Anxiety is a cheap trick. I admit I get a high when I feel the wheels in my mind turning, churning and burning for resolution to untold fear. My adrenaline revs up and I feel hyper-aware. However, I don’t usually realize until it’s too late that my body has already decided that the Sky is Falling. I often mindlessly dismiss my “ticks,” like when I start picking at my lips until they bleed or breