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.