Hello, my name is Justin Farley and welcome to my blog, Along the Barren Road. I have created this blog hoping to inspire, share advice, reflect on my own journey, and share yours with you. I plan on focusing my writing around addiction, recovery, and broader aspects of personal development. I really have no bias about the type of problem or internal struggle that you are going through, as they all do the same thing- keep us from being the people that we were born to be. It is my hope that by sharing my experience, I will be able to help you along the road to recovery or improve those “problem” areas in your life. Before I do that, I wanted to use this first post as a way of telling readers my own story and to assure everyone that I have my own road to walk as well. This will not be a blog with a “holier than thou” attitude or one where I claim to have all the answers. I don’t pretend to be 100% recovered or happy every day of my life, but I am light years ahead of where I used to be.
As far back as I can remember, my mind has been running. It runs a hundred miles a minute and the more I try to slow it down, the faster it runs. As a child, it was a blessing. It would take me to far off places, and imagination was always at my fingertips. I have always had ADHD and have had a hard time keeping still. But my issue doesn’t just involve the physical, but also the unrelenting, ever-persistent movement of thought that goes on in my head. When I am doing what I love it can be great. It has given me the love of expression and the potential to create. Creating is the only time where I feel like my mind and I are on the same level, working together through the bonds on passion. Whether it be through stories, music, poetry, essays, or song-writing, it is the one place I can count on in my life to feel at peace and to give my life meaning. The rest of my life…well that’s another story. Being a prisoner in your head is a lonely place and leaves you little time to relax or have a clear mind. All throughout childhood, I was a pretty talented kid. I excelled at just about everything I did- school, sports, hobbies. My mind was always an ally to me and introspection had always been a great asset. That all changed when I was about thirteen years old. The mind that used to weave daydreams of fantasy and delight somehow began conjuring visions of horror and nightmare.
I was on my way home from a friend’s house, starring out the window, daydreaming as usual, when I started to feel a strange sensation creeping across my body. It felt as if my entire body was being squeezed, and I was struggling to breathe. At first, I tried to distract myself and not think about it, but it kept getting worse. I began to sweat and tremble. My heart was beating rapidly out of my chest. By the time I got home, I was feeling dizzy, disoriented, and having terrible chest pains. I didn’t know exactly what was wrong with me, but I was fully convinced that I was going to die. Not knowing what was wrong with me, I was taken to the ER and had a series of tests run. While all the tests came back fine, that night marked the beginning of my struggle with anxiety and panic disorder.
Being only thirteen years old and being convinced that you are about ready to die is a traumatic experience. I think everyone is afraid of death to some degree, but the fear remains locked inside the subconscious mind, only making itself known as we get old or come down with a serious injury or illness. Well, ever since that day I have been unable to shake off the experience and stuff my fear back into my subconscious mind. As the years went by, what started off as a fear gained strength and became a full-blown panic disorder / phobia. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. And more importantly, I had no clue how to stop the madness. That was until I met my dear ol’ pal alcohol.
I am fully convinced that I have been been an alcoholic since birth. Even as a kid I fantasied about drinking and couldn’t wait until I was old enough to get drunk. Alcohol was the magic potion for me. No matter how shitty I felt, no matter how bad (or good) of a day I was having, it always gave me what I needed. All it took was a few strong shots and all that anxiety that was stuffed inside of me was gone; I could look the world in the eye without fear. At first, it started off slowly, but somewhere between the age of eighteen or nineteen I started really losing my control over it, It wasn’t enough anymore to drink and party on the weekends. It became more about needing to drink just to remain functional and not about having fun. At my worst I was unable to hold a job, forced to drop out of college, and was drinking almost a fifth of whiskey a day. Before my twenty-first birthday, I had already been through rehab and never had even seen the inside of a bar.
Yet, I wasn’t convinced. After spending about three months sober, I relapsed on my twenty-first birthday. It only took a week before I had to face the harsh reality of who and what I was. By the fourth day of drinking, I had already lost the job that I had held for three months while sober. On the sixth day, I ended up wrecking my car in someone’s yard and fleeing the scene of the accident. While it didn’t cause any damage to the property, I was at least smart enough to know that if anyone saw or talked to me, they would know I was drunk. I took off on foot, hoping to make it home walking. Because I was so drunk, I ended up getting lost and spent nearly six hours on foot before I made it home. When I woke up the next morning, I found out that the police had already came by looking for me the night before and that I needed to get in contact with them. I knew I was facing serious trouble, yet somehow finding more alcohol was the only thought on my mind. At that moment, I knew I was screwed. And more importantly, I was scared. I was a slave to alcohol and knew I was doomed to die an alcoholic death, unless I quit drinking. The next few days featured a lovely does of withdrawing, shaking, and DTs. But it got me to where I am today. In October, I will have seven years of sobriety.
The past seven years have been filled with blessings, miracles, and a whole lot of heartache. With alcohol out of the picture, it’s been just me and anxiety facing life with no magic pill to wash away the pain. I have had to face life on life’s terms and not on mine. For me, it has been an extremely hard task. I always want the quick fixes. I want to slap on a band aid and get back in the game. But recovery doesn’t work that way. Change doesn’t happen overnight and that is something I still have to continually remind myself. It requires hard work everyday and progress comes over weeks, months and even years. I wish I could tell you that I’m anxiety-free and that I have all the answers to solve your problems, but I don’t. What I do have are experiences and lessons that have propelled me farther along this barren road than I ever thought I’d be and that continue to instill in me hope that one day I will reach my destination. I look forward to walking the road with you!