VENOMOUS POISON: A STORY OF ADDICTS & ALIENS
Hello there! Please allow me to introduce myself – My name is Ben Morgan, and this will be my first article with Comic Watch, and I’m absolutely honored by their welcoming me to the party. I’ve been a Comic Fan since 5th Grade, most specifically Marvel, as the first single issue I fell in love with was “Amazing Spider-Man” #347; there was a frighteningly-awesome monster on the cover, all black and white and teeth, with a big gnarly version of Spider-Man’s symbol on his chest. Oh, and the coolest part? He was holding Spidey’s skull in his clawed hand! To a kid 9-10 years old, whose imagination was just beginning to run wild, Venom was a shining beacon of “I need to know who this is right now”, and the Symbiotic Partnership between Alien Costume and Eddie Brock became a personal obsession from that point on.
Knowing all that, please also know this: My name is Benjamin Morgan, and I am an Alcoholic. Yes, this isn’t going to just be a story about one Comic Fan’s love affair with a Klyntar; I’m going to get deep into my personal struggles with alcohol, how it changed me as a person, and how I was able to overcome my own demons – Which were fueled by booze and depression – Thanks to those close to me sharing an unbreakable bond. These experiences are going to be contrast with those of The Venom Symbiote itself, and how the Alien has grown, learned, and matured since its arrival on Earth bonded to Peter Parker.
Specifically, the one issue that inspired this in-depth analysis of both Character and Self was released fairly recently – “Venom” #154 (2016), Written by Mike Costa with Art by Paulo Sequeira. It’s a favorite because it’s a rare story told from the perspective of the Symbiote itself, while Eddie Brock spends most of it sleeping; there’s been a few like this, but none I feel done as well.
To catch you up on what’s happening here, Eddie and the Alien have just recently been reunited, after Venom spent a few years bouncing around between different Hosts; to make a very long story short, many of the experiences the Symbiote went through while away from Brock did a lot of emotional damage to it. Shortly after re-bonding with Eddie, Venom began having horrifying mood-swings, randomly attacking those familiar to it, or when fighting crime, pushing it over the line and causing far more harm than necessary. With help from quasi-allies within the Alchemax Corporation, it was determined the Symbiote was in fact suffering from an illness related to a form of withdrawal; jumping from Host to Host who each had drastically different personalities altered the Alien’s brain-chemistry as an abuser of multiple forms of narcotics and alcohol may experience, resulting in primal outbursts of rage.
One of these attacks resulted in a Priest being badly wounded after Eddie initially went to him for a moment of peace; when Venom took control of their shared body, he made sure Eddie didn’t remember even coming to the Church, and Brock chalked it up to an illness-related blackout. Watching TV as Eddie slept, the Alien enjoyed Medical Dramas, allowing it to learn the terminology related to its bonding with a Host; it’s also curious about “The Doctors” as Eddie’s been doing to Alchemax for a special treatment they developed, which helps keep the Symbiote calm. Problem being, the Alien itself doesn’t believe it’s sick and resents Brock for taking this medicine, which is entirely similar to how an Addict struggles with denial and the refusal to accept help. As a recovering Alcoholic myself, I can say firsthand that even when you know you have a problem, it’s such a personal fight that letting anyone in feels both embarrassing and like you’re giving up, which is the farthest thing from the truth. Unfortunately, when your mind has been drained of anything but the perceived “need” for your drug of choice, logic and reason are hard to come by.
