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Monday, December 14, 2015

In the Spotlight: Vienna's Will by Mark McCullough




Title: Vienna’s Will
Author: Mark McCullough
Publisher: Createspace
Pages: 254
Genre: Memoir

New author, Mark McCullough, shares his inspirational journey through chronic depression and addiction in VIENNA’S WILL (www.viennaswill.com). After struggling for years to control the negative thoughts that he attempted to quiet with drugs and alcohol, Mark’s life changes when he finds the unconditional love of a little girl and her mother.

In April of 1992, Mark McCullough’s distraught parents delivered their twenty-five-year-old son to Butner Federal Prison after he committed a bank robbery. The court had arranged for the prison to complete a psychiatric evaluation of the troubled young man. Mark had intended for the crime to result in his death.

The author explores a lifetime battle with depression that was a result of sexual abuse by men he trusted and cared for as a child. At ten years old, Mark was obsessed with playing baseball and greatly admired his coach, who treated him like a son. The young boy’s first experience with betrayal came one afternoon when the coach molested him. Mark held the secret of the abuse inside, and it fed his depression for years to come. Later, when Mark was attending a Catholic high school, a priest befriended him and soon revealed his true intentions for forming the relationship.

The anguish of abuse and depression that Mark suffered drove him deeper into a life of drug and alcohol dependency. When Mark moved to Boston to attend college, he dropped out of school after attending one class. Thereafter, Mark spent his time seeking his next high and a place to sleep at night. He sold drugs to support his habit, until one day a friend persuaded him to return home before his addiction killed him.

After returning home, the drug use continued and Mark became suicidal. The plan he conceived that was supposed to lead to his death landed him in prison instead. During the time that Mark spent in prison, he faced anxiety and violence, but he also found companionship, as well as support from the psychiatrist responsible for his evaluation.

Mark continued to struggle with his addiction and depression for several years after his release from prison. Then he met the woman who would become his wife and her then four-year-old daughter, Vienna. Mark credits them with changing his life. The love of his daughter, Vienna, pulled Mark from the darkness and renewed his gratitude for his life and his family.

Mark’s decision to share his story of addiction, abuse, and mental illness came after many years of keeping secrets from his family and loved ones. “Some of the experiences I speak of in the book, some of the things I thought would stay hidden within me forever, needed to be spoken about and explained to people in my life who care about me and love me.”

The author hopes that VIENNA’S WILL will shed light on sexual abuse, addiction, and depression and help other people to face these issues in their lives and in the lives of others. Mark says, “So much of what happens in the book has, in some way, affected a great deal of people in our society, but they feel resistant to express it or discuss it. Whether it’s them personally, a friend, a family member, or even a coworker, if the book inspires them to help themselves or others, it will have served its true purpose.”
In VIENNA’S WILL, Mark reveals that the love and support of his family, especially from his daughter, Vienna, has been a powerful catalyst in his recovery and his decision to embrace life after so many years of enduring emotional hardship. The author states that he often “smiles at the thought of a child and her unconditional love being strong enough to overcome all the events of the past.”

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Book Excerpt:

We approached a series of doors, then descended down a long set of steps and walked through a maze of never ending corridors. It felt as if we were plunging into the dark depths of hell, like we were headed to someplace that once you entered, you would never find your way back. A one way ticket to nowhere. Everything was concrete and steel. The light was bright in my eyes and showed every stain and blemish that had accumulated over the years. It all seemed unfit for an animal, never mind anything associated with the human race. The guard grabbed my arm and finally spoke. “Stop right here.”
I turned to face a door with a single keyhole and a small, narrow slit. It was marred with deep scratches and riddled with dents. I knew for sure that I didn’t want to know how any of it got there, nor the likely aggression needed to make its presence known.
“I’m gonna take these cuffs off. No funny business, hear?”
He started to loosen the cuffs.
“How long do you have son?”
“I’m not sure. I’m here on an evaluation.”
He paused with the key still in the cuffs then said, “Opened ended, pending?”
“Yes, sir.”
He whistled and I could see him shaking his head from the corner of my eye. He keyed the cuffs, then the door, then he spun me toward him. I can’t imagine that was protocol but I’m sure in his eyes, I didn’t present much of a danger.
“What’d you do?”
“Robbed a bank.”
He paused.
“Armed?”
“Yes.”
“Gun?”
I took a deep breath and exhaled.
“Yes.”
“And you’re here on evaluation?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Bank robbery with a gun and you’re here on evaluation?”
He shook his head, and sighed quietly.
 “Things didn’t go quite as planned.” I said.
“What’s that mean?”
I didn’t answer.
“Damn shame. It’d be better to have 5-10, at least then you’d know where you stand.”
He led me inside and closed the door behind me. As he did he said, “Look through the slot son. Down here.”
I knelt down and listened as he spoke through the opening that I would later learn is how my meals would be dispersed to me.
“I’m gonna give you some advice whether you want it or not. Understand?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Tell the docs’ you want to do your time down here, got me?”
“Why?”
“Have you ever been in prison son? In any jail of any kind?”
“No, sir.”
“Then believe me when I tell you this, anything down here is better than everything up there. Understand?”
“No sir, I don’t.”
“Just trust me. I don’t understand why you’re here, and I don’t much care to understand it. That’s not for me to judge. That’s not the man I am, but listen…. the yard is no place for someone like you. Good luck son, and God bless you.”
I heard his steps grow softer as he left me alone with his words. I knew what he meant but tried not to allow myself to process its true meaning. I turned to face my surroundings. My new home was approximately eight feet by ten feet. The bed was on my right and appeared to be molded straight into the wall. The mattress was thin and coated with stains. A stainless steel toilet sat to my left. I wasn’t certain, but it appeared that some type of satanic emblem was etched into the floor directly beneath my feet. I could hear screaming and pounding from somewhere down the hall and a guard screaming back telling whoever it was to shut the fuck up. I slid down the wall and slumped to the floor and for the first time realized my shoes were two different sizes. One a nine, the other an eleven. I looked back up at the setting before me and leaned back on the door and thought that I could actually hear my heart pounding. I was sure it was going to burst.

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