| This is the 189th story of Our Life Logs |
My mom used to say that I was born under an unlucky star, hurled up into the sky above Chicago, Illinois, over the exact hospital and room I entered Earth, in the year 1974. She didn’t say this out of hatred or spite. No, she loved me dearly, but her opinion was formed with hard facts. Since childhood, I’ve lived through one negative, uncontrollable event after another. So, damn that unlucky star.
I was six years old when my parents divorced. I don’t really remember my mom and dad living together when I was little. During the months of fall, winter, and spring, I lived with my mom. I was the shy, introverted kid in school with a tight-knit group of friends and a book in hand at all times. But summers changed me. From the age of six to eighteen, I spent every summer with my dad. This was preceded by weeks of throwing up and not being able to concentrate. I couldn’t eat or sleep because of the fear that was eating me alive like an animal consuming its prey.
My dad (and whatever girlfriend he had at the time) would arrange for one excursion after another that sounded like picture-perfect bonding activities. Early on, I would eagerly anticipate all that we were going to do together, because, well, I loved my dad very much and idolized his ability to make friends with everyone. I imagined that I would get all my father’s time (my sister was 13 years older and already married and moved out) and he would get all of mine. As time moved forward, I discovered another side of my dad.
I was eight years old when the truth hit. Every time he had arranged a new sport or activity for us to try, my incredible lack of coordination angered my dad, who then told me I was a loser and an embarrassment. Every dinner at a fancy restaurant would end with him screaming profanities at me for ordering something he did not approve of. Every consumption of an untold amount of liquor was followed by him driving at crazy speeds in the middle of the night so he could kill us, laughing as he said that my mother would suffer for what she had done.
I don’t remember one summer that ended well.
At 16, I had dropped out of high school because I couldn’t concentrate anymore in classes, failed almost every subject, and started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. My mom even had me tested to see if I had any developmental delays that were causing the issue, but no, my IQ was high enough to be a member of MENSA.
As a high-school dropout, I started carrying a notebook everywhere I went. While it was a puzzle to my family (my sister especially, who often joked, “You don’t have homework anymore so what do you have to write about?!”), I found writing to be a means to process life—though, drugs and a bit of alcohol helped me do the same thing. Or, at least give me the means to forget what I had just processed.
After about four years, I ran out of money to buy the drugs and alcohol I needed, and the friends I used to party with had moved on. So, I decided to enroll in school again, first by getting my GED, and then I applied to college at UCLA.
When I look back on my life while at UCLA as a 21-year-old, I remember starting to really abuse alcohol. I experienced blackouts too numerous to count. Even with my excessive drinking, I somehow managed to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, though I have to admit that I carried a low GPA and consequentially didn’t graduate until I turned 27. Still, I took my Graduate Records Examination to go to graduate school and obtained my first Master’s Degree in Library Science from UCLA in 2003.
I followed my degree with a trip to Ireland—what better place for an alcoholic writer of Irish decent? I boarded the plane with the idea in my head that I would bloom like a regular Ernest Hemingway who wrote some of his best written pieces while in an alcoholic fog. Though, it was due to my incessant pub tavern visits night after night when I was in Ireland that I never wrote anything besides the little I had to for my classes. But, I got the grades, and I got another Master’s Degree in 2005 in Creative Writing. This assured me I wasn’t really an alcoholic, because honestly, could an alcoholic do that?
I moved to Los Angeles, got a small one-bedroom apartment in Koreatown and earnestly started going after my dream of becoming a screenwriter. The stars had aligned. But as my mom says, that’s not my birthright. And soon enough, my world crumbled.
Three times in one month I lost my balance and fell—for no reason. One time, I was driving the LA freeway and without warning lost my vision in one eye. I tried to pull to the shoulder of the road but in the maze of the screaming vehicles, I wrecked my car. Thankfully, I didn’t hurt anyone but it scared me enough to see a doctor about the mystery episodes I was experiencing—that had nothing to do with alcohol.
