Ever Present

It never goes away. The addiction, I mean. I wake up in New York City and I’m just as much an alcoholic as I was in Petersburg. I brush my teeth, I’m an addict; I wrap a present, I’m an alcoholic. It’s Christmas day and it’s the same.

The gift that keeps on giving.

I wandered around the city by myself for three whole days. I stopped sometimes to use the little girl’s room or to get a coffee, of course.¬†I emerged from¬†my subway den to the brilliant, blinding and sweetly oversized Christmas decorations¬†of Rockefeller Center at 47th Street.¬†I felt more lonely than I have in a long time. With every block I walked, I willed myself to feel better. I imagined how chic I could look, if I just walked with the right boots and a stern enough stare. As the rain came down harder and the wind blew my umbrella more fiercely, I realized I was becoming more strict with myself. That feeling of not being enough crept up on me in such a subtle manner, I did not even realize how shitty my own thinking made me feel.

I don’t know what it is about the holidays or New York, but I never feel like I can get it quite right. Despite the grid system of these mean streets, I always get turned around. Regardless of the weight or quality of the coat I wear, I either shiver or I sweat. I hop from borough to borough to find my way, yet the¬†cramped sidewalks¬†are just as crowded as my mind is.

I think that’s the case for most people here, whether or not they choose to show it.

I went to a meeting tonight where there were lots of tears. Bitter tears, jubilant tears, exasperated and sad tears. The man next to me, a gay cutie who had just touched down from Los Angeles, shook uncontrollably as he shared. Lots of day-counters, many people getting sober for the second or third time around. The holidays have a tendency to remind us addicts of our weirdness. Our thoughts slowly become warped with the repetitious aggression of overplayed Christmas music. Being an employee at Macy’s starts to look more desirable than being stuck in our own¬†heads. This time of year is tough regardless of the happiness we enjoy in our present lives. What frustrates me personally is that I have never had so much joy and awe-inspiring moments in my life. In spite of this, I still feel a bit morose over the fact that my spirit is so easily suffocated and imprisoned my own thoughts.

It ain’t easy.

I’ve been praying for the opportunity to be of service to someone in need. I spoke with the shaky LA gentleman after the meeting, and I think that helped him a bit–it certainly helped me. I’m writing now in case anyone else feels the same non-descript loneliness I am currently experiencing. I want you to know you are not alone. If the holidays make you feel drink-y or even a little depressed, it’s okay. Join me in chucking those shitty thoughts in the fuck-it bucket. The holidays create a lot of pressure to be happy, but that shouldn’t take the joy out of recognizing you aren’t–at least not at the moment. I don’t mind admitting that I feel blue. I know that I have to accept how I feel¬†in order to not let the rage build. I get angry with myself if I can’t get it up for certain things, especially for an ostensibly¬†Christian holiday with Pagan roots.

I took today as an opportunity to see the new Star Wars with my boyfriend instead of listening to Christmas music grinning with disingenuous earnestness. And you know what? It was a good move. Saw the movie, got amped for the next one, then headed into the city for a meeting. This may seem silly, but I felt like a Jedi after I left the theater. Recovery pulled me from the dark side, though I don’t have a multi-million dollar franchise to show for it. Just honesty.

Tonight, there will be a giant, delicious meal and Netflix. Maybe some Panettone. Definitely Marvin Gaye and David Bowie.

And some Stevie Wonder to help me kiss lonely goodbye x

 

Photo courtesy of Link-Assistant

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An Ambivert’s Dilemma

Back in the dog days of summer, 2015, I visited with friends I’ve had since middle school. We talked for hours about all sorts of things, particularly how our lives had run parallel to each other’s over the years. For whatever reason, we began to talk about the difference between introverts and extroverts. We all decided that each of us fell on different spots of the spectrum. One of my girls brought out her copy of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can‚Äôt Stop Talking¬†by Susan Cain. She gave me the introvert vs. extrovert quiz,¬†where we found that¬†I am what is known as an ambivert–someone who is equal parts extrovert and introvert.

Back in¬†my dogs days of drinking, I thought alcohol enhanced the extrovert within me. I took every opportunity to be the center of attention. I became more sassy, more bold, more passionate. What my cohorts and/or “audience” did not see when I became inebriated was my private disquiet, my severe discomfort. I¬†hurt internally as I performed externally. I did¬†not recognize my need to be true to the introvert I knew myself to be. I denied my desire to be alone because I was lonely; the thought of being with people¬†made me want to jump out of¬†a 13-story window.¬†The paradox I faced was the desperate need¬†for attention that rivaled my need to isolate. What a set up! An introvert who doesn’t want to be alone¬†who also¬†has¬†a dangerous habit of isolating. I began to implode. When I drank, I became combustible.

As I entered into recovery, I avoided any place where I knew more than a couple of people would be. The only crowds of people I could tolerate were at meetings. I couldn’t bring myself to “fellowship,” in large part because of my distaste for program people using that word as a verb. I found that my insecurities in early sobriety prevented me from feeling joy in socializing. I forced myself to go anyway,¬†on the advice of my sponsor and program friends. I am glad that I was able to¬†ignore the severe discomfort I felt while socializing in those early months of fragility. However, I am finding more and more that I enjoy time alone more than I enjoy being with lots of people. And I am in good company.

