Addiction and Cerebral Palsy: The La Grande Yell

I had no idea the yell was related to an unacknowledged addiction. The scream happened in the middle of a golf event. We were putting on the fifteenth green at Buffalo Peak. It was an ideal day for the tournament. The sun was warm in the midday sky. I was playing with my buddy, his brother, and their father. However, something had been bothering me for most of the day. Though, it was unrelated to the three gentlemen of our team. I had sent out a text earlier that morning, which had garnered no response. It was hurting my feelings at the time and I was regretting having sent the message. But, the heartache I was experiencing didn’t justify the behavior on that green. We were engrossed in our scramble. A golfing format, where the game is played as a team. Often, the scramble is played in a four-person team. However, it can also be played in a two-person team. In our case, all four players hit their shot from one location. Then, we choose the best of our shots and all hit again from that location. The process is repeated until the golf hole is completed. We had our golf ball on the fifteenth green with a ten-foot putt for par. After looking over the best line to roll the ball on, I was first to attempt. My putt missed, leaving my buddy next in line to hit the putt. As he went to strike the ball, the unthinkable came out of my mouth. 

One of the many aspects I enjoy about golf is the structure. Golf has many parameters for the way one should behave when playing in a group. The etiquette provides an understanding between players. Even players’ who might never have played together before know what to expect. We often have instruction on the way we should dress when playing golf. We have guidelines around the proper places to stand while someone else is hitting a shot. We even have an understanding, not to talk when a player is about to hit a shot. To refrain from moving around when someone is in the process of swinging. Along with where to walk and how to move around on a putting surface. These rules of etiquette have been an aspect of my life for almost my entire life. I know and understand them like the back of my hands. I hold myself to a high standard when it comes to these concepts. Always paying attention to the people around me on the golf course. Respecting the desire to play a predictable and respectful round of golf. On the fifteenth green, on that afternoon, I remember my respect disappearing while playing golf. I have placed myself back in that moment a hundred times. Lacking the ability, until recently, to understand exactly why I had lost my self-control. 

As my buddy took the putter blade back, getting set to send the golf ball on its path. His downswing toward the ball was interrupted. A yell came out of my mouth. With the goal of startling him and interrupting his concentration. The purpose of my disruption had the desired impact. Sending the ball offline and the putt to be missed. We had two other opportunities to make the putt. With both the brother and father of my buddy having chances upcoming. When I yelled out in the middle of his putt. My intention was for the action to be a joke. As a team, we still had two tries at sinking the putt. The yell wasn’t interpreted, by the team, as a joke. And it became clear rather quickly to me, it wasn’t taken light heartedly. The reaction to that situation wasn’t positive. The looks, comments, and body language in the immediately aftermath were isolating. The one comment that still rings in my ears was, who’s team are you on, but I couldn’t tell you today who made the crack. I can say, the comment doesn’t feel as offensive today as it did in the moment. Based on the way I was acting; the comment was deserved. My defensiveness kicked in almost immediately followed by anger. The period of time from walking off the green, until arriving in the middle of the sixteenth fairway remains a blur. I remember having so much anger that I couldn’t ride in the cart with my buddy. Feeling like the only tool for keeping things from getting worse was to walk it off. I recall the only time, in the following ten minutes that I stood around the group, was on the sixteenth tee. Still trembling from the emotions running through my body, I somehow managed to hit my tee-shot down the left side of the fairway. Thankful, I was at least partially, keeping it together. 

The tee-shot on the sixteenth hole felt like a God-send. Immediately, the tension inside my body subsided by half. It was the first time in minutes that I felt like things might be okay. In that instant, my mind came out of the cloud of irrationality, making its way back to the present. I can’t remember exactly when I apologized to my buddy. But, it happened within the minutes that followed that driver swing. The flash of anger I was experiencing was slowly replaced with fear and embarrassment. Walking the entire par-5 sixteenth hole helped my mind slow. The rush of adrenaline often accompanying my anger subsided. As I picked up the golf balls of our team. The shots we weren’t going to be playing from. The hole came to a close without the feelings of isolation I was experiencing. The three others seemed to show more concern over what had just happened. With the emotions of isolation turning into looks of bewilderment. Possibly wondering if they had done something to cause an upset. They didn’t understand it wasn’t anything they had done. Or, anything anyone else had done during that time in my life. I had an unacknowledged, ununderstood addiction that hadn’t been dealt with. That day on the fifteenth green was the first time I could remember an outburst going beyond my family walls. Even though it didn’t occur to me then, my behavior had become too unpredictable and too uncontrollable. 

I finally got back into the cart following the sixteenth hole. We rode down to the seventeenth tee-box in relative silence. Lacking the understand to know what could be said to relieve the prior moments.  By the time we arrived at the seventeenth, I had apologized to my buddy. But, my heart still ached with the agony of regret. Those were the moments that would set into motion the biggest change in my life. My peg went into the ground between the tee-markers and the ball was placed on top. I stood from my bent over position with driver in my hands. Backing away from the teed-up golf ball, remorse streamed through my body. I couldn’t understand my action on the fifteenth green. In that moment, I could feel the three men standing around the back of the tee-box. Waiting patiently for me to strike my shot. While, looking over the seventeenth fairway, from our elevated position. Without looking back at anyone in particular, I apologized for my actions on the fifteenth green. Looking back on the moment some three years later. I lacked the courage inside to turn around and look them in the eye. But, under the weight of the situation, it was all I could muster. We finished the tournament under relief from tension. Ending that La Grande weekend of 2019 like nothing had really transpired. I will always appreciate the way those men seemed to move past the incident. For me, it turned out to be the beginning of accepting one of my biggest challenges.

The most uncharacteristic of our actions can be the most significant. A startling way of shaking us out of the space our minds occupy. Pointing to circumstances holding us back from being the best version of ourselves. The golf course has often been a sanctuary of sorts. Whenever life became overwhelming. Being on the course always made sense. I understood the rules, the etiquette, the way I was to move in the environment. The dance of golf was second nature and I understood what I could expect from others. Most everything about the game made sense, it was predictable, and safe. My love for golf made me into an unapologetic follower of the norms. Which is why my action on that Saturday in early June of 2019 shook my life to its core. There was no way I would talk, or yell, while someone was swinging a golf club and I have apologized for quietly walking in the middle of a swing. Learning how to conduct myself on the golf course helped my behavior in life. Which is probably why the yell helped redirect its path. It would take another two years and a couple more uncomfortable situations. But, in the spring of 2021, I made the decision to change my life. I chose to give up pornography and begin my journey of recovery.   

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