DELI SANDWICHES AND PANIC ATTACKS

Hi everyone. By a show of hands, how many of ya’ll eat food?? OMG me too! How funny! We’re like twins.

So we watched the Tony Awards last night because I’m a homosexual and also because our friend was nominated for her role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. SHE WON! No one was surprised and we were all very happy for her because it’s such an honor and also she now has something to keep papers from blowing off her desk. Like any television awards show gathering goes, there was enough food to feed like three Paula Deens. What’s the plural of Paula Deen? Paula Die? It was a massive spread of maple bacon flavored potato chips, crackers and hummus, salami and cheese and bread and bean dip and German chocolate cake. So obviously I put all of those things into the hole in my face and swallowed them just because they were there. Excess and thoughtless consumption does not stop at alcohol, my friends. And I really feel secure enough in my sobriety to take on healthy eating now. So today is that day. I woke up feeling genuinely unwell from all of the shit I put into my body. BUT I DIDN’T DRINK. So victory is mine. One of my roommates was tipping back gin mixed with stuff. She had two. The second one took her just over two hours to drink which really pissed me the fuck off. At one point, something crazy happened on the show (I don’t remember what) and everyone started yelling OH MY GOD and other various expressions of shock and anger so I used it as an opportunity to yell at her for drinking like a sloth in slow motion. “OH MY GOD AHHHHHH!!” I screamed along with everyone else while staring directly at her. It felt really good to secretly scream at someone. The first 10 minutes of the gathering was awkward. I’m used to drinking in such situations. Even though we have on many occasions sat in the living room chatting or watching television since I’ve been sober, the mere addition of a scheduled event like an award show suddenly transformed what has grown comfortable over the past few months into a very clear reminder that the work is just beginning. It was a very low key test that I passed with flying colors and a food hangover and was a fitting end to a weekend that was a very mixed bag of happenings and feelings.

On Saturday, me and the boyfriend went to our friend’s dance show. Dance is really interesting to me for a variety of reasons. But it occurred to me while I was watching the program that dance is the perfect artistic metaphor for living in only this one moment. Painting, writing, film. They all leave an impression. They all leave a visible reference point of the brush strokes that came before. The text is on paper and various parts can be referenced as quickly as moving your eye to another part of the page. Fast forward or rewind a film to re-experience a moment or scene. But dance (live theatre, too, but not as much) is fleeting and melts away instantly. As I watched the choreography unfold, I became very aware that my attention was only focused on the phrase or movement happening at that exact point in time. I wasn’t actively trying to remember what had just come before or what would come next. There was absolutely no time for that. All I knew is that her leg was in the air right now and now it’s gone and it will never be in the air the same way again. And as soon as you process that image, it dies forever. I was very calm and reflective and began transcending time and space but then I heard what sounded like someone opening a large deli sandwich wrapped in butcher paper.

I turned and looked towards the source of the sound and it was an elderly woman opening a large deli sandwich wrapped in butcher paper. I was shocked how quickly my mood shifted from peace to contempt. It took her several minutes to get the sandwich out of its wrapper and a cacophony of angry shushes and crinkling heavy duty paper went on for what seemed like hours. My blood was boiling. I have absolutely no patience for people rudely interrupting the experiences of others in public spaces where SILENCE is just common sense. It’s disrespectful to the performers and to those who paid the admission price. Finally the sound stopped. My blood pressure dropped and I began reconnecting with the piece. THEN THE BITCH STARTED OPENING ANOTHER GODDAMNED DELI SANDWICH. Or maybe it was the same sandwich and she was trying to get the other half that she was probably planning on saving for after the show on the bus ride home but the turkey was really good and she thought WHAT THE HELL Y.O.L.O. and just fucking went for it. This paper crumpling session lasted even longer than the first and again I felt my heart pounding and my jaw clenching. AND IT WOULDN’T STOP. The crumpling sound went on for the next 10 minutes until the intermission. I think she ate 9 sandwiches during that time and I completely missed the show because of my rage. Several people spoke to her and the ushers during intermission and she actually left the show of her own accord. I assume she went to get more sandwiches. It just made me so upset that I allowed another person to emotionally derail me so drastically. And I recognize that it was enough to upset anyone BUT my anger and stress from the situation WERE NOT proportionate to the event. I realized that very quickly. My pulse shouldn’t be racing and my jaw shouldn’t hurt because an old woman didn’t have manners. While I’m becoming more aware of what I’m feeling, I still have a hard time talking myself down from ledges and find myself on said ledges when I shouldn’t be. It wasn’t THAT big of a deal. But it felt like the end of the world.

