I am, by nature, an angry man. Passion feeds anger and passion often drives my desire to right wrongs and flail madly against what I see as the injustices of the world.
Equal doses of passion and anger made me a good journalist.
They drove up my adrenaline so I could charge fearlessly into dangerous and impossible situations in pursuit of a story. Anger also became the central part of my 25-year battle with alcoholism as well as the 12 years I’ve since spent off the bottle.
Anger too often replaces booze when one quits drinking.
Part of the cost of staying sober is dealing with the anger that can be as intoxicating as any drink. I’m the complex product of passionate parents, molded by passionate times and fueled by two passionate professions: journalism and politics. It is a mix as explosive as nitro glycerine and just as unstable.
The move to Floyd County in 2004 brought serenity to dampen the passion and the anger. Longtime friends saw the new calm in our lives and pronounced it good. Newer friends had yet to see the old, passionate, angry man who fought many battles: some lost, some won but all taking a toll of the psyche.
Over the last 18 months, however, the pressures we sought to escape in Washington found their way to the mountains of Southwestern Virginia.
Even here, one cannot continue to ignore the turmoil that rips our nation apart, the rising voter anger over a questionable war in Iraq and a government that treats the Constitution as a disposal document. As I compared those issues against some local events that seemed trivial in my mind, my anger increased and my hypercritical nature, never far from the surface, emerged.
I jumped back into the national political scene with increased columns of anger and vitriol on Capitol Hill Blue and launched a since aborted attempt at a national grass roots organization. Anyone who, in my over-sensitive state, crossed me in acts either real or perceived, became a target that had to be taken down.
Fred First, who — along with his wife Ann — befriended Amy and I when we moved here in 2004 — got the treatment. I went after him over a sign, of all things, in Floyd because I felt he had overreacted to the sign’s importance in the scheme of things.
So I overreacted with a mocking post about his feelings. I was wrong and I apologize publicly to Fred here and now. While we may disagree about things like the sign, I should not have attacked him publicly over it.
Fred, like the friend he is, sat me down last week to talk about my rising anger and cynicism. It was a "come to Jesus" meeting I needed and I thank him for it.
We also talked at length not only about managing anger but also about dealing with pain. One of Fred’s many talents is physical therapy. My rambunctious youth has left me with many aches and pains from broken bones, metal where bone should be and plastic in place of cartilage.
Pain medication is not an option, not for an alcoholic with an addictive personality. Fred suggested I might want to look into a pain management program.
Many years ago, in another life, a sadistic training instructor drove my body and mind to the limits of endurance and beyond by shouting: "Pain is only the beginning!" It was. What I must do now is make sure that the pain, like anger, is not the end.