Seeing the light

15 minute read


When the ice caps melt
And two polars divide
Every sweet moment I felt
Now sting with tears I’ve cried

This misshaped heart
And a mind full of craze
Slim chance from the start
I could change my ways

Greens and Blues sucked back in
Memories reveal the source of my pain
Tracing steps back on where to begin
Rip-currents stirring waves in my brain

New record plays with the same song spun
Addicted to my energy, like nothing they know
True for awhile ’til I am no longer fun
Another slow fade towards the end of my show

Life’s determined to let me roam
Through darkness laced with sparks of hope
Temporary fixes to feeling lost and alone
Pray these feelings won’t leave me broke

I wrote the above August 6, 2017 on the beach at my parents house. I’ve thought about quitting drinking a millions times over the past two decades. Last summer something changed. It was my first true attempt to get sober. Seven days before I wrote this poem I decided I had enough, I was throwing in the towel. I had just spent the last two nights with some of my closest friends getting wasted and not sleeping during a 24 hour relay bike race. Not to mention I had jet lag from my flight that landed the night before from Ireland. I was in lala land over the guy I just visited there, plus lots of PVD (post vacation depression). I have no doubt twenty-four hours of drugs, booze, and brutal communication, with zero sleep is the entire reason our crew parted ways. The four of us haven’t all hung out together since. I call it the night the Beatles broke up; drugs, booze and bad decisions was our Yoko Ono.

I was hit the hardest when the four of us went our separate ways. The other three found significant others right before the race. While I was busy isolating and feeling sorry for myself over the “breakup” they all had lovers to lean on. For them it was a great distraction from the truth that was painfully obvious to me…our fab four fun was done. What hurt the worst was I don’t think any of them really cared and still don’t- they were onto bigger and better things and I was lonely as fuck, drowning in self-pity. I missed my friends, on top of that it didn’t help I was dealing with my latest rejection….Ireland had made that pretty clear to me about a week after the 24 hour bike race from hell. What I imagined might be something was actually really nothing to him. In my warped world I thought just maybe it could work with a hot as fuck newly single 30 year old dude who was back on the market after 8 years of being tied down. He lived here 3 years, I met him 12 days before his visa expired, that’s about my luck. Timing is everything, or nothing. I should mention 4 of those 12 days I was out of town getting fucked up at a dirty hippy bluegrass music festival- clearly my Irish crush and I had a chance with all the quality time we spent getting to know each other before he moved back.  I was cautiously optimistic for the following reason: within a week of him moving home and two weeks after we met he broke up with his girlfriend, bought me a ticket and I was on a plane to Ireland 4 weeks later. The brutal obvious truth which I ignored and pretended not to care about was simple -if he didn’t make it work with a girl of 8 years that he loved than why would I be any different? My sense of reality was so insanely altered it is scary.

Afterwards I had to verify with multiple sources that the entire scenario was not normal behavior for two people who just met and were attracted to each other. Not that I cared what anyone said. Just because it was not normal doesn’t mean my friends were surprised, what will shock them someday is me liking a guy who lives in the same area code and taking it slow. This wasn’t my first rodeo and probably won’t be my last. My M.O. is meeting a guy from out of town, infatuation and lust at first sight, followed by him flying me to wherever he lives. None of these dudes were unique. I am positive  even though they told me otherwise, I was not unique either. It didn’t matter where I was flown: New Hampshire, Colorado, Arizona, San Francisco, Nashville and now Ireland, they all started and ended the same…in a drug and booze induced stupor.

My “they buy, then I’ll fly” mentality and basic way of life never struck me as reckless. Most of the time I only knew the dude for a few days or maybe a week at the most when the plans were in motion for me to visit wherever that particular guy lived. Then just like all the rest I would excitedly tell some girl friends that “so and so” was flying me to (enter city name). They would ask me if I was going  all by myself- ummm duh… 3’s a crowd. Some would question if I was sure and when I instantly laughed it off and said yes it was followed by a warning for me to be careful, safety wise yes, but really they were talking about my heart that had been bruised nearly beyond repair with each one of the guys who preceded the current one. Other friends took the good old YOLO approach with me. The fact that I knew no one else within 100’s or 1000’s of miles when stepping foot off that plane to spend 4/5 or 10 days with a guy I literally just met was not scary to me. It was the exact opposite, it was exciting and becoming the norm for my impulsive way of life. I lived for that unknown rush. One time my friend made me install a google tracker on my phone after I told her that she was the only one who knew I was in San Fransisco for the weekend. Looking back that was a real asshole move on my part. If something did happen to me, worse case I turned up dead in the Bay by the hand of some San Fran psycho man it was my friend who would’ve had to live with the fact she didn’t do more to talk me out of it. It wouldn’t have mattered if she tried, once my mind is made up there was no talking me out of anything, especially when it came to my insane decisions.

