One Step At A Time

Personal Reflections

By Jason Lada

SB-YourStories-WithS-WhiteOnTrans

Trigger Warning

This story contains sensitive content regarding alcoholism, addiction, abuse, and suicide.

I’m Jason; I was born in Germany to two loving parents and then divorced. So, I went to Huntsville, Alabama with my mom. She raised me. She raised me pretty well except she yelled some. And then I went as far away as I could to Caltech to study physics. And then I changed my mind because it was so difficult. The first time my life, something was difficult. So I went to Stanford, got an English degree, thought I’d write, ended up working in a tech job [which was then] bought by Microsoft. After a couple of years, I sold all my stock and went driving across the country to see my friends. I’ve never felt more free in my entire life. Then I ended up in Nashville and things got bad. And then I went north and things got worse. So I went to Denver, and I worked at the coolest book and music shop you can imagine for five years ’till I screwed that up too. Then I went to my mom in California. She was sober after so many years of drinking; and I was close to her, I was near her, I dialed 911 when she couldn’t breathe — it was like I added time to how much time I could spend with her and I spent 10 years and then she died. So I was free again, but it wasn’t the kind of free that I wanted. So I moved to Tucson where I knew a friend and here’s where I am right now.

[Storyburgh Note: Jason is planning to record his reflections for 30 days straight.
Click any tab below to listen and/or to read the transcript of his daily reflection during COVID-19 pandemic in December 2020. The tabs will be added when the reflections are ready to be published. Thank you.]

Suffering is the feeling of being isolated and alone. Did your addiction lead to a feeling of isolation? At the end, were you all alone in your self-created disconnection?

Well, when I started, I started drinking alcohol, it was supposed to be a social thing. It’s supposed to make me feel more relaxed around other people and I suppose it did for a while until I started drinking too much and smoking too much marijuana. But still, those were socially accepted. And at the same time, then I got introduced to cocaine and cocaine took away– I was in a manic episode at the time, months long– and my boss and my friend’s supervisor kept asking me if I was doing cocaine, and I kept lying to them, and lying, and so I pushed them away. I lost my job. Then the only people I got to see were my coke dealer and a couple of people who came over to use some of my coke, just so I could be around someone. And then, then I found myself walking back in the snow from visiting the house of those drug friends. And they weren’t home, and I was out of everything. I was walking through the snow. And the wind just went right through me so cold, and I felt completely alone. I wanted to kill myself. The only reason I didn’t was because I didn’t want to do that to my mom. That was what I was thinking. And then just this past two years ago, I was living with my mom. And I started drinking secretly, started using cocaine and meth secretly; and, again, pushed my friends away. So with my mom during the day, I would interact with her, but then night would come and it was just me and whatever movies I could watch or I’d walk around and it’d just be me.”

List of things that have disappeared from your life due to your addiction.

First, I think it was my dad because of all those years that I was just caught up in my own self. And the funny thing is that I heard he died, and I couldn’t find his phone numbers so I was stressed out for a couple weeks ’till I finally found it and I called. And he asked me if I was high, and I said, “No, I wasn’t” although I was high on cocaine. And we hadn’t talked in years. And it was good to hear his voice, but he said he’d been having some liver and kidney issues, no big problem. And then I get a text from my half sister saying he’s dead about a year later. And I didn’t call him between the last time I talked to him and then I didn’t call him; I think I was embarrassed. So, that’s what I lost.

Suffering is feeling unworthy. Has unworthiness affected you? In what ways?

Ever since I was a teenager, like, every woman I ever wanted, every woman I ever loved; I felt there was something bad inside me. Three quarters of the women that I’ve cared about, I’ve had them cheat on their boyfriends, or their fiance’s. I felt just not capable of being the person that they would actually want to spend time with; a person they would actually want to care about. And that led me down a dark road. I’ve been in mental hospitals three times. That’s not what normal people do. That’s not how normal people feel.

Have you contemplated or tried to take your own life and attempt to be rid of pain?

First time I was in Nashville and it was because a woman rejected me and I was back in my apartment, and I was contemplating slicing my wrists, but I managed to go to the hospital. And I was there for six days. And by the time I came out, I wasn’t quite suicidal, I was still depressed. But the second time was, again when a woman rejected me and I thought about jumping into a stream but it was a stream that was full and overflowing and moving fast over rocks, and it would have drowned me and I wanted that. But I went to another mental health center, I had some ECT and that really brought me back to life. The third time, I, my job was making me miserable, making me feel worthless. So I cut my wrist and then I got taken to the hospital. And after it was, after, they’d sent me up, the doctor asked me if I still felt like taking my own life, and I lied and said no, because I didn’t want to go to another mental institution. Fourth time, fourth time, I was manic and depressed and manic again, all at the same time. And my mom was in serious — having serious problems too, and I just wanted to do something to make it look like an accident that I’d died. And I got taken in the mental hospital for two weeks and then I went to sort of an emergency house after that for two weeks so I missed my last Christmas with my mom. But right now, things are difficult, I want my life. I want to live it as long as I can.

