“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.