Photo by Andrew Phillips on Unsplash

The Need for Connection

No Man is an Island — We All Need a Way to Connect

Searching for Connection

While I have learned to cultivate alone time — time to get my thoughts together, to get perspective on what’s going on in my life, to meditate, do my best to pray, and to write — I live to be connected. I need to feel connected to others, to nature, to life, and yes, even to death.

I spent too many years of this life feeling disconnected from all of these things. This sense of disconnection is part of what drove me to drink and to do a whole myriad of different drugs. All promised to help me connect, and all lived up to that promise — at first. Because of my highly addictive nature, though, I couldn’t control my usage once I started. Believe me, I tried.

With a nature like mine, once you start to do something, you go all in. This is a bonus when I’m doing healthy things, but a detriment when I ingest anything mind- or mood-altering. If I take any, I will always need more. This sets up a craving that takes over my entire being and becomes more important than — anything.

I learned that it’s not a moral failing. It’s not a choice I have, as long as I am taking any type of addictive substance. That will quickly dominate my needs, and override all normal, human needs to connect with things like love, companionship, and stable life. The need to feed the beast trumps all of that.

I was probably fortunate that I got into drugs within a year of my beginning to drink. Why? Because I believe they accelerated my demise. I started drinking at 15, doing drugs at 16.

My tolerance for both increased dramatically until, by age 21, I was consuming massive quantities of both, while still managing to function at a job that required a high level of concentration and focus. I was a nuclear reactor operator on a ship in the Navy.

Photo by Mark Asthof on Unsplash

The Cruise from Hell

The beginning of my demise came on a 7-month cruise on which I was not able to drink or do drugs at nearly the volume I’d grown to need in order to function effectively. I began to fall apart on that cruise. Anxiety and panic attacks, feeling at times like a raw nerve, really down on myself, wondering what was I doing working in nuclear power and in the Navy? I was a real mess. Very disconnected.

At the end of the cruise, upon our return to the familiar shores of the good ole’ U.S. of A., I proceeded to consume massive quantities of drugs and booze again, trying my best to get back to that sweet spot where I could connect and function, effectively. It proved a futile search.

Hitting the Road

These substances that once served to help me connect with life now were driving me into isolation and fear. I’d developed a real paranoia about the captain of my ship, and determined to get as far away from him as I could.

I went AWOL, and after initially connecting with a young lady who needed a traveling companion to travel across the country with, found myself stranded and alone in the middle of Nebraska, without a penny to my name, and nothing but a backpack with all my earthly belongings in it.

I’d somehow managed to connect with a bus driver in a way that irritated him to the point of tossing me off the bus, right in the middle of the highway.

I spent the next two months alone on the streets, most of Portland, Oregon, where I was supposed to be going with the girl. I was so alone there, using all of my wits just to stay alive each day. I was very creative and actually managed to thrive, working two different jobs that kept me well-fed, but also relishing in my disconnection with everything near and dear to me.

I actually liked being “someone else”. I connected with people as a fictional character I’d created in my mind.

But, a chance “real” connection with a friend back home revealed that my best friend had been diagnosed with a fatal disease. This shocked me out of my fantasy and drove me to turn myself in to the Navy and face the music. I needed to get back, to be there for my friend.

Connecting with the Chaplains

I managed to connect with the chaplains at the base I wound up at. They employed me as their assistant while I awaited my fate. Being able to type 65 words a minute came in handy, there. I got more than I expected when, instead of getting transferred to another ship, which had been my hope, I got an honorable discharge. I was free! I think those chaplains helped make that happen.

But, upon my return to my friends in Connecticut, I felt a tremendous sense of disconnection. They no longer knew who I was. I had changed. They had changed. Hell, I didn’t even know who I was. My friend had become an atheist, which at the time, really shook me up. How can there be no God? He was dying, and didn’t believe in God? That just overwhelmed me. There was only one thing to do — obliterate it all, drink and get high, as much and as often as I could. I embraced it with abandon.

Staring Deeply Into the Abyss

With no regulator on my intake, like a job, I went down the tubes in one hell of a hurry. Within two months of my discharge, I was crying, “No Mas”, waving the white flag, having stared deeply into the abyss of addiction, which scared the living crap out of me.

My greatest fear, nearly realized, was of completely losing my mind. I was certain I’d already turned a corner, mentally, that I would never make it back from.

I ceased all drinking and drugs, for the next 5 months. I crawled into a hole in a bedroom at my parent's house, trying to just ride it out. Those 5 months were pure hell. I wanted to die every day, I was so disconnected with everything, including myself, and couldn’t seem to gain any kind of a foothold into reality. I lived in a dream, a fog that felt like it would never lift.

Finally, with the help of the V.A. and lithium, it lifted. Thinking my problem was the booze and some harder drugs, I also began smoking dope. It balanced the lithium out nicely. It helped me feel more connected, emotionally, to others. That’s how it felt.

But, within a couple of years, I was abusing it, and my life spun out of control again. I needed help with this one and showed up in N.A. just in time to connect with 12 Step recovery. It took years to actually connect with the 12 Steps, but my connections with other addicts trying to get well sustained me until I made that ultimate connection.

Connecting with my purpose in life, and finding ways to contribute to the world from that purpose, has been my daily goal ever since. It’s been nearly 40 years since I’ve needed any outside substance to help make that connection.

For that, I am deeply grateful. Without it, I wouldn’t even be here.

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Hawkeye Pete Egan B.

Hawkeye Pete Egan B.

Connecting the dots. Storytelling helps me to make sense of this world, and of my life. I love writing and reading. Writing is like breathing, for me.

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