Was there physical abuse or verbal abuse in your home? What did it feel like to be there?

There was no physical abuse. But my mom, once it was just the two of us, and she got drunk and she was angry, which happened most of the time she was drunk, she would yell at me. All these kinds of things, they were very upsetting. And she wouldn’t stop, like, I would want to go to bed and she’d still be yelling at me and, like things like, “Listen to me!” And I honestly don’t remember what the content was, for most of it. But I remember that it made me feel just afraid. Just like I was constantly tiptoeing around, trying to be in my room, hoping she’d stayed out all night drunk and didn’t come home. I hated that feeling and I — and part of me hated her. And I didn’t feel so good about that. Years later, I went to a therapist, and I came to realize that I couldn’t — I could blame the fact she was addicted to alcohol — but I couldn’t blame the loving person she was when she wasn’t drinking. The last time she was really drunk, a year before she died, she started screaming at me in the same way. And there’s nothing I could do but get up and leave. When she was dying I told her I forgave her everything and I meant that with my whole heart. 

Is there a family history of addictions alcoholism? What was it like growing up with that legacy? How did it affect you?

For me, my mom, my dad, my granddad, they all drank. The one feeling I got from most of it was just missing them then not being there on Christmas. My mom didn’t come on Christmas Eve day, my grandma had to come over. And it was such an absence. When I was in Germany, my dad would come home and drink and then he would pass out in the bathroom. All these things created this void inside me. So I started reading so much, and I became convinced that I would never, ever go down the same path that they did. So when I was 30, of course, I started to. It’s a legacy. It’s something that they do through me. And I have to be aware of myself to stop it and start a new path.  

Suffering is feeling superior, better than, or above others. List the ways you have felt superior.

My first real experience of this was in academics. Once I got past elementary school, I just — everything seemed easy to me. I became valedictorian, went to a college of my choice, I transferred to a different college, to Stanford, got a BA in English. And that made me feel that my writing was better than anyone else’s. Even though I haven’t published one thing, just one thing, and also, in relationships, sexually, just that I’m able to seduce women from their boyfriends or fiancés. It’s been so much a part of pushing people away, because when they’re my friends, they’re my equals. But when I feel superior to them, I push them away and it it gets even worse when I’m manic, much less manic and using something. I — sometimes other people would play into that, play into my ego, and I was all too ready to let them do that. And now I know there’s differences, but that everyone has the same fundamental needs and wants and it takes work though for me to see that. I have to remember that.  

Suffering is feeling less than, inferior, or beneath others. List the ways you have felt less than.

In school, high school, earlier, I rarely had any friends; I felt socially inept. And it was hard for me to connect with anyone. And some people told me that I was standoffish because I was snobbish. But the opposite was true. I just felt completely lacking. And then, in college, I barely graduated. My depression just put — I had to put everything off to the last minute. But I somehow managed to graduate and then at the graduation ceremony, my mom said, “Why didn’t you graduate cum laude?” And she was drunk at the time. But for a while, I just took it to heart and then, time passed. I had this job in Nashville, like the one of the highest paying jobs I’ve ever had. And I missed weeks of work because of my depression. And they politely fired me. And I just felt so worthless. Like, I have this, this degree and, and I can’t find the kind of jobs that a lot of my fellows who graduated with me at college did. In — when I went to Denver, I was working at the coolest book and music store in town, but it was a bookstore. I got fired from taking cocaine and lying about it. My friend said, “You’re acting like white trash,” and I felt like it, too. Jobs have always come easy to me but then I worked one at a grocery store that I was inept. My supervisor told me that I was about as fast as an old man who’d just walked in off the street at stocking stuff. And I couldn’t get faster. I just used and used. And that’s what I’ve felt like lately, is that I try to stop and I can’t. And now I’m doing everything I can to stop drinking and using. But that’s how I felt. 

Suffering is hurting yourself. List all the ways you hurt yourself.