My people-pleasing streak is slowing to a painful lurch. This comes at a good time, as it is the holiday season. My diminished need to be everything to everyone is much more economical in its¬†spiritual and monetary value. I don’t say “yes” to every invitation to hang out, nor do I squirm in self-doubt when I actually am around people. Now that I am able to become friends with the introverted part of myself, I am much more fun to be around these days. In fact, I prefer being my own friend, rather than outsourcing friendship to others. The introvert and extrovert within me¬†are best friends. As a result, I am better friends with others around me, if not a quieter friend.

Less personal shadow boxing = more interpersonal success.

The day-to-day challenge I face–other than to remain emotionally sober–is to shine forth as an authentic version of myself. Rather¬†than picking and choosing the parts of me that fit what I think people want to be around, I need to show up as-is. I think most people find it challenging to be true to themselves, but for me it’s a matter of exposing the shadowy parts of my personality that want to keep the addictive side of me alive and unwell. I can honor the introvert I am without isolating. I can be extroverted without disassociating. I can be sober, therefore I can be a true ambivert. Maybe I can take my ambivert self to more Christmas parties this season. Or maybe I’ll remain in my sweatpants.¬† The dual sides of me are no longer in competition. As long as I put recovery first, I am¬†golden.

So, we’ll call it a draw.

Photo courtesy of BrideMag

A Heart and a Hologram

I hate that I love social media so much. I hate that I rely on “likes” after I post an article or blog entry I’ve written–tiny signals of¬†my competency which almost always¬†make me feel validated. Paradoxically, I love that I get the recognition as an artist I so¬†unabashedly¬†crave–regardless of where it comes from. I love that I can¬†harp on¬†social media for being the ego trip that it is, while secretly¬†savoring¬† the accessible attention it provides.

I love basking in the glow of my computer screen, but I am dubious.

I wrote an article a couple months back about my conflicting feelings toward Facebook. Ultimately, I credit Facebook as the reason I was first exposed to recovery. At the moment, however, I feel annoyed by the sharp turns my friends and I take on matters of public opinion on controversial topics via the internet. Example one: mass shootings in America. The second anything happens in the news, we erupt into an opinion-centric beehive. We end up shitting all over each other for not being empathetic or sorry or informed enough. I appreciate all of the articles I see posted (then share), yet I find myself more reactive to things outside (or inside) of my control. It turns out that social media can make me just as susceptible to vitriol as I am to validation.

Now that I am a substitute teacher for a Catholic school, my feelings on attention have changed. I feel called to be an educator, not a traffic-generator. I¬†discovered a¬†boundless joy for teaching that I never saw coming. The last thing I wanted after I began writing for a living was to discover I was meant for something else. I’ve traded my need for “likes”¬†with drawings and hugs elementary school kids give me. How the fuck did that happen?

Sobriety has a way of humbling me.¬†Reality’s insistence on continuing to be a thing is kind of annoying, yet magical. Life on life’s terms looks a lot less messy when my eyes are in focus and my head is not up my ass. I live in Virginia, not LA; I teach more than I write; I save money instead of spending it. I am what one might call “an adult.” This is unsettling to me¬† because I thought adulthood meant sticking it to the man to do whatever the fuck I want. I lived that way for awhile–albeit drunk–and I was miserable. With nearly 21 months of sobriety under my belt, I am happier than I’ve ever been. I think this is by design,¬†just¬†not my design.

I read something recently the Pope said about us needing a “tenderness revolution.” A lot of haters think prayers and thoughts for victims and inexplicable¬†hatred are futile. I know in my heart that using social media as a platform for sending condolences, receiving recognition or bombarding my friends with music I like is no less useful than proselytizing about the Second Amendment. I also know that the only way my world changed is when I decided to love myself. I think a lot of us find our hearts are cynical and suspicious when we see that nothing seems to change in the world. So we change our profile pictures. I testify that we can’t change anyone else’s behavior but our own, and that is¬†the ONLY¬†thing¬†that will change what goes on around us. Einstein may or may not have said this, but I found a quote attributed to him that I’ll share here:

Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.

Social media is an excellent tool to exchange information and opinions (and for finding good quotes in context). It is also a tiny representation of a billion big lives condensed into one small screen or status. We can’t know the truth about a person or a situation unless we investigate for ourselves by living our own¬†lives in the best way we can. We have to be honest and good to ourselves first before we decide to opine about things we know little about.¬†We can create an online atmosphere of growth or grandiosity, the choice is ours. We can create a life lived as genuine people rather than projections.

We are humans, not holograms.

The biggest lesson teaching has taught me is that everyone¬†starts out¬†as a child, and adulthood does not change that fact.¬†The internet got big just as I was coming of age, and I am eternally grateful for that. I am so happy I never had to worry about Snapchat or Facebook in middle school, mainly because kids were mean, so was I, so was my unibrow. I did not know how to be tender to myself as a child or as an adult, but I learned because I got sober. I think social media could facilitate a tenderness revolution, even as hurt people hurt people. It’s just as likely that healed people heal people.

I speak from experience.

 

Photo courtesy of PopSci