I know there has been a lot of publicity recently, especially in the recovery community, surrounding a man named Dr. Murali Krishna. If you aren’t privy to this gentleman’s media attention then I recommend leaving this blog (only to return very shortly!) to check out Kelly Fry’s newest nDepth: Fighting Back piece titled “Seeking Truth: Dr. R. Murali Krishna.” The editor does a bang-up job detailing the good doctor’s accomplishments, as well as, what led him to this point in his life. I could sit here and tell you about all the awards and positions he has deservedly upheld throughout his career. But, I’ll let the professionals handle that. What I want to do with this post is let you see this man through the eyes of an alcoholic of the most hopeless type.
It’s hard to determine the first time that I actually met Dr. Krishna. I do, however, recall an encounter from back when I was about ten years old. My old man would spend his Saturday mornings playing doubles tennis with a rotating group of men. I liked going with him because it was a chance to sit and watch whatever the hell I wanted on TV, completely undisturbed. They also had donuts. The best part was eavesdropping in on the crotchety old men lounging around, telling their creepy dirty jokes and war stories from their formative years. On the day in question I vaguely remember that as we were leaving my father saying “Spence. You remember, Murali?” I didn’t. The doc was wearing one of those intricately woven sweater vests over a polo and those awesome mid-nineties tennis shorts. Most of all, I remember the quick smile he beamed my way. All cheeks with an obvious sparkle shining from behind his glasses. It caught me off guard. It was as if he knew I had no idea who he was, but wanted me to know that it was okay. Still, I nodded and shook his hand and sheepishly said hello before he returned to telling a corny joke. I liked that he laughed more during the joke than most listening for the punchline. At that point, I must have seen something shiny because my attention shifted elsewhere. I’m sure that if I really dug deep I could extrapolate further on this recollection, but that would be a waste of both our time.
The reason I mention that day is only to relay the warmth and serenity that Dr. Krishna exuded that morning. The impact it had on me still resonates some fifteen years later. I recognize it now as something along the lines of Truth personified. Pure and genuine happiness. Even more, Murali has greeted me with that exact same grin since then. It’s like those dimples emanate invisible beams of calm that wash over everything in their vicinity. That might be stretching it a bit, but it’s the strange truth. Murali has remained a friend of mine over the years. He has seen my family and I through some pretty damn rough times. As I said in my last post, I’ve been in and out of recovery since I was fifteen. Murali has no doubt been a sounding board for my father. My old man is also a doctor, and considers Dr. Krishna to be a close pal. I know that his analytical and scientific mind conflicted with his undying love for his son. There were countless times when I couldn’t put into words the pain and never-ending gloom I was trudging through. Murali was there to explain what it was that was actually happening in a way my father could understand. There were just as many times that my poor mother didn’t know who else to talk to about her concerns regarding my mental stability. Murali never hesitated to answer her questions, and address her concerns. Dr. Krishna has been an invaluable piece of my recovery from the beginning, and in multiple ways (some of which he isn’t even aware). While my parents looked to him as a confidant and a wealth of expertise, I drew from him something completely different.
I remember very clearly the first time I met with Dr. Krishna as a patient, as opposed to a social setting. I was twenty-one and had just emerged from my first stay in detox. I was admitted to that lovely facility following an eight month drunk, also know as, “What I Learned At Texas Tech.” My drinking had gotten so severe that inebriation meant survival. Hallucinations were an every day occurrence, and vomiting blood no longer frightened me. What was truly frightening to me was that my fears were turning into an inescapable reality. Visions of disappointment on the faces of loved ones, never-ending sadness, and the confrontation of my past were all too much to bare. I wanted to die. I had never entertained the thought of suicide before. Intrusive images coupled with the quick thought that there’s nothing else left bombarded my consciousness. I knew I would never act on them, but they were a constant reminder of the awful truth I would soon have to confront. This was the darkest time of my entire life.
