Man’s greatest triumphs can sometimes be found during his most difficult times of adversity.
This is my new saying when I reflect upon the “Dark Ages” of my life and my deepest days of depression. I am often not a praying man, which is odd considering my father is a priest and a doctor, and I don’t consider praying in times of need and praying to win the lottery as being a “praying man.”
I feel comfortable talking about my dark ages now, perhaps it is the mask of my pseudonym that gives me courage; but no, it is actually because I have moved on to greener pastures. My dark ages were a product of finding my birth mother at the age of 18. This came about in the most innocent of ways, in the form of a senior graduating gift from my adopted parents, my real parents in my eyes, a gift of adventure and excitement. It was a trip to Korea with a group of other adoptees from Holt International Adoption agency. I could never have dreamed prior to that trip, a trip I packed for with such excitement and enthusiasm, that it would be a trip that would usher in my darkest days. Granted, I had an acceptable childhood (no childhood is perfect), I had already struggled with demons of race and depression. I never considered that those demons would be small compared to the Devil I was about to encounter.
I really won’t get into the specifics of the trip unless someone asks or I am inspired to do so at a later date. Needless to say, since I have already provided the window to view it through, this trip was awful. I had been provided my adoption package by my adopted parents at an earlier time so I “thought” I was prepared for this trip. I “thought” there would be no surprises. I was wrong, depressingly wrong.
I found the information about my birth mother and my blood sister in Busan, South Korea, in a pathetic orphanage that I don’t even remember the name of. I have never liked hospitals or orphanages and I now knew why. No one, unless you are also adopted, can understand the pain that is brought when you are faced with the reality that you were not wanted. Add to this the pain that your mother decided one sibling was less trouble than you would be, and what you have is a maelstrom of emotions, regret, and anger. My storm could have killed me, it almost did.
When I returned I immediately went to college. A time that was supposed to be filled with excitement and growth, was instead filled with depression, anger, weed, and alcohol. I filled my time finding things to fill my “hole.” It did not help; it only delayed the sorrow and pain that I had to face eventually. When I dropped out of college after three and a half years the only welcoming I really wanted was a grave. Failure had become a part of me and it evidently had originated when I was left on that lonely street in Busan, South Korea in 1983.
I become a drunk. At 23 years old I was a first class alcoholic. I recently read Anthony Bourdain’s book “Medium Raw,” and part of my inspiration for writing this comes from him. The other part comes from my loving wife and my two wonderful children, all three of whom I continually feel that I do not deserve but I am forever thankful that I have. So thank you Anthony for the courage to speak or rather to write.
I remember, vaguely of course, stopping every day at Joe’s liquor store and buying a daily pint of the rawest whisky I could find, I believe it cost around $3 dollars a pint, and feeling like the drunks I had always despised I would begin to guzzle it on my short ride home. Before you judge, YES I know this was highly stupid of me and irresponsible, but who can ever say they were responsible while being depressed and drunk? If you know anyone that can make that claim I can in the same breath claim that bastard is a liar. Alcohol was my friend, my confidant, and his name didn’t matter whether it originated in Mexico, America, or hell even some African country. It didn’t matter as long as it felt good touching my lips.
It was late; I would say 3 am, when I saw him. He was not what I expected and I really can’t be sure if it was him or if he just gave me a glimpse of what I would see if I ever really met HIM. I was drunk; I think Braveheart was playing in the background. I was in the upstairs of my parent’s house, yes at age 23 I was living at home again another dagger to my heart, and I felt a presence at my door. In my childhood my father used to have the (then) annoying habit of standing behind us and watching our TV show with us. I never thought about it then, but looking back, he just wanted to be with us even if we did not particularly, at age 15, want him there. This presence was not a comforting one; I felt the hair on my arms stand. I saw a man, it was a man, but he was a shadow of a man at the same time. He looked at me and something awakened in me, it was fear. I had never been so afraid in my life. Keeping in mind that alcohol and weed are the nectar of the gods and that with those coursing through my veins I had thought myself fearless. I was mistaken. With one look the Devil showed me my humanity and all I could think was that I desperately wanted to live. I cried and shut my eyes and when I opened them he was gone. I still to this day do not know if I was dreaming, I really doubt it.
Fear can drive a man crazy, but it can also drive a man to life. I look back on that day and I realize that fear had kicked my ass back into gear. Today I am content. People ask me if I am “happy” all the time, I don’t think like that anymore. I look upon my life with my wife and my daughters and I realize… sometimes being content is enough.
Jason C. Cushman