The Other Side of Reason – Inside the bottle

Involved in a bus accident that took the lives of six people, David Gibson has been battling through PTSD for over three years. In an effort to better understand himself and to communicate with others, he turned to writing. His first book was The Other Side of Reason: A Journal on PTSD, available now via This column continues that text.

[Inside the bottle]

Suddenly darkness overflows.  Fear rushes through my veins.
Images still echoing through my mind.
I stumble and fall.  Everything swirling around me.  My god I am on the bathroom floor.
If I could just get back up – I can’t feel myself.
No escaping this ignited pain and fear.  I have locked myself in.
But I can’t seem to break free.  I need someone.  Why is this hole so deep and cold?
I’m getting hit by the crash so hard.
Right now, I am slowly falling apart.  Tearing out your heart.  I know you are scared.
Fighting fierce and desperately with the demons inside my head.
Inside I am screaming.  But wait, my anguish cries have already left my head.
Am I nothing more than a memory?
Just a person who you used to know?
Someone who depended on the strength that lies within.
I am a wounded warrior trying to grasp at that last ounce of strength to not give in – you can never give in.
Hiding my thoughts secretly.  It’s just a memory that’s all.
I am fading, slipping away.  But still, I am whispering – maybe I am mumbling, I can’t be sure.
It is just a memory…

We don’t like to talk about it, nor even acknowledge it.  To do so brings the dragon out of the shadows and exposes us all to an ugly reality that we never want to believe is happening to us or to the ones we love. 

Today, more than ever, Canada is facing this dire reality with the opiate overdose crisis that is indiscriminately leaving scores of people to their tragic deaths.  How could this be we ask ourselves?  Why are we bearing this tragedy over and over again?  Beautiful lives lost.  The possibility of what ‘they’ could have become, silenced forever.

Talk can feel cheap sometimes, promises short lived and still tragedy seeps into our social media wired lives.

Sometimes, drinking away the pain is all you have left.  I guess you could also apply this to any drug use.  Does it even matter?

I believe it does, and fortunately many people do to.  This can be our start together – all that we have together – to acknowledge what we hide together and what we hide within ourselves.  Don’t we all use drugs of some form or another – legal or not?

Who would we be kidding anyway?

Some of us use them to escape, to feel numb, to hide from ourselves – the pain or fear that resides within. Hell, to just get a high, experiment, have fun, or to have a mellow chill – whatever it is to live this life we are part of.  To just feel something – anything, or maybe nothing at all.

Incredulously, this seems to be so hard for many of us to accept or even acknowledge.  Why is that?  The mirror always has two faces.  There will never be enough answers to the question of why.  Sometimes it just is – no further explanation will ever be good enough or comforting enough.

Part of my story is also acknowledging the dynamic that alcohol plays in my journey with PTSD.  By all accounts I would have described myself as a happy social drinker, or at least I was.  Add in a traumatic experience and the realities of PTSD and life just got a whole lot more complicated, and even less assured.

“Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life” wrote George Bernard Shaw.  My version of Shaw’s quote goes more like this “At all costs the mind knows no rest until numbed into submission”. 

My greatest escape also became my worst realization – in many instances, my pain may have been temporarily silenced, but it also became the shadowland for my family to deal with.

That uncomfortable truth that many of us do not know how to deal with – the inside voice that stays silent.  To do the best we can with the cards we have been dealt. 

I believe the “hook” of the substance misuse—the thing that keeps people coming back to it—is that it gives people feelings and gratifying sensations that they are not able to get in other ways.  From my perspective, it may block out sensations of pain, uncertainty, or discomfort. It may create powerfully distracting sensations that focus and absorb attention. It may enable a person to forget, or feel “okay” about, insurmountable problems. It may provide artificial, temporary feelings of security or calm, of self-worth or accomplishment, of power or control, of intimacy or belonging.

These perceived benefits can explain why a person keeps coming back to the substance misuse experience—using alcohol or other drugs accomplishes something for that person, or the person anticipates that it will do so, however illusory these benefits may actually be.

Substance use may be more or less severe—and a person may be more or less able to give it up— depending on the circumstances of the person’s life. Substance misuse is more likely in stressful times, times when gratifications are slim, times when a person is less together or secure. Likewise, one type of excess may be more stubbornly entrenched in a person’s routine, or more closely linked to a person’s self-doubt and anxiety, than another.

What I have also come to realize is that there is never a simple answer to the question of how we get through this as a person, family or even as a community. 

But what I am sure of, is for all of us to continue trying no matter what.

Until next time.