Can we run from our demons” The short answer is Yes! But they have a way of following or haunting us asking to be known.
Tonight a friend inivited me to an author talk with Jimmy Barnes. For those who live outside of Australia and don`t know him, in the early 80s Jimmy was the `bad boy` lead singer of rock band Cold Chisel. At the height of their career the band sold millions of records. In the past few years Jimmy has published part one and two of his autobiography Working Class Boy and Working Class Man. The former tells of a very traumatic childhood growing up as the son and grandson of alcoholics. Jimmy also suffered maternal abandonment due to his mother`s succession of affairs with partners who abused young Jimmy. It is a harrowing story of trauma.
The second book, which has just been released, gives an honest account of his rock career as well as his accompanying descent into addiction and self destruction and towards the end of his active addiction a suicide attempt that was unsuccessful but took place while he was in a black out. Jimmy found sobriety in 2012 which is really only relatively recent.
The author interview was so moving. I was in tears by half way through. Jimmy spoke of how he was always running, caught up in the flight and fight responses of complex trauma. He spoke of how he used screaming to keep his demons at bay, but also of how, no matter how fast he ran, his demons continued to pursue him. I got a bit triggered through part of the interview. The interviewer didn`t really understand abandonment trauma. But then if you have not suffered trauma you cannot understand it unless you are a therapist who has experience with it or are another emotionally attuned person with empathy for trauma. She showed compassion but the interview could have gone deeper.
I would have loved to have been able to say to Jimmy thanks for sharing your recovery story so honestly, but there was a huge line of people waiting for photographs to be taken after the talk, and as the friend who accompanied me to tonight`s event said, ‘I probably would have bust into tears the moment we connected.’ It was still great to hear someone coming clean about the inside world of abandonment trauma and addiction though. `I thought if people really got to know who I was they would not like me or what to have anything to do with me any more,` Jimmy said at one point in the interview. That made me choke up because those feelings of his are so far from rare or unique, the complexity for Jimmy though is that as someone, who for over 30 years has been in the public eye, the roles of persona and true self can be split very wide apart and the mask coming down may be all that more challenging.
What I took away from tonight`s talk though was along the lines of what I tried to address in an earlier post on grief. Our trauma is never really `behind us`. It follows us until we turn around to look it in the face. It wants to be known and shared, to be honoured, not hidden. Jimmy is still only really in relatively early sobriety so he has a way to travel down the path, I felt so for his inner child who from what was shared still seems to be powerfully affected by past traumas that he is working to face.
I couldnt help but hope that his inner child would get some help along the way. I would have loved to give him a hug but my friend had texted me late this afternoon that the organisers had requested that no one hug or kiss Jimmy. I could understand why. People in the public eye receive so many of our projections. At the same time it would have been nice to have been able to hug the guy and say thanks so much for being so open and honest so people can understand what the consquences of trying to use alcohol and drugs to escape trauma are.
We lost another very famous rock star, Michael Hutchence to suicide in 1997 and only last week a two part television documentary aired on that subject. Alcohol and prescription drugs were a bit part of that story but there were issues of abandonment and trauma associated too. Luckily Jimmy has had the support of a loving partner throughout all of his ups and downs. That also bought tears to my eyes. I admire those who stand by us in recovery once we commit to do the work. I haven`t experienced it in my own life, but I am glad Jimmy has. All in all it was an emotional evening. On the way home I popped in to visit my Mum. Held her hand while she cried about her stomach pain. I thought how strong the bonds of pain are that link us to family, they are the demons that pursue us along a long corridor of years but my experience is that it`s better when we turn back to face them and hold their hand, for in the end isn`t a demon just a scared and traumatised child who longs for recognition, empathy, insight and love?