The Bandaged Place

“Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you.” Rumi

“By attending to the bandaged place—embracing the pain I had been running from—I began to trust myself and my life.” Tara Brach

So that pretty much sums up where I’ve been and why this blog paused and why I let relationships dissolve. Again. I stopped looking at my fucking bandaged place.

Who wants to sit there and look at their bandaged place? How disgusting. Who wants to pay attention to wounds, bloody and tender? Sick. No thanks. I’m good.

Remember how I used to pay attention A LOT and all the time? I was like LICKING my bandaged place. So gross. I was like putting my bandaged place under a microscope and poking at it with a stick. Somehow that stopped being something I wanted to do.

I’m still doing the postmortem to figure out where things changed, but I’m trying to focus more on now and this and here.

But, okay, I did stop paying attention. In fact, I repeated the exact process that led to a relapse for me in 2008. Miraculously, I am now clawing my way back before it ever came down to a drink. My sober calendar is still ticking and displaying an honest count of 2 years, 5 months, and 23 days. But we all know sober is not recovering. 

I could be drowning in shame right now about wasting so much time not growing—

But I am practicing RADICAL ACCEPTANCE as best I can, okay? I am not defective. This is just what happened and this is the place from which I take my next steps. I turn my gaze back to my bandaged places and I stop running.

And now: How to be vigilant without being anxious? How to pay attention without trying to control? How to think about what happened without allowing shame to creep in?

Like a real relapse that ends in drink, this emotional backslide came seemingly out of nowhere. It started with a growing anxiety issue that I had a hard time treating. This went on for a long while. I never understood what people meant when they said they had an anxiety problem. Like an asshole, I probably told people to JUST RELAX AND BREATHE. Well, now I get it. Relaxing and breathing aren’t even things that exist in the midst of full-blown anxiety and panic.

I combatted that anxiety with self-imposed distraction. I delved further into my theatrical writing and I justified stepping away from recovery momentarily to complete graduate school applications last fall. Then my job spiraled out of control and I found myself trapped in a very hostile work environment. And suddenly all of those distractions became my reality and my life. And there wasn’t room for anything else.

Poof. It was like I was teleported to a new version of my existence. One that was empty and painful and hard. And one that would eventually end in drinking if I hadn’t started seeing clearly. It was like an abduction. My world shrank so quickly.

I’m walking through this new and bleak landscape a year later, and even though I’m not drinking, I’m also not really happy. Not yet. And it’s okay that I’m not happy in this exact moment. I know that I can be. Seeing things for what they are is the only way I know how to move forward. This is where I start from. And I already feel 100x better by being here and typing these things. I’m ready to go back to where I was before, and further still.

This whole return to what’s important actually started on July 4th of this year when I resigned from my job. It was a long time coming and while the actual decision to pull the trigger was somewhat random, it’s obvious now that I had been preparing for this for a long while. I honestly think if I would have stayed where I was, I would have eventually gone back out.

I spent years saving up money while things at work became progressively more unbearable. And I don’t mean just unbearable in the sense that I didn’t like it. No. This was quite literally breaking me. I was in a constant state of fight-or-flight, unable to sleep, unable to feel. I was a theatre major doing high-level accounting work 60 hours a week that no one in their right mind should have hired me to do in the first place.

I was so out of my element, but it turns out I’m really good at shape shifting. They thought I was doing fine. Excellent, in fact. Really, I was losing my mind. And I don’t mean that hyperbolically. I legit felt crazy and had issues solving basic problems and couldn’t remember things. I would get dizzy. I would go to the bathroom and hyperventilate in stalls. And then I tried not caring to see if that helped. And then things got worse because I wasn’t staying on top of my work so I’d have panic attacks about being behind when I was the one who made that happen.

But no one else ever noticed. It was a secret kept between me, my partner, and my psychiatrist. The topic had been brought up in sessions about finding new work. Well, I went even further and decided to find no work at all.

Without any plans, I gave them about two months notice because a sudden departure would be traumatic to their daily operations and I thought it best to not set all of my bridges on fire. I endured the two months, getting worse and worse the entire time, and finally walked out the door to freedom at the end of August.

I am unemployed.

This is not a bad thing.

I desperately needed this time. I am embracing this time. I’m going to the gym. And reading things I want to read. And trying not to pay attention to the election.

And now I’m doing things like writing this. And reading Tara Brach. And looking up meetings nearby. Dipping in toes before I plunge.

I went to Paris last week and stayed sober. That’s probably another post. I have pictures. Paris is beautiful. They have a lot of wine, but who cares.

It’s strange. I’m living this temporary life of leisure, but it’s amazing how everything in my mind and body tries to fight against it. I wake up anxious as if I have a million things to do when I don’t. I create a false sense of inadequacy, chastising myself for not getting more done throughout the day. I should be reading more, writing more, doing more, I say to myself. I tell myself that for someone who has all day long to do whatever he wants, I’m certainly not taking full advantage of it, am I?

See? I think it’s time I get back to my Tara Brach book.

This is where I begin again. Glad to be here with you.

 

VANISHED

I haven’t been working on myself.

I still haven’t taken a drink since 2014, but this separation from an active recovery process is no longer sustainable.

It makes me feel alone.

First post back here. Short. Putting words down.

Trying to figure out what to say next.

Hi blog.

WALGREENS TARTAR SAUCE

This isn’t even remotely recovery related, but who cares?

