THEY RIPPED OUT A TOOTH

I walk past the dentist’s office every single day. For years, I passed it by as I made my way to the train from my home, completely hungover and wondering how I could possibly make it through a day at work. It somehow disappeared from view during those drunken years and every once in a great while, I’d become aware of it. Usually, its existence resurfaced when I’d have a tinge of pain in a problem tooth. On a few occasions, a full blown infection would snap me back into reality. I’d happen to glance in the window and see people of all ages sitting, waiting. They were doomed. At any moment, their name would be called and they’d be led into a room where a sadistic monster would strap them down and begin ripping out their teeth, willy nilly.

When I was in junior high school, I was in a production of Little Shop of Horrors. I was a fat 13 year old that was cast as a 60-70 year old Jewish man that owned a flower shop. I was born to play this role, right? Made perfect sense. Another boy, who would later become my arch nemesis and rival in high school drama club, was cast as the dentist. In preparation for our parts, we watched the film version of the musical. I’ll never forget how terrified I was of Steve Martin and the awful things he was doing to Audrey and all of the innocent people who just wanted a fucking cavity filled. And aside from the occasional check ups I had as a younger child, the thought of having to get actual dental work performed has always flooded my mind with images of Orin Scrivello, DDS.

So for years and years, I turned my head. I refused to look at Park Dental and its lobby full of patients who were taking care of business and their oral health. Like so many things in my life during those dark, alcohol saturated years, I delayed. And when things would get a little too real and it seemed that perhaps I had an abscessed tooth, I’d somehow get my hands on antibiotics without having to go to the doctor. I worked with a woman who brought me back three rounds of amoxicillin from Honduras when she went for a family vacation. I used to work next door to a mom and pop pharmacy and somehow managed a friendship with the owner who would give me a 10 day supply when the tooth would flare up. And each time, I’d wash the pills down with copious amounts of alcohol, turn my head away from the dentist’s office as I passed, and the infection would subside. Problem solved. Until it became unsolved again and the whole process would start over once more.

The past few weeks have been a roller coaster of fear and anxiety. Crippling anxiety. Anxiety that, on a few occasions, made me wonder if my heart was going to get fucked up from how hard it seemed to be beating. I’ve been a bit paralyzed, you guys. I never really thought I had anxiety issues before getting sober and I suppose that’s no surprise. How would I have known? I was always drunk. And if there were any moments of perceived anxiety, I’d quickly make sure those got watered down in booze.

When I made the decision that it was time to go to the dentist, just picking up the phone to make the appointment took me about two weeks. I’d keep putting it off until tomorrow. I’d sit with their website up and my phone in my hand and then put it down and start doing something else. And once I finally did call, I began the slow and grinding battle of waiting and trying with all of my might to not cancel.

The initial visit came and went with very little to show for it. They took X-rays and I’m sure I made a fool of myself as I flinched at every minor movement they made while attempting to assess my situation. It was determined that I needed oral surgery on one tooth and an extraction on another. The specialist who needed to perform the procedures had an appointment available about one week later. Terrified, I took it and started the waiting game all over again.

I did my best to calm myself this past week. I downloaded and tried a self-guided meditation app that a friend exposed me to. It really did help and as I listened on the train with my eyes closed, I started to drift off and suddenly caught myself almost farting which quickly woke me back up again. Anxiety returned. I played through the looming visit over and over again in my mind. I pictured them yanking and realizing that I wasn’t numb enough. I imagined shooting pain through my entire body. I imagined blood pouring from my mouth. I entertained ideas of post operative infection that gets into my blood and kills me. This is where my head has been. Illogical and entirely unfounded, my fear has really gotten the best of me and kept me somewhat quiet as of late. Maybe you’ve noticed.

Sidenote: I had a person contact me calling into question why I haven’t posted anything of substance lately and why I’ve been slow to respond to comments on my previous posts. Well, the short answer is that I have a life I’m leading over here, too, you guys! I have come to really care about you all and love that you are here with me and we are doing this sobriety thing together. But shit does and will happen. I try to post as often as I can because it really helps me to externalize what’s going on. But obviously there will be times where that doesn’t happen. They also told me that it was a major turn off that I promoted the fact that my blog post about coming out was picked up by TheFix.com. I hope you all realize that the reason I did that was due to the fact that I wanted THE MESSAGE of the post to reach as many people as possible. I wanted people to know that they didn’t have to hide. If I was chasing celebrity and fame as has been insinutated, I’d probably go a different route other than writing a blog about being a big old drunk asshole. Just saying. 

The appointment was at 2:30PM yesterday. I forced myself to go into work for the first half of the day to keep myself distracted. I listened to The Bubble Hour episode on acceptance and did my best to accept the fact that I was about to be in a very uncomfortable situation but that it would soon pass. I went, they ripped out a fucking tooth, it was terrifying, but I’m still alive. There is more work to be done but I think now that I know what to expect, I can take on the rest with significantly less paranoia and fear. As I left the office with my mouth full of gauze and blood, I wanted to grab the old lady waiting in the lobby and scream I WENT TO THE GODDAMNED MOTHERFUCKING DENTIST, JANICE! 

We can do realllllly hard shit, you guys. We can conquer the world, one tooth extraction at a time. As long as we stay sober. Who is staying sober with me??

LOVE LOVE LOVE YOU ALL.

