Chapter 15 -------- Finding Light in the Darkness
As we all prepared for the trip back down the canyon, it was imperative that my dad takes Danielle in his car. Our marital issues were at a record high, and we needed a break. My mother would accompany me back in my car. My father’s car was a rental, which meant it was going to be a much smoother ride for Danielle. Danielle also needed more fatherly advice.
My dad and I had already talked before he left. It was important to me that we get over the problems that we were having. He was familiar with my angry outbursts in the past and was the best person on the planet to talk to Danielle about it. My mother was the exact opposite. I didn’t want my mom talking to my wife at all. She was feeding the problem.
My past outbursts were typically due to my mother’s excessive drinking. I am not proud of the number of times I have told my mother to shut her mouth. My failed attempts to avoid hours of obnoxious behavior. I wish I were exaggerating, but that’s the truth. The sad truth is that my mother would only remember me telling her to shut up. It’s hard not to treat someone, like a misbehaving child when they repeatedly behave that way as an adult.
My dad had seen the repercussions of my behavior and also how it previously alienated me from the family. While that is a completely different issue, it does show just how destructive my anger can ultimately be. By this time, I had learned my lessons with my family. If I didn’t want them to upset me with the behavior that they were choosing, I either needed to become fine with my mother’s alcoholism or avoid contact. We could continue to maintain a functional relationship in very small doses, such as attending family events or dinners.
It wasn’t a huge deal to me that my parents were using my past to help Danielle come to terms with my behavior. The big issue was that I no longer was the person that my mother was talking about with my wife. My mother had no clue who I was at this point. Her memory of my angry outbursts is five years old and clouded by twenty years of drinking. To say her communication with my wife was troublesome would be an understatement.
Thankfully Danielle recognized my mother’s behavior and quickly realized why I always said the things I did about her. It isn’t that I don’t love my mom, I love her very much, but I despise the person that alcohol has forced her to become. It is that person that I knew was very harmful to be in my wife’s presence. It became evident on the first opportunity I gave my mom to help Danielle out.
We all knew I needed to start taking more personal time. It was step one to creating a more positive attitude for Danielle. One of the most productive activities that always made me feel better was hiking. I love hiking, and there isn’t a time that hiking hasn’t made me feel better. The hiking in Sedona is half the reason I moved here, the job offer being the other half. Sedona is a perfect place for me while having a creek nearby makes it almost heavenly.
Since Danielle and I married, I had only been hiking two or three times. I wasn’t getting my usual release in nature. Now with some help from my parents, I would have the time to explore. While my dad ran errands, I decided to do a quick two-hour adventure up the Canyon. My mom was supposed to stay with Danielle so that I could take a break, a real break. A break without worries while knowing that my wife was in good hands. Well, that isn’t how it went at all.
Within about forty-five minutes, I started receiving messages from my mom, asking when I would return. Instantly I had all the anxiety return. I texted my mother that it would be at least another forty-five minutes. I just arrived at a place to sit down and relax. It was perfect because I had water running on all sides of my huge rock. A brisk sunny day complimented the scenery as the sun poured through the naked trees. I could have sat there for hours, centering my mind. Despite being rushed to go home, there was a huge benefit I felt sitting there for a few minutes.
It was amazing the transformation that I felt from just one trip to the Creek. My former, stronger self had returned, full of emotional strength, and longing to fix the mistakes that had been occurring. I finally was in a mental space that I could be there fully for my wife. Observing the difference in how I reacted to the world was a huge wake-up call. My new awareness was helping so that I could be the person that my wife demanded.
It was also time to sit down with my Dad and Danielle to have a serious conversation. I knew that I had all sides against me. I couldn’t blame anyone but myself for my behavior. This knowledge of what I did wrong brought me a lot of shame at the time. I knew I made my mistakes, but I also wanted to start moving past them.
After a talk the previous day with my father about everything that was happening, I knew that I had at least one person in my corner. He understood that the past several months was very difficult. My behavior was not the real problem, although he did say that it needed to stop. The problems were due to me facing complete exhaustion combined with a dying wife. He explained it was something that few people are equipped to deal with, but he could see that I wanted to learn. I also explained to him that she had high standards because of her life experiences.
It was difficult to hear Danielle rub it in that she helped eight other people pass from AIDS. I wanted with all my heart to live up to those expectations, expectations that I feel now might have been far too high for myself under the circumstances. Too much Pride had blinded me to my shortcomings. I had faced impossible odds, but now with proper help, I had no more excuses. I loved my wife so much I would do anything to make her happy.
