Y’all Qaeda: Snake Oil Salvation — Mental Illness and Alcoholism

“And there was a God in Heaven
And the world made perfect sense
We were young and were in love and we were easy to convince
We were headed straight for Eden
It was just around the bend
And though I had forgotten all about it
The song remembers when”

- The Song Remembers When by Trisha Yearwood

I was 25, a year out of the Army, and my world was falling the fuck apart. I had made the unfortunate decision to return home after serving in the military and, found myself sliding right back into the world I had left years prior.

In the service, I’d deployed to the Kuwait for the war effort. Stayed there a year. But I had been stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, and suddenly — away from home — I had something I’d never had much of in my life up to that point.

Freedom.

I was free.

I’d come out of the closet, completely. Totally did so while I was overseas because “Fuck you, send me home if you don’t like it.” I’d even come out to my mother (well, I didn’t someone did it for me without my permission) and when she gave me shit about it — I told her to, “Get over it or get out of my life.” It’s that simple. I was a grown man (or so I thought), making grown man money, doing grown man shit.

In my off time, I’d partied hard. Danced and sang, drank, and ate my way across Kansas one weekend at a time. I’d made friends in and out of the service. I had my own money. My own car.

I had lived.

Surprisingly, despite my arrogance, I’d been convinced to move back home by my father. Come back, he said, and you can ride your unemployment till you could find a job and go from there.

I don’t care what people say, I don’t care what the law says, I don’t care if you can vote at 18 and get drunk at a bar at 21, until you are 30 — at least — you don’t know shit about fuck. You are NOT grown. You are nothing but a walking hormone, completely unreliable, and you’ve got to figure out if these traits your developing are a phase or if you’re going to be an asshole for the rest of your life. Period. Everyone goes through this.

(Side note: There are no wars fought by old men. They’re kids we send ‘over there.’ Put that in your patriotic pipe and smoke it.)

Well, that was just about the time the market began to sag before the ’08 crash. Jobs were scarce. I’m sorry, that’s not true. A job is a job. But at that age I wasn’t looking for a job, I needed a career. I needed forward momentum. I needed to resume this thing called life and a ‘job’ wasn’t going to cut it.

No big deal, right?

I’d go to school.

I’d received 24 k in a Montgomery G.I. Bill and Boy, Howdy, I was shittin’ in high cotton! Oh, youth, how you are wasted on the young.

Less than a year later I would be admitted into Detroit Receiving Hospital — an indigent hospital I might add — because I’d taken a butcher knife to my arm in an effort to relieve the pressure between my ears.

Trauma takes compound interest out on a person. One thing adds to another, and then another and then, before you know it, you’re caught in an avalanche of shit and nothing is pulling itself together the way you’d imagined it.

Especially if you’d done everything right — at least on paper. And Especially if the foundation on which you’d built your life, is garbage.

You’d finished high school, you’d served in the military, your country looooved it’s veterans, you were in hot pursuit of higher education, and had signed up to serve in the national guard part time because, why not? You loved your job in the army? Do it from home!

I was admitted into the hospital where I stayed for 72 hours, and made higher than a fucking kite. Seriously? A Klingon could have walked by and it wouldn’t have phased me. I couldn’t speak. I could think but I couldn’t make the words come downward from my brain to my mouth in any coherent way.

My sisters, who’d been the ones to force me into admission after I’d told them what I’d done during an argument with my then boyfriend, told me afterward that they’d gone to confront my parents about my condition. A move I thought was particularly brave given their history with my parents and the abuse they endured.

“Mom said you couldn’t really be saved if you are having mental health issues,” Samantha, my second oldest sister, reported to me once I had been released.

One of the more insidious aspects of Fundamentalism is the belief that “Getting Saved” can somehow cure mental illness or chemical dependence.

My father was/is an alcoholic, drug addict, per his own testimony. My mother had also had her turn with the rougher side of life and I do believe, in her way, she too dealt with addiction.

I am no psychologist, but I would guess that the emotional impact of ‘salvation’ as well as the emotional heights brought on by fundamentalism, can be a powerful replacement drug for substance abuse users. Powerful enough, perhaps, to make an alcoholic/ drug addict, stop using.

I’ve observed this to be true in our family’s case. The substances were gone (for a moment anyway), but the behavior remained and it remained untreated.

My father and mother were untreated alcoholics high on the emotional buoy of fundamentalism.

As a matter of fact, this was part of the dogma. If a person ‘backslid’ or fell of ‘the wagon’ so to speak, they were once again sinning. It was a moral flaw and not a disease and the pastors who preached against this ‘sin’ mocked the psychological and medical field. These pastors sell certainty, remember? That certainty, or that absolutism, is itself an addiction. AA/NA and other programs required the patient to be accountable for his or her own actions, through a sponser, and through meetings — knowing that this was a disease they would have to fight for the rest of their lives.

