Year To Live Project: The Darkness Part 5 – The Judge
Still not halfway through my 28-day dark experience, The Pain Guru continually kicked my ass. Days 8-13 were spent primarily lying on the floor, with breaks coming in the form of forcing myself to eat. Meditation was now only a futile exercise in pushing the painful images and mental movie clips from my mind for mere seconds at a time before they rushed back in. I had completely given up exercising at this point, too exhausted from the emotional toll of having to deal with myself ceaselessly for my twenty waking hours a day.
After witnessing every argument with my mom, every ex, and every opportunity where I failed to take care of myself, failed to leave an impossible situation, and actually put myself more and more squarely into the path of insanity, I was spent. Utterly spent. Even though I was only standing upright for minutes a day, lying on a thin yoga mat on the floor for most of the day, I had zero energy. It was sapped from my body, only to be injected back in liquid anger or upset. I cried on the floor, violently shaking, and convulsing for days on end. The Pain Guru fully controlled my entire being at this point.
We pick up now after I’ve finally left my ex Samantha for good via an out-of-the-country work trip that was supposed to be a forty-day stint but ended lasting six months. A life-changing trip in a number of fashions, but mostly because it broke me out of the bubble I’d been living in for the last half decade.
A Palpable Void
Three weeks after making the decision to leave my codependent mess, I had met someone else— a girl named Tiffani (you can read more about her down below in Breakfast With Tiffani). Tiffani and I got to know each other well while working through the Caribbean Islands. Three weeks between relationships was just enough for me to heal, grow, learn, be with myself, develop, become introspective…or not even enough time to think twice. In my defense, I did go to a therapist twice on my own to make sure “none of my old relationship bled into this new one.” An hour a week for two weeks and BAM!— I was cured. I’m a Boehm, we’re tough as nails. Off we go.
Tiffani and I had a peaceful relationship, which lasted for another five years. As many unions do, ours did come to an amicable end as grad school took me in one direction and her life took her in another. When my relationship with Tiffani ended, I found myself alone for the first time in over a decade. Yes, ages 22-32 were spent with a total of two women, with just a three-week break between them. The void was palpable, and unbearable.
Instead of realizing what an amazing opportunity this was for all of the positive growth potentials listed two paragraphs back, I immediately started dating my now ex-wife. Ah, yes, she was the one and I could now tell myself, “Everything happens for a reason. Both of these previous break-ups have led me here to the woman I’m supposed to be with.”
When that relationship ended a few weeks later (we got together and broke up a few times before getting married), it all came down. All of it. And I was left with something I hadn’t let myself experience before—hurt.
Hurt People Hurt People
For the next year and a half, I became a magnet for hurt women. They actively sought me out. A Peter Piper for the disenfranchised. My own hurt being drowned in comfort food, alcohol, pot, and anonymous sex. By this time, I had a combination of ills swirling around in my belly. At the age of 32, I was alone for the first time since graduating from college and I had also recently retired from professional fighting. Not only did I need the panacea previously provided by female companionship via relationship, but more than that, I needed a replacement for the adrenaline rush of spending weeks at a time knowing someone was out there training to beat the shit out of me in front of thousands of people. And I needed that replacement immediately. Armed with a cell phone and a dating site membership, I started to find my people—the hurt, the wounded, and the broken—but I found them at a speed and intensity that I couldn’t begin to manage:
- There was the woman from North Hollywood who wanted to be “kidnapped, tied up, and mock raped in the back of your truck.” I chickened out.
- The two studio execs in Van Nuys who offered to pay me to sleep with them both at the same time if they could film it.
- The guy who showed up at my house one night with his blindfolded girlfriend saying, “It’s her birthday, she wants you. Don’t get her pregnant, I’ll be back in two hours.”
- The woman who needed to be choked until she passed out in order to get off but would also insist on baking me chocolate chip cookies.
- The women whose husbands couldn’t do it for them anymore and wanted secrets for the next time they argued.
- The LMU grad student who called at 2am with, “I just got out of a psychiatric hospital, you free?” I chickened out of that one too.
- The psychiatrist who clearly chose her profession due to her own insanity, “Hit him as hard as you can.”
- The woman from Canada who flew in to meet me in Vegas. “I was raped by my father. My mother knows and is still with him. I hate men.”
- The woman in Ventura who was in the middle of a divorce and wanted to talk to her ex-husband on the phone while I was there.