When I was younger, in my teens and 20s, I would kick and punch objects, walls, when I got angry. I, sometimes, I would, I never broke a bone, I don’t think, except maybe twice. And once I put my hand through a window and it almost killed me, the blood I lost. When I really started to hurt myself was when I started drinking. And just this feeling of spiraling, like, toward death. That’s what it felt like at the end when I was doing cocaine, smoking, and drinking. And I knew it was hurting me. I knew it was destroying me and I saw different parts of my life just fall away. And I’ve also hurt myself by driving people away, by choosing to be with women who are unavailable. So I’ve hurt myself by slicing my wrist once. And it didn’t kill me but all the ways I’ve hurt myself have been because I’ve hurt inside, and the feeling there is fear. Fear driving me to destroy myself.  
Day 1 - Suffering

Suffering is the feeling of being isolated and alone. Did your addiction lead to a feeling of isolation? At the end, were you all alone in your self-created disconnection?

Well, when I started, I started drinking alcohol, it was supposed to be a social thing. It’s supposed to make me feel more relaxed around other people and I suppose it did for a while until I started drinking too much and smoking too much marijuana. But still, those were socially accepted. And at the same time, then I got introduced to cocaine and cocaine took away– I was in a manic episode at the time, months long– and my boss and my friend’s supervisor kept asking me if I was doing cocaine, and I kept lying to them, and lying, and so I pushed them away. I lost my job. Then the only people I got to see were my coke dealer and a couple of people who came over to use some of my coke, just so I could be around someone. And then, then I found myself walking back in the snow from visiting the house of those drug friends. And they weren’t home, and I was out of everything. I was walking through the snow. And the wind just went right through me so cold, and I felt completely alone. I wanted to kill myself. The only reason I didn’t was because I didn’t want to do that to my mom. That was what I was thinking. And then just this past two years ago, I was living with my mom. And I started drinking secretly, started using cocaine and meth secretly; and, again, pushed my friends away. So with my mom during the day, I would interact with her, but then night would come and it was just me and whatever movies I could watch or I’d walk around and it’d just be me.”

Day 2 - My Dad

List of things that have disappeared from your life due to your addiction.

First, I think it was my dad because of all those years that I was just caught up in my own self. And the funny thing is that I heard he died, and I couldn’t find his phone numbers so I was stressed out for a couple weeks ’till I finally found it and I called. And he asked me if I was high, and I said, “No, I wasn’t” although I was high on cocaine. And we hadn’t talked in years. And it was good to hear his voice, but he said he’d been having some liver and kidney issues, no big problem. And then I get a text from my half sister saying he’s dead about a year later. And I didn’t call him between the last time I talked to him and then I didn’t call him; I think I was embarrassed. So, that’s what I lost.

Day 3 - Unworthy

Suffering is feeling unworthy. Has unworthiness affected you? In what ways?

Ever since I was a teenager, like, every woman I ever wanted, every woman I ever loved; I felt there was something bad inside me. Three quarters of the women that I’ve cared about, I’ve had them cheat on their boyfriends, or their fiance’s. I felt just not capable of being the person that they would actually want to spend time with; a person they would actually want to care about. And that led me down a dark road. I’ve been in mental hospitals three times. That’s not what normal people do. That’s not how normal people feel.

Day 4 - Suicide

Have you contemplated or tried to take your own life and attempt to be rid of pain?

First time I was in Nashville and it was because a woman rejected me and I was back in my apartment, and I was contemplating slicing my wrists, but I managed to go to the hospital. And I was there for six days. And by the time I came out, I wasn’t quite suicidal, I was still depressed. But the second time was, again when a woman rejected me and I thought about jumping into a stream but it was a stream that was full and overflowing and moving fast over rocks, and it would have drowned me and I wanted that. But I went to another mental health center, I had some ECT and that really brought me back to life. The third time, I, my job was making me miserable, making me feel worthless. So I cut my wrist and then I got taken to the hospital. And after it was, after, they’d sent me up, the doctor asked me if I still felt like taking my own life, and I lied and said no, because I didn’t want to go to another mental institution. Fourth time, fourth time, I was manic and depressed and manic again, all at the same time. And my mom was in serious — having serious problems too, and I just wanted to do something to make it look like an accident that I’d died. And I got taken in the mental hospital for two weeks and then I went to sort of an emergency house after that for two weeks so I missed my last Christmas with my mom. But right now, things are difficult, I want my life. I want to live it as long as I can.
Day 5 - Abuse

Was there physical abuse or verbal abuse in your home? What did it feel like to be there?