And so, Venom begins reflecting on its past since first meeting Peter Parker and coming to Earth; both the good and the bad experiences and feelings it learned as the Symbiote first bonded to and became Spider-Man’s “partner”, to the fear and rejection it felt as Peter discovered it was actually alive and panicked, forcing it off his body and into a Containment Vault. When Eddie is awake, the Alien psychically “suggests” to him that they travel to a known crime-ridden area of the City; Brock isn’t aware of this and simply believes it a coincidence. Seeing a group of armed robbers head into a Convenience Store, Eddie heads down and does his thing as Venom, making sure the Clerk spreads the word that The Lethal Protector is back in town; this reminds the Symbiote how good it feels being a Hero, which makes it think back to the times it decidedly was NOT heroic. The dramatic change in highs and lows during recovery can be maddening; one minute you could feel like it’s all going to be OK and the Sun is shining just for you, but then a hint of a bad memory pops into your brain, and that simple flashback of misery can be enough to send you spiraling right back down. When you’ve relied on a foreign substance to do your feeling for you for so long, it can take a very long time to find your own way again.
While bonded to the criminals Mac Gargan (The Scorpion) and Lee Price (Maniac), Venom was able to fully indulge in its violent side; free and encouraged to kill and eat whomever and whatever its Hosts pleased, with very little restraint or repercussion. This sudden contrast in emotions confuses the Alien, as it doesn’t quite understand why it felt good to both be a Hero and a Villain, for completely different reasons, when it knows basic right from wrong. When Eddie attempts to sell the TV the next day because he’s broke, the Symbiote intensely disagrees; however, it’s an old TV so the Pawn Shop won’t take it, which makes Venom happy but all the more puzzled by these conflicting feelings. Due to the Alien’s simplified way of thought, bad is bad whether it’s an argument or killing someone, so because it thinks of Eddie as “good”, Venom believes there must be something wrong as going against Eddie’s wishes had to be “bad”. The Symbiote helps Brock go to sleep early that night, so it can watch TV and further ponder its new feelings. Living in a state of near-constant drunkenness for almost four years, something I found myself doing more and more was excusing any and all bad behavior on the booze. I knew the truth that deep-down, this was me lashing-out at the World for what I had perceived as being wronged, when in fact I just didn’t want to face my mistakes and my faults and just keep letting the alcohol do the talking, and before long, I let it do just about everything. There was very little of Ben left by the time I finally stopped drinking, and I was lucky enough to see that before it was too late.
Continuing its internal back-and-forth, the Symbiote thinks back to its time bonded to Eugene “Flash” Thompson as Agent Venom, truly fighting as a Superhero for the first time; alongside The Avengers, training Mania, and becoming a Guardian of The Galaxy and Agent of The Cosmos. How could Venom be “bad” if it had also done so much good? One thing the Alien did remember from that time, was that Heroes don’t hide from anything; especially their mistakes, which Flash confronted many times during that Series as a recovering alcoholic. Finding something or someone to hold on to, a “Light At The End of The Tunnel” as it were, can honestly be both the hardest but necessary thing one needs to do when it seems the walls are closing in. When all hope seems lost, when the poison has flooded your veins, you have to constantly fight with yourself until you can finally look in the mirror and understand there’s something better to live for. Even if it’s not even your own life right away, if you discover a purpose of self and being during the darkest of days, that metaphysical hand can pull you out of the abyss. By helping someone else, you can slowly regain pieces of the soul you feel you’ve lost along the way, to where hopefully you one day feel whole enough to begin helping yourself as well. But that day will never come if you keep hiding from your torment and struggles; only by facing them will you ever own them.
Piloting Eddie’s body as he sleeps, Venom goes to a Hospital, to visit the Priest the Symbiote attacked during its withdrawal-rage. At first the Priest is naturally terrified, but the Symbiote quickly puts the Man of God at ease with its obviously-childlike demeanor and body language. Both apologizing and admitting it has a problem, the Symbiote gains some measure of understanding and peace from the Priest, also being reminded of the actual care and love it has for Eddie, and that sometimes even love hurts. Venom realizes now that love and trust must sometimes be earned once you’ve done bad things, and although the Alien’s methods of doing so may still be a touch misguided, its heart is certainly in the right place. Redemption and salvation never come easy, and can truly be the most difficult part of recovery. Those you’ve hurt during your intoxicated haze may accept your apologies and become part of your support system, others may hold a grudge for far longer until you’ve proven yourself in their eyes to have become better, while a few may never forgive your sins against them regardless of explanations or future good deeds. This is just one more part of the long, difficult road ahead of a recovering addict, and all one can do is respect, learn, and move onward.
