“Del” was always a sensitive kid. He grew up in a family where sensitivity was handled with insensitivity. His brothers never let up on the sarcasm, and his mom and dad were mostly too busy to be concerned with emotional matters and took the “rub some dirt on it” approach to hurt feelings.
Most people who knew “Del” thought he was a good kid, but said he “thought too much.”
As he matured “Del” felt uncomfortable in his own skin. His feelings alternated between insecurity, hurt and resentment toward those who had hurt him.
Then he found alcohol.
When “Del” drank, he felt more comfortable. Much later, he would tell you he felt what he thought others might describe as normal.
At the time, though, he didn’t know he was sensitive because it was the only state he had experienced except for drunk, numb and relieved. He couldn’t tell his perceptions subtly had begun to shift so he was always hurt and, in his perception, always the victim of other’s slights.
Sometimes he would be angry because someone didn’t talk to him enough. Sometimes he read into their words, and sometimes he was offended by too many words in his direction. Sometimes he thought people were talking about him, and sometimes he was hurt because they weren’t.
In other words, “Del” had reached a point where he was always hurt and convinced he was justified in his position.
The more he drank for relief, the more his drinking affected his thinking, until even the booze wouldn’t drown out the overwhelming self-consciousness and fear.
Sure he was losing his mind and with nowhere to turn, he made an appointment with a psychiatrist. “Del” was looking for a quick and easy solution to his discomfort – maybe a pill. No stranger to addictive problems, the psychiatrist knew what he was dealing with and suggested “Del” try a treatment center first and foremost. “Del” did so and after completing an inpatient stay – he called it “drunk camp” – he followed directions to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and find an aftercare counselor.
Over time, “Del” discovered he suffered from a disease of perception and probably had suffered from the precursors of it long before he ever took a drink.
• Richard Atwater is a licensed clinical professional counselor. He can reached by email by visiting northwestcommunitycounseling.com.