Seeing the light

15 minute read

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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 is playing, but same song is spun
Addicted to my energy, just can’t let go
True for awhile ’til it’s no longer fun
Another slow fade towards the end of my show

Seems life is determined to let me roam
Into darkness laced by 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 from Ireland the night before race. 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 being 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. I think 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. 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 made it clear about a week after the 24 hours bike race- what I imagined as something was actually really nothing. 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 fest. Clearly my Irish crush and I had a chance. I was optimisticly cautious for the following reason: within a week of him moving home he broke up with his girlfriend, bought me a ticket, and I was flying to Ireland 4 weeks later. The brutal obvious truth which I ignored was very clear -he didn’t make it work with a girl of 8 years, so why would I be any different? My sense of reality was so insanely altered it is scary.

I had to verify with a lot of friends the entire scenario was not normal behavior for either of us. Not that I cared what anyone said. Just because it was not normal doesn’t mean my friends were surprised. This wasn’t my first rodeo and probably won’t be my last. My MO is meeting a guy from out of town, infantuation 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, it all started and ended the same…in a drug and booze induced stupor.

My “I fly, they buy” mentality and basic way of life never struck me as reckless. Usually I only knew the current infatuation for a few days maybe a week at the most the plans were in motion for my visit to wherever that guy lived. Then just like all the rest I would excitedly tell some girl friends that “so and so” was flying me to where he lived, all by myself. Some would question or warn me to be careful. Others took YOLO approach with me. The fact that I knew no one else 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 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 she was the only one that knew I was in San Fransico for the weekend. Looking back that was a real asshole move on my part. If something did happen to me, worse case I turn 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 when it came to my insane decisions.

In the back of my head, there is a section of my brain that magically blocks out my full awareness that just like all my other whirlwind rendezvous, this one would also would crash and burn, then catapult me into a deep depression. Amazing how easy it is to forget previous pain from the aftermath of my multiple nearly identical experiences. I chose see life with my rose-colored beer goggles 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, she broke through to me and I finally saw what had always been crystal clear. Each one of the guys I had previously fallen for attached to all of the adventures they took me on repeatedly had the exact same pattern. I was completely manic and under the influence of drugs and alcohol with every single one of them. The pattern couldn’t have been more obvious, and to a point I saw it too. It’s much easier to play dumb after the fact than act smart before it goes down in flames. Each time a romance inevitably blew up in my face I either acted shocked because “this one was different” or I would put up my “I don’t give a fuck walls” and isolate with red my wine and weed. It was like being stuck in that awful movie Groundhog Day. One thing is certain, my self-esteem was always crushed, it was never great to begin with. After it all ended many times I  would lay awake and wonder when I’ll ever be enough to someone. Some of the guys I wasn’t even that wild about, I was lonely and liked the attention. I am beginning understand what so many have said to me- I need to be enough for myself. I need to find that respect towards myself and know my worth long before any guy outlasts one of my hypomanic episodes.

These episodes weren’t unusual for me. I wouldn’t take my meds usually quit them cold turkey. Why do mentally ill addicts hate taking the meds that will help? So I redused take what I should but had 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 that pill. Random pill roulette. In my manic grandiose mind I would boast ‘I got this on my own’- mostly this occurre when I was caught up in the bullshit diguised 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.

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. Sure it didn’t last but it was still something. Some people never get to have an experience like the many I have had. They played it safe, settled down got their white picket fence house with 2.5 kids and a golden retriever. For me it was worth all the feels, even the sad ones I was left with when the honeymoon was over.

Years of this fucked up pattern finally 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 was informed in therapy is not common, and yes 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.  A few months after I wrote my poem I was called out by my group counselor in IOP about what really happened that forced me to end up intensive outpatient care. I explained it as 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 wasted a lot of made me cringe and still does. More or less it felt like my days were melting into months, those months into years- the years added up to decades and this spotty melting pot 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 the drama for 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 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, soar throat and no voice, a result of screaming for over an hour at the top of my lungs while standing barefoot in the bushes after losing my flip flop when chucking it at his 2nd floor window and screaming  “let me the fuck in you fucking ASSHOLE!” 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, furthest thing from an asshole.  He is so sweet that when he came home he left the front door open for me, wide open. Not even latched, like WIDE.FUCKING.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 wknd 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 have another. Makes sense how I got all my ‘free’ drinks…of course he covered me. My memory began to flood with bits and pieces of the horrible voicemails I left him, calling him a piece of shit pussy because he “locked” me out. Then I remembered I went off at my close friend one 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, 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 remebered 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. 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.

Those crazy thoughts weren’t a total result of my actions only 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. 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 fake suicide plans but was still being a selfish asshole. Even after the shame of how I treated my friends I was now debating instead of my fake plan of offing myself 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 I left so I wouldn’t on my drive up, which has happened plenty of times. The old pull over, quick open the door and throw up on road. Then drive away like nothing happened a pray no one saw you. A million times my head has been in a toilet bowl, swearing to myself between the drive heaves and puke that I was never drinking again. I didn’t say it that morning, instead I thought something has got to change, that was the truth. I was admitting something but promising nothing. “Never drinking again” was an explicit lie I repeatedly told myself only to get through 1000’s of hangovers 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 best friend took (more like dragged) me to my first AA meeting a few days later. She saw my fear, it reflected the fear she has lived as well. I’m not sure I would be here today had I lied that morning, with my head in the toilet saying “I’m never drinking 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 know 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, 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 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 realtionship I had was maybe coming to an end as I slowly started to admit to myself I was powerless, especially over my sanity. It’s so hard to tell 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 that poem. 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 you share years down the road with nosey people who are dying to know what the fuck finally made you quit. These are the the ones who casually ask like they are asking you to pass the salt but instead of salt they want the whole dish explained in front of a group of people you barely know. Nope, it was not my rock bottom. In fact this experience was the total opposite.

Hundreds of times before this day I had crashed, landing 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, then spinning out of control in my thoughts on my parents beach and lastly finding the driftwood to rest on to write this poem. It all saved me from a complete meltdown. Finally I was being authentic starting with no longer lying to myself. I was serious about the concept of sobriety, one poem at a time. This still scares the shit out of me. It wasn’t smooth sailing from that day on, 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 hopefully my final but definitely not first rock bottom…a story and poem saved for another day.