By Peter Charad
It's one of those memories that feels like it happened yesterday.
Tuesday evening, October 5, 1976, I had checked into the Sheraton Hotel in Hong Kong. As I arrived at my room I heard the phone ringing.
I was excited as I assumed it was my Hong Kong pals phoning to tell me what the arrangements were for the evening.
I have never been able to describe the feeling when, as I picked up the telephone, my ex-brother-in-law told me that my brother had taken his own life.
Colin was the family hero; my personal hero. My belief was that when all else failed he would be there to catch me⎯and he was gone!
I couldn't breathe, I felt nauseous, and then an enormous, scary howl screeched out of me. I started sobbing uncontrollably. I felt so alone and in dire stress; completely out of control.
A colleague had been phoned before I was phoned and very shortly arrived at my door with a bottle of XO Brandy. He poured out a very large glass for me. Those powerful feelings began to subside.
Early the next morning I bought the first 10mg Valium tablets, of many to come, and booked my journey to Johannesburg for the Friday funeral. There was no direct flight so I was booked to leave in the evening via Australia, a 37-hour journey that I survived on alcohol and Valium!
I made it to the funeral and returned back to Hong Kong two days later to continue on as if nothing had happened. The reality was that it hadn't happened on a “feeling level.” I had gone way up into that space where I couldn't feel hurt anymore and I continued to live up there for another 12 years surviving on alcohol and drugs.
I entered a treatment facility in November 1988 to help me stop using these substances. It worked; I was there for five weeks and thankfully haven't found it necessary to use alcohol or any other substance since.
However, little did I know that all the feelings I had numbed before, over and over again for those 12 years were waiting to be felt and processed. It was overwhelming at times; I did not think I would get through it. But, little by little, those enormous feelings began to ease and slowly, after three and a half years of sobbing and screaming I began to surface feeling calm⎯not high, just calm.
It allowed me to emotionally bury my late brother with love and then start healing from all the pain and find the real person under all of that trauma. I am so grateful that I stayed and found mentors who shone lights for me when everything looked so dark.
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