There was no physical abuse. But my mom, once it was just the two of us, and she got drunk and she was angry, which happened most of the time she was drunk, she would yell at me. All these kinds of things, they were very upsetting. And she wouldn’t stop, like, I would want to go to bed and she’d still be yelling at me and, like things like, “Listen to me!” And I honestly don’t remember what the content was, for most of it. But I remember that it made me feel just afraid. Just like I was constantly tiptoeing around, trying to be in my room, hoping she’d stayed out all night drunk and didn’t come home. I hated that feeling and I — and part of me hated her. And I didn’t feel so good about that. Years later, I went to a therapist, and I came to realize that I couldn’t — I could blame the fact she was addicted to alcohol — but I couldn’t blame the loving person she was when she wasn’t drinking. The last time she was really drunk, a year before she died, she started screaming at me in the same way. And there’s nothing I could do but get up and leave. When she was dying I told her I forgave her everything and I meant that with my whole heart. 
Day 6 - History

Is there a family history of addictions alcoholism? What was it like growing up with that legacy? How did it affect you?

For me, my mom, my dad, my granddad, they all drank. The one feeling I got from most of it was just missing them then not being there on Christmas. My mom didn’t come on Christmas Eve day, my grandma had to come over. And it was such an absence. When I was in Germany, my dad would come home and drink and then he would pass out in the bathroom. All these things created this void inside me. So I started reading so much, and I became convinced that I would never, ever go down the same path that they did. So when I was 30, of course, I started to. It’s a legacy. It’s something that they do through me. And I have to be aware of myself to stop it and start a new path.  
Day 7 - Superiority

Suffering is feeling superior, better than, or above others. List the ways you have felt superior.

My first real experience of this was in academics. Once I got past elementary school, I just — everything seemed easy to me. I became valedictorian, went to a college of my choice, I transferred to a different college, to Stanford, got a BA in English. And that made me feel that my writing was better than anyone else’s. Even though I haven’t published one thing, just one thing, and also, in relationships, sexually, just that I’m able to seduce women from their boyfriends or fiancés. It’s been so much a part of pushing people away, because when they’re my friends, they’re my equals. But when I feel superior to them, I push them away and it it gets even worse when I’m manic, much less manic and using something. I — sometimes other people would play into that, play into my ego, and I was all too ready to let them do that. And now I know there’s differences, but that everyone has the same fundamental needs and wants and it takes work though for me to see that. I have to remember that.  
Day 8 - Inferiority

Suffering is feeling less than, inferior, or beneath others. List the ways you have felt less than.

In school, high school, earlier, I rarely had any friends; I felt socially inept. And it was hard for me to connect with anyone. And some people told me that I was standoffish because I was snobbish. But the opposite was true. I just felt completely lacking. And then, in college, I barely graduated. My depression just put — I had to put everything off to the last minute. But I somehow managed to graduate and then at the graduation ceremony, my mom said, “Why didn’t you graduate cum laude?” And she was drunk at the time. But for a while, I just took it to heart and then, time passed. I had this job in Nashville, like the one of the highest paying jobs I’ve ever had. And I missed weeks of work because of my depression. And they politely fired me. And I just felt so worthless. Like, I have this, this degree and, and I can’t find the kind of jobs that a lot of my fellows who graduated with me at college did. In — when I went to Denver, I was working at the coolest book and music store in town, but it was a bookstore. I got fired from taking cocaine and lying about it. My friend said, “You’re acting like white trash,” and I felt like it, too. Jobs have always come easy to me but then I worked one at a grocery store that I was inept. My supervisor told me that I was about as fast as an old man who’d just walked in off the street at stocking stuff. And I couldn’t get faster. I just used and used. And that’s what I’ve felt like lately, is that I try to stop and I can’t. And now I’m doing everything I can to stop drinking and using. But that’s how I felt. 
Day 9 - Self Harm

Suffering is hurting yourself. List all the ways you hurt yourself.

When I was younger, in my teens and 20s, I would kick and punch objects, walls, when I got angry. I, sometimes, I would, I never broke a bone, I don’t think, except maybe twice. And once I put my hand through a window and it almost killed me, the blood I lost. When I really started to hurt myself was when I started drinking. And just this feeling of spiraling, like, toward death. That’s what it felt like at the end when I was doing cocaine, smoking, and drinking. And I knew it was hurting me. I knew it was destroying me and I saw different parts of my life just fall away. And I’ve also hurt myself by driving people away, by choosing to be with women who are unavailable. So I’ve hurt myself by slicing my wrist once. And it didn’t kill me but all the ways I’ve hurt myself have been because I’ve hurt inside, and the feeling there is fear. Fear driving me to destroy myself.  

Resources

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and/or is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please consider the following list of resources:

SAMHSA Helpline1-800-662-HELP
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741

Story Credits

Editor: Mary Beth Spang
Photography &
Web Producer: Will Halim

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Disclaimer: the narrative expressed in the article is solely those of the author(s).
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Storyburgh is run by freelancers/part-timers who each have own individual views. The opinion expressed here is my own and does not represent that of the entire group.

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