Copyright 2015, Version 1.0
The Heart and Soul of Type Eight
When men enter Mercy House rehab they meet Dominic, a tall, broad-shouldered, kick-your-ass-swaggering, confidant-as-God, pony-tailed Dominican. An addiction’s counselor with eighteen years clean from heroin, his fierce intensity and street-smart-bust-your-balls-courage greet you like a head-high fastball on the inside corner of the plate. Instantly you are brought to attention as if your life hung in the balance (Truth is, it does hang in the balance and he knows it.). His I-breathe-fire-presence and his penetrating, takes-no-shit-immediacy instantly cuts thru the protective shields and strategies that addicted men have learned to hide behind. Tough, often impenetrable shields forged in horrid suffering and childhood abuse, forged in the humiliation camps of American prisons, forged in so many furnaces of shame that it’s amazing these men walk upright and can still breathe—are Dominic’s target. His goal: to destroy your soul-killing armor thus giving you a taste of your authentic, passionate self, and your real freedom. To unhinge your defenses so potently that real strength emerges from your depths such that you remember what it feels like to be alive.
That’s it, nothing else, nothing less.
One thing is certain: he is not afraid of you and can read you to-the-bone. Men register immediately—like stepping into a fire—that whatever bullshit-tough-guy-act they’ve honed to scare the shit out of people, to keep them away, or to coerce them into doing what they want, he’s not buying it. The second he spots this charade he’s on you like “a fly on shit,” as he would say. He’ll stop you dead in your tracks, and with one glance will penetrate your tough-guy-act and pull the terror that drives this gangster-ego from your chest, and holding it in your face will declare with knife-sharp conviction, “Here, look at this, man. Look close at what’s running you. You’ll die with this shit in place. Get real with me, or don’t waste my time.”
And all of this is done without speaking a word. His visceral wisdom scorches your insides with fire-breathing, immediate, real-time truth. He lacerates you with his deep wish to wake you up from the coma you’ve been living it, constructing an ego in, preparing your death within. Your cathedral of tough-guy-cool-invincibility is a death trap, and he knows it!
This is his genius: he shatters facades with breathtaking precision. In a nose-to-nose encounter with Dominic, for a holy sacred instant, the addicted guy whose weight-lifted himself into a muscle-walled, pain-numbing fortress feels for the first time the real terror and hurt that slithers thru him like a devouring snake. It’s as if Dominic can reach into the core fear of a man, touch it, squeeze it, and electrify it into awareness. Zap!!! (Thing is, when Dominic zeroes in on you, he gets inside your viscera, your muscles, your veins, and enters your nervous system. You feel his presence inside you. And that alone unhinges a man’s defenses. You cannot hide from Dominic!)
On the heels of a Dominic-encounter a massive climate change will flood the addicted guy’s habitually hardened face and body. His eyes light up with recognition. He’s been freakin’ seen—unveiled and viscerally impacted—Dominic’s presence touching the depth of his vulnerability. Stunned, the unveiled guy is not certain whether to run for his life, or surrender to the dictates of this crazy-wisdom counselor. But this he cannot deny: his inner, oh-so-vulnerable-hurt-self, which his tough-guy-don’t-mess-with-me defenses are wired to protect, just got touched and oddly ‘welcomed into the room.’ Somehow this ninja counselor actually touched his soul and wordlessly said “You are welcome here, my brother.” Men instantly experience the sanity of softening their heart, as if he has whispered in Jedi fashion, “Your strength is in your vulnerability. Be it now.” Moments of possibility arise in the thought-stream of Dominic-touched men. “Maybe this crazy-wild counselor can help me. Maybe I’m not hopeless. Maybe someone sees me, gets me, and actually cares about me.” Welcome to the world of Dominic, the fierce Type Eight who mercilessly wakes you up by laser-cutting thru your tough hide, severing your attachment to your iron hard mask.
When you sit in his recovery groups you get it—he’s is the real deal. If you’re not interested in taking your recovery seriously, but just trying to get by on the bare minimum—to please the courts, your spouse or your probation officer—then out the door you go. Don’t even think you can fake it—he’ll feel the ‘fake’ the second he lays eyes on you. He’ll sense, smell, and taste your disguise in the core of his belly and his whole body will shudder. With lightning revulsion and speed he’ll respond—“Frank, what the hell are you doing in this room with men who actually give a shit about their recovery? You’re taking up a spot that another addicted, homeless man is begging to occupy, while you sit here wasting this opportunity! Get the hell out of here! Now!”