And on and on. Every day someone, each time the intensity having to be raised.
I don’t write this with anything close to pride or accomplishment, quite the opposite. Each time I left someone’s house I swore to never return, each morning waking up feeling brokenly empty, disgustingly out of control, and purely lost. I hated myself. I hated what I was doing. I hated how it made me feel. I hated that I couldn’t stop.
Most of these encounters consisted of nothing more than a text message or two, then a photo, then a time and location to meet. Who knew I was so popular? I still saw the fourteen-year-old with skinny legs, severe acne, and an asthma inhaler hidden in his pocket. I was still the guy in love with the last girl, the one who was supposed to make all the pain worth it—the one I wanted to marry. I was a fucking mess.
My fear of real intimacy was being replaced by an endless supply of its lack. After we’d spent a few weeks “getting to know” each other, one woman asked me to kiss her before we slept together. I laughed out loud, told her it sounded like she wanted a boyfriend, walked out and never spoke to her again.
Hurt people hurt people and I wasn’t going to get hurt again. In fact, I was going to make sure I was the one doing the hurting. I’d gone from a chaotic upbringing, to a diagnosable and violent girlfriend, to heartbreak. No one else was getting close enough to hurt me.
Now I Get To Do The Hurting
At 1:30am on a Wednesday night I got a message from a juvenile judge I’d spoken to for all of about three minutes the day before. She was “tired of punishing young boys all day, so I need someone to punish me.” Fuck it, I knew how to hit and was coming off my last professional win via a choke. Despite my lack of self esteem there were still a few things I felt I was good at.
I drove to Long Beach feeling uneasy but telling myself this was the life I had signed up for. Parking a few blocks from her house, I pulled over and lit a joint, smoking it while sitting in my driver’s seat and scanning the area. All of the houses were dark, and despite her occupation, I was not in the best part of town. My stomach warned me this was a mistake, but I hadn’t driven all the way down there for nothing.
“Parking,” I texted. We weren’t big on conversation.
“Second house down from the mailboxes. Door’s unlocked. Let yourself in and lock it behind you,” I got in return.
I sat in my truck listening to Ben Harper sing about love and consequences, letting my high battle with the adrenaline flowing through my veins. I opened my door, leaned out, threw up half a bottle of orange Gatorade, and knew I was good to go. My standard pre-fight ritual had carried over to my night life—I felt my senses sharpen, a lightness in my feet and speed in my hand, the shutting off of caring, the growing need to test myself against some unknown opponent. All of it coming together. The moment coming alive.
Washing my mouth out with the rest of the Gatorade, I shut the door of my truck and locked it. With my hat pulled down low, I made my way to the front of her house, scanning the street for signs of danger. I was not where I belonged at that hour, making the pulse of blood in my ears grow louder.
The pulse had replaced the crowd of San Bernardino tough guys I was used to hearing on my walks to a fight. “My boy’s going to kill you, fool,” or, “You’re fucking dead, white boy,” was what I missed, replaced now by a dark, empty stone walkway and a row of dying azaleas. Instead of walking into a cage, I was walking into the unknown with no idea who or what was waiting for me behind that door. No clue whether I about to get robbed, shot, or laid. Frankly, I didn’t care which, I was only there for the rush and all three were equally enticing. Adrenaline is life and I was alive.
I put my hand on the doorknob, took one last breath, turned it, and pushed.
Nothing. I exhaled.
I walked into the foyer to hear the faint sound of R&B music swimming its way down the half-lit hallway. On cue, the Blackberry in my pocket buzzed.
“Second door down on the right. There are two lines of coke on the dresser. They’re yours if you want them.” What happens in the dark stays in the dark apparently.
I closed my eyes and felt the tingle leave my fingers, replaced by the calm that was settling over my body. This was where I was most comfortable. That place where hitting was not only allowed but encouraged. Where the audience and the participants respect strength and power, not love and support. I was at peace. My phone buzzed again.
“Make it hurt, but don’t touch my face, I have to be back in court tomorrow and can’t have marks. LOL”
Sure thing, Your Honor.
Welcome home. Welcome back to love. My phone buzzed one last time.
“Try to be quiet, too. I don’t want us to wake my kid.”
My people. I smiled and walked down the hallway.
