CHAPTER 18

THE IMPORTER

I was a dropout before I started. The National Center for Stuttering wouldn't take me on as a patient because they felt my stress level was too high to do the Air Flow Technique effectively. But having seen the technique work (on me) during my interview, I knew I had to take the Workshop. So NCS agreed to have a therapist monitor me for a few weeks to see if I could handle it. I started the training a month later.

My life up till then was a constant inner battle of trying to hide the fact I was a stutterer from everyone - somewhere along the way I got the impression people looked upon us as mentally deficient. So at all costs I had to hide my speech problem and became a "closet stutterer". How successful I was didn't really matter; it was hardly worth the effort. In fact had I come out in the open and admitted to myself and others I was in fact a stutterer, life would have been a whole lot easier for me, and later on it would have been easier to control. I didn't get involved in lengthy conversations; I avoided every talking situation possible; I didn't order what I wanted in restaurants; people always phoned for me; school was a worse horror for me because I wasn't very apt at substituting one word for another at that time. And worst of all, when I did stutter, which was more often than I like to admit, it left terrible pains in my body and mind, and left me feeling helpless.

Of course, I went to all the speech helpers and quacks available at the time, from therapists to hypnotists. Nothing helped. To avoid talking in certain situations, I would go as far as forcing a self-inflicted sore throat so I could legitimately cancel any speaking assignments. I could write and make a speech without stuttering if the vowel sound was hooked on to a consonant making it one word - like: "Can I havea canof beer? I can recall hundreds of stories in my youth and mature years where, as a result of my stuttering I did not lead a normal life - and I was very bitter about. It never fully left me.

I was all through with speech doctors and their cures so even the NCS method held no interest for me - except one night while coming up from the basement I called my wife's name, but I never got it out. Instead I fell over backwards on the stairs going into a beautiful spasm and nearly breaking my neck. I just grabbed the bannister in time. That convinced me to give it one more shot. Her name? Ellen!

I can never forget when my therapist took me into a cafeteria and encouraged me to use the Air Flow Technique speaking to total strangers. For the first time in my life I spoke without faking it and without stuttering. I put my arms around him and couldn't speak because of the excitement of being able to speak. I will never forget that moment. 


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