This is the sixth excerpt of my book “Shattered Image”. Shattered Image is the story of my struggle with, and recovery from, a compulsive behavior clinically known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). That struggle has included recovery from bulimia, anorexia, alcoholism, and addiction to cocaine and steroids. I also suffer from clinical depression. For decades, I engaged in self-destructive behavior with the single goal of correcting a terribly distorted sense of self-image, a self-image rooted in early life experiences. Release date is July -August 2013 See what people are saying about Shattered Image!
“The week of the incident you had been asking me to go shoot (targets). Later in the week you called / emailed about shooting. Still no alarm bells. Then one day you asked if I could get you a few rounds of ammo and said nothing about shooting. You sounded really “out of it” very down. I tried to get you to talk about what was bothering you but you kept going back to the ammo. I realized that something was very wrong but could not get you to confirm what you were thinking. I immediately emailed Mark at three different emails, called Jeff on mobile and home numbers to tell them I thought you were suicidal. I was driving over to your place to talk to you when Jeff called me back and I expressed my concerns about your state of mind. He said he would handle it asap and got in touch with Mark and the rest you know.”-Angelo
Summer 2005. I was roused from a Xanax, alcohol, and cocaine stupor by the sound of my younger brother Jeff, beating the front door of my house. I had no memory of sending emails to my older brother Mark, intimating that I was going to kill myself. I don’t remember emailing one of my close friends to obtain bullets for the Spanish Star Single action .45 automatic he had given me as a gift a few years earlier. At the time, I did not remember repeatedly dry-firing the weapon into my mouth to “get comfortable” with the final act of pain. In open view in my bedroom were the ample supply of cocaine, Xanax, and anabolic steroids lying around with a box of syringes.
I was not concerned if the police raided my house and arrested me. My career, to the extent I still had one, would be ruined. I just didn’t care. I only cared about the image in my bathroom mirror, which at that moment was unbearable to look at. I was blinded by my self-loathing. The image had controlled almost every self-destructive decision I had made since I was old enough to be self-aware of what it meant. It has continued to morph into an illusion that has no obvious relation to the flesh and blood entity standing before it.
I did not care about many aspects of my life at that point. For someone who was suffering from low self-esteem, BDD, and paranoia, I could not rationalize the irony of my situation of not caring about my health or hygiene. The very behaviors I was practicing were actually aggravating the causes of my unhappiness and depression. The solutions I chose for solving my problems merely exacerbated the problems and caused new problems. I spent money I did not have on an expensive wardrobe, steroids, cocaine and black market Xanax. If I put my image of ugliness in expensive, flashy clothes and a new body, all would change for the better.. Clothes make the man, right? Not really. A self-confident person, comfortable with what he or she sees in the bathroom mirror every morning can be in jeans and a t-shirt and will still exude confidence that influences others. I was nothing more than the naked emperor who had none.
Because I was high or recovering from a high all the time, I was not taking care of myself physically. I was gaining weight again. Between the steroids, drugs, alcohol, and terrible food, I had ballooned to almost 270 pounds, more than I had ever weighed. I decided to try black market Alli, a diet drug that is now legal and sold over the counter, One of the unpleasant side effects of Alli is an inability to control bowels. One night after taking Alli, I passed out in a Xanax stupor and defecated in my pants. How had a lawyer putting out the illusions of prestige and confidence, put himself on the level of a Sterno bum on skid row? Addiction and flawed self image, does not discriminate between Skid Row and Park Avenue.
Jeff went upstairs and saw the gun on the nightstand. He determined that it was not loaded, and asked me what I was going to do with it. I angrily pushed it in his direction. Angry that I was being forced to face the mess I had created. I was angry, not only that Jeff was confiscating the gun, but that he was also confiscating my steroids, cocaine, and Xanax. I passed out again, and when I awoke, Mark had arrived. The two of them arranged for me to enter an in-patient psychiatric facility in Florida that had cleared a bed for me, provided I could get down there ASAP for screening. I did not push back on the arrangement, but I was angry at the prospect of leaving my home to go anywhere that was not my choice. The loss of control I had always agonized over when I looked in the mirror had become a stark reality in the worst possible scenario.
The immediate future was a trip to a local Psychiatric Hospital. As I slowly came out of my cocaine and Xanax stupor in the hospital parking lot, I realized that I was in jeopardy of being committed as a person who was a danger to himself and others. As I filled out the intake form while my brothers watched, I suddenly became aware of the gravity of my situation. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and felt as if I had brought a stain on the Cuban name. The realization of my depravity and my feeling of worthlessness increased my desire to kill myself. I began to think of my condition being exposed through the Dallas Morning News. I knew I would be regarded with the same disgust as Billy Carter, “Billy Beer” guzzling brother of former President Jimmy Carter as the black sheep family member trying to bring shame on the other members of the Cuban family. I felt more ashamed than I had when I stood on the side of the North Dallas Tollway, handcuffed in a DWI arrest back in 1991. At least in that circumstance I had embarrassed myself, but I had not brought shame to the rest of my family members. At the time, the Cuban name was not widely known in Dallas, so I was regarded as another drunk who flagrantly showed disrespect for my life and the lives of others. I wish, however, that someone had scolded me at the time and tried to make me realize that I was on a collision course from which I might never return. I should have realized the extent of my condition, but I foolishly disregarded the red flag before me.
Although the suicide attempt and follow-up at Green Oaks Hospital was a really humiliating and painful experience for me, I had not yet hit rock bottom.