In the back of my head there is a section of my brain that magically blocks out the 100% certainty that just like all my other whirlwind rendezvous, this one would also would crash and burn, catapulting me into a deep depression. I think that sectioning my brain is called “addict”.  Amazing how easy it is to forget previous pain from the aftermath of my multiple nearly identical experiences. I chose to see life through my rose-colored beer goggles strapped on. My therapist asked once what I learned from all of these experiences. I replied “clearly I’m colorblind because I sure don’t see red flags”. It wasn’t until after my Ireland experience when she broke through to me and I finally saw what had always been crystal clear….Every single one of the guys I had previously fallen for and all of the adventures attached to each of them repeated the exact same pattern. It may have been a new guy but I was going down the same old path. I was extremely manic and under the influence of drugs and alcohol with every single one of the guys I met. It could not have been more obvious and to a certain extent I saw it too. It’s much easier to play dumb after the fact rather than appear wise before it goes down in flames. Each time a “romance” inevitably back fired, I either acted shocked because “this one was different” or I would put up my “I don’t give a fuck every guy is the same” walls and isolate with my red wine and weed. It was like being stuck in those awful movies: 50 first dates meets Groundhog Day. One thing is certain, my self-esteem was always crushed and it was never too strong to begin with. In my manic grandiose mind I would boast ‘I got this on my own’- this occurred when I was caught up in the bullshit disguised as potential for a decent relationship  (because remember this guy was different 🙄). Again, not one of these experiences was unique, the only thing different were the zip codes or in the case of my last adventure the country code. In my bipolar brain I was doing great. It turns out my behavior is the definition of being manic and is no way to live a healthy life. I found this out the hard way. Every. Single. Time. After most of these ‘relationships’ ended/blew up in my face I would lay awake and wonder when I’ll ever be enough for someone. If I wasn’t enough for myself then it’s no mystery why no one else wanted me either. Some of the guys I wasn’t even that wild about. I just was lonely and liked the attention. I am beginning understand a key concept that is quite simple : I need to find a true respect towards myself and know my worth long before any guy will give me the respect I am worth and deserve.  Maybe just then he will stick around longer than one of my hypomanic episodes.

These episodes weren’t unusual for me. I wouldn’t take my meds consistently, sometimes quit them cold turkey, because I didn’t want to rely on mood stabilizers..that would make me weak. Somehow the drugs and alcohol I relied on was less shameful than a pill designed to help my brain find balance and peace. Why do mentally ill addicts hate taking the meds that will help but have zero reservations popping or snorting anything from anyone, no questions asked. If I was feeling responsible and was sober enough I’d google whatever was stamped on the mystery pill, if nothing showed up it was drug roulette (way more fun anyways). It’s amazing I’d forget and still do forget to take my meds all the time, I sure never forgot to snort a line.

I don’t do anything slow- talking, thinking. eating, driving, relationships, nothing. Especially with relationships it has to be rush or I’m bored out of my mind. Fuck it. I went to Ireland and didn’t pay a penny. I was treated better than I ever have been and fear ever will be. Did it last? No. But it was still something. Some people never get to have experiences like the many I have had. They played it safe, settled down and got their white picket fence house with 2.5 kids and a golden retriever. For me it was worth all the feels, even the desperately sad ones I was left alone with when the honeymoon was over.

Years of this fucked up pattern eventually caught up with me. I was finally sick of the mental game swirling in my head with unwelcome thoughts coming in, going out and then sneaking back in my head like a revolving door. Suicidal thinking I’ve been informed by my therapist is not normal, and yes it should be taken seriously. I never really thought I would off myself. I also never thought that majority of mankind does not think about death or suicide or think like me at all. I have spent many, many hours of my life imagining how it would end, and who would miss me. I never thought I would live to 30. Then I did. Now it’s 40 I am looking at in a few years. It is still hard for me to think I will live to be old whatever “old” is. I always figured I would die in a car wreck especially the way I drive (even sober). With how often I drank and drove it is a miracle I haven’t died or killed anyone else.  A few months after I wrote the poem I inserted in the beginning of this post I was called out by my group counselor in IOP about what really happened that forced me to end up intensive outpatient care. I tried to explain I was not trying to die, but certainly was not trying to live. Hearing  that poor excuse of living the life I was given and with how much I had wasted made me cringe and still does. More or less it felt like my days were melting into months, those months into years- these years added up to decades and this spotty melting pot timeline represented my entire existence. I really did not have much to show for the time I had spent here on earth, and I wasn’t happy with that.

