found a wonderful girl, got married and settled down.
I supposed you were wondering what happened to Mark during his later teens and twenties. Chapter one certainly glossed over that period. At mid-life, with his father layed to rest and his mother very ill, Mark's thoughts returned to these early years. Maybe this was the period in his young life that helped develop the addictive personality he had come to recognize with in himself. But than again, maybe he was born that way. A controversy rages in some circles that an addictive personality really is born trait, not a character defect developed because of circumstances. This will be left up to those better qualified to make such judgement. Mark didn't really care. All he knew was that his addictive personality lead to an addiction to alcohol and probably other things not yet recognized. By the time Mark had reached his fifteenth birthday, he was experimenting with alcohol. It was alcohol that he acquired a taste for - the addiction of his choice - so to speak. And like all addictive or potentially addictive personalities, at this tender age and for much of his young life, Mark was always looking to belong and to try and figure out who I was. With no father figure to guide him, he was lost.
So often people waste their time wondering what exactly caused them to become alcoholic or drug addicted, or to become addicted to food, to gambling. Whatever label you wish to put on your difficulty, whether you consider yourself addicted or you were cursed with a bad habit, it has been Mark's experience that most of the people he knew who develop these types of living problems do so because of their personality and how they deal with crisis in their lives. Mark recognized that most often people donít even realize how big of a problem it had become for them, for their family, for their friends. Addictive people, or people with "bad habits"??, have two choices at this juncture in their lives. They can either deny there is a problem, that they have a shortcoming, or they can recognize that their lives are out of control and unmanageable, directly due to alcohol, or a bad temper, or whatever.
Through much soulsearching Mark discovered that it doesn't matter what or how many reasons he came up with, he, personally, had a problem. Mark allowed alcohol to take control of his life and in a very destructive and progressive manner. From age 15 to age 30, Mark lead the life of a practicing alcoholic - a life not to be recommended to others. And his excuse ... poor Mark didn't have the family life "HE" wanted. During the next 15 years, Mark's alcoholism got worse. He lived in constant denial as to why his life was going the way it was? During these years Mark tried many times to stop drinking, to cut down drinking, drink only at certain times, drink only in certain places, to never drink alone, and never, never, but never, drink in the morning ... simply because Mark believed that that if he did it was a definite sign of an alcoholic ... What he didn't realize was that he was already an alcoholic. Mark was in complete denial as to his alcoholism and firmly believed that he was okay. In his denial he reasoned thatalcoholics had to look the part - they had to look like a street person, half shaven, dirty, smelly, and broke. But Mark had a good job. By the time he was twenty one he had married. Four years later he had a daughter. His family was still intact ... so many reasons for denial!
What is truly ironic was that Mark would always point the finger away from himself when alcohol began to take over and problems developed in his life. He could never take any responsibility for his actions. Problems were never his fault - never! ... There was always someone around to blame. The reasons: if he didn't have so much responsibility, if his friends understood him better ... than Mark would not have a reason to drink. When you think about it, Mark's intellectual thinking was very immature and a little screwed up. It was during this time, 1977, that Mark's life was to take a turn for the best. A neighbour moved in next door who was a non-drinker. Mark eventually found out he was in AA. After one two many mornings and feeling unusually sick, hung over, very much ashamed and way, way too remorseful, Mark felt that maybe Alcoholic Anonymous might have something to offer. Five years previous I had spent a month or so with a relative being introduced to this program. But he definitely was not ready - Mark felt he was much too young to be alcholic. Wow! What a horrible thought! Mark definitely didn't fit the criteria for being such a despicable character. You would have thought Mark would have clued in by now. However, somehow he knew, or he hoped, that now there might be something he could get from AA - although he didn't understand what. With a little convincing, and some humility on Mark's part, he managed to talked to his neighbour. That week they went to a meeting.
Right from that first meeting things had changed, he felt comfortable somehow, like he had finally arrived. Where he arrived to he didn't know but Mark knew that he should keep returning until he found out. Right from the start Mark heard many people tell "his story" and bits of his story as they shared their lives with the other member, and, for Mark it was great. Mark and his new found friends seemed to have so much in common. It seemed like he was "riding on the crest of a wave" and hoping I'd never come back down to earth. He was learning so many things about himself and who he was ... He slowly began to realize that he behaved the way he did because he was out of control and too sick to see it! As scary as it was to look at reality, Mark decided to continue attending AA meetings, not like the five years previous. He decided to take the advice given and try AA one day at a time ... one step at a time!
By the time most people ended at the doors of AA they had lost just about everything. It seemed that alcoholics had to hit rock bottom before they allow themselves the luxury of achieving and experiencing "soberity". Mark considered himself to be one of the lucky ones. Yes! He was one of the lucky one who didnít have to loose everything to experience this gift of sobriety. He didn't lose my job, although, at times, it was on shaky ground. His family was still in tact although they had left on two occasions. He still had friends. But Mark did loose something even more important. He had lost his self respect and his dignity ... two qualities all human beings need to survive life with any sort of contentment. If you are reading this story and can relate, than you too don't have to loose anymore than you already have. Mark realized that it's up to you!
As Mark became more comfortable in AA he began to understand the reason why this program worked. Mark was taught to live life through the 12 Steps of Recovery. In these steps he learned what was necessary to begin living life once again with peace and contentment. For a long time he worked those steps according to what was suggested. Through the advice of AA members he was able to keep sober one day at a time and begin to regain some of the self-respect and dignity lost so long ago. The first year was, by far, the hardest. The Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous says that there will come a time when no human power can keep you from taking that first drink. It is than you will have to relie on a Higher Power. It was Mark's belief that a Power greater than himself was what keep him sober through those early months of confusion and desperation. AA and Mark's AA friends became very important to him. He felt that AA literally saved his life. Mark was determined to always be grateful to this life saving program and the wonderful people who so freely help him in his dispair. Mark knew that if he hadn't reached the doors of AA when he did there was an excellent chance that he would not be here today to tell his story. AA meant everything to him and his family.
That was 22 years ago and Mark still keep in contact with AA friends. He doesn't get to as amny meetings as before - Mark's lose - but he always has the AA program and it's fellowship on his mind.
Since AA Mark did branch out into society as recalled in chapter one. He looked into the religion of his childhood to continue his quest for life's mysterious answers. Finding he was not developing as a spiritual person in the way he felt would be most productive for him, Mark continued his search for meaning until he was introduced to the Baha'i Faith. Today Mark's life is focused. Today Mark know what he has to do and where he has to go to be satisfaied and content. Mark realized that the Baha'i Faith is the answer for Christians as well as alcohloics and the rest of humanity. It certainly filled the spiritual void that was his life for a long time. It answered the questions He had when he was an active member of the Christian faith. The Baha'i Faith made sense out of a senseless world. As Mark looked around he began to finally see the wonder and amazement around him. Life took on new meaning. He began to look at what people thought about, what they wanted out of life. Mark discovered that as soon as he began his search into the Baha'i Faith he also began to get a deeper meaning into his true existence. Mark's story is not over by any means. Hopefuly it will continue to positively evolve until the day he joins his mother and father. Let me also leave you with ... 22 years ago Mark needed and wanted more clarity in his life. That goal began to be fulfilled with AA. But it took on a different dimension, a more developed dimension when he search out and became a member of the Baha'i Faith.
In the above pages, hopefully you found something that was either helpful or at least entertaining ... Happy Journey Friends ... May you find peace and contentment in your lives ...
Great High Mountain!