Recovering From the Disassembly of My Life

Marc D. Goldfinger
Spare Change News

“Marc D. Goldfinger beats the hell out of most writers working today.”
–Sara Gran, author of Claire DeWitt and The City of The Dead, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.

There are aspects of my illness that I don’t remember. I recall seeing counselors of all different types, i.e., psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, etc., and being tested over and over again from Rorschach to I.Q. tests; it makes me dizzy when I try to remember them all.

It all started before I was seven years old. That’s when I began seeing what they call professionals at a place called Jewish Child Care in Newark, New Jersey. I don’t remember many of the sessions. My mother was going for counseling also and when I asked her why she was going, she told me, “Because you are sick.”

I was angry, suicidal, sad, depressed, manic and afraid. I was wrapped tighter than the rubber bands in a golf ball — and that’s how fast I could bounce. What I mean by that is that I would turn on rock’n’roll records, 45 rpm back then, stack them up on the automatic record changer and begin to jump up and down, one leg at a time like I was climbing stairs.

I would jump continuously, one foot up, one foot down, one foot up, one foot down, faster and faster — for hours at a time.

There were times when I felt like throwing myself in front of a car. I started smoking cigarettes at the age of eleven — Camel non-filters — and I drank coffee like a pro.

I started drinking Southern Comfort and Schaefer Beer when I was in 7th grade. I’d bring it to school in small cough medicine jugs, which was ironic considering what came next. I didn’t really like alcohol but I liked it better than being me.

When I was 15 years old, I was introduced to codeine-based cough syrup by a girl I was dating. My priorities switched and I began dating the codeine and I couldn’t get enough of it. I boosted the codeine with drugs like Doriden, Seconal, Tuinal and Nembutal, and reached the point where I was drinking two to three bottles a day.

It hurt my stomach sometimes, but again, it was better than being me. Every morning I would swear that I wasn’t going to do it again, but by the afternoon I would be hitting drugstores for medicine and looking to buy the pills. Three weeks after I turned 17, I shot heroin for the first time. I remember saying, “I’m going to do this for the rest of my life.” I almost did.

What came next were hospitals, jails, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and beatings by police and others. In my late teen-age years, I sold myself to older men for drugs, but it became too difficult emotionally to do that — so I began selling drugs and that became my modus operandi. That doesn’t mean I didn’t forge prescriptions, break into drug stores, or do petty shop-lifting escapades. Nothing mattered to me except writing poetry and getting high — not necessarily in that order.

I was hidden under so many false layers that I didn’t even know who I was. I’m still finding out; a beginner in my own life at 65, just like Malte Laurid Brigge in the book by Rainer Maria Rilke called The Notebooks of Malte Laurid Brigge.

When did I begin to recover, what I had lost? How does one recover what one never had? I would have to say that my story is an uncover story, a period of revelations where the truth was revealed to me piece by piece.

I was told that I was going to have to take medicines that I didn’t want to take, and do things I didn’t want to do over and over again. Like support groups. Do I always look forward to my support groups? Does it thrill me to set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. so I can go to a support group that begins at 6:00 a.m.? If I want to spend evenings home with my wife, whom I am extremely lucky to have, then I have to go to my groups in the morning, five days a week.

Constant repetition of healing acts to stay off heroin. I have to take medication that seems to do nothing but I must do it because I am diagnosed with Major Depression, ADHD, PTSD, Severe Panic Disorder, and Sleep Apnea besides having a co-occurring Substance Use Disorder. I didn’t know it, but I was losing my hearing so I must wear hearing aids.

Of course, even when I had good hearing, I only heard what I wanted to hear. I disregarded the rest. Or maybe I couldn’t hear it because it would shatter the fragile self that I had to fight daily to maintain. Today, I am who I am, and I have learned to live with it. I don’t always have to like it but, I have a moral code that it is imperative to live by. For example, I can’t steal. If I steal, I’ll feel badly about myself and then I’ll hurt myself in some way.

By hurting myself I mean that I will shoot heroin.

I am a writer. I am a loving, devoted husband. I am an addictions counselor. I am good at all those things. But when I am in my sickness, all those things fade into the distance and I have to re-remember who I am.

Today, one of my strengths is being aware of some of my weaknesses so they don’t get the better of me. I would like to say this works all the time but, the truth is, it doesn’t. So then I must engage in dialogue with myself, disagree with myself if you will, until I overcome the SWAT team that lives in my head and has a plethora of weapons pointed directly at me.

Like most people with major mental illness, I’ve had counselors that did no good at all, counselors that helped a little, and counselors that helped a lot and some that just listened. It’s tough to transmit a reality that seems alien to the person who is trying to help but just doesn’t get it.

Currently I have two psychopharmacologists. One of them writes me prescriptions for my major mental illness. I work with him. The other psychopharmacologist is specially trained to dispense Suboxone, which is a unique drug for opiate addicts. For me, this is his specialty. He doesn’t deal with my other major mental illnesses, but he is aware of them. He does what he does very well. Every time I see him I must leave a urine sample that must show positive for Suboxone and show negative for any other opiates.

I also have a therapist who I talk to and she helps me with the way I perceive reality. She is well trained when it comes to Substance Use Disorders and major mental illness. She is excellent when it comes to communication and maintaining professional distance. Previously I was engaged with another therapist in a process called re-parenting because, in my formative years, I was not loved and nurtured.

So, before I poke a sharp stick in my eye and put a 44 magnum bullet in my ear (remembering to take my hearing aids out first), I’ll finish this essay and take a ride on my bicycle. Exercise. I have to do that too.

Like I tell my clients who come to me for help with addiction — I’ll give you the information but you’ll have to do the work. And it is work. If anyone tells you recovery is easy — run from them. They just don’t understand it.

That’s part of my story — and I’m sticking to it. Thanks for being there.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a formerly homeless vendor who is now housed. He can be reached at Marc also has books on that can be downloaded for $2.99.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

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