Troy's Take: Metamorphosis In Falmouth
By: TROY CLARKSON, July 31, 2014
The imagery of a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly, of the plodding, slogging, uninspired worm-like being altering its outward and inward state and turning into a high-flying, beautiful work of nature’s art, is an oft-used metaphor to describe a metamorphosis in peoples’ own lives. Who among us has not felt like the caterpillar, plodding and slogging through our days, only to experience some sort of metamorphosis and be transferred, transported, or even transcended into a new, more brilliant and glorious state?
Author and Falmouth transplant Jim Butler certainly has, and he is sharing his story—his metamorphosis—with folks from Falmouth to Frankfurt. As I sat with Jim at his apartment overlooking Falmouth Harbor on a tranquil day recently, I looked out over the gentle surf in Falmouth Harbor as the synthetic sound of waves offered further tranquility from Jim’s laptop, and noted that this Falmouthite’s passion for life and gratitude for his metamorphosis were palpable.
Jim’s journey and his rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-gratitude story are chronicled in his new book, “Metamorphosis in Black,” where he exposes with a genuine and self-deprecating honesty his voyage to the dark abyss of substance abuse, his struggle to emerge from that dimness and despair, his outward and inward success and triumph as a sober man, his relapse and return to the abyss, and his recent re-emergence—his flight out of the cocoon of dependence, desolation and despondency.
The book is a chronicle of a life of contrasts: from his escape from the jail of his inner-city youth to his time in jail; from his struggle to find meaning in his alcohol-saturated adulthood to his contentment and awareness in his golden years in Falmouth. From his life on the streets of New York to his travels to New Bedford, resulting in Jim’s eventual “metamorphosis in black” that led him to today’s day-at-a-time life on Falmouth Harbor, Jim’s tapestry of tumult is a lesson for all ages in the ravages of addiction and the blessings and opportunities of a sober life.
Jim’s journey began in Harlem, where he was raised by a strong but loving mother in a tight-knit but limiting neighborhood, where survival most assuredly meant violence. His book records in vivid detail his early years and presents a revealing look inside the self-obsession of the alcoholic mind—even before the fuel of alcohol was introduced. It is a fascinating self-analysis of great potential dashed by great struggles, of soaring hopes crushed by plunging anguishes.
He looks back at the scourge of heroin and other drugs in Harlem in the 1960s with sociological disdain, convinced that narcotic distribution in Harlem was part of a “diabolical plan” to “neutralize black empowerment” by unnamed conspirators. While this conclusion is not backed by any facts or empirical evidence in Jim’s book, it has certainly fueled his outlook today, as he is convinced that he was able to “escape the plan” of those cruel societal architects to enjoy the life he has today, with a firm and determined purpose to help others avoid his pitfalls.
With the burgeoning challenges of heroin addiction and the increasing frequency of deaths at the cruel and unrelenting hand of opiates in our community, Jim’s story is both timely and important. And that is, Jim believes, why his metamorphosis has brought him here to Falmouth. Attracted by what he calls the “lure and allure” of Falmouth, he looks with “wonderment and gratitude” at his newly adopted home, where his spot overlooking Falmouth Harbor provides him the freedom to spread his message of hope and recovery. And spread it he does. He travels widely throughout the commonwealth, selling books and sharing anecdotes on his failures so that others may succeed.
Jim penned his book when he got sober the most recent (and he hopes, one day at a time, the last) time, powered by a not heretofore seen energy and enthusiasm for a fresh chance to emerge from the cocoon. During his most recent bout with the disease of addiction, Jim became a recluse, forsaking family, friends, and even his professional chef d’oeuvre, the “Weekly Compass,” an independent newspaper he published in New Bedford and which drew wide acclaim, including a certificate of special recognition from then-Congressman Barney Frank.
Today, Jim is content simply speaking of his gratitude and his re-entry into life here in Falmouth, and his appreciation for the Miller House and Flynn House, local members of the Gosnold family of treatment centers, for providing him the time and place for his metamorphosis of temperance to blossom.
Jim Butler’s failures led him to misery. His successes led him to Falmouth. His book, available locally at Eight Cousins, provides us with the opportunity to learn from both.
(Mr. Clarkson may be contacted at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @TroyClarkson59.)