Irish Republicans from as far back as I remember, often use the phrase, "the darkest hour is just before the dawn." In my own experience I have found this to be particularly true, in the sense of birthing a new or better reality. In the film with this blog below "Into the West," it has particular significance and affection for several reasons for myself..
Almost thirty years ago I found myself in the Ballymun high rise flats complex, which is at the beginning of the film below. Yes it very much was like the reality portrayed in the film. I too had reached a rock bottom with my drinking and like Gabriel Byrne in the film, was in a state of 'confabulation' with the DTs not able to distinguish reality from the horrors in a fear based twilight zone.
I walked around the numerous tower blocks at night, each apartment light reaching to the night sky, seemed like aliens from another planet. I had lost everything from family, loved ones, dreams, beliefs and any spiritual connection my people and Ireland. The emotional estrangement was so intense, that I decided to do a hold up, which if successful, would result in a 'good piss up" or if unsuccessful, would at least mean being able to chat with my own kind in prison.
That night as I tore the wallpaper off the walls of my apartment, to stay warm on a bed base of wire without a mattress, with a ripped door lock beside me, to use as a fake gun next day, I had dreams and visions and horrors of my lost families of wives and children.I was also suffering the post traumatic shock of my experiences up north around Newry, I had reached what is called my rock bottom.
Next morning I walked into town and the first substantial supermarket I found was on Dorset Street. I duly proceeded to hold it up at fake gunpoint, demanding every leaf in their till. I duly made off down a side street and I eventually entered a major church, where mass was being celebrated. I waited until the end, to leave with the congregation, but the church was surrounded by police or the Garda. They were more nervous than I was, because they believed I had a real gun. but I immediately surrendered.
I was lucky, I was well treated by a decent Garda and charged with something like aggravated burglary and was in Mountjoy prison for a while, before serving the remainder of my time in Shelton Abbey. I'm not one of those people who do time in prison very well and couldn't wait to get out. I cannot complain about my treatment at any time during that experience.
I was introduced to the the book the I Ching by another prisoner serving seven years for drug trafficking. He was well educated, doing daily yoga and quite a spiritual vegetarian.Some of the nicest people I have met in my life were in prison. I was determined however, not to return but a member of the prison staff, scoffed with sympathy at me, when I said I would not return."That's what they all say" he said as he laughed at me. I did a special last reading of the I Ching for the last time before leaving prison, which talked about a dog running around in circles, chasing its tail, repeating the same mistakes over and over without learning anything.
What I took out of the reasing, was that I needed to get out of Dublin immediately on my release, indeed get out of modern living. Looking back now that was highly significant, because the drug trade was becoming seriously lethal and I have no doubt I would have been snared in its tentacles.
On being released, I moved to an abandeoned island off the coast of Donegal called Inisfree, which at that time had a commune, based on the primal Scream called the Screamers.It certainly was an alternative experience but I found it overly manipulated and controlled by the women, who as result of co-operating better with each other than the men, were in control. I'm rather chauvinistic in this sense, so we parted company.
Subsequently I walked the roads of Ireland from north to south sleeping in hay, sheds, in the open and in shelters for the homeless. My sole possession was a torn sleeping bag, wrapped in plastic to keep it dry. Eventually as in the film below I headed into the West to Galway, from where I originate. I stopped drinking with the help of a white horse 'metaphorically speaking' who helped me find my Tir na nOg. Yes it really does exist and its a place where we can all let our inner child out to play for free and for fun but that's another story of liberation.