Knowing the employee at the 7-11 by my house by name had its benefits when buying beers after hours. I slipped him a twenty for a six-pack of Sam Adams Cherry Wheat and an oversized Almond Snickers and walked back into my house around at the crack of three, letting the post-adrenaline dump mixture of “feeling like shit combined with a healthy dose of numb” swirl around before it started to wear off.
Cocaine is for bankers and people who can’t fight, so I had left it untouched. I did, however, crack open three beers and pound them in rapid succession, washing down the candy bar before calling it a night. Two and a half hours later my alarm was jumping and I blearily slugged down enough pre-workout stimulant to make my teeth chatter before heading off to attend a 6:00am CrossFit class. Adrenaline comes from a variety of sources and I had found dancing on the razor’s edge of intense exercise and mental sanity to be quite invigorating. How far could I push myself before breaking?
By 8:30am, I had worked out, showered, eaten breakfast, and was surrounded by a large group of loving, sensitive, caring women in the Qi Gong class required by my graduate studies in Traditional Chinese Medicine. All of these women knew me as a standup guy, a good student, and a budding acupuncturist. I held doors opened, and said “please” and “thank you.” Appearance is reality—I’m a Boehm, after all.
We were told by our instructor if we put our index and middle fingers together and made a mock sword out of them we could “cut away any challenges” we were facing in our lives by making Xs in the air. I laughed silently, thinking, “Oh for fuck’s sake. It’s going to take a lot more than play finger swords to cut away my challenges, and besides, now I know a judge.”
Addiction Is a Hiding Place
After reading all of this, you’re probably asking yourself, “So what?” What’s the point of this story other than telling a sordid tale. Why write this? Why not just quietly let this chapter of the story die untold??
As I’ve written, before walking into the dark space I set the intention of healing. Of healing the roots of my life, not just making the branches show prettier leaves. This is what was shown to me in that room. The connection I had to make from it was seeing the thread of this dark chapter connecting with the one I was currently living – a divorce.
I had walked right out of this insane lifestyle, and right into dating my ex wife again. I once laughed to myself after a blood test and a urethral swab had let me know I’d dodged a couple of bullets, thinking, “Well, that’s done. I’m glad I walked out of that chapter unscathed. High fives all around.”
But I hadn’t. I never cheated on my ex wife, nor was I interested in other women while we were together. She is to this day the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met, and unfortunately still the love of my life. However, she would regularly tell me throughout our time together, “There’s a black cloud over your past, I can feel it all over you. I know there’s a world you’re not willing to talk about, and because of it, I don’t know you despite being married to you. That makes you impossible to trust.”
While I thought if she knew the truth, she’d leave, she eventually did for the exact opposite reason – being unable to live without it. Truth is an absolute, a solid. The space created by its absence thought – that so often gets filled by a story that’s far worse than the truth itself – and that story ends up being the killer. If we’re only as sick as our secrets, than our relationships will be just as sick. Think on that if you’ve got your own set of Do Not Open files.
Addiction is the room where hurt people go to hide. It’s dark in there, and we think it’s safe. It doesn’t matter if you’re extremely addicted to one substance or have your dissociation spread across a number of domains—sex, drugs, gambling, food. Addiction is still hiding. And so was I, even in my marriage.
In the dark room in Guatemala, there was nowhere to hide, literally or figuratively. Thankfully so. Sitting with that earlier time of my life, reliving it, feeling the emotions that wanted to come out back then but couldn’t, and letting them flow was a godsend. It was because the emotions were now moving. They moved from my depths outwards. They left my body. I could speak them, yell them, laugh them, cry them—anything but hide from them.
The Pain Guru was not some sociopathic asshole that moved in and refused to leave. He disseminated tough love as the guide between where I was and where I wanted to be—the guide from hidden pain to healing. The one who needed to show me that darkness is not the enemy. In fact, darkness is the sacred space where real healing happens, where Truth exists. The place so much more authentic and powerful than what appears in the light.
What we see with our eyes can be a lie, a disguise, or a front. It’s where we wear our masks and bury our true selves. But what is felt in the depths of our own sacred darkness, that, my friends, is where the magic happens. That is the place where we to do our real work.
Next week I have a visitor—a real one, a human one. An actual person that exists in the world. Not to blow the surprise, but it’s Arpita. She comes to check in and see me before heading out of the country. I will also be wrapping up this series despite a world left to share on my time in the darkness. Next week, I come back out into the light and will share that experience, too.
Before that happens, though, I will come to understand death.
Cheers from Tzununa Guatemala,