I have always been fascinated with looking at the WordPress stat page. It tells you all about who is seeing your posts. There is this one section that shows you what people actually typed into a search engine that caused them to find your blog.

Some of the results are obvious, and you can tell the person is intentionally looking for my page.

Other results are hilarious because I do remember mentioning certain things in posts that clearly directed them to my page by mistake. They probably get to my blog with a big WTF?!

And then there are the fucking WEIRD and oftentimes twisted searches that leave me dumbfounded and I have absolutely no clue how or why it brought them here.

Some of my favorites and some of the more weird ones: 

how to hurry up and poop
scary oprah
when your tummy rumbles does that mean hangover is gone
getting fucked by road recovery guy gay
fuck anxiety hangovers
hyperventilating to become sober
swinging from the chandelier suiciding
toothpaste withdrawal
why boiled egg can ruin your life
i want to krump but I’m skinny
is sia holding on for tonight about depression
people near my house want to fuck
get chandelier out of my head
walgreens tartar sauce
6 year hangover blog pilsbury
oprah fucked hard
123, 123 drink, 123, 123, drink, throw em back till i lose count. gaaaaaayyy!
i peed when he fucked me
And here is the complete list just in case you are looking for a band name……
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
vacation3

THE MOST BORING PERSON IN THE HUDSON VALLEY

Let me get this straight. You want me to wake up at 5AM without a hangover, pack up a rental car with suitcases responsibly packed a day or more in advance, then drive 3 hours through the beautiful terrain of the Hudson Valley until I reach a cozy bed and breakfast in a house built in the 1870’s? Fine. I can do all that.

I suppose you also want me to stroll lightheartedly through the quaint vacation town, browsing antiques and old bookstores for hours on end, and I also suppose you’d like me to do all of that without spending a moment plotting, scheming, or obsessing over how I can convince the boyfriend that 10AM isn’t at all too early for a celebratory glass of something.

You’d like me to luxuriate luxuriously on cafe terraces while sipping espresso and eating a delicious, flaky pastry filled with tangy, tart lemon curd, chewing slowly, not wanting the mouth orgasm to end, watching the peaceful wanderers wander by in pursuit of the same contented Sunday afternoon.

And finally, you’d like me to end the day with a delectable meal at a lovely restaurant, all without having chugged a tallboy before leaving the house. You’d like me to decline the wine list, only order stupid food, and leave completely satisfied with what was one of the best meals I’ve ever had? Then you’d like me to cuddle up with the boys, watch movies, and drift off to sleep by 10PM, waking up by 6AM the next morning fully rested and hangover free, ready to start another day of peace and tranquility without the constant chaotic chase of that next sip, that next dip into a dive for a whisky/beer combo to propel me forward miserably.

You want me to have a sober vacation, but more importantly, you want me to LIKE IT?

That’s exactly what I did over Memorial Day Weekend.

It was marvelous. 

I took this very same trip in the fall of 2013. It was a disgusting mess. I packed the very morning we left because I was too drunk the night before to get anything productive done. I drove with a pounding headache, not feeling normal until we made it to our destination and were able to grab lunch (a beer with a side of sandwich). I stumbled through the day, counting down the hours until dinner would arrive and heavier drinking could begin. Fuck antiques. Fuck strolling. Fuck serenity. Me want vodka. ME WANT DEATH AND DESTRUCTION.

In 2013, we made stops at liquor stores all weekend long, him sitting in the car while I ran in to buy large bottles of things for us both to drink, as well as mini-bottles he didn’t know about that were just for me. The minis would be stashed in my suitcase so I could stealthily sneak away, downing a few here and there, hoping to keep the levels in the “public” alcohol bottles located in the kitchen from dropping down too quickly, thus concealing the true quantities I was actually consuming. Side note: These empty minis would be found one year later in the same suitcase as I packed for another trip. I would sneak them out of the house to the trash, the shame flooding back as fresh as ever. 

That trip in 2013 was total misery. I was in a constant state of sloppy, painful drunkenness peppered with extended periods of sloppy, painful hangover. The drunks and the hangovers blended seamlessly with one another until I was never able to tell if I was okay or not okay. Nothing was enjoyable.

When we returned home that year I felt as if I had been through hell. I needed another vacation to recover. And drink more.

I DON’T HAVE TO DO THAT EVER AGAIN.

I can live. I can stare at the sky and smile. I can savor time, tastes, smells. I can become consciously aware of sun on my face, of the antiquity and inevitable history built into old objects that I hold in my hand. I can feel the goosebumps running down my spine as my boyfriend grabs my fingers and squeezes while we wander down cobblestone streets, stopping for extended moments to admire the architecture and manicured gardens.

Before I got sober, and even for some time after I put down the drink, this all seemed impossible. During early sobriety I could hardly comprehend watching a movie on Friday night without a cocktail. I’m supposed to SIT? Stare? Watch? That’s IT? You must be out of your goddamned mind.

But I made myself sit there and watch the movie. It sucked. It still sucked the next time I did it, too, but less so. The only way anything started to make sense again was by LIVING. Experiencing. Trying. Being uncomfortable without grabbing for my medicine. When they tell you not to give up before the miracle happens, that actually MEANS something. Actively choosing to endure the discomfort when every cell in your body is screaming for a drink? That makes you stronger. That is lifting weights with your sobriety muscles. It hurts. You’ll be sore the next day. But you’ll never get stronger without it.

If you’re struggling, just know that with some time and effort, you too can be the most boring person in the Hudson Valley. You’ll love it.