Charlie admits that he has an overwhelming dislike of himself. That belief started when he was a teenager and admitted to his parents that he was gay. In response, his parents couldn’t bear the thought of having a gay child and sent him to a boy’s military school in order to “make him a man.” This is Charlie’s story of overcoming a life of drinking and drugging, and finding a safe haven at mens sober living — a life-changing place and major turning point.
The years in military school helped to erase what Charlie believed to be him, the authentic version of himself. And really, what his parents were communicating was that they wanted to kill the true Charlie and create something they could accept. That unspoken communication from his parents and the drilling of the military mind into him slowly fed a deep-seated belief of being unworthy, unlovable, and worthy of rejection. Those three deep-seated beliefs and the continued pattern of rejecting himself eventually led to using drugs and drinking.
Charlie managed to keep a job for about five years after graduating from the military academy. Slowly, his performance at work as a carpenter declined and he was fired, which only fed his belief in rejection. Charlie found other sources of income, like side carpentry jobs, to maintain his drug habit for a while, but eventually as he left signs of being drunk there too, he couldn’t maintain enough work to live. With rejection after rejection, Charlie plummeted into a deep despair.
Finally, after about six months of this unbearable pain inside and of stealing and selling things in order to stay drunk and high, he wanted to stop dying. Although he couldn’t articulate this back then, Charlie needed to stop killing himself. He needed to stop doing to himself what his parents did to him when he was 13: rejecting and killing the part of him that no one could accept.
Charlie was an addict to alcohol and heroin for 13 years. If it weren’t for an old time friend from the academy who continued to stay in touch and lend his support, Charlie wouldn’t have gotten sober. At that crucial moment of darkness and desolation, Charlie called his friend. However, the start to sobriety was a mess for him. There were deep feelings of shame, a terrible shyness, and an all around horrible feeling for being who he was that kept him from going to Alcohol Anonymous meetings. Seven months after making the decision to get sober and calling his friend, Charlie finally went to a meeting. But he continued to have a strong resistance to standing up in front of a group of strangers, admitting to being an addict, and hearing “welcome” from people he was sure were secretly rejecting him.
Slowly, and with strong encouragement from his friend, Charlie continued to attend. He slowly adopted the 12-steps and incorporated them into his life. He eventually began to see a therapist who supported him in working through the strong rejection of his parents and facilitated a slow acceptance of himself, including his homosexuality. Although Charlie now identifies himself as being gay, he never admitted it all throughout his early adulthood, his drinking and for the first few years of his sobriety. He knows now that it is his homosexuality that he rejects in himself and so for a long time, he did not allow his own expression of it.
Another change in Charlie’s life is the adoption of taking care of his body. He exercises regularly whereas when he was in military school, the physical activities were done because you were forced to. Now, Charlie lifts weights, runs, and exercises because he wants to care for his body. This change in his life keeps him feeling alive and in touch with his body, a feeling he never had before. However, this change didn’t develop until after he started therapy and began to accept himself more and more.
Charlie is now 42 years old and still working through many emotional and psychological challenges. He continues to experience self-rejection and self-hatred, but his awareness of it now keeps it from ruining his life. Today, Charlie is living sober — his sobriety is a gift he is most grateful for; he has the mens sober living haven to partially thank.
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