Mark, the Bull Riding Marine, Part III


Finally, I felt like I had to say something to Mark about the state of affairs and his drug use. Yes, a lot of shitty things happened to him in Afghanistan and after his return but none of what he told me couldn’t be made worse by his chronic abuse of opiates. I decided to lay it out straight to him. I told him that if he continued on the track his was on, he was looking at certain death. On the other hand, if he could just focus on the addiction part of all that he’s facing right now, life could be good for him again. I told him I knew how scary that was and that I would stick by him in any way I could.

All of a sudden he started explaining to me how things were actually under control now. His father doles out his 6 OxyContins per day to him and that seemed to be working. When I reminded him that he’d told me he takes the first two and then crushes and snorts the other four– and that he sells them on the street when he’s out of money– and that when he gets dope sick after he sells his on the street he buys heroine to get by– all of a sudden I was the enemy. And Marines are vicious with our enemies.

I never got pissed at him, even though he came at me with some pretty rough stuff. Y’all know I’m not scared of dying and I don’t have any secrets. That puts me in a relatively powerful place of late. I just sat there letting his vitriol bounce off of me knowing all the while it was Addiction doing the talking and not my friend. Addiction and I are longtime adversaries. I hate that son-of-a-bitch. Addiction stole my marriage and a huge chunk of my life and has killed plenty of my friends. Addiction wants me alone in a room with a gun in one hand and a cheap bottle of whiskey in the other and continues to do anything he can to get me there. Fuck Addiction. I’ve buried too many friend. Addiction, you’ve taken too much.

Ultimately codependency is a deadly disease in itself. The longer I’m sober, the more I realize that perhaps this one preceded all the other manifestation of the disease. Attaching my emotional wellbeing to the emotional wellbeing of others (or their opinions of me) is as old as my memory. My addiction to control has led me back to misery over and over. But I’ve come to a big realization with regard to my need for control:

What do we call someone who has an inordinate need for control? We call them a “control freak.” That’s not kind. Even when kinder terminology is used, when we talk about someone who is “very controlling,” it is with much judgement that we think about them, is it not? I’ve looked at my own life and how my need to control has caused me and others pain. As you know I’m going through a period of profound change in my life right now and I’m doing my very best to change the things in my life that are not working. So what about this control thing? What I realized is that, while I do want to make continued progress in this area, I also want to cut myself some major slack as well. For once, I want to be gentler with myself.

It only makes sense that I should want to have control over my environment and the people around me. Here’s why: every single time others have been in control over me in my life, I’ve been hurt– sometimes very badly. All through my youth, the physical and emotional abuse from so many sources, the molestation, the violence, the cruelty. Even after I became an adult if I ever let someone have control over me it seemed so often that the results were disastrous. Even when I told the American people, “Here is my life, I will give it if necessary to defend you,” I was (along with millions of other American service-members) betrayed. It is only natural that I would have some aversion to relinquishing control. In this area, as in all areas where change needs to happen in my life, I pray for balance. I must learn to trust again although so much of my experience leads me to rail against the prospect.

After I said goodbye to Mark last week, we had a couple more text exchanges. We were actually supposed to get together another time but since the subject of his drug use had entered the conversation he wasn’t really interested. I told him that I still (and forever will) believe in all that Semper Fi stuff and that I’d be happy to help him in any way I could if he ever decided things were out of control. Most Marines, even those who disagree vehemently on some point, ultimately will acknowledge our mutual connection as Marines. I will go out of my way to help a Marine, even if he’s an asshole. I’d hoped Mark and I could leave with some measure of mutual respect and just “agree to disagree” on whether or not he’s about to kill himself. That, apparently, was not to be. His last text to me: “Don’t contact me again. I don’t care what your situation or how lonely and lost you feel! I will not come for you. Semper Fuck yourself!”

Dear God, please watch over this Marine. There’s nothing else I can do although I want to help to badly. I just can’t watch another Marine die.

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