After countless tests and endless doctor appointments, I found out at 32 years old, I had Multiple Sclerosis. This meant that I was diagnosed at a ridiculously early age with a lifetime disease that only gets worse. And it did. Along with falling, I became legally blind. I could see enough to board buses, read large print, and get around, but I had lost the ability to drive into the hills, see all the stars in night sky, or even watch the sunset over the ocean. Losing my driver’s license made that fact quite clear.
Suddenly, my life-long dream of crafting my greatest masterpiece of a screenplay didn’t seem to matter. Life in general had no meaning for me anymore, so I did what I knew. I dove into alcohol oblivion. Alcohol was a comforting friend who distracted me from the hard facts: the loss of my sight, my dreams, and the loss of ever getting married or having children.
I don’t remember the next five years except for bits and pieces of memories. I didn’t come out of my self-imposed alcoholic exile until I was about 37. But the reason I joined the living again did not come into being because of anything good, rather, tragedy. My sister had been sentenced to 22 months in prison for wire fraud.
I began to wake up to the damage I was doing to myself and wondered if I would be the next one going to prison—or maybe I would just die out there on the street into a wide-open abyss. Like my sister, my haunting memories had stripped me from the living. If I were to come back alive, I’d have to have someone who understood. I wrote her the first letter while she was in prison because I wanted her to know I loved her, had nothing to forgive her for, and that I would be there for her throughout her months in prison and beyond.
My sister had always loved reading, and now she had nothing but time to do so (fortunately or unfortunately). I began writing more and more letters to her, many of them soul-wrenching and all representing the missed opportunities when we didn’t support each other as things happened throughout our lives. By way of phone calls and letters, we discussed the purpose and consequence of our unlucky stars with words that only we understood.
Then one day, I sent her a screenplay I had written but never showed to anyone. It was about a man born with a dark soul with no chance at redemption, who fell in love with a woman of life, hope, and light. Its message was that it is only through a blanket of darkness that we can see the light that stars give the world. I guess I wanted to believe that myself.
When my sister called me, she told me when she read it she cried, laughed, sighed, and frowned. She said she lived the words as I wrote them, and that I was the real criminal to have kept the story locked away. If it made damaged souls like ours believe again, imagine what it might do for those who didn’t carry the weight of their past in their hearts?
I began to send it out to a few agents I knew back when I was in graduate school. Time passed, and one of them asked me to come to his office. He told me he wanted to enter my work into some competitions, and I said yes after a lifetime of saying no. It took a couple of years, but I got noticed by a director who wanted to make a movie with my screenplay—the very one I sent my sister while she was in prison. From there, my life became real again.
Since then, I haven’t had a drink, I write screenplays full time for a lot of independent studios, but also for a couple of major studios. I call my sister, I write in my notebook, and I wake up each day to live the life of an anti-hero (as my sister implores). I since moved to Santa Monica and bought a house on a hill that overlooks the ocean. With Multiple Sclerosis, I have never been able to see the full view from my balcony, and I never will. But I can sure as hell feel it.
My journey has had more than one detour, the battles fought went hand in hand with the dreams I lost. But, I have realized that history will never care about my illness, or my sister’s criminal record, because in books and movies, we prefer legends who overcame adversity to men who just live quiet lives. So, damn that unlucky star—to take away my darkness is to take away its light.
This is the story of Jeff Hausman
Jeff lives quietly by himself in Santa Monica, California. He grew up with an abusive father, dropped out of high school, and entered into a world of drugs and alcoholism. After getting his GED and eventually two Masters’ degrees, Jeff thought his life was back on track. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at the age of 32, seemingly crushing the dreams before him. It took another tragedy in life for him to begin to hope again.
Jeff realizes that MS prevents him from seeing all he wants to, but often tells others even when he was a child, he preferred the night, as darkness always softened the sharp edges of the world. He finds a sense of irony in the fact that MS took most of his vision as if it knew darkness was his friend anyway so he felt no fear. He believes the night sky is always bigger than the one during the day and feels comfortable living in twilight now. He is enjoying and embracing his renewed life under that lucky star and gives thanks to those he loves and who love him for providing him with the light.
This story first touched our hearts on October 29, 2018.