12. The Freedom

The psychiatrist is asking me questions from a checklist like a trained parrot.

Before I’m medically cleared from my Navy service, I have to talk to the psychiatrist.

Mom drives me to the Veteran Affairs clinic near her home in Merritt Island, Florida.

The doc is asking me questions from a checklist like a trained parrot.

She doesn’t look up from her paper after she introduces herself.

close up image of padlock attached to two ends of a chain

“How many alcoholic beverages do you consume in a day?”

“It varies,” I answer.

“How much does it vary?”

“Sometimes zero for months. Then, sometimes… seven or eight in a night.”

“Have you ever blacked out?”

“What does that mean?”

“Have you ever had so much that you don’t remember what happened the night before when you wake up the next morning?”

I scoff.

“Yes,” I answer and realize for the first time that it might not be true that this happens to everyone. 

“Have you ever suffered from depression?”


“Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?”

“No.” The last thing I’d ever tell her is that I had suicidal thoughts.

  “Did you experience harassment or assault while you were in the Navy?”

“Isn’t that a matter of perspective?”

She looks up. “A matter of perspective?”

“It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?” I ask. “I’m tough. I have thick skin. They couldn’t get to me.” 

It’s not evasion; at this point in my life, this is my truth.

It will be another ten years before I acknowledge that anything happened to me.

close up image of chain

With that, she returns to the checklist. 

I’m leaving her office as a binge-drinker who blacks out, advised to cut back.

But I won’t listen yet.

Because my wise, confident, little voice guides me to St. Augustine, Florida, where life centers around tourism and spirits, the alcohol kind and the ghost kind.