Manning-Up: From Addiction & Victimhood to Awakening

Addiction recovery Mark Dempster Russell Brand Recovering Man

I’ve been persistently told throughout my life that men who want to act with traditional male values are insecure meatheads, atavistic throwbacks to some redundant time, but why?

As a man in recovery from addiction, facing the reality of many deep-seated emotional scars, I see the media push the same narrative again and again when some celebrity with mental health issues kills himself.

Apparently, all we men need to do is talk about our emotions more, because we, as this article, tells us, are socialized with Action Man rather than a fucking Barbie doll.

Essentially, this article treads the same old territory; that men need to be more like women.

The problem that I have with this line of ‘recovery’ is that it’s not my experience of recovery at all.

In fact, it’s the complete fucking opposite.

Boys have been playing with Action Man-style toys since we can even remember yet the suicide/mental health crisis across the West is completely recent.

Of course, that suicide is now the biggest killer of young men in the UK (the situation is barely better in North America) could have nothing at all to do with the feminization of men in the slightest…

I mean, debasing the role of men in society can only be a good thing, right?

Because after all; men are simply oppressors of women in a gender power dynamic… right?

“This allowed me to hide in my sickness even more as I pointed the finger at all those ‘corrupt’ societal institutions – capitalist banks, the government, the family unit – and never once look at myself.”

It’s pretty tiring going further down this rabbit hole as male mental health and addiction issues get worse and worse.

You might think it’s time for a different approach, but acknowledging that it may not actually be ‘toxic masculinity’ but, as in my experience, a lack of male identity that’s destroying male mental health is to challenge the greatest cultural theme of contemporary cultural politics: social justice.

Politically, this situation is in a complete mess, so instead of dragging you through the sloppy, tangled arguments against the destruction of men, I want to explain to you my story and experience of successful recovery from addiction.

I hope by doing things this way you will witness first hand the absolute solid and dependable support masculine values offer a man, rather than the insidious, destructive influence of victim-playing and feminization that we’re too often told is the solution for men at the weakest moments.

My Story: Addiction, Death and Fear

My father was violent so my mother divorced him, my elder brother was a violent paranoid schizophrenic and he killed himself, I was a lost kid looking to for someone and something to blame.

Growing up as an early millennial, I was to find plenty of opportunity for that.

Not only did I hate my father and brother for the torment and physical beatings they’d brought upon me, I hated what masculinity stood for itself.

I reasoned that I could never be safe around other men because I wasn’t the toughest and hardest guy, and with that, I sought sanctuary in being a victim of life.

By behaving as the scorned and wounded guy, I could bypass the actual demands on me from life.

Vital life norms like getting a good job, being responsible and being dependable for others could be easily shirked by my internal victim-narrative.

In time, this attitude led me to become fuelled by resentment, scornful of traditional male pursuits, hating traditional men and thinking myself more ‘feminine’ in temperament.

Life sucked, that’s all I knew, it was violent and unpredictable, so I may as well take the piss out of what saw Western society as standing for: an oppressive society controlled by idiots.

I was damaged and bitter and felt I deserved all the alcohol and drugs I could take, the idea of moderation and discipline was completely alien.

The way I saw it I could watch porn, use drugs and drink all I liked, I’d been screwed over, and I was taking what I deserved.

In time, I began to get withdrawals from the alcohol, paranoia from the drugs, and disturbed by how I’d gone from watching some hot bimbo give a guy head to gangbangs and the like online.

This should have been a sign I was not living correctly, but once I told some naïve therapist how terrible my life had been, I’d get sympathy for the past and sympathy for my addictions.

I would do nothing to change and take no responsibility for my actions.

In fact, what I began to do even more was take a radical ‘intellectual’ view around politics.

My suffering wasn’t my fault or responsibility, I reasoned, so it must be being fostered onto me by ‘the system’.

This allowed me to hide in my sickness even more as I pointed the finger at all those ‘corrupt’ societal institutions – capitalist banks, the government, the family unit – and never once look at myself.

I was the victim; it wasn’t me that had to change but the system itself that had to be destroyed.

Looking back, I don’t think I or anyone else had any idea of what we wanted to replace ‘the system’ with; it was mostly about revenge and toppling the ‘patriarchy’ whatever that meant.

The most shameful element is that I never actually had to have any coherent thinking – hatred of the system was enough – and I figured that as my childhood experience told me it was true that men were a bad thing, a patriarchal society must be a bad thing, too.

So I dived into this pseudoscientific field of social science and, spoilt brat as I was having my studies funded by my guilt-ridden mother, I got an MA in cultural politics.

Everyone was pissed off about something in that MA.

All you ever had to do was claim a sense of victimhood with an ‘oppressed’ group and you were untouchable. You had respect and meaning.

Further, as the feelings of emptiness and confusion inside me grew, my loyalty to the social justice causes deepened.

Even when my brother committed suicide it was the system’s fault.

He was just another ‘victim of patriarchy, of a greedy, dumbass system’, I thought.

Not once did I consider my role in his life, how I could’ve helped rather than scorned. I could lay any guilt purely at the feet of the family and the system, safe in the knowledge that I was intellectually fortified by my ideology.

Ripped to Shreds

Time is a wise old master though.

As I delved further into the social justice thinking, my addictions kept accelerating, my internal strife got worse and my lack of self-confidence was ever deeper, always hidden by abstract political views and concepts.