I decided that I was going to do my damnedest to drink myself to death. I figured that if I came out on the other side, then it just wasn’t my time and I would have no other option but to ask for help. I could go into details about my final days in Lubbock, but it would be a severe digression from the intention of this post. Somehow, I made it through the hellish ordeal. I gathered all the change that littered my dark apartment, bought one more pint of my go-to rum, and put Lubbock, TX in my rearview mirror. I arrived in OKC 6 hours later, exhausted and fighting back severe withdrawal symptoms. I put on the best show I could muster when I walked into my parent’s house. Of course, they knew something was terribly wrong. The jig was just about up. I had spent the past nine months painstakingly constructing a facade of success and sobriety, and finally zero hour had arrived. It took only a few hours for me to completely break down, and reveal the awful truth. In a moment of clarity, I told my family that I needed help, or else I’d be living on borrowed time. Twelve hours later I was checked in to the Detox facility.
The reason I have decided to include this part of my story is to properly convey how dire my situation was upon entering Dr. Krishna’s office for the first time. I was ridden with anxiety and still a bit foggy from Detox. I remember the unshakable tenseness of my entire body. Clenching then releasing my fists in unnervingly perfect 4/4 rhythm. I was startled when a hand rested on my shoulder, a gesture meant to say “Calm Yourself” without saying anything at all. When I turned around I was greeted yet again by the familiar grin of Dr. Krishna. He embraced me in a hug before I could even attempt a handshake. All of this was very strange to me. My M.O. regarding most therapy I had received up to that point was to be as standoffish as possible, combative when threatened, and withholding of anything that somebody could use against me. This was different. I immediately felt the tension drip away, and some semblance of placidity calming my troubled mind. Worries of judgement and condemnation were now fleeting thoughts. The doc offered me a chair, and sat almost knee to knee with me. We sat their in complete silence for about a minute. There was an unnerving sense of understanding and empathy on Murali’s face. I say unnerving because this was nothing like what I had come to expect from shrinks. The doc just knew. I broke the silence and began talking. For the first time in my life I opened up. I blathered on and on while Murali sat listening and occasionally nodding in agreement. I must’ve talked for thirty plus uninterrupted minutes. I told him that I had never done that before, and that I talked about things that I planned to take to my grave. Dr. Krishna then began to break down my entire abuse history. He pointed things out that I was either too afraid to address, or too stubborn to accept. He pulled my disease apart, and told me exactly what I needed to do. His only concern was that I just wasn’t done yet.
I walked away from his office, confused but oddly at peace. I knew what I needed to do, but I didn’t know how to ask for the help that was necessary to succeed. The doctor toppled the defenses I put up in one fell swoop. It would be six months after this fateful meeting before I was aware of the impact this man had on me and on my future. My sponsor asked me to write about an example of an honorable man who’s way of life is something to ultimately strive for. The first person to pop into my head was Dr. Krishna. I couldn’t explain why, and I even tried to quickly think of someone else. Every thought led right back to Murali. Then it hit me like a bag of hammers. Dr. Krishna is embodies damn near EVERYTHING I strive to be. Murali is truly an honorable man down to his very core. Compassionate, knowledgable, giving, progressive, and serene through and through. The only man that I respect more than the good doctor is my dear old man!
That realization came just about three years ago to the day. It’s very easy for me as a recovering alcoholic/addict to say that Murali has set into motion the wheels of change for the recovery community. The recognition of new medicines. Integration of Eastern medicine into Western practice. Creation of free clinics where both doctor and patient benefit. A passionate undertaking to inform as many as possible as to the true nature of mental illness. Not to mention, his countless presentations,podcasts, speaking engagements, seminars, and community outreach programs about spirituality, balance in life, and the power of the present moment. I stay aware his influence on myself, and countless others as I walk through early recovery. Keeping in mind to always do as best as I can, to maintain a sense of calm, to keep an open mind and be accepting of others, and to smile as much as possible.
I no longer see my relationship with Dr. Krishna as separated into friend or patient. I felt like a human when I finally let my guard down. I know I’m not the only one who feels the way I do. The amazing thing is no matter who you talk to about this man, their experiences are basically the same. I don’t admire him because of his eloquent speaking abilities, but that his words match his actions. We should all strive to be like Murali.