"A personal and brutally honest account of the destructive dynamic that a drug affected and mentally ill father can have on his child.
Through “Under The Influence”, Zachary gives us a sacred peek into his once shattered mind, teaching us that, even against all the odds, a broken mind can not only be healed, but can go on to flourish, inspiring others along the way."
Under The Influence - Reclaiming My Childhood
Under the Influence is the story of my childhood. It provides an insight into the reality of being the son of an addict, paranoid schizophrenic, chronic hoarder and drug dealer.
For as long as I knew him, my dad dealt. Every day, a procession of desperate, malnourished and volatile addicts would visit our house looking to score.
From a child’s perspective, they seemed to have only one goal - acquiring their next high. Growing up in this environment had a profound impact on my life and world view.
I never felt safe.
I wrote Under The Influence as a form of therapy. Through writing, I was finally able to express myself completely. I found that as I wrote, the burden of my past began to lift. I was finally beginning to recover.
Sharing it with the public was the furthest thought from my mind. This is the story of my past, containing the most traumatic and embarrassing moments of my life. Why would I want that out there?
However, the reaction of my close friends convinced me otherwise. They pointed out that many people are suffering from the same demons as I am, and that sharing my story could help them to move on and heal as well. So I decided to start my blog and podcast - sharing some of my traumatic past as well as my experience with mental illness and recovery. The feedback and encouragement was amazing, my story was helping people.
This process also emphasized to me the fact that in a lot of family and friendship groups, there is a wall of silence around trauma and mental illness in general. It is a taboo subject and thus rarely gets talked about. Perhaps this is because of its intensity, or the severity of its impact upon those involved.
Therefore, I decided to share Under The Influence because I wanted to break the silence. Releasing my story is a way that I can connect with people. To let them know that they are not alone, that there is help available and that people care. Because often when one person starts talking, others are encouraged to do the same.
Increasing mental health awareness is a primary goal of mine. As education and understanding within society increases, outcomes for people with mental health issues will improve. I hope that my work will help to encourage the development of healthy dialogues between friends and family, as well as within schools and the workplace. Reducing the stigma of mental illness will enable people to seek help when they need it.
If you are reading this, and can relate to my story, I want to tell you the following:
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel and despite the confusion, fear, anger and sadness that you are feeling, it will get better. Remember that you are not at fault. Please reach out and seek assistance. I know that the world can seem like a hostile and cold place, but trust me, there are people who will care, you are not alone."