Sunday, May 18, 2008
I was just sixteen when I landed my first desk job. I was hired as a telemarketer for a publication that sold used cars and boats. The publication was in print and online, according to the script that I read to the potential sellers that we scavenged from local newspapers. I was awful at sales. I couldn’t convince anyone to sell their item in our publication when they were already advertising it in the paper.
The office manager was only a few years older than me. She was dating the company’s owner, a fleshy older man with not much going for him. She decided it was too much work to answer the phones and take messages and she’d rather spend her day in his office. He, of course, readily agreed and made up a new title for her pending she found a replacement for her position. I volunteered. After all, how hard could it be to answer the phones and take message?
I was at my second job ever, and I already had a manager title. Less than a year later, I quit that job because although it was good for my resume, it was bad for my soul. The owner’s son was addicted to crack cocaine and would storm into the business several times per week upending tables, slapping the former office manager, punching holes in the wall, and shaking his father to get more drug money. Eventually, his father would give in and give him money to leave. Further, the company’s website never updated with new listings to add the newly sold space and the publication never printed, not even once. I knew the owner was unscrupulous, but didn’t realize the effect it would have on the other aspects of the business. It was my first lesson in office politics.
I suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. For nine years, I stayed up as late as I could for fear of waking from vivid nightmares throughout the night. I worked, attended college, ran a household, and raised a child. I was always exhausted and grateful for the two or three hours I was able to steal each night.
During this time, I met and began dating a man who would frequently spend the night. He learned when and how he could touch me during my dreams without making me more fearful. His sleep suffered and once even I hit him in the face because he’d woken me too quickly and I didn’t recognize him yet. He taught me that not all men are out to harm me and in becoming a source of comfort, his very presence helped me sleep without waking as often.
Several years ago, I saw a psychologist and received a kind of treatment called EMDR that changed my life. I sleep through the night. I rarely have nightmares, and even the ones I do are less vivid and not reliving my past experiences. And best of all, the man I love is able to finally get a good night’s sleep.
I don’t drink coffee. I’ve never liked the taste or the smell.
When you say you don’t drink coffee, people ask you how you wake up in the morning or how you get through the day. I wake because its time to wake and there is much to do. I get through the day because the evening holds the promise of not being at work. My day is the same as everyone else’s day, but without the substance induced crankiness and jittery feelings.
Sometimes I think of them as saying, “You don’t smoke crack? How do you get through the day?” And we look at one another with equal astonishment.
My parents became drug addicts when I was about nine years old. After that, I became the adult to parents who could not, or would not, be adults anymore. My parents, too young to be hippies, too old to be excused for their teen-aged behaviors, tried just about every drug I can name. Each variety of drug abuse came with different sets of people. The faces changed, but they all had that look of being empty and then of being high. It was the same look my parents came to take on.
Some years later, teen-aged and tired of being the adult, I felt empty and displaced. I thought drugs would replace the emptiness with being high. And they did. But once the high was gone, the emptiness flooded back in, accompanied by shame and sorrow for a childhood that would never be.