July 30 2017 I woke up not knowing where I was. My head was pounding, it took about a minute to remember flashes of the last part of the evening before. The horrible cushions and itchy blanket helped me solve the mystery. I slept on the couch at my downstairs neighbors. I ended up there because I was “locked” out of my place. This was the catalyst of our groups break up which occurred during night two of our race. My friend and I were so fucked up that we only tried breaking into the back door of my apartment with the shady drug dealer from the dive bar next door. We had no choice, our wallets were locked in my place and with no money we would not be able to buy molly from him. Turns out he didn’t have Venmo. Paying for drugs from my Iphone didn’t seem too far fetched and was pissed this guy with a probably only a burner phone didn’t have Venmo. Somehow we went out for hours that night and still managed to get drinks without a penny on us. The drinks were done and now we needed our wallets to buy drugs, because the old drugs wore off and 30 some hours of drinking wasn’t enough.  I definitely wasn’t going to offer the dealer any other form payment which I’m sure he would’ve accepted. Turns out my roommate left the front door wide open. Literally it wasn’t locked or even closed, like WIDE FUCKING OPEN.

That morning laying on my neighbor’s couch with my head throbbing, a soar throat and no voice a direct result of screaming for over an hour at the top of my lungs while standing barefoot in the bushes two stories below my roommates bedroom window.  After losing my flip flop when chucking it at window and screaming  “let me the fuck in you fucking ASSHOLE!” I finally gave up as did my voice box.

My roommate came home early, I guess some people know when to call it a night. He was passed out cold and happens to be one of the sweetest guys in the world, the furthest thing from an asshole.  He is so sweet that when he came home he left the front door open for me, wide open. My other friend and I were so fucked up we never thought to check my front door since we had been using the back one all weekend during the race. Essentially the whole incident could’ve been avoided had we checked both doors. If it didn’t happen that night it would’ve another. Makes sense how I got all my ‘free’ drinks…of course my generous roommate covered me. My memory began to flood with bits and pieces of the horrible voicemails I left him, calling him a rich boy piece of shit pussy because he “locked” me out.

Next I remembered I went off at one my closest friends on the phone shortly before I passed out around 3 am. She is more like a sister and has been my side for 20+ years. She left hours earlier but somehow I still managed to make it her fault I was locked out. She doesn’t even live with me. The thought of who I blamed instead of myself made my world turn black with shame. My crazy anger from being “locked out” and delaying getting my drugs I took out on all the wrong people, who are some of the best ones in my life. Luckily they are much better than me and didn’t think twice when I apologized. They weren’t really upset, they knew I was fucked up which is even more fucked up. I was done getting a pass from people whenever I was asshole because I was fucked up. I’m not 16, it was time to own my actions.Was this my rock bottom? Depends. I have had a million rock bottoms, I’m pretty much a gravel pit.

I wanted to die, like legit thought of death.  Lying on that couch I began to imagine  later that day up at my parents I could push the canoe into Lake Michigan and walk behind it with heavy rocks in my pockets and never look back. The canoe would cover the truth that I took my own life by purposely drowning. I was such a coward I couldn’t even be honest with how I died. Instead I would stage it as a tragic accident so when I was gone I would be mourned and not remembered as a selfish drunk asshole. My mom would’ve blamed herself for letting me take my canoe out, in the past she knew I rarely took my life jacket with and has scolded me a million times for this (yes I still get scolded in my mid thirties, as I should). Plus I was thinking of these plans on my dad’s birthday. Seriously what the fuck is wrong with me? I was going to ruin my parents lives because I couldn’t face the truth that I was ruining my own.

The crazy thoughts I was having could not be blamed solely on my actions from the previous night. This was not one night of bad drinking, it was decades of bad drinking and drug use playing a huge role in my life long depression. It was 20 + years of asshole decisions, hurting the ones I love and hurting myself. I saw a slideshow flashing 100’s of horrible self inflicted memories before my eyes. I hated myself that morning, I think more than I ever had before.

I thought I had but never really changed. I scrapped my self-pity fake suicide plans but was still being a selfish asshole. Even after the shame of how I treated my friends I was now debating if I could just simply skip my dad’s 85th birthday. I was too hungover and wanted to make up some loser excuse. My dad is everything to me but I was just that selfish. I decided to suck it up and get moving. The decision to drive to my parents was enough to get my ass off that couch and make myself puke before leaving so I wouldn’t on my drive up, which has happened plenty of times.  A million times my head has been in a toilet bowl, swearing to myself between the drive heaves and puke that I was never going to get this drunk again…that’s where I drew the line, I knew swearing to never drink again was bullshit. I didn’t say anything that morning while puking because it turns out “never drinking that much again” was bullshit too. Instead I thought something has got to change, that was the truth. I was admitting something but promising nothing. “Never drinking that much again” was an explicit lie I repeatedly told myself only to get through 1000’s of hangovers with hopes no hangover would be that bad going forward, all of this laced with guilt and shame.