We left after the show and had time to kill before seeing another show later that evening. We walked around the city looking for a place to eat and eventually found a yummy Mexican restaurant. The meal was delicious and there was no talk of alcohol. Last time I put my foot in my mouth and tried to assure the boyfriend that he could have wine when he didn’t even want to. This time I just kept my mouth shut and we had water and Diet Coke.

We got to the theatre early to pick up our tickets and wait in line since the seating was general admission. And then it happened. A panic attack. NOT AGAIN. This was the third that I have had over the course of that past two months but usually they are precipitated by a series of events that creates anxiety like at work. This particular attack came after hours of calm. Surely I wasn’t still being affected by sandwich lady? I got very hot, began to sweat, and told my boyfriend I’d be right back. I walked around the corner and sat on a stoop. My heart was racing, I felt a sense of doom, my breathing became difficult, and I employed the advice I was given from prior episodes which included very deliberate and focused breathing. audibly AHHHING upon exhale, bending over slightly at the waist, and putting myself back into the last remembered moment of peace which was sitting at the restaurant. After about 5 minutes, it passed. I went back to the line. Boyfriend was obviously concerned and asked if we should leave. I told him no and tried to remain calm. We watched the show without incident and went home. He’s very supportive but I can’t help but sometimes become very self-conscious about the things he might be thinking about all that’s going on. Does he think I’m crazy? Does he think I’m weird? Does he wish he didn’t have to deal with this? I got into some trouble with him about a week ago by asking those questions directly TO him rather than just thinking them. He was patient at first but eventually snapped and said, “You really have to stop asking me those things. I told you that I’m here for you no matter what.” And I believe him. Except for the times when maybe I don’t. I have no reason to think otherwise but insecurity runs deep and cannot be fixed overnight.

I woke up Sunday exhausted and contemplated skipping the meeting I attend called Morning Medicine. A quick affirmation from folks on The Booze Free Brigade was all I needed. I love that I can log in there and basically tell everyone that I don’t want to go to my meeting and then dozens of people tell me that I should and why. It’s an invaluable resource. It’s mostly incredible women but there are a few men. Meeting was great. The speaker was phenomenal. Then I walked down the street and got my hair cut. As I walked in and sat down, I thought back to my days of actively drinking. I remember how difficult such mundane and basic tasks were. Waking up on Sunday usually meant feeling like shit. The thought of getting dressed and taking the five minute walk to Estella’s Hair Salon would have petrified me. The idea of having to sit there while she tries to talk to me? Fucking forget it. It was a monumental task back then. Nothing was easy. Not even the easy things. But there I sat calmly discussing the weather and her grandchildren. It was nice. Towards the end of the cut, I found myself eyeing a pill container sitting against the mirror at her station. Various pills in various compartments. I wondered what each was. I wondered if there were any narcotics. Vicodin? Perocet? What would that be like to take one of those pills? How would I go about stealing one if I really wanted to? Would it feel good? Probably, yeah. I paid and gave her a good tip. I walked home obsessing about my brief obsession with pills that weren’t mine. I didn’t even do pills in the past. Drinking was my thing. But my monster shape shifted briefly and those thoughts really freaked me out.

So there were hiccups over the past 48 hours but guess what, you guys? Still sober. When I have a wonky day, that’s all it is. It’s just a wonky day. Wonky doesn’t mean drinky. And when I have a panic attack and sweat like big fat pig? I’m just sweating like a big fat pig. That’s all it is. How would drunk sweaty fat pig be the better option? It wouldn’t.

I hope you all have a wonderful sober day.

8 comments

  1. Thanks for the post,I couldn’t stop laughing.I too have panic attacks ,as well as my 3 kids.They just suck and we’ve all realized booze releaves them in the beginning,then the next day I’m hiding like a taco on the couch in my blanket.I feel I’m so wound tight that if I drink(I chug) I’m like a monkey out of a cage swinging from the chandelier because I feel free from anxiety.

    1. Yes. It takes a long time of doing the opposite of what we’ve been doing before it starts feeling normal. As long as we keep picking up a drink when the feelings come, the longer we remain enslaved.

  2. I wonder how many alcoholics have panic disorders and use drinking as a way to “bring it down a notch”?

    1. Probably a lot. I didn’t have panic attacks while drinking and rarely noticed any severe anxiety because I never had a chance to feel it. I think what’s going on is that I’m experiencing what was happening all along but it was entirely muted by drinking. It probably feels a lot worse than it really is because I have no idea how to deal with it. But I’m learning.

  3. I totally am someone who used drinking to numb panic attacks. They got really bad for a while after I quit drinking, but now I’m 9 months into this sobriety thing and I haven’t had one for a few weeks. I love your writing — you make me LOL for realz.

  4. I get terrible anxiety, chest pain type….made worse not better from the sauce. I still need xanax for the attacks I can’t breathe my way out of. I used drinking to relieve it, but my anxiety the day after was worse.

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