Anyone who has dealt with any kind of abuse and/or addiction – The emotional gaslighting and brainwashing that comes from abusive relationships, abusing drugs and alcohol, etc. knows the conflict that comes with it. Are the bad people actually wrong, or are they right and you’re the one messing-up? Are you just as guilty as they are because you stay with them? Do you have anywhere else to go if you leave? Are you as bad as they are for sometimes enjoying doing the bad things, too? I know I shouldn’t spend my money on that, but if I don’t, I’ll get sick or hurt someone. If I hurt someone when I’m messed-up, it’s just the stuff’s fault. And then when you FINALLY choose to stop all that and leave or quit, or get forced to do so by getting put in treatment or jail, then you get to have withdrawals; the intense, uncomfortable, emotionally-draining pain and irritation of knowing all you need it one fix to stop feeling so terrible, but also realizing if you give in, you start all the way back over again. Be it going back to a toxic relationship or picking up a bottle after being 10 years sober, we can all get addicted to that “quick fix”, that demon in the back of our minds that tells us “Just one won’t hurt” or that we can “Quit any time”. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of placing the blame on the substance rather than the self, and admit you the person has the problem with the poison, not the poison having a problem with you.
We as the Addicts/Abusers have to one day look in the mirror, and decide if we’re going to admit there’s a problem and work on changing that, or let the dark take control and keep us on that wicked path. Do we sincerely apologize for our mistakes and misdeeds, making a real attempt to atone for them and earn back the love, respect, and trust of those we care about and hurt along the way? Or do we retreat to the easier, toxic familiarity of allowing someone or something to take control, regardless of the harm it does to ourselves and others?
So, to say I see a bit of familiarity in the Venom Symbiote’s struggles is an understatement – I’ve been to the bottom and spent a lot of time there, and almost didn’t make it back out. The temptation always lingers, every single day, because of how easy having a bottle would (temporarily) numb my physical pain and calm my mind for a few hours and allow me to focus and open-up and be the fun, dancing maniac I was in my 20’s. But all of that is surface-dressing for the damage it does to my mind and emotional state, what it does to my inner organs as I’ve already put them through enough abuse, and for how I act either while drunk or withdrawing from it towards my loved ones. “Goofy Ben” is a very, very thin line between The Demon, and the fear of that is enough to keep me from drinking ever again, as well as to continue taking my medication and learning to live with myself, as myself, in this ridiculous World I’ve found myself in. And while trying to feel as if I belong in this Reality may never, ever happen, the point is I’m still attempting to figure out just who the Hell I even am separate from all these negative factors while simultaneously learning more about the different people I share it all with; it’s a never-ending journey, but it’s one I feel is full of small but constant improvements.
And though I’ll undoubtedly have my moments of doubt and hate and complete mistrust of myself and others, as I imagine we all go through,
but I finally have a conscious understanding of what exactly that means and how to get back out of it again. No more “pits of despair” or blocking-out years of my life, but hopefully a forward direction where I can quite literally re-introduce myself to all those I care for someday, for the first time through eyes that can see beyond himself. And without those folks in my life that stood by and never gave-up on me, who always saw that tiny bit of Ben peeking-out from behind The Demon, it wouldn’t have been possible. They are my Lights At The End of The Tunnel, or to put it more appropriately…
I am the Eddie Brock; my Friends & Family are my Symbiote – We Are Venom.
Thank you so much for reading, and joining me on this very personal journey – Never be afraid to ask for help, regardless of your fight. There is always someone out there willing to listen, even when it seems impossible, there will always be an outreached hand in the dark. None of us need to be alone with our pain. Take care of yourselves and each other, and keep the bonds between you strong.
Venomous Poison: A Story of Addicts & Aliens
User Review( votes)