Kind of like praying only when you are in deep shit and promising you will do better if your prayer is answered and the minute shit gets better you forget that promise. For some reason that morning the thought I had that I needed to change mattered enough.

My closest friend I have made in my adult life took (more like dragged) me to my first AA meeting a few days later. We met before we were sober. She saw my fear because she knew that fear, it reflected the fear she has lived as well. I’m not sure I would be here today had I told the same lie that morning with head in the toilet “I’m never drinking that much again”. It was the will to change and recognize it without promising anything. Was this what it meant to be powerless? I hated that word but suddenly it didn’t feel forced upon me. I already knew I was powerless over my thoughts, especially the suicidal ones that played out way too many times more than I want to admit. I do not like being told what to do (shocker) I wanted to call it on my terms, which I tried to and miserably failed at so many times, too many to count. July 30th, 2017 was the first time I seriously considered a life sans the shit that had caused insanity and so much physical and mental pain over the past two decades of my life. That was the first hurdle. Figuring out how to live that life is a whole other animal.

A week later after my breakthrough hangover I was walking on my parents beach. This place is my heaven, safe spot, my therapy, every walk on that beach my whole life has brought me complete peace until that day. I thought ok this isn’t that bad not drinking or smoking, I swear the minute I thought that my brain did a 180. It was an absolutely excruciating beach stroll. Not a drop in me since 3:30 am on July 30, seven days..but who’s counting? I figured out the time from my usual detective work…looking back at the time my drunk texts stopped. This time with I passed on while texting Ireland. Withdrawals had kicked into full gear. I spit up bile trying to make myself puke. I was craving anything; booze, weed, blow, sex, whatever just give it to me. Or all four please. In that order. I even would’ve settled for a text from the Ireland who had decided that week I wasn’t worth the work. Spending 10 fantastic, beautiful days together I guess means nothing.

I needed to self sooth. Crashing waves weren’t giving me an instant fix to my pain. Instead those waves along with the sand between my toes triggered memories. It hit me right there during this near panic attack that from the age of 14 until now- twenty-three years later..I rarely walked the shore without a beer and/or my hitter box in hand. And I thought I was afraid of commitment. The longest love/hate relationship I had was perhaps coming to an end as I slowly started to admit to myself I was powerless, especially over my sanity. It’s so hard to admit the truth after of years of lying to someone, especially when that someone is yourself.

I felt the spins coming on. The more beach glass I picked up, the worse it got. My mind raced, thoughts bounced and crept in from the weirdest corners of my brain. I wondered if the beach glass I was finding that day came from any beer bottles I left behind in my teens. I could literally feel my mental snap coming on. The glass I was collecting started out as booze bottles and that only made me want booze more. Then I started to guess what kind of beer was in that bottle. Talk about obsession. Suddenly my suicide plan didn’t seem like too bad of an option.  I physically had to stop myself from picking up one more piece of glass. I sat down on a driftwood log and wrote the poem that started this post.  When I finished it the craving had passed. I thought to myself- FUCK “one day at a time” more like one minute at a time! I FUCKING HATED that AA phrase, still not my favorite but 4 months in I’m starting to get it.

So again, was this my official rock bottom? The rock bottom story I’ll share years down the road with nosey people who are dying to know what the fuck finally made me quit. Be careful of nosey people disguised as the ones who actually care, the ones who casually ask what finally happened like they are asking you to pass the salt but instead of salt they want the entire secret recipe detailed in front of a group of people you barely know. Rock bottom to me is not getting up, and staying there. This was different…I was willing to climb out of the hole- scraped, bloody and bruised. So nope, it was not my rock bottom. In fact this experience was the total opposite.

Hundreds of times before this day I had crashed and landed face first into the rocks. This time it felt different, more like hitting pebble bottom. For the first time ever I landed on my back instead of my face giving me a view from an entire new angle. Instead of facing down I looked up and saw something I never had before, the truth. Something happened in me during those seven mornings between waking up on my neighbors couch, to my out of control  spinning thoughts on the beach and finally finding the driftwood to rest on to write my poem. It all saved me from a complete meltdown. Finally I was being authentic, I stopped lying to myself. I was serious about the concept of sobriety, one poem at a time. I didn’t know if the seriousness would last forever or until dinner but that didn’t matter. I finally had a serious thought about it that lasted longer than a minute and didn’t end with me laughing and saying “fuck it pass the pipe”. My revelations still scare the shit out of me. It wasn’t smooth sailing from that day on and I don’t think it ever will be. This proved true a few months after my breakthrough on the beach… I hit yet another and perhaps not my final and definitely not my first pebble bottom… but that’s a story and poem saved for another day.