Today is my last day with the agency where I have been working for the last seven years. I held my last group session and it was short. Unlike most of my sessions I did most of the talking. I wanted to remind the two participants about a couple of things I had learned along the way.
The first was about fear, which someone at Vets Place Central told me stood for False Evidence Appearing Real. I can honestly say that despite many bumps along the road it has been a long time since I actually feared anything. In fact the instances of fear I did experience were quite memorable. When I was 20, I volunteered for the draft in order to escape depression and drug use.
Three things terrified me about the what I had done. First was that there was the very real possibility of being killed in a war- Vietnam– that I vehemently opposed. Second was the possbility of being killed in training. When we low crawled under barbed wire, they told us they were shooting live ammunition over our heads. I’ll tell you, I hugged that ground at Ft. Dix New Jersey lower than I had ever hugged anything as a kid. I didn’t know whether the Army was crazy enough to kill its own troops in training and I was damn sure I didn’t want to find out. My third reason for fear came when I was shooting the M-16 rifle which often jammed. I remember thinking that if the weapon couldn’t meet the test in training, how would I be able to depend on it overseas? Fortunately I never had to find out, as I served stateside.
The last instance I had to fear was went I went swimming with some radical friends at a small lake. I became exhausted and started to panic. One of my friends, a small woman who probably weighed 100 pounds soaking wet tried to rescue me. However, in my panic state I almost pushed her under. I was remembering the fact my younger brother had died while swimming a few years earlier. Finally, a man who was bigger than me came out to take over. I stopped struggling just in time for him to rescue me. When we got to shore, he said that if I hadn’t stopped, he probably would have had to knock me out.
In that instance, fear almost cost me my life. So I have learned over the years there was nothing left to fear and most importantly that if I kept trying for one more day, the person that I meet may be the one who can help me turn my life around. I met a small black woman a few years ago who was struggling with her very difficult consumer. But something about her approach impressed me as I saw her with this tall fierce woman. I met her again last year when I started working in a new supported housing program. And again more recently when she told me that she was now the head of clinical services at her agency and they were hiring peer specialists. Before she had left I was on the phone leaving a message about the position. But just imagine if I had not been there at that particular point in time, what might have happened?
Hold on, brothers and sisters, just a little bit longer. After all, whats the worst that could happen? You will drown in paperwork in your 70’s?