You don’t have to be alone – my brief career as a hostage-taker

“Instead of fighting the darkness, you bring in the light.” Eckhart Tolle

My mother has always told me she is psychic. Unfortunately, this hasn’t translated into any lottery wins but it does mean she has a sixth sense for when I’m in trouble. She proved this when I was five years old and we were at my grandparents’ house. It was a big family party and I was running around playing with my cousins. I went running up to the adult table, grabbed a glass of water, drank it and then continued playing. My mom smiled at me as I went running off after my cousins. I remember thinking the water was spicy but after that I don’t remember much. So the rest of this story is what my mother and others have told me over the years.

Twenty minutes later, my mother gets a tingling in her spine and out of sheer instinct she got up and told the other adults: “Go find my son. He’s in trouble. Go find him right now!”

Immediately, everybody got up, scattered and started looking for me. It was a big place – a large house with a big backyard, and a vineyard and they couldn’t find me.  Finally, they found me because I started screaming and wailing. Everyone followed the sounds and ran into my grandfather’s garage.

This is what they walk in on: I had locked myself in the car with the keys in the ignition, the car turned on and I had taken my 7-year-old cousin hostage. I’m sobbing, face red, hiccuping as I point my finger at all the adults saying “You’re all going to die!” as they tried to get me out of the car.

My mom’s sixth sense kicked in and she connected the dots. It wasn’t a glass of water that I gulped from the adult table – it was a glass of vodka.

In my five-year-old drunken stupor, I had also overheard some of the adults talking and had learned that this wasn’t a party. It was a memorial for my grandfather who had died. He and I had been extremely close, he would play with me, lift me above his head, spoil me…I loved my grandpa.

So at five years old, I was drunk and had figured out that people you love die and that they leave you. I was in so much pain and in such a dark place, that I just shut myself away in this vehicle. My pain was encased in a two-tonne vehicle of steel.

I have no idea to this day why I took my cousin with me and held him hostage because he was no help. In fact, I set him off. I told him that everyone dies and his parents were going to die. So then he started sobbing next to me. So now there are two hysterical kids, and one is drunk behind the wheel. This is not a good mix.

Finally, my dad caught up to everyone else in the garage and broke through the crowd. He walked up to the car, banged on the window and said “Open this door!”

I looked up at him, and I pointed my finger and yelled “You’re gonna die! No!”

My dad looked confused. He looked at my mom, searching for an explanation. My mom explained and my father’s face went pale – almost completely drained of colour. My dad knew that his son was in this dark hole –  scared and drunk.

My father banged against the car window so hard, my mom says that he almost broke it. But what came out of his mouth was pure love. “Son, I love you buddy. You’ve got to open this door. You’ve got to open it right now for me.”

The good thing was that at five, I was still more scared of my dad than death. So I opened the door. Without saying anything, he picked me up and did exactly what I needed him to do. He hugged me and kissed me and told me,”I’m not going anywhere. I’m here with you.”

There was this deafening silence that filled the garage for 5 seconds and then this wail deep within my soul finally got released. I hugged him and I squeezed him and he kept kissing me and hugging me.

He carried me to my grandfather’s room, and he put me to sleep on his bed, wrapping my grandfather’s blanket around me. As my mother was wiping her own tears, she saw that I fell asleep with a smile on my face, because at that moment I felt safe. I needed someone to be there with me when I was in that two-tonne vehicle of pain and my mother and father came and got me.

When I’m in pain, I still struggle to ask for help. My instinct is still to lock myself away in a two-tonne vehicle.

Sometimes it’s out of stubbornness and sometimes it’s out of fear. What I’ve learned over and over is that people aren’t actually psychic BUT they want to be there for you.

We all have those dark moments when we want to isolate but those are the times when we need connection most.

So, I hope that when you’re going through something you continue to work on the courage to reach out, drunk or not, let them in.

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