Making Sense of Feelings:
March 2015 comes with a slew of action items: tax season, work projects, various bills, house cleaning, car maintenance, family issues, more bills, and apartment lease renewal.
The before mentioned list doesn’t include the most important aspect of my life, the reason for my existence…Lila. Her name was left off the list on purpose because she isn’t some mere robotic task, like a bill or apartment lease–she is what remains when I wish away all that is stressful from my thought process. She isn’t on a list at all—or something that I have classified as an obligation or stressor—she is my teammate, my best buddy and a part of me forever and ever.
Lila is the beam of light, a north star so to speak, that guides me through the some-times dark and staggering trails of life. The before mentioned tasks, if I let them, can become all consuming, like thorn bushes that now cover a once clear forest trail. I have found that, for me, writing is what keeps things in perspective—it is a way for me to clear the trails within my thought process so that I don’t stray too far off of the right path. And Lila, my north star, keeps me moving in the right direction. Life is full of roses and thorns—and I am determined to remove the thorns and plant as many roses as possible. It’s a work in progress.
After dropping Lila off at school this morning—I started to feel a bit anxious as the laundry list of responsibilities, in no particular order, sat poised at the forefront of my mind. Individual items that line up side by side like a bunch of school yard bullies pounding their fists into their open palms…snarling and snickering as they think about the beat down they are about to bestow upon me. In the past, I would stare back at the bullies, crack a beer and they would disappear…well, I’d crack about eight beers. However, I didn’t know at the time that prolonged alcohol consumption, or full blown alcoholism just made the bullies vanish momentarily, only to come back later on…bigger and meaner.
I took a deep breath, turned the radio to station 88.5 (NPR) and let the news correspondents and their soothing tones of voice calm my nerves.
When I begin to feel anxious, I start to feel alone. Like I’m the only one in the world with a million different things to do–I’m the only one creating a constant “to do” list. I’m not, and when I realize that, I somehow feel connected to the broader community—as we are all hustling, day in and day out, taking care of a seemingly endless list of responsibilities. Is it abnormal to feel overwhelmed on Monday morning? No, and through the sentences written before this one, I have realized that and my day is better off for it.
I am now more focused on “how I can and will to get everything done” as opposed to simply feeling overwhelmed by “what needs to be done.”
Oh yeah—Cherry randomly wrote me a text message on Saturday night: “can I stop by to give you a hug?” I replied “sure.” She stopped by and I met her out front—she gave me a hug, then said goodbye. It was a 30 second interaction—one which I appreciated. My assumption is that she needed the hug much more than I did—but nonetheless, it felt nice.
Alcohol, Cigs and Pot:
It’s been almost a year since I stopped drinking and smoking pot—and four months since my last cigarette. I still remember, like it was yesterday, drinking beers and sneaking outside to smoke a bit of reefer and tobacco. I started to spend more of my life under the influence, then with a clear mind. I remember cracking a beer as soon as I got home from work (or promptly at noon on weekends)—chugging about half of the bottle, then taking a hit of the sticky icky and thinking “now I feel normal—now I can be calm.” I didn’t literally say that out loud—it just best represents how I felt. Then, I would see that I was down to my last beer and immediately start devising a plan to get more…or looking over at the counter-top to make sure there was a bottle of wine. I was like a bottomless pit—I could drink, drink, drink and keep on drinking. I heard several times, from several people in my life—“you drink fast and you drink a lot.” The more I drank, the more I smoked—the cycle was exhausting.
My normal was high and buzzed—not clear and sober.
It’s funny—I went to Kaiser a few weeks back, and the nurse was like “did you lose weight?” “Yeah, 25 pounds.” “Wow, yes, the system noticed you lost weight. How did you do it?” “I stopped drinking beer.”
Awkward silence commenced.
My addiction to alcohol became scary when I started waking up throughout the night with what can only be described as panic attacks. I mention these episodes in earlier posts—and they are still scary to recall. My heart felt like it was beating out of my chest—it’s what I would think the precursor to a full blown heart-attack may feel like. The only remedy that I could think of to stop my heart from racing was drinking. So, there I was at 3am chugging whatever alcohol I could find in the fridge or cupboards. The episodes went from happening every once in a while to almost every night. While Katie slept—I was awake and self medicating. It felt like I was being tortured—and I finally realized that I was torturing myself. Katie asked for me to get checked out for Sleep Apnea, which I did…the only thing was I didn’t sleep the four hours needed to get an accurate reading. Katie asked me to get checked out because she said “it sounds like you stop breathing in your sleep.” At the height of my alcoholism, a little less than a year ago, I maybe slept 3-4 hours per night. They could’ve cast me to play a zombie in the hit TV show the Walking Dead—and make-up wouldn’t need to be applied. It was that bad.
If you are new to putting down the bottle—just know that all of the terrible symptoms and consequences that I describe, specific to drinking, have diminished greatly. Do I sleep well all of the time now? No. But, my average hours of sleep per night increased—and I don’t wake up with full blown panic attacks anymore. The psychological fog that followed me around every-day because of my alcohol intake and sleep deprivation has been lifted—and general intelligence/memory recall has bounced back.
And I use the term “intelligence” loosely.
Would I turn back time if I could? Change my behavior and attitude sooner? Fu ck yes I would. In a split second, if the opportunity presented itself, I would frantically spin the hands of time backward…only if I could return knowing what I know now.
I would turn it back to 2012, while sitting at the dinner table with Lila and Katie. I would dump out all of the alcohol in the house—and give those two the biggest hug I could. I would ask Katie to marry me—and I would cherish every moment we spent together as a family. It makes me tear up just thinking about it. The unfortunate part of that revelation is that I took it all for granted and made poor choices. The only thing that opened my eyes was losing it. I never would’ve truly appreciated what I had unless it walked out on me. It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite songs, Atlas Hands by Benjamin Francis Leftwich: “I will remember your face because I’m still in love with that place.” Alcohol turned me into a bitter person—and I got frustrated with a place I should’ve loved.
Since I can’t turn back time—I have to move forward. I have to move forward clean, sober and willing. I have to appreciate that in which I didn’t appreciate before—and vow, if that feeling ever comes around again, to not take it for granted.
I’m not sure how many days it is today—but I am sure that it’s been a thought provoking one.
Much love to you and yours.