Writer, Director, Dog Kisser, Vagabonder. www.thedudeguy.com www.imdb.me/mattjackson
Darkness Before Dawn.
Part 1 of 2.
There’s been a back and forth in my mind recently about how deeply I would be comfortable with delving into the low that I had experienced some time ago. Before making the decision to become sober, which altered the course of my life for the constructive, the times were dark. It’s something that I’ve only shared with two others at length, but recently hearing someone I admire greatly talk about his struggles, I’ve decided to go ahead and open the door. Yesterday I listened to Jocko Willink’s podcast featuring Tim Ferris. Their topics were ranging, but they focused mainly on something Ferriss wrote about in his blog and included in his book, Tools of Titans, which is THE book that cracked my mind open. If I could point to yet another watershed moment as it relates to a worldview change, it was 2:30 am on January 1st of this year when I opened that book. It blew up my world, introduced me to new authors and ideas, and made the way for the growth in which I’m personally, enthusiastically engaged.
Ferriss speaks to what I’ll attempt to, but he does it in a much more enlightening way. The depth of his dark, I would suggest, was much deeper than mine. Read his entire post here sometime. It’s harrowing and inspiring. I read it just one month into my rebuild, and I was driven to tears. The similarities of his experience to the things that I had felt were staggering. I already knew that I wasn’t alone and that many had come before me, but to read something so completely similar to my experience spurred me on to share this. Much of what I underwent was recounted after the fact in long conversations with Matty K and then in tangible words on the page with Sister Kat. These two helped bring life to the emotional battle that now seems a lifetime ago. Thank you to you both.
Life isn’t easy, but I thought that it should be. In fact, it really was for most of my existence. My parents worked hard and provided me and my brothers with everything you could ask for and then some. I was a good student and didn’t really have to try that hard to be near the top. Adequacy meant not having to try at all. I didn’t have enough drive to be “the best” at everything because everything came fairly easily. That attitude and ability which seemed a blessing for a long time came back to bite me in the butt later in life.
Flash forward to last year. Of course, there were some extremely formative experiences in my twenties and early thirties that I’m sure I’ll share in the near future. For the sake of this blogsversation, let’s skip to the part where I’m solidly living as a victim of circumstance. That was my default setting- Captain VictimPants- and I was sailing the U.S.S. WhyDoesntAnythingGoodEverHappenToMe.
Happen “to” me. That was an interesting mindset. Good or bad (these words are reflective of my thinking until recently), I always waiting for things to happen “to” me. Getting the part, getting the gig, getting the girl- they all had to happen “to” me with very little effort in making them happen “for” me. By the end of last year I had “lost” two day jobs that affected my financial situation greatly. Now, in retrospect, those businesses failing in succession might have been the best things to happen to my creative life.
As with many actors and writers, I was doing the server/bartender life while writing and acting on the side, always hoping that being an artist would eventually become my main thing. Was I really doing the work to get there? No, because I assumed the acting career would happen “to” me, and in the mean time I’d make tons of cash slinging drinks. Well, the good bar gigs came, and as cashflow and ladies and late nights and hungover mornings increased, so the creativity decreased. I skipped auditions and shirked writing down ideas out of being hungover. When I lost my first job I went into a very dark place. I had spent all the cash I’d saved up on a trip overseas, and when I came back I was broke. I know, “boo-hoo little white boy and your broke butt. Not like you were out saving lives.” Nope, I was out having fun and doing it outside of my means. Months went by looking for a job and getting fatter and fatter, sometimes buying a bottle instead of food ’cause at least I’d have some fun while bored out of my mind in my studio apartment.
Eventually new day jobs followed, I got inspired, got sober (the first time), got in shape, got the girl, got the house and the dogs, got the BETTER day job and threw out the creativity. I was happy. Happy enough. I started writing for the magazine I currently contribute to monthly, so creative pursuits weren’t wholly out of the picture. The possibility of doing a second season of the show was in the back of my mind, but I’d also nearly ceased communication with my team and best friends for a variety of reasons. Filmmaking, in its many facets, was all but behind me.
Oh, and by the way, I wasn’t “happy.”
I was insecure, falling out of shape, and unclear of my purpose in life. I was floundering and aimless. These things eroded my personal confidence, and thus my relationship. I was certain that this was going to be a long, baby-making partnership, so when it broke down I hadn’t really considered the depths to which my self-loathing would plunge due to how much of my identity had been wrapped up in being together.
Now let me be clear that in no way do I blame anyone for any of what was about to follow. I unfairly did in the moment, but certainly don’t any longer. Blame came in the same form as my victim mentality. “If he hadn’t” or “if she would have just” or “Why did he” were all the beginnings of blame games I constantly played. It was so much easier to say I had been wronged by the entire planet than to accept the reality- that I was the sole responsible party. But more on that later.
What seemed like endless mornings staring at the ceiling followed. I tried to sleep in as late as I could to lose the day following an evening of drinking as much as I could in order to forget. Had it not been for Busty and Jeff, I don’t know if I ever would have gotten out of bed. If for no other reason than to get dressed for the night job that I held which was NOT paying the bills. Enough can’t be said for what my dogs meant to me during this time. They had to get out and be walked, they had to poop and pee, and they had to be loved. In return, we bonded like I never had with any animals. My earlier posts about them hopefully gave you an idea of what they mean to me, and during this time they meant everything. If you ever come over to see Jeff go up the stairs, we’ll try and get you a Busty hug. They’re paradigm-shifting.
Was I the “s” word? Probably. But in the same way I categorically reject titles and don’t believe in calling my former self an “alcoholic,” I also won’t say that I was “suicidal.” You can call it denial if you want, but I really, truly believe that I was transitioning into something bigger, fuller, and more powerful. These labels only exist to earmark a moment in time, so if that’s what we need to understand what a person is going through, then so be it.
We all think about dying. I think about dying all the time. But I mean dying, dying. Like, “we’re all going to die someday.” Ever since I was a little kid there’s usually one instance per day in which the reality of death becomes very vivid in my mind, and I get extremely uneasy for a few seconds because I really like living. It’s great! But I didn’t feel that way during the time of this story. Life had become grueling, impossible, full of lack and fear, and I really didn’t see a way out of the mineshaft I’d fallen into- I refused to even try to climb up, let alone cry out for help.
The darkness enveloped me.
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