Hello Everyone, I’m Carl Vreeland and this is the podcast “Close to the Bone.”
This is episode #40, it’s called, “On the Outside Looking In.”
As a young boy in elementary school, I watched my school mates studying at their desks, raising their hands in class, receiving good grades, smiling, joking, and laughing. On school trips, while sitting at a distance, I watched them swimming, playing sports, and teasing one another. I saw them displaying excitement about certain classes and teachers. I saw them on dates in pizza parlors, holding hands walking in the park, and kissing on street corners. I watched. It was all like a movie to me. I looked at all my class mates curiously, fascinated by them, and at times envious. I was shy, uncomfortable, nervous, distracted, and obviously voyeuristic. I was awkward. That is, until I discovered alcohol and a talent for music. I started playing drums, and soon after began drinking and drugging. Being a musician gave me a sense of identity and belonging. It gave me confidence. And of course alcohol and substances made me comfortable around others, especially those of the opposite sex.
Nevertheless, I still felt apart from and not a part of. I spent too much time in my head. And this contributed to my depression, heavy drinking, and drugging. They all fed off of one another, and my thinking turned negative from overthinking, and of course drinking and drugging, which deepened my depression. And so I drank more because I was depressed, and I drugged more, and I dwelled in my head more, and on and on. . . . The depression, the booze, the chemicals, the weed, etcetera, distorted my perception of people and the world. It kept me blind and un-awakened. It kept me in my head and out of reality. I lived in the cerebral world, in imagination, seldom engaged with others. And I was stuck there, although I didn’t know it. I believed my view was clear. This was partly because I didn’t know any different. It was my only experience. There was no contrast. I mean, how do we know hot without cold? How do we know what is up, without down? And so, I didn’t know my perspective was skewed and distorted, because it was how I always saw the world. This is depression, and it was all I ever knew. Living in my head was all I ever knew.
To explain. . . I experienced a childhood trauma which altered my view of the world. My spirit was broken. My alignment with the spiritual realm was severed, only, and again, I didn’t know it. And so I lived my life as an observer, a camera eye, watching the world from afar, looking at others from a distance, an outsider looking in, whereas the world around me felt alien. Or rather, perhaps I felt like an alien. Either case, I was uncomfortable in my skin, awkward, jittery, and filled with anxiety. I was uncomfortable in the world, and so I created and lived in my own little world, in my head. Perhaps some of you can relate? For sure, I can’t be the only one who felt uncomfortable in their skin as a youth?
Over time, this path led to a dark destination. In which, I desired obliteration. I embarked on a suicidal tour of nihilism, hopelessness, and insanity. Yes, my life consisted of psychological suffering, emotional pain, and a strong craving for my life to come to an end. And I truly believed at the time, that all my wishes for non-existence were justified. Life was meaningless and absurd. And my only relief was oblivion, if not death, by way of hard drugs and booze. My desire was to numb the world out. Of course, I didn’t know that my view and experience of life was skewed by depression, by a dark cloud that hovered over me 24/7.
Curiously though, looking back, there must have been a minute sense of hope in me. I mean, why didn’t I off myself? Why did I seek knowledge, go to talk-therapy, take supervised psyched-meds, study philosophy and religion, and try to get sober and clean? Why? There must have been a something that kept me from ending it all? Was it my family? Was it good bones, as they say? A good foundation? My true nature, as the Buddhists call it? Or was it cowardice? I don’t know. Surely, I couldn’t kill my myself, how could I do that to my mother, my father, my sisters?
I certainly thought about suicide every day. But why didn’t I do it? Was it just chance? Luck? A glimmer of faith? Or was it that I never crossed that line or go over that edge? I don’t know. All I know is that something stronger than me carried me, kept me going, and got me sober and clean. Was it grace? For sure, it wasn’t me, or my thinking? It wasn’t an intellectual, cerebral decision. It wasn’t a thought process. It was something other than that, a Power greater than me for sure.
On top of that, I sought help. I did the inside work. And I soon enough, I surrendered my self, my ego. I learned to think less and feel more, to stay in my body and out of my head, to stop overthinking, to stop analyzing, to stop worrying. The less time I spent in my head, the better things got. I learned through the guidance and wisdom of teachers, and through meditation, that my thoughts are random for the most part. Indeed, some are intrusive, but meditation helps. In fact, it helps more than anything. As far as the intellectual realm, unless I’m studying or working on something and focused on the task at hand, dwelling on thoughts and wallowing in the past are detrimental to my well-being. “Stop thinking” has become a mantra for me, a practice, and a way of life. When I live in the day, which isn’t easy, I have a better day. Yes, for me, being engaged in life, listening and helping others, places me in a better place. I feel a part of, no longer a stranger in the world, no longer an outsider looking in, but rather an integral part of this incredible experience of living.
If you can identify with my experiences, know that there is hope. If I can change, you can change. Keep the faith and do the inside work. It’s not easy, but it’s well-worth the effort.
Well, that’s all I got. As always, thank you for listening.
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