Men skilled and expertly practiced at performing the-attentive-client-act, adept at shape-shaping into fake-attention-mode, will unravel and fumble for words when Dominic laser-beams their insincerity. (And in the midst of hating Dominic for calling them out comes a piercing counter-intuitive realization that will bring them back to recovery: “This guy truly cares enough to call me on my bullshit!”) He says it straight up—to sit in his group and fake it is the biggest disrespect, not only to him, but to the other men in the group who want to resurrect their lives—and he will have none of it. And all of this, the big aliveness and fierce realness of Dominic, WAKES EVERYBODY UP. His force field enters the soles of your feet and burns up your spine into your chest. Your arms tingle, your belly buzzes with instinctual energy. You see it clearly as men walk taller after his groups, a new vibrancy and dignity in their gait. With eyes wide awake, heads held high, shame, like bricks, are left in the counseling room. Broken men are coming alive, shedding ancient skins that have withheld their presence from the world. And Dominic, the ferocious guardian at the gate of self-respect and honor, has made the deep impact he cherishes, and adores. His Type Eight compassion—fierce, hot, passionate, in your face (not gooey, soft-soaped, new age, everything-is-nice, compassion)—sears their hearts open and invites them in, whole hog, challenging them to pay the postage in advance, as Mr. Gurdjieff would say. Meaning—give this recovery process 100% or go on your way. Go whole hog or not at all!
If he sees you’re in the game, that you mean business, he will go the distance with you. He will chant, cheer, prod, push you off the ledge of your limitations, entice, challenge, scare, humiliate and shock you…whatever it takes to lift you back on your feet, to help you find and feel and know your innate potential, strength, capacity and self-respect. His wish: that you stand tall and bow to no one, that you let go of whatever shame you carry so that you sense your dignity and honor resurrecting in the marrow of your bones. Not like some sweet sounding hallmark card of good cheer, but we’re talking ‘street’ dignity such that you grasp it in your gut—and in your balls—what it means to be a powerful, noble man. A real man. A right-sized, courageous man. Not a fake one filled with the veneer of ego, bravado and self-centeredness, or one hiding shame behind a wall of hardness or mean-guy-cool, or fake smooth, I’ve-got-it-all-together phoniness, or even fake compassion. A man that contributes to and serves his brothers and sisters, who is courageously dedicated to his personal and spiritual growth, to the care and well-being of his family, and to the growth of his community—a real man’s man. He says it loud and clear, “If you men want to get sober and stay sober, you’ve got to develop ‘testicular fortitude. That means you rise up, you take care of your sobriety, you do what you need to do, and you help your brother in this rehab. If you disrespect your brother, if you fail to have his back, you will not succeed in recovery. You notice when he needs help and you give it, generously, because you make a difference, you count, he is your brother, and you need each other.”
The fire of heroic love burns through him, his eyes lights of passion, his voice thundering—lion-hearted, he emanating the clarion call of A Band of Brothers—igniting purpose and real hope in men who have lost their jobs, homes, families, cars, and are stripped down to nothing. In every breath, word, body movement, and facial expression he delivers the Type Eight juice: It is your job to stand up, claim your power, clean up your act, and meet your challenges head-on. You harness real soul-power by taking responsible action. You awaken your authentic power when you give back to others. Selfishness will kill you. Bravado destroys your real will. Power and heart combined, the only game in town. You crawl before no one—no one! When you empower the weak, you anchor real power, sustainable power—that’s the doorway to your addiction liberation.
Because of Dominic’s unshakeable passion and ballsy boldness, men flock to his groups to be touched by his instinctive, live-wired energy, his confidence and commitment, his cocky dignity, and his no-holds-barred, irreverent, bawdy humor. Standing room only. Men hunger for his contact, his Type Eight caring shaking them to the core of their being—zing, blam! He’s an instigator of rough-edged compassion and truth, and inspires an uncanny brotherhood amongst the men. (He wakes up their organic humanity.) He reminds these men whose souls have been squashed as kids, who had no moms or dads; who walked the streets at age ten, no one concerned where they were, starkly alone; men physically abused by mom, dad, cops, uncles, addicts, gangs; men caught up in the horror of poverty and poverty-discrimination and locked into the legal system before they could barely sense what they were about—of their innate dignity and value.
