“I was born into a small loving family. I was an only child until the age of 8 and because of the large age disparity I was effectively raised as an only child for my entire life. Starting off in life, things seemed great. I had loving parents, we attended church regularly, I was able to make friends, and I enjoyed most things in life. This was not to say there weren’t problems, or I was raised in some idyllic utopia, but in contrast to the horrors in the world, my life as a five-year-old boy was pretty good.
I was always a worrier. For as long as I can remember, I worried about everything. I was petrified to leave my mother’s side in fear something would happen to her. I was also plagued with a guilt-ridden conscience. Even as a young boy, if I embellished a story on the school yard I would superfluously ask my mother endlessly if this meant I was a bad person. Oftentimes, allowing the guilt over such a benign moral transgression to eat away not only at my peace of mind but at my self-esteem and intrinsic value.
Instead of seeing my mistakes as mistakes, I made the erroneous jump to thinking I was a mistake. So, by 6 or 7 years old, I was already in the genesis of developing a strong sense of shame and loathing directed at myself, despite my mother’s constant effort to ensure I was a good person.
My mother would always ask me what’s bothering me and I would concoct these long diatribes about behaviors or thoughts I had that I thought were unacceptable and furthermore condemned me as a bad person. If my pants got dirty from playing outside, I would check them repeatedly, even after I had cleaned them off, constantly worried there was still lingering dirt on them. I would ask my mother to check and make sure everything was clean. This is just one example of the neuroticism I was exhibiting at the ages of 4 to 7.
Just before the major catalyst transpired that sent me into a hell I’m lucky to have survived.
From the ages of 6 to 8, I underwent fairly continuous sexual trauma. In retrospect, now being 23, I see this as the catalyst responsible for propelling me into a mental illness I wasn’t going to be able to conquer for years to come. As a result of the trauma, I started to feel worthless and riddled with shame. I lost my faith in God and essentially fostered an ideology of nihilism and despair. It was found out years later that this transference of shame and worthlessness manifested itself in the idea that bodily fluids were inherently unclean, and I, therefore, was inherently unclean. I started washing my hands obsessively. I would wash my hands to the point where the soap would dry them out so severely. My hands would turn red, crack open, and bleed. I was having to fill gloves with moisturizer and sleep with them on in an attempt to rejuvenate my skin overnight in preparation for the hundred more times I would have to wash them the following day.
As the years went, and my obsessive behaviors became more pronounced, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I wasn’t even able to urinate without going through an intense cleaning process, including a shower, which could last anywhere from 6 to 8 hours. I quickly was unable to touch anything, and later on even incapable of breathing in certain places or leaving my house at all. From ages 9 to 14, I had developed such a severe case of OCD that there was almost nothing I could touch or breathe around. I was paranoid that wind or air was contaminated and I would duck as I walked through my house. My mother was doing 6 loads of laundry a day because I was constantly needing to change my clothes and put towels on the ground to walk. If I wanted to sit down, I had to make sure it wasn’t ‘contaminated,’ which was a lengthy cleaning process that would have to be done over and over again until it was ‘just right’.
It was around this time I discovered marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, and benzodiazepines. I quickly learned if I was under the influence of a substance, not only did I do less of my compulsions, but the underlying feeling of self-hatred, unworthiness, and uncleanliness evaporated. In my mind, this was the solution. I could kill two birds with one stone. If I could stay drunk or high, I could be normal. All the past traumas, all the obsessions and compulsions, although still present, would be dulled out enough to finally be a normal boy. Doctors had told me my OCD was so severe the only treatment would be many months of in-patient rehabilitation, and even then, I would always have a form of OCD. All the medications the doctors gave me over the years paled in comparison to the efficacy of alcohol and street drugs.
Around this time, my best friend and cousin Daniel became terminally ill. Following his death, I delved even deeper into nihilism and a lack of belief in God. There was no way in my mind to reconcile the fact that Daniel, the nicest person I had ever known, could die, and that there could possibly be a benevolent and loving God. As the saying goes with addiction, it requires more and more to reach the same desired effect and that’s what happened to me.
The worse my addiction became, the worse my OCD became as well. Even under the influence of drugs 24/7, I was still doing compulsions. My social life and family life were deteriorating as a result of my addiction. I was incapable of finding stable housing, paying rent, holding a job, or developing meaningful relationship that wasn’t based entirely on lies. I had turned into a monster, a very sad and hopelessly suicidal monster.
Finally, I moved back in with my parents in an attempt to get clean and sober, and get my life back on track. I relapsed frequently and caused much turmoil in this time. After about a year of chronically relapsing and struggling even more with the OCD, my mother and father had a conversation.
My mother had watched me take over 8 hours to get ready that day. She had watched me lay down the towels to walk on, she watched me attempt to put on my clothes, having to take them off and put on different clothes because I thought the initial pair was contaminated. She watched me having to open everything with my feet. And she told me later that looking into my dead and suffering eyes was her realizing how desperately I wanted to die.
I talked about killing myself a lot during this time. And on one particularly bad day, a Wednesday, my mother told my father she thought they needed to be prepared for the worst because she didn’t think I was going to make it to the weekend. My mother was right.
That’s when the miracle happened.
I went to work with my mother the next day because she was afraid to leave me alone. I was in her private bathroom and one of her friends, who was unexpectedly at my mom’s office, came in and saw me washing my hands. I had been washing them for almost two hours straight. This woman is one of my mother’s best friends and was aware of my issues. She grabbed my arm and said, ‘You don’t need to live like this.’ She asked if I could talk to her.
For whatever reason, I decided I would talk to her. What else did I have to lose? I was going to die anyway. So, later that day I went to her apartment. I could barely function at this point. I had socks on my hands as makeshift gloves, and I couldn’t touch anything. We sat across from each other and for whatever reason I got the courage for the first time in my life to open up about my trauma. I told my mother’s friend everything that had happened. I spared no detail as I scoured my brain for the buried memories. She sat mainly in silence as I went on and on about my trauma. At the end of it, she looked at me and said, ‘Jack, you don’t need to punish yourself for this. You were a child, and a child doesn’t know what to do. But you’re an adult. All this was a lie created by the mind of a child. You are worthy.’ And in that moment, everything changed.
People might find this extremely hard to believe, but it’s the truth. After that moment, I never indulged in any of my compulsions again. When I returned home, I opened the door with my hands, something my mother hadn’t seen me do in over a decade. I exclaimed I was cured and we both burst into tears. Most amazingly, we hugged. It was the first time in a decade. It was a complete miracle.
I still relapsed with drugs and alcohol for a year or so after that amazing feat of triumph with my OCD. But in writing this, I am clean and sober for eight months.
I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I have restored my faith in God, and I have moved myself out of the horrendous bondage of self, one day at a time. I even fulfilled my dream of becoming an author. I figured I had a story to tell and apparently others thought so as well. I went from a hopelessly suicidal, drug addicted, fatally neurotic slave, to a person who is happy, grateful, and loving.
I’d like to finish this story with a quote I used in my book:
We are only as sick as our secrets.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jack A. Bingham. You can follow his journey on Instagram, and his blog. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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