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Best Of 2023 - Nicknaming Myself 'Vinious Quaaludious' Was a Sure Sign I'd Hit Rock Bottom...

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The one emotion that dominated my life since I was 15 has been sadness. I first started experiencing it when my father moved my mother and me from Norwich, Connecticut, back to Sharon, Massachusetts. I had a great life in Connecticut. I had great friends and was considered a talented athlete by the coaches at Norwich Free Academy, the high school I attended. I was a popular kid, had a girlfriend, several in fact, and my future looked bright. My life changed considerably after moving back to Sharon, and it wasn't for the better…

When my father started traveling for two weeks at a time, I lost my connection with him, which was difficult. My sadness soon turned to anger, then defiance, self-hatred, and self-destruction. It was a vicious cycle, and despite my loud cries for help, there was no one there to hear them, and my self-destructive behavior only worsened. I'm lucky to be alive…

At first, I self-medicated with alcohol, and then I added pot. Eventually, I started using hard drugs, and that's when my life began spinning out of control. Nicknaming myself 'Vinious Quaaludious' was a sure sign I'd hit rock bottom…  

All the things that once mattered to me no longer did. All I wanted to do was forget; being comfortably numb was my only way out…

My mother spent days and weeks alone, and when I'd come home at 2:00-3:00 am, drunk and high, she'd be in bed sound asleep, a book opened across her chest, TV still on. Back in those days, most broadcasts stopped at midnight, or at least by 2:00 am, when the individual channels would sign off, and all that was visible on the screen was a black-and-white test pattern that looked a lot like a radiation warning sign. That's what was being displayed on her TV when I walked into the bedroom. Our dog Skipper, a golden cocker spaniel, lay sleeping on a small oval-shaped piece of white shag carpet on the floor next to the bed, and he never barked when I'd come in; he would only lift his head and acknowledge my presence. Even he had gotten used to my erratic behavior.

I was the saddest seeing my mother like that. Before I went to bed, I'd carefully remove the book and set it on her night table, shut the TV and then the light, and retreat to my room at the end of the hall where I'd get into bed, put on my large headphones, and blast Jethro Tull's 'Thick as a Brick', which played continuously through the night until I woke up in the morning and pulled the eight-track tape from the tape player…

I'm sure, because of my anger and self-destructiveness, most people thought I had a screw loose, but really, I was just sad, and probably by today's standards, I would've been considered depressed, and they would've put me on some mood-altering drugs. I continued self-medicating.

It was after my parents moved 1,500 miles away and I was alone that I met my wife, and for some reason, she looked past my anger and self-destructive behavior and saw only the good in me, and then, and only then, did I start to see myself in a more positive light.

Her mother and father immediately took a liking to me, looking past the sadness and anger. The three of them loved me unconditionally, and at one point, I became confused and began resisting my girlfriend's parent's love… It was like, "How dare you love me, that's MY parent's job, not yours!" I reverted back to defiance, and after weeks of resenting them, I realized my girlfriend's family was kind, understanding, and generous, and I was wrong to walk around with a chip on my shoulder. I had to change…

They fed me when I was hungry and let me stay in their home when the weather turned cold. I lived in boarding houses, people's basements, and one poorly insulated bungalow by Lake Massapoag in Sharon. But most importantly, they loved me unconditionally, something I hadn't experienced in a while, and it felt good to belong to a loving family…

Because of the love and support I received from them, I was able to overcome my sadness, anger, defiance, and self-destructiveness. I cut back on drinking and stopped doing drugs, and with a clear head, I began making better decisions.

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I heard stories about my father-in-law. His parents died young, and he and his brother were taken in by a family who was close to his. It all began to make sense, him understanding me the way he did. He knew what it was like to feel sadness and saw something in me I'd stopped seeing in myself. I became his apprentice, and because of him, I had a great career in the plumbing and heating trade. 

By the time he passed away, he had become my single most important male role model, and losing him was hard.

At one point, after he passed, I became closer to my mother-in-law, and when I was working in Sharon, I'd stop by to visit her at the condo she had moved into after selling the house. She knew I loved Andes Candies, the chocolate mint ones, and she always kept a full dish on the coffee table in her living room. When she'd see me eyeing them, she'd say, "Go ahead, Vinnie, have some; that's what they're there for!" She always laughed, like my wife does, and she was always positive. When my wife and I bought a small raised ranch in Norton, and I converted the hot air heat to hot water, she came over and immediately commented on how even the baseboard heat was. That was a comment only the wife of a plumber would make.  

Later, when she began having trouble getting up the stairs, I built a handrail out of some leftover oak, and the first time she used it, she became ecstatic, "It's perfect, Vinnie!"

My wife and her family saved me from myself, and I've never forgotten it…

Really don't mind if you sit this one outMy words but a whisper, your deafness a shoutI may make you feel, but I can't make you thinkYour sperm's in the gutter, your love's in the sink

 Spin me back down the yearsAnd the days of my youthDraw the lace and black curtainsAnd shut out the whole truth And, your wise men don't know how it feelsTo be thick as a brick…