He challenges the men of Mercy House to embrace their honor, meaning dropping sabotaging behavior, be it thievery, belittling and bullying others, acting tough and hiding your big heart, and literally anything that disrespects another or oneself. And respect is everything, the high card. He models brave, gutsy, feisty respect and kindness (I am reminded of Clint Eastwood in Grand Torino, and how his rough, ruthless affection for Pran, the young neighbor boy, moved, prodded, humiliated him out of his self-pity and towards self-reliance). He zeroes in on your Achilles Heel, names it, unmasks it, challenges you with it, and parades it around the room so you see what you’ve been running from. So you surrender it, affirming to self and others, “I will not indulge this part of myself anymore. I am done with it!”
With eyes filled with steely realness and fierce compassion he begins his groups, “What handsome and beautiful men sit before me. It is truly and honor to be in the company of such men. Let us discover what is real and true in each of you, and carry that light into the world,” and looks at each one, holding their gaze. This big, bawdy, rough-neck, kick-ass guy infuses dignity into every man sitting in rapt attention, waiting for his next brassy invocation of truth, dignity, and empowerment. He will not fail them.
Side by side his fiery incantations are tender moments. One feels his heart, his depth, often when he talks about his beloved daughter, or his pops or moms. The dude is old-school Dominican, family comes first, a brotherhood-instigator-of-team-effort, stalker of poverty, racism, injustice and oppression of the disenfranchised, and fierce as a wild bull. Tommy G, the ‘G-man’ he called him (every guy he counsels gets a personal nickname, Karma Dog Frank, Eddy with a Twitch, Too Fast Pete, Boston Max, Belly Boy Joe, Slider Sam, Rocket Man Marvin, Trembling Ted, Skinny Cat Frank, Rhino Rabbit Mike), was a client he’d snatched from the bloody maw of heroin addiction. A sweet, twenty-six-year-old with six months sober, the sun rising in his soul at fever pitch, who graduated from Mercy House treatment center to the thunderous applause of his fellow-travelers. Three months later the black sun of his addiction spun thru him. Tommy G., the G-man, is found dead, soul-sucked by a heroin overdose, a frozen stone of despair. “Overdosed and dead in a f-ing snowbank,” Dominic says, shaking his head in sorrow. Dominic wept for several days, his heart blasted wide-open, his boisterous spirit mired in volcanic grief. I sat with Dominic, tears streaming down his cheeks, he unable to speak, his towering soul immersed in sorrow. Yet days later, back in the saddle, his fierce message echoing from the group room, “Recovery is serious shit, men. You fuck with this and you die. But you can succeed. You have the strength and testicular fortitude for this. Now let’s get to work!” he declares, a fire-breathing dragon injecting his commitment and courage into the souls of each of these men.
Dominic’s a Gandalf, a Gladiator, a crazy-smart Ninja, and a big-hearted Hagrid, wired to destroy the Voldemort-trance that tells a man he is worthless, powerless, doomed to certain death. Men are magnetically drawn to him and his powerful, red-hot, Type Eight heart. And who wouldn’t show up to listen to a man who embodies live-wired potency, who stirs and ignites one’s dignity and self-worth, who’s unwavering in his commitment to inspire you, shock you, or scare you awake if need be, who is unafraid to tell-it-like-it-is, blunt as birth. Who, himself, escaped the jaws of death and outfoxed one of the biggest killers of abused and addicted young men today—the vampire of the heroin addiction. (He would say he was loved back to life by a fierce counselor who would endure his detoxing ranting! “Fuck you, motherfucker, fuck you!” was his mantra in the midst of a seven day heroin withdrawal, while this ‘counselor-dude,’ as he puts it, stood at his bedside enduring Dominic’s ravings, waiting, waiting, waiting for the storm to pass.). He knows the needles, the losses, the withdrawals, the sleepless nights, the dead friends, the overdosing, the aching muscles, the street-fights, the racial discrimination, the stab wounds, the-out-of-this-world suffering.
Bottom line: He walks his talk. He knows his shit. And his message is simple: You can resurrect your life. You can overcome your circumstances. You have a right to be alive, to rise up, to inhabit your life! Your job? Give me everything you got! Otherwise, as the saying goes, I will devour your half-heartedness. So, my brother, let’s get to work.
He means it. Completely and utterly.
Type Eight in Addiction: Levels 6 and Below
Under the power of addiction, the healthy, powerful Eight energies morph into harsh, self-destructive forces. All of the Eight’s attention begins to center around self-protection, being on guard and at war with life, holding power over others, defending themselves when no defense is needed, and bragging and bolstering himself while threatening and demanding that others respect him and his ego plans. Pumped up with vanity and self-importance, in 12 Step terms, he’s lost contact with his right size. He’s moved from inhabiting a magnanimous heart to one that is hardened and rock-like. Instead of using his power to empower, protect and strengthen others, the addicted Eight uses his power and confidence to scare people, to make them toe the line of his will, to render them weak and vulnerable, to manipulate their weakness. From a force of inspiration to a force of destruction, addiction turns him upside down (as it does with each type, their gifts turned into weapons).
