A couple of weeks ago a friend and I were getting together for our weekly “What movies should we bash this week” meeting in which we bitch and moan about the movies we hate, sounds like an awful time I know, but we enjoy it. After our movie bitchfest we turned toward books and the fact that he had just finished reading my The Bestiarum Vocabulum (book 2 in the TRES LIBORUM PROHIBITORUM collection, yes this is self-promotion) W is for Werewolf and he asked me why my characters were always so “depressingly self-destructive.” I didn’t entirely understand what he meant, well maybe a little bit, but I wanted him clarify anyways so I asked him to do so to which he replied, “No matter if your story is a dark tale, one that’s just a fun and gory, or even one of your stories that’s comedic, the characters always seemed geared toward self-destruction regardless.” The fact is he was one hundred percent right, my characters are always self-destructive because of my writing influences. I write about need and that’s what influences me because of my life experiences, and my characters take their needs to such a level that it becomes immensely self-destructive to them.
Need is one of the few things shared by all of Earth’s creatures, humans have needs, animals and insects have needs, even plants have needs, everything needs something. It’s a trait that connects every living thing on the planet in one way or another. Whether it’s a need for sustenance shared by all, or a need for companionship shared by most, every living thing has certain needs, but it’s only in humanity that you find need warped to such a level that what’s considered a need is a need in a person’s mind alone. Many times those warped needs can come from a warped mindset (overblown desires for power or love) or even an addiction (alcohol and drugs) but either way those “needs” are unhealthy, self-destructive, and often damaging to our lives. It’s those kinds of “needs” that have become a major influence on my writing.
Let me give you a little bit of backstory on my life. I spent the first ten years of that life in a house where meth was a source of income. I watched it destroy the lives of people who “needed” something to get them through the day, who “needed” an escape from a life they found unappealing. It nearly destroyed the lives of my own family, too, before my parents decided they were done and were going to change their lives. That change included finding religion which they now “needed” to replace an older “need.” Was it healthier? Absolutely, but it left me with a twisted understanding of the difference between an actual need and a want that is so strongly desired that it becomes akin to a need. In my mind their newfound religion was only their need to add more to life replaced by something other than drugs. Understand, I don’t have anything against religion and have even come to acquire my own beliefs that I’m not going into here, it was just where I went at such a young age. It doesn’t have to be drugs or even anything at all negative that can twist needs though, sometimes it is a normal need that our minds twist and morph until that need is so strong that we make poor choices in order to attain it.
Myself, I’m a great example of that need gone wrong mentality. As I grew older, and grew to resent my parents reliance on religion to help fight off their old needs, I found myself falling into the same traps they had. I found myself lacking a sense of direction or purpose. I found myself lacking the strength to fight a battle against depression (a fight I wouldn’t take on for another 15 years) but most of all I found myself “needing” the approval of those around me, of “needing” their love and acceptance above all else. This led me to gravitate towards an easy fix, one my parents themselves had turned to, drugs and alcohol; it helped me push my depression to the side, it helped me not care about my lack of purpose, and most of all it helped me achieve the acceptance I “needed” so much. When I was high or drunk I was great at getting people to like me, of making them laugh, of making them grow attached to me and that would come to be a constant battle for me. By the time I was 16 I’d already dabbled in almost every drug imaginable but I found my favorite tool to be alcohol. Nothing made me feel as great as alcohol did and nothing made me more personable than alcohol. I could make friends left and right when I was drunk, I spent most of my high school years completely wasted, never once caring what I was doing to my life and it went on and on. There was nothing I enjoyed more than being drunk and eventually I came to “need” alcohol to go one. I got to a point in my life where I needed alcohol just to get through the day, to function at all, even to go to sleep. If I didn’t have alcohol I was barely recognizable as a human being but once I had that sweet amber liquid flowing down my throat I was good to go. Even when I started to destroy other people’s lives, people who cared deeply about how I was, I still didn’t grasp how warped my “need” was. That was until one fateful night that changed everything and finally started on a path towards getting my life together.
After a particularly bad night at a bar with an ex-girlfriend I decided I was done with everything and I tried to take my life. I chased a bottle of pills stolen from a roommate with a bottle of vodka hoping against hope to be done with my life. I’d grown tired of “needing” so much. I needed alcohol to get through my day, I needed other people’s approval to think I was an okay person, and worst of all, I needed the love of a female companion to feel as though I meant something. Everything I felt I needed had come back to weigh on me in such a way that it was destroying me. At that moment, that night, I just wanted an out and I took it. Fortunately, I am a lucky enough person to have people that truly care for me and one of them showed up to make sure I was okay only to find me unresponsive and lying on the floor. I was taken to the ER where I was saved thank God and had to talk with more than a few counselors who worried most about my abuse of alcohol. One eventually talked me into going to Alcoholics Anonymous where I would find a new need, the need for an excuse.
If AA helps one person that’s great and I would never want to take that away from someone but the thing I took away from AA was that nothing was my fault. My messed up childhood, my poor self-image, even my low self-esteem, all these things were responsible for my “need” to drink. Even my “need” for a lover, my codependence, was all because of these things. I began to believe their write off because again, I had a need, only now that need had morphed from the drink to an excuse, one AA was more than willing to give me. I fell into their trap for more than two years, always blaming others for my issues even though I knew damn well that those issues were my own fault, the result of my warped sense of need. Eventually I noticed something though, if so much of my problem was based on a horrible past than why did so many others with a horrible past do so well. I opened my eyes and finally took a cold, hard look at my own sense of need and realized that AA was just another hindrance to pushing forward. My warped sense of need was the problem, I was the problem. I would never better myself constantly making excuses, the only way forward was to realize how much I had abused need. Not just in my drinking, not just in my desire for love and companionship, not even in my overeating, but in my entire life. Until I could move forward and readjust my level of need nothing would be better. So that’s what I did, I changed my entire life and took a good look at what I considered need so that I could understand the difference between need and a want so strong it becomes need.
It wasn’t an easy change and to this day it’s something I’m still working on. I still find myself “needing” things I know I don’t really need. I still find myself struggling at times, wanting to revert to easier ways to deal with my problems, but I refuse to go back to being that person, of having my sense of need grow to the warped levels it existed at previously in my life. I also refuse to change who I am or what I believe in to appease a group desperate to give away excuses or a companion I’m desperate to stay with. I have to constantly keep a close watch on what I think I need because many times I find need is far too strong of a word. I might have taken it to the extreme in my life, or shown how far need can go, but I’ve seen much lesser versions of that warped sense of need in others. Some similar to mine in the damage they can do such as the need of acceptance or companionship, some less so such as the need for money or intellectual agreement. Looking at what a person really needs and what a person simply wants is something I believe everyone can benefit from. I know my life has been improved from reevaluating my sense of need (though in my case not doing so may have very well have killed me).
I write about need because that’s what I know, and I’ve always heard write what you know, and because writing out my demons helps me stay focused. Each of my stories focuses on a need as with both of the stories I have been fortunate enough to publish with Western Legend Publishing, be a need for power in V is for Vicua or a need love in W is for Werewolf, all of my stories focus on need. It’s the one thing that influences my writing and even when I don’t know it, when I don’t think I’m writing anything at all about need, it still tends to be where my stories veer off into. Even a story I wrote for my own collection in The Drunk and the Dead about a zombie’s life from his point of view, a story that was humorous and full of sarcasm, still found itself heading into that territory with the zombie’s unending need for flesh, even as it destroyed his body. Hell, maybe that’s why I’ve always loved zombies, because of their own need that they don’t really need. Even as I write this, as I rally against need, I find that I now still need something more, I need to be read.