The diagnosis I needed to set myself free
By Patrick A. Roland

The following is an extract from the book Unpacked Sparkle by Patrick A. Roland

So began six days of being locked up in a mostly padded room in a long hallway of corridors that led nowhere, except to the center of the beauty I had finally begun to see in myself.  In this place, I began to see myself as I really was: amazingly awesome.  The majority of the people I shared with this time were homeless, and some were even far more gone than I.  Also, I finally got the diagnosis I needed to set myself free from the bondage of addiction.

I was locked up against my will

After not sleeping for four days, I finally passed out once I got there.  When I awoke and got my bearings, I realized the enormity of my situation.  I was locked up against my will.  I fell to the ground in wails and sobs.  This can’t be happening to me, I thought, crying harder and banging my fists against the counter of the nurses’ station.  Note that I didn’t have shoes on again, and I wore one of those awful hospital gowns backwards for a full two days.  None of the orderlies would heed my request for actual clothes.  They had even taken my hilarious Mariah t-shirt and sparkly shoes away!  Maybe it was a test to see if my anxiety would spiral so they could keep me there longer.

That first day and a half I still felt somewhat tired; exhausted actually.  I was wary and flushed in the still dazed and confused fog from all the drugs and alcohol I had consumed for four solid days before being forced to stay in this awful holding cell.  I wished I had just jumped out that window.  My new reality was jarring.  There were people talking to themselves, loudly!  I surely wasn’t this bad, this batshit crazy, was I?
Yes, I was.

The diagnosis I needed to set myself free

On the second full day, things began to change.  I was now in a different unit where the crazy was more high functioning and bright.  I was finally among my people!  It was there, in a tiny room, that for the first time a doctor, a swarthy, jubilant Middle Eastern man much like Nali, looked me in the eye, and not away from me.  All the previous doctors in places like this had looked away, because I was crazy and not worth humanly acknowledging.  But this man said exactly what I needed to hear to finally save me from myself.  This kind-looking and calm man made me feel safe and cared for in the brutally honest moment of the diagnosis he was about to give me.  I was crazy, with papers to prove it!

“Has anyone ever told you, you’re bipolar?” he asked.  This was the diagnosis I needed to set myself free.

Suddenly everything made sense

Every single thing!  The dramatic highs and the crushing lows, the sum total of all my experiences thus far.  Now that I knew what I was dealing with, really and amazingly dealing with, I knew I could and would never use drugs or drink alcohol again. The diagnosis I needed to set myself free finally and totally opened me up to a life worth living and to all its beautiful potential and possibility.  After all, the crazy thoughts in my head are already manic and overwhelming enough.  Adding chemicals to them only makes them worse, more heightened, and completely unmanageable.

Alcohol had played a major role in this final experience.  I was able to admit that I was an alcoholic, something I had not been able to do before, even when I voluntarily went to rehab two times prior to this.  Both times I knew drugs were my ultimate demise, but I had never fully admitted that alcohol was a problem too.  The first half of my thirties were marked by nightly binge-drinking that almost always resulted in blackouts, before I found drugs and really messed up everything I had going for me.

I admitted that alcohol was a problem

I had enjoyed many lengthy days in a row of what I labeled real sobriety.  Yet just one, or maybe the second, glass of wine at happy hour was always the back door in which I backslid into drug use.  First with pot, because I was drinking and I was fine!  But then with meth.  I knew now I had to stop this vicious cycle with which I was ruining my life, because I actually wanted to live!

So I stood in my truth, rolled around in it, let the bitch marinate, and decided to accept it.  As a gay, bi-polar, alcoholic, drug-addicted widow, I was never prouder or more sure of myself.  I actually found myself in this sanitarium humming along to the lyrics of the very song in which I first experienced love when I was eleven, “The Greatest Love of All”.  For the first time ever, I was taking on the very self-loving and self-motivating words to own and live by.  I found myself in love.

Self-revelation and ultimate truth

With the diagnosis I needed to set myself free opening me up to a new kind of self-revelation and ultimate truth, I found myself thriving in this hospital.  I was social, I was smart, I was open, I was artsy, I was athletic, and I was capable.  I was all these things and more, and I had forgotten all of these very true facts about myself in that long spiral of grief that had caused my very undoing.

In that negative space, I had neglected all of the things he had loved about me, all the things he made me realize I loved about myself, and all the things I had loved while he was alive.  Only now I knew I had to make it through the wilderness alone.  For I was really, wholly, and newly like a virgin.  I was ready to take on life with a new sense of passion and purpose like I never had before.

From my newfound strength, I have told people that even though I didn’t jump out of that Vegas casino window, I did finally learn to fly.  I found life in the act of trying to end it.  All the bad things that had plagued and ultimately ruined me had also left me that very night in that life-changing hotel room.  My mom had finally stepped up and loved me enough to call me on my bullshit and ultimately make me call myself on my own bullshit and finally man-up and really and completely live.

Now I was the one who made things happen

Now that I had the diagnosis I needed to set myself free, I could start to live.  By live, I mean do everything that a person like me needs to do to survive.  Get a sponsor.  Go to meetings.  Do charity and service work.  Write it out.  Help others. Actually take care of my parents, which I can do now because I can take care of myself!  Thrive at work.  Make friends.  Get over resentments.  Solve problems.  Take classes.  Grow and mature.  I finally grew up, no longer that scared, broken little boy that all those things happened to.  Now I was the one who made things happen, and I do.

Love, encouragement, and support

I want to say for the record, that none of this would be possible without the love, encouragement, and support of the people with whom I shared those six days.  Beautifully broken people just like myself who are heroes to me.  “Royals”, if you will.  No matter where this new lease on life, the diagnosis I needed to set myself free, takes me, I’ll never forget any of those beautiful people whose faces were like mirrors.  I was finally and ultimately able to see my beautiful reflection in them.  You have my word that I’m going to keep fighting, for me, for us, and for all the beautifully broken people who haven’t found their way yet.

Not only am I in your corner and on your side, I’m on your team.
For life.

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