Deeply but unconsciously sensing he has lost what he loves, he toughens himself, over-expresses his power, intimidates people, rages and pumps up his intensity and steamrollers life. “It’s my will, or get the hell out of the way! If I need to hurt you, I will! If my willfulness harms you or scares you, well too bad for you! I don’t have time for weaklings and sissies! Step aside or get behind me.” Brusque, mean-spirited, impatient, at his worst he preys on the weak, using them for sport or as pawns in his game. His beautiful capacity to respect others has turned south. His broken heart turns into an outraged, raging heart. His motto: Never show weakness. Take control of everything or you will be hurt. Life is a battlefield. Strike before you are struck. Trust no one and need no one.
Billy J. put it this way. “When I was drinking, I looked for fights. I liked hurting people. I liked being in a fight. I had all this rage churning in me, and I was angry at everyone. I didn’t care if I got my ass kicked. Rage was my drug and numbed anything that could hurt me, physical or emotional. I got high on it, drank it in, and inflamed it! I hoped you’d challenge me so I could take you on. I’d step over boundaries and get in fights that had nothing to do with me. Crazy shit, I know. But being tough, scaring people, made me feel powerful because deep down, I felt horribly lonely and hurt and didn’t know what to do about it. In fact, fighting, raging, and intimidating was about the only thing that made me feel good. It gave me the juice, the intensity I loved! The minute loneliness or sadness started to touch me, I’d turn it to rage.” (The book Mother California is an amazing memoir by a Type Eight who worked through many layers of rage to finally connect with his big heart while serving a life sentence for murder—truly an amazing recovery.)
When the Eight arrives in recovery, he arrives as the street-fighter who’s been slam-dunked to his knees. He’s gotten up over and over again, determined to not be beaten by his addiction, determined that he can outlast it, that he can control it, that he will win. He does not surrender easily and can take self-abuse like no other. As he’s lost friends, jobs, and his health, he’s pushed harder, gotten more aggressive, until something has finally felled him. Maybe he’s ended up in jail for too many assaults, or too many OUIs, or domestic violence charges. Maybe he’s cut bait on his last job due to reckless or ruthless behavior and is now without money or a work history to land a decent job. Or, as he’s continued to drop down into the rat hole of addiction perhaps he’s withdrawn, finally run out of fight, bravado, or egocentric gusto, and has hid away in a hotel room, not wanting contact with people, and drinking to end his life. If he’s lucky, grace has interceded and he now sits behind bars or at a treatment center. Worst-case scenario is Billy Frank, a hulking 40-year-old dad who stares back at me at a detox in earth-smacking shock. “I don’t know how it happened, but I was driving down the road and somehow I swerved and killed an eleven-year-old girl. I swear I only had a couple of drinks.” He pauses, an icy chill slicing thru the room, my heart clenching with sorrow. “I have two daughters myself,” he says, as his eyes pool with tormented sadness, the specter of a five-to-ten year jail sentence and life without his daughters, squeezing him like a vice grip. I stare back into his grief-stricken eyes, inky dark caverns of remorse wordlessly emanating.
One way or another the Eight has crash-landed hard. In the rubble of his fall new perceptions grip his awareness: he cannot plow through life uncontrolled, an angry bull in a China shop driven by rage that fuels his ego-will and his sense of false power. His big shot, I-don’t-need-anyone act has given him nothing but suffering. This message rings like a huge Zen gong: “I am out of control. I cannot will myself to stop. I need help. I cannot do this alone.” Simultaneously his inner critic chants, “You are such a loser, asking for help. If you were strong you would simply control your drinking. You’re a wimp, a sissy, a pussy. Prove you can drink like a man!”
But reality is a bloody knife. He knows what follows when he picks up a drink or drug—repetitious scenes of anger, attack, failure and remorse; fights with friends, with loved ones, with strangers; rages over not getting his way, or rants over not feeling respected or honored; anger fits at colleagues and co-workers over their incompetence, all the while he unable to perform at his best. He could swagger but he could not deliver. Repeatedly he vowed that things would be different, he’d control his drinking. Temporarily stoked on bravado and false confidence, he’d pick up a drink or drug, and dissolve once again into the maelstrom of repetitious horror. At the doorway of help, the path behind him is ablaze with horror stories that would curl your toes.