28 comments

  1. I’m staying sober with you, hon!!! For sure. I hate the dentist. I feel your anxiety. But you did it!! Good for you.

  2. With regard to your comments about some fallout over sharing the fact your post was picked up by theFix.com, I just wanted to reply that I think it’s awesome and am happy for you. I think we all start these sober blogs with the hope that someone will read them. Why else would we post this shit online, if we didn’t want people to read it? Much of it’s humiliating and very personal. I don’t consider you’re having noted this to be promoting yourself or your blog, but rather, enjoying the fact that your message is being identified with. And since I’ve been sober blogging, which is now about a month and a half, I follow maybe 6 or 7 blogs. You are by far the most prolific in terms of the number of posts you produce, and you’re shit cracks me up in addition to giving me another perspective on sobriety to relate to.

    1. Thank you! I really appreciate that. It was a weird comment they left. Like they had become possessive over me and my writing? Almost as if I was expected or required to deliver and I had a job to do that I wasn’t doing? Pretty honored that you include me in those 6-7 blogs you follow. That’s awesome and I appreciate it.

  3. I think its total bullshit that ANYONE would make you feel badly about being human. Clearly, this person needs some extra love or a good swift kick in the ass. You made it through that horrific dentist appointment though! Take care of yourself today and know that you are loved and ADMIRED for your work!

  4. first thing, who are these uptight nitwits going on about thefix?? who is calling you out on anything?? I love what you write and find you humble and honest and cool as shit. so I seriously get the dentist..did it all last year,after the first few times you can start to actually zen out in the chair and daydream,ok occasionally there is a tweak of pain but then you’ll find you can go back to creating broadway scenes in your head or whatevs..I’m with you!! xo

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I think any future visits to the dentist won’t be nearly as horrifying. I mean, I’m still going to hate it but I think I was mostly afraid of my own imagined idea of what it would be like.

  5. OMG your post made me laugh (and cringe!) I loathe the dentist. I once took my husband to get his wisdom teeth out and told the receptionist I would wait back in my car. They said, “no, you have to be in the lobby while we work on him.” (Really? What if he was going to call a taxi? Would they have to come and wait in the lobby?) Ugh..I had my laptop and I started to do some reading on it…and through the sweet anti-scepticy smell and the high-buzzing sounds I was actually able to relax. When his nurse came out and hour later and asked me to come back to the room so they could give me some post-surgery instructions, I actually felt empowered enough to do it!
    I walked behind the nurse to the room, (so far so good) but the minute she started talking about packing gauze in his holes I completely lost it. I got so faint that I literally had to lay ON my passed out husband on the dentist chair. It was a proud moment for me ;P

  6. See those of us who feel as if we know & care about you do not like it at all that someone’s bullying our friend!! You have a lot of people that absolutely love your posts & look forward to them WHENEVER!! It’s helping your sobriety & ours too! We are all in this together…. ❤

  7. Don’t EVER watch the movie “The Dentist” with Corban Bernsen. He rips out teeth while muttering Decay, Decay!!
    Haters are going to hate. It is fantastic that Kirsten Johnson tweeted your blog and you were featured on The Fix.
    Do what you do, I personally think you rock and are deserving of it all. You are a great writer and funny as shit!
    Staying sober with ya! 8 months tomorrow. Bam take that Dixie Lee Liquors! Their profits are down 2420 dollars!

  8. Oh boy, I hate going to the dentist, and most people do. Most times that I leave the office I feel like a child, an irresponsible child. I’ve been going thru a few root canals and it’s not fun. Not a lot of pain, but a lot of time in the chair. I’m with you all the way on feeling that dread….
    There was a while there I’d call the dentist to “re-schedule” my appointment – often. She finally called me, offered me xanax because of my fair. Then she informed me if I called to “re-schedule” one more time, I’d be charged the cancellation fee. (Code for scardy cat) as far as I’m concerned.
    Keep up your hard work on the follow throughs. Well done!

  9. I’m guessing that the ‘how dare you promote your writing’ thing is coming from a place of envy. I was envious! How come this, this UPSTART newbie gets his writing picked up! But what I really mean is ‘waaaaah, what about meeeeeeee?’, obviously, so I know better than to type it. Just know that you’re doing something pretty cool, and it looks pretty admirable from over here.

  10. “Don’t go changing to try and please me”…I’m singing those words to you! Your blog is real and honest and You get to write what you want, when you want and how often you want. PS. going to the dentist sucks! Bravo for you!

  11. Hi. The dentist is terrifying. When we were kids they seemed almost barbaric. I blame them for making me so afraid. I am sober with you and will always be! 122 days and counting on more.

  12. When I first moved to Utah, I was 11 yrs old. My family found the first dentist in the phone book. His name was Dr. Day. I didn’t like what I felt when I was in his office and I just knew something was off about this guy. I was too young for anyone to believe. A hunch from an 11yr old about a crazy dentist? Yeah right! Anyway, the first filling he gave me was terrible. My teeth would not sit flush when I bit down. He told me “don’t worry, it will wear down”. Over the next few years we had found out that his license was fake and that he gave another man aids from using the same tools from someone who was infected. That man died. He was sent to prison and is still there I believe. For 20 years I’ve been deathly afraid of every single dentist and being an active heroin addict for almost 15 years, my teeth weren’t in the best shape when I finally got long term sobriety. I have since found an amazing dentist who is a magician with his tools and is just awesome at dentistry. Today Ive finally started getting my smile back to par. Glad to hear you are pushing through your fears. It is definitely worth it! 😀

  13. Yay go you! When I has a tooth out they refused. Apparently if you’re hysterical they won’t do it for ethical reasons!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s