Internally I was being ripped apart, while externally pretending I knew it all.

This folly couldn’t last for long and eventually, I started getting serious alcoholic withdrawals that required medical detox.

I’d wake up with ringing terror in my ears as my blood alcohol content lowered and desperately scramble around for a bottle of wine to soothe my frayed nerves.

At this point, I was managing to escape the terrors, but my model for living clearly wasn’t working.

How Women Showed the Way Out

Around this time I’d met an attractive girl, she was a teacher with Italian ancestry and had these beautiful big brown eyes and an amazing Latina body.

I’d started dating her, and having her own deep resentments she was inspired by the social justice causes, too.

We clicked and I felt I’d found someone I really liked to get with and felt happy for the first time in years.

But to my horror, she would never get with me long-term; I’d be perennially friend-zoned and treated like a gay best friend.

I just didn’t get it!

I thought we were perfect for each other: I knew her mind, I listened to her pains, I wasn’t the typical male guy, I was understanding and kind…

She even said she wanted someone like that. What the hell was wrong with me!?

I’d sit on the sidelines ‘in love’ with her while she’d date these (as I thought then) morons in rock bands or with good corporate jobs.

I sank so deeply into resentment and hatred that I felt betrayed by her and the very causes we stood for.

For the first time, I had to look at myself and start to understand what I was lacking.

There is no excuse when it comes to sexual dynamics, you are either attractive or you’re not, and there’s no one you can blame if you are not embodying a masculine polarity.

Bitter and resentful, I’d completed my MA and lost the girl, and made the best decision of my life. I went to work.

The Value of Work

Not only did work have the effect of shoving me into the real world where no one gave a crap about my social justice spiel, it also allowed me to engage in building something beyond me.

Secretly, I’d become quite passionate about being part of an organisation, working as a team, having responsibility and taking charge when I had to.

I’d also moved to a big city and was starting to enjoy the crazy nights with the bright lights, cocaine and party atmosphere.

But here’s what really shocked me: women were starting to pay attention to me.

I just didn’t get it.

I’d had my heart broken by someone I was perfect for, yet here I was in a major city, purely focussed on achieving career goals and getting a decent job and women are paying attention to me. I was so confused.

The more seasoned among you will know that I was, for the first time ever, finding my masculine core.

Instead of focusing on women and my victimhood status in life, I began to focus on my career goals, my personal growth, looking sharp and getting on with life privately and passionately.

That sort of behaviour, I have learned in time, is very attractive to a woman, and with the help of a few books on pickup, I started to understand the power of masculine energy.

I don’t wish to condone pickup as a lifestyle, it is shallow and a dead-end spiritually and personally, but I have to be honest in saying it did serve a purpose in showing me what a man is at least supposed to be to a woman.

Also, it massively helped me redefine masculinity from the tortured, violent souls such as my father and brother.

Yet, despite this upside, my addictions were still spiralling out of control, and with the added pressure of work and ubiquity of cocaine, I was to have a sketchy ‘rock bottom’.

Recovery and Freedom to be a Man

I knew when I was in rehab that after being medically detoxed I had a chance now.

No longer did I have to pretend I could drink and or drug like a normal person and most importantly, I was free to begin defining myself free of my past.

I buried myself into 12-step groups, spiritual teaching and therapy.

There is no doubt that going over my past and ironing out the internal flaws, being deeply honest about my fears and sins was the thing that led me to freedom.

It takes courage and strength to talk about pain and mental health issues, and those who do take that step are brave men, but the journey does not stop there, it only starts there.

And this is my major gripe with the mental health and recovery industries as represented in mainstream media today, the emphasis on the weakness and vulnerability at a man’s earliest stages is the wrong place for a man to spend his life.

For me, the foundation has been the hollowing out of my internal child, my wild self-centred ego, and then the drive to grow into and as a man embodying traditional values of discipline, commitment, loyalty and courage.

When I destroyed myself physically and mentally, I knew I did not have the knowledge or ability to control this life, and in that moment I was able to hand my life over to a spiritual framework that underpins my recovery.

It is in this process I learnt that faith, far from being the oppressive force I’d spent years claiming it was, was actually how the great men of history summoned the courage to do brutal battle when the risk of death is high, how great leaders kept their cool under pressure, and how men, as leaders of the family sought knowledge, direction and sanctuary.

Becoming a Man

Everything I have achieved in recovery has been damn hard work and every bit of it worth it.

There is something vital about a man hitting the gym. Getting a bigger frame and carrying a presence is great, sure, but the way in which you can push yourself, train to be ready to defend yourself, and tap into the spirit of physical work and self-progression that underpins the success of Western societies is deeply empowering.

In recovery, I gave up left-wing social justice politics and committed to learning as much as I could about a great range of things, taking in different beliefs, understanding I know nothing fundamentally, and am here to learn wisdom and skills via my logical capacity, not rip things down I have had no hand in building.

In my romantic life, I knew how to attract women, but I now know it is immoral for yourself and your society to treat them as fuck-dolls.

In essence, through learning from the great men throughout history and their resolve, I have come to see that is a man’s actions that create his reality, and the reality of his family and society.

That a man should act with honour is that important.

So when I see the next wave of young men fall into the trap of self-righteous social justice, addiction and victim-playing, I can only point to the light of discipline, hard work and traditional values as the counterweight that can save many lives, and foster a great deal of meaning and security on the world.

Read more: How to Unlock Your Masculine Core

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