I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.
By Siegfried Sassoon
The preceding poem is another long time favorite of mine. Why, you may ask? Why that dark, heavy, tragic poem from the Great war. It's a traumatic, stark, terrible tale of a soldiers suicide followed by his memory fading into oblivion. Why? In one simple sentence: I could relate to it.
Those words describe so clearly how I felt as a practicing addict/alcoholic. I am not trying to say an addict is the same as the noble soldier who goes off to fight for his country and suffers while doing it. Nope, not at all...what I am saying is the feelings can be similar, the horror one feels inside is often the same. The terror, loneliness, fear...the pain.
During my active addiction, I often found myself dreaming and relating vividly to combat situations, particularly through reading the works of Great War Poets like Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Ivor Gurney, Edmund Blunden and Robert Graves. I could identify with what they were describing....emotionally.Their words went right through me to what was left of my heart.
"The hell where youth and laughter go". God, I knew that feeling, it's exactly what I'd thought I'd lost. Youth, laughter, happiness...myself, my life. The lines preceding those, so filled w/anger, bitterness followed by the accusation that the smug majority of the people in society don't know me or understand what I was going through. BINGO once again...I hated them for their indifference, I hated me for my nothingness. I was dying inside and nobody cared. That was my perception and it was really how I felt.
Thankfully,I don't feel those things today. Life in recovery has certainly changed my perspective, my outlook and my feelings about that time of my life. I had no one to blame but myself. Any isolation was intentional at that point in time, I couldn't bear the thought of being with anyone, hell I couldn't stand being around myself.
But this poem and others like it were the first inkling that I had that other people had felt the way that I had. In it's own strange, round-about way, deep,down inside....this poem gave me hope. Hope that I wasn't alone. That somebody, somewhere felt as I felt, That they were afraid like me.
Those little bits of hope were just the beginning, I believe, of the process that became my recovery. And for me, recovery gave me my life back, so essentially, it became life. Recovery=Life....