[Repost] Group Therapy

10:07:00 PM

Originally drafted and posted to a prior blog on Aug. 15, 2008.

I am not them - not by a long shot. I am not a group of shattere middle-aged men, sitting with chairs arranged into a circle. We're in a barren conference room of a Catholic hospital, and the crew with their admixture of attitudes and disposition to this congregation talk openly about their "great redefinition." That is, they defined themselves as having a problem that was beyond their controll, and only an act of divine mercy could spare them from themselves.

A pudgy young woman with a clipboard resting on her lap tries her hardest to draft solutions for them, but she fails miserably. She's just an intern, after all, without the professional experience or sensitivity to break through the men's tough coat of pain.

My head knocks against the eraser holder of a dry-erase board. I'm slouching, and I swear that the jittery crystal meth guy who's just sobered up and just mentioned that he's savoring the option of suicide has just been overwhelmed by all the options that have been lobbed his way from the intern and the room. The consolers say to this incarnation of Job, that it will be a lot of work and a lot of time to be worthy angain, to be redeemed. He's just been informed that it might take years before his outlook improves, but, by golly, he's taken the first, right step - being here.

Sadly, he's insufferably hurting NOW, and his hopes are dashed of some immediate relief like if the box of Tylenol said that your headache will be gone the day after you ingest the tablet and, only after a good night's rest.

He thanks everybody profusely for their encouragement, and it's clear that every "thank you" is just to say "Will you please just shut up now?" The group continues to offer help for many more minutes, regardless.

A fat engineer - a veteran to the program - fancies himself the intern's aid and the liason to the group of patients. He seems to enjoy this way too much.

The only REAL dude is festering in waves of justified hatred. Over the course of years (three, I seem to remeber), he developed a concrete plan for his community re-integration. Wave after wave of social work questionares were filled out by him whose intentent was to guide him to define, concretely and on paper, his innermost, most burried wish for himself and his particular gift to the world via his labor.

His diamond was polished over the years in this group. He had soul-searched. He had completed the sentance a hundred times over that began like, "Bosses are --" and "When someone tells me I've done a bad job, I --." Other questionares had him circling an array of numbers on the page - all meant to illicit in him his deepest yearning for fruitful employment. His completed forms were stored in your average file-folder in the second drawer of a metal filing cabinet along with the other's of the group.

The program yeilded for him a plan - a written document that described what he wanted out of employment and how he was going to get it.

Seething, it slips out that his employer just said that same day that his "plan" was too vague. The intern is speachless and fumbles to find some encouraging words for him. Her science and training failed her. Statistically the REAL dude was just unlucky, a proverbial Free Radical in her equation whose only hope was some kind of strange approach wrought by Quantum Psychodynamics.

One thing binds us all: a penchent for self-mortification; we all have a tendency to whip ourselves to death through either drugs or unhealthy relationships.

Here's an unhealthy relationship if I ever heard of one, right here in this room I'm in. Take an adult and put him in front of a coloring book whose figures take the shape of "complete the sentace" or "circle all that apply to yourself" and what you got is a recipe for a person with a chronic penchant for behaving like a child - a person who will never stand on their own two feet because the reinforcement from society at large is, "you can't do it on your own, and only an act of divine mercy will save you."

Here's another unhealthy relationship. The Real Dude has a justified anger to assume that the world is a cruel and unusual place. On the one hand, his counselors are saying, "Do this for us, and you'll be granted your hearts desire." His counselors are called Social Workers. On the other hand Society, or the object that social workers tend to say that the final product of rehabilitation is unsatisfactory.

Here's another unhealthy relationship: the fat guy who enjoys this hoo-ha so much, he may never graduate and move on to being okay. Why would you want to be "healed" when being sick is so damn fun and fulfilling. He's has nine months of sobriety. Most illenesses besides old age and natural causes kill you long before the nine month mark has passed.

Here's another unhealthy relationship: the guy who's trembling with fear about just being alive, who's lamenting that he's a burden to the world and his mother and who's backpeddling, terrified that this intern will commit him and strip him of his freedom for mentioning the "S" word (she threatened to do so) ... Well, he's a poster child for a Rolling Stones cover tune - one we all know oh so well: I can't get no! Satisfaction! Sex is dangerous for him, drugs are dangerous, and rehab is dangerous. His mom is dangerous and the internet (something he mentioned as a source of sex) IS DANGEROUS.

* * *

I'm beginning to suspect that this world is a cruel and unusual place. It had been my predeliction to assume that the universe was a place of order - the creation of divine love and justice. But, in these last few weeks, I suspect, in the tradition of the Gnostics and Conspiracy Theorists, that this Earth of ours is nothing short of the playground for the Devil - a sort of sandbox for his machinatiions and a proving grounds for his more ambitions projects in the lower realms.

I sympathize, and would even go so far as to empathize, with the Real Dude, and the suicidal dude, and the fat engineer dude and the untrained intern.

There is something rather special in all of this: choice and its counterpart, lack of choice via pernicous addictions; the metastasization of trauma and grief.

So it's told in the Catholic Orthodoxy, human beings are precious to God above and beyond any other thing in his creation precisely because we have choice. But what happens to God when addiction sets in, and we no longer have choice ... when we are irrevocably bound by affliction -- lost in it. Are we damned on this Earth?

Is the Devil and God looking over their last Chess move with some sort of "touché" attitude?

* * *

For what it's worth, I don't think I'll be able to make the next meeting with the boys. I suspect that I'll be resuming my sessions with my philosopher-therapist soon to resolve my existential questions.

And, as I type this, I will not be saying on Monday that I'm X days sober, but that tonight, by God or by the grace of some divine tempter bent on challenging the belssing of Free Will ...

By golly, I'm having a beer right now, despite my good intentions, and it was good.

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