I’m what is known as a real head trip. A piece of work. An oxymoron in a human package. I’m the bear you want to poke. But I’m also the one with the stick beating at the hornet’s nest. I’m a pessimistic optimist. Or an optimistic pessimist. I frequently bite the hands that feed me because those hands have to enter my “hand free” zone to do it. There’s too much of me to live one life, so I live two.
All of this becomes much more obvious to the naked eye (and hand) when I’m not drinking alcohol. My contrary nature becomes more stabby, my need for specificity in myself and others reaches an angry pitch. I have been grumpy since day 2 of not drinking. Cranky. My head has been growling and sniping and I have had the Dickens of a time keeping myself from letting it out at full strength. I honestly can’t tell if being sick has made this worse or softened the blade of my impatience.
People have been embracing me with kindness and friendship, holding me up, standing next to me in solidarity, and actually doing this WITH me. I feel every ounce of all of their (your) support and love. It’s getting through to where it’s needed – past the keeper of my vulnerability right into the center of it.
But before it gets there I tear every assurance and comment and suggestion to bloody bits.
You, kind souls, say that it’s okay to eat that sandwich I didn’t need.
I say: I RESENT THAT SANDWICH AND EVERY TIME I SEE A SANDWICH FROM NOW ON I’M GOING TO SMASH IT BETWEEN TWO BOULDERS AND YOUR EFFORTS TO MAKE ME FEEL OKAY ABOUT IT ARE AS FEEBLE AS AN ANT TRYING TO LIFT THE TITANIC OUT OF THE OCEAN AND DON’T YOU DARE TELL ME IT’S ALL GOING TO BE FINE BECAUSE IT WILL NEVER BE FINE AGAIN AND I WILL ALWAYS WANT TO SMASH THINGS NOW.
You, kind souls, tell me it’s great that I’m not drinking beer and soon I’m going to feel so much healthier I won’t even want beer anymore.
I say: I REFUSE TO ACCEPT YOUR SANCTIMONIOUS IDEALS OF HEALTH AND YOUR BELIEF THAT NOT DRINKING ALCOHOL WILL MAKE ME A BETTER PERSON BECAUSE YOU ARE WRONG – ALCOHOL MADE ME THE PERSON YOU ACTUALLY LIKE AND WITHOUT IT I HATE EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING AND A LIFE WITHOUT BEER ISN’T WORTH LIVING.
You, kind souls, suggest all kinds of drinks I can replace the beer with.
I say: NOTHING CAN FILL THE DEEP HOLE BEER HAS LEFT IN MY LIFE AND ALL YOUR SUGGESTIONS MAKE ME SO ANGRY BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY YOU ARE NOT A BROKEN PERSON LIKE ME AND OBVIOUSLY EVERYTHING IS SO LOVELY AND SATISFYING TO YOU AND YOU LIKE FEELING “VIRTUOUS” AND YOU LIKE WEAK BEVERAGES BUT THERE IS NOTHING LEFT OF JOY IN MY LIFE AND ALL THESE WATERY STUPID BEVERAGES ARE AN INSULT AND I AM NOW MORE DEPRESSED THAN I WAS BEFORE AND I WANT TO THROW ALL THE GLASSES IN THE WORLD THAT DON’T HOLD BEER IN THEM AGAINST THE WALL OF MEDIOCRITY.
This is the point where gentle souls give up and that leaves me with the tough old badgers like myself and we brawl in the dirt with hard words and fur and claws flying up into the cloud of angsty dust. Blood soaks into the ground in dark pools and it turns out I’m just fighting myself and all the blood and fur and claws are mine.
That’s when I stop hearing your literal comments and feel what’s behind them. I feel bad because I wanted to brawl with you and sniped at you with a little piece of my personal shrapnel. I feel bad because I recognize the warmth and acceptance and support being extended to me and I almost took four of your fingers from you. I wasn’t even going to feel bad about it. But now I do. Now I feel like a damn cave dweller encountering light for the first time.
What I know is that every time I make myself vulnerable to people on this level, it costs me a lot. I obviously do it because the rewards are greater, in the end, than the cost. I let the floodgates open into some private territory and it’s like taking a bat to a hundred safeguards I’ve set up to protect myself from the outside world. From you, kind soul. My fierce sense of self preservation is awakened like a burglar alarm and I don’t remember the code to turn the alarm off. So I go into combative mode. Everything becomes a potential battle, every person becomes a potential vessel of harm to what I have to protect because it’s so much weaker than it looks.
I say: I’m going to go sober for 3 months.
You say: That’s great!
I say: No it isn’t! What bullshit. It’s horrible and I hate it and I’m going to be miserable.
I say: I’m going to drink ginger beer instead of beer.
You say: that’s a great idea! That worked well for me when I wasn’t drinking. Tea is good too.
I say: Tea is like pisswater and I’m only going to drink ginger beer because it’s better than dying of boredom but I’m going to hate it and be miserable.
You say: I’m so proud of you! You’re awesome.
I say: I’m a fucking moron who would suck the marrow from your bones if I wasn’t a vegetarian and if the smell of marrow didn’t make me want to puke! You’re going to be so disappointed in me because I’m going to FAIL tomorrow!
So this is a PSA to all my old friends and new ones: please don’t give up on me even if I seem to be lashing out and knocking down everything you say. I’m going to ask you to hang in there until I remember the code to my own alarm, until I remember where I put those sedative-soaked steaks I prepared for the guard-dogs of my vulnerability, until I have convinced my whole self that I opened the door and invited everyone in on purpose because I NEED to not be alone. Because I can’t do everything by myself.
Please don’t stop making your suggestions and giving me your thoughts and your encouragement because even if it seems I’m acting like an ungrateful cur, the woman behind the wall of barking dogs and clawing badgers is so grateful for your support. I’m hearing you, I’m listening to your suggestions and taking notes and truly hearing you through all my internal shouting, screaming, and violent objections to the suggestion that there is still joy to be found in thunderstorms and snow falling on my face.
I’m always going to be more game-hating-curmudgeon than a sunshine spreading pancake person. But I know when people are putting themselves out there for me and I value it for the precious gift it is.
You say: go easy on yourself. Eating one late night sandwich isn’t a big deal. It’s better than having a beer.
I say: IF I EAT A SANDWICH I DON’T NEED THEN I MAY AS WELL BE DRINKING BEER OR MAYBE YOU THINK SMOKING CRACK WOULD BE BETTER THAN DRINKING BEER – AT LEAST THEN I WOULDN’T PROBABLY BE SITTING AROUND EATING EXTRA SANDWICHES. JESUS! ARE YOU TRYING TO FORCE ME TO FEEL BETTER ABOUT MYSELF? YOU BITCHES!
Then I say to myself: Stop biting people’s heads off like you’re some sociopathic asshole! Take their heads out of your mouth, wipe the spit off, and give them back. Then beg their forgiveness. You bitch.