In short, these pastors sold Snake oil Salvation.

During this time, we as kids, were abused unmercifully and I think part of that has to do with Dry Drunk Syndrome. The symptoms are, according to Cigna’s website:

  • Acting self-important, either by “having all the answers,” or playing “poor me”
  • Making harsh judgments of self and others
  • Being impatient or impulsive
  • Blaming others for one’s own faults
  • Being dishonest, usually beginning with little things
  • Acting impulsively or selfishly
  • Struggling to make decisions
  • Having mood swings, trouble with expressing emotions, feeling unsatisfied
  • Feeling detached, self-absorbed, bored, distracted, or disorganized
  • Longing for the drinking life
  • Fantasizing or daydreaming
  • Backing away from or dropping out of a 12-step program

Alcoholics Anonymous, a medical treatment plan, a psychological treatment plan, Narcotics Anonymous, etc. could have curbed a lot of this. This is a miserable existence.

How do I know this?

Because my parents sometimes fell off the wagon. They stopped going to church and when they stopped going to church, all that they once were, they became again. This cycle would repeat itself constantly throughout my entire childhood growing up.

It was absolutely a bi-polar existence. It was like living with two separate sets of parents that were identical to each other. They shared the same name, same address, same places of work, they came home every night, but were decidedly different from the ones that had raised us in church.

So much so, that the first time they left, we (my two younger brothers and I) were absolutely scandalized that my mom and dad were smoking and drinking and not going to church anymore.

We didn’t understand. We had been raised in this movement, had bought into it, lock, stock, and two smoking barrels. For God sake it was BEATEN into us!

He was sinning. They were sinning. What’s happening here?

Now to you, reader, our reaction may seem fairly silly. Their leaving may even be viewed as good that they’d vacated that organization. In a way it was because we got to experience how the ‘others’ lived life. But the target of the abuse then shifted. The physical abuse stopped dead in it’s tracks. Dead. Gone. The abuse was now directed inward.

During one of these ‘off the wagon’ periods, we’d be allowed everything we’d been denied prior. We were finally ‘normal’ kids. Music, movies, the beach, you name it. But it too, wouldn’t last and suddenly we found ourselves in church again, the booze was gone, the ‘worldly things’ we had were gone, and the abuse would again start.

It was maddening. Especially for young kids who crave stability.

Back and Forth this would go on for years, to the point it had become a joke. One evening, during one of their ‘in’ cycles — I heard my mother practicing a song for church, I once knew, downstairs. So, I wandered down there and for about twenty minutes or so we had a good time.

I still remember the song:

“Love Grew, where the blood fell. Flowers of hope sprang up, for men in misery. Sin died, where the blood fell and I’m so glad, his precious blood still covers me.”

Trisha Yearwood had been right.

Now, music had always been my thing. My mom sounds like Patsy Cline when she sings and I admired her up on that stage. She was my first rock star. I thought she was so pretty, so talented, so cool.

“It’s a shame you’re gay. You could come to church and sing this with me,” she said to my face.

I died right then and there. I was miserable. The blood of Jesus that once saved me no longer did and I didn’t give a flying fuck anymore.

“Mom said you couldn’t really be saved if you are having mental health issues,” Samantha, my second oldest sister, reported to me once I had been released.

“Oh yeah? Lot a good it did them,” I replied. We laughed and laughed. Afterward, I fled to Omaha, Nebraska and drank and fucked my way across that state until finally I pulled my shit together, returned home, finished my degree, and got the fuck out of there for good.

Things could have been different but coulda, shoulda, woulda, right? The truth is, they weren’t. They never would be. A friend once said to me, “Misery is the failure to give up hope for a past that never was.”

I lay these things at the feet of my parents. I believe that while you are not responsible for the things that happened to you, you are absolutely responsible for fixing it. I’ve been in therapy and on medication for years dealing with this garbage. Yet, I also lay this at the feet of the Snake Oil Peddlers and Poverty Pimps that call themselves pastors of The Independent Fundamental Baptist Church.

Addiction is NOT a moral failure. These people are sick. It’s a disease. It’s a treatable disease, like cancer.

God may save our souls, folks, but he will not save us from the natural consequences of our actions.

Don’t believe me? Ask your kids.

It was so unnecessary.

P.S. I’m a lot better now.

Originally published at http://deconstructingthedread.wordpress.com on March 29, 2021.

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Queer AF Author. Poet. Songwriter. Screenwriter. Human Being.

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Frederick E Feeley Jr

Frederick E Feeley Jr

Queer AF Author. Poet. Songwriter. Screenwriter. Human Being.