I could no longer be a source of pain for my wife. It had become clear to me that I was mentally exhausted. Many of the problems I had were because I didn’t have any help. I was alone in all of this for so long, and we needed to make some serious changes. It was going to be important that we have someone come over from time to time to give me a physical break. To make sure I didn’t have to worry about Danielle, and also to get added support. The other issue was keeping my emotional strength up, and there was a big conversation planned.
It ended up being a couple of days before I had the big sit down with Danielle and my father. I was finally feeling better since I additionally wasn’t working. The additional free time was helping dramatically. Taking time for myself was not an issue like it was in the past. After a couple of days but I was finally back to normal, I wasn’t irritable, I wasn’t agitated, and I wasn't the problem that I had been building for the previous several months. I was me again, and I was ready to take a serious look at the problems.
I will admit it wasn’t an easy conversation to have with Danielle and my father. Both of them were just as tired as I was with my behavior. However, one of the first things that I believe shifted my perspective was when both my dad and Danielle said I was an angry person. For so long, I couldn’t imagine being an angry person. I was always happy and positive. No one in my life would classify me as angry, except for maybe my family... That was the realization.
I was unmistakably an angry person around my family. However, that was a more recent development as I had a very charmed childhood. I was rarely angry, growing up. Until I hit my early twenties, I was only angry maybe once a year. The rest of the time, I was happy and having fun. For someone to call me an angry person, it would almost feel like they didn’t know me at all. This time though I didn’t hear it the same, it shot through me like an arrow.
It shattered my world because I could see how angry I was. It was all so true; I was filled with anger. I started thinking about all the topics that make my blood boil. The list included the Mainstream Medical Establishment, my wife’s family, GMO’s, toxic beds, human trafficking, child abuse, and hundreds of other things that are wrong with our world. I was angry at the Cancer and the fact that the medical industry doesn’t want to tell us what caused my wife’s cancer. My anger included doctors saying alternative treatments don’t work, inferring, those treatments will likely lead to death. I could go on and have done so.
I spent countless hours posting articles or videos related to these topics on Facebook. Other angry people always attacked me, causing entertaining comment conflict. However, I pretended not to be angry about anything, or I would only get angry when someone else behaved inappropriately. Still, I never considered myself angry, despite getting angry from time to time. I knew I struggled with my anger but to classify myself as angry was a brand-new way of thinking.
I’ll admit I spent the first twenty years of my life rather oblivious to the problems our world is facing, now that I’m aware I can’t deny my anger. It becomes even more infuriating when there is little to no chance for me to personally fix all those problems. I would drive myself crazy if I even spent half my day being angry at everything wrong with the world.
A shift happened in me when I realized that I was angry. I hadn’t realized how much my anger had been controlling me versus me controlling my anger. This realization also helped the conversation move forward. My acceptance of my weakness also helped Danielle to open up. My dad said one other thing that I don’t know if it helped me as much as it helped Danielle, but either way, it practically fixed our relationship.
For so long, I had been comparing myself to Danielle and the fact that she spent weeks and months caring for people who were dying throughout her life. Danielle’s highest calling was caring for people that society discards. It was also such a high standard to live up to. My dad put things into perspective for both of us. He said, “The situations are not the same because Danielle, you didn’t love those people as Brandon loves you.”
That made both of us think. It wasn’t easy for me to watch someone I care about so much go through so much pain and agony. The Surgeon said it best when he said Cancer is a Bitch. It truly was, and after four and a half months of watching the love of my life suffer, it had done a number on me too. Months of witnessing misery in all its forms.
Enduring the suffering of a loved one was even more exhausting than any other experience in my life. Nothing compared to what I faced with Danielle, and honestly, I hope nothing ever does. Danielle and I both grew from our struggles. We both were finding our peace in the sea of turmoil. It was an honor to have an opportunity to experience this with such an amazing person. The walls that had been built were starting to crumble.
Danielle admitted she had changed the will, and she felt ashamed. At the time of our wedding I was going to inherit the house should something happen to Danielle. The issues we were having as a couple and influence from the other people in her life had forced her to rethink her will. Several weeks prior, she had a friend take her over to the lawyer to remove me from the will. She had decided to leave the house to one of her students because she didn’t feel that her family would fulfill her wishes for the house. I truthfully wasn’t bothered by not getting the house because I didn’t want it in the first place.
It was upsetting to find out just how much faith and trust that Danielle had lost in me. No longer did she see me as her husband through sickness and health. I had broken that trust. Considering the problems we were having, I did sympathize, agreeing that I probably should not get the house anyway. When we first drew up the will, we weren’t expecting five months later to be in the situation we were facing.
My dad agreed I shouldn’t get the house. I didn’t have the means to keep up with the repairs, nor was I completely sure if I would want to stay indefinitely in Sedona. It was nice to have a little support from my dad on the issue. It calmed Danielle’s fears while resolving many of our issues. My dad also didn’t want to be the one to foot the bill for repairs. It was in everyone’s best interests that someone else gets the house. My dad was stepping up to be exactly what we needed at that moment, a mediator.
My dad had become a dad to not only me again, but also to my wife. After years of being rather estranged, it was nice to be able to connect with such depth. I still wish the circumstances could have been different, but I’ve always tried to make the best even from a really bad situation. This really bad situation had brought out the best in my dad. He could see that Danielle and I needed help, and he willingly changed all of his work plans to help us. I don’t think that my dad understood what was occurring until he was at the house for a couple of days.
He had observed that Danielle and I were having the most problems because I was a target for her anger. Danielle was incredibly angry and rightfully so. Danielle had more to be angry about than I did, and I hadn’t realized that I was a big reflection of her anger. My dad recognized the vicious cycle we were stuck in. My dad’s intervention curbed her coaxing me to get angry. It had become a problem that I couldn’t do anything about previously.
Her anger towards my behavior would often lead to that very behavior manifesting. My desire to make sure that didn’t happen was where my real growth took place. Despite the constant encouragement from Danielle to show that I was a destructively angry person. I wasn’t going to be an angry person anymore, and I was making a choice.
The return of my mental strength and the added support were allowing me to endure any stresses. By addressing my anger in a more honest approach, I had, in a way, taken away the power that it once had over me. While it wasn’t like my anger just disappeared, it felt like a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders.
During our conversation, I also came clean about my Tobacco addiction. Surprisingly that went over much better than I would have thought. I was expecting Danielle to be upset at the fact that I was smoking since the wedding. To my surprise, she wasn’t upset about it at all. It didn’t change that I felt bad about hiding it. I never lied to her about it, but I hid it well enough that she never even asked. It was one of the hardest things I had been living with the past several months, and it was so powerful to lift the burden off my chest.
I explained how putting a little tobacco in my pipe when I smoke my medical marijuana would truly reduce the stress or anxiety I was feeling. I also admitted that some of my problems were because I didn’t smoke enough nicotine. Certainly, some of my blow-ups were because I was unable to excuse myself for my nicotine fix. I apologized profusely even though it didn’t bother Danielle. She was a little concerned that I had successfully hidden it from her but also knew I never lied about it.
After months of trying to figure out ways to cope with the stress, I finally had the upper hand. Even though Danielle didn’t believe me yet, I knew I was ready. The following couple of days saw a huge improvement in our relationship. My emotional strength had returned, and I was the person that she needed me to be. It wasn’t easy, but I knew I could do it.
I felt stronger, more in control, and a new person altogether. Danielle still wasn’t convinced, but she was opening up to it, and I was willing to be patient. Patience was a virtue that I was constantly cultivating during our relationship. I could feel that I was already a better person. Now I had to prove it to Danielle.
The time we spent together involved moving past much of the pain we had both gone through over the past months. I repeatedly apologized for my lack of strength and that I would not allow myself to go to that place again. I knew using the proper tools at my disposal, that I could be the person that she needed. I began to embrace vices that I once considered terrible.
Now that I didn’t need to hide the tobacco usage, I was able to keep my cravings in check. I was also able to use nicotine as a tool to calm myself down quickly. I learned fast that if I excused myself before I reached a point of no return, that I could quickly recenter myself. I’ll even admit that there was a learning curve.
I knew that if I left myself unchecked that I could fall out of balance. My past had proven that it was not good if I went past my breaking point. It could take several hours to a full day for me to regain my mental strength. I was not going to allow myself to get to that point and using copious amounts of nicotine and THC were my saviors. I was embracing plant medicines on a whole new level.
Danielle and I had both dramatically changed our views about plant medicines. We were changing together again. Our renewed relationship was moving forward. It would be necessary for the challenges we were about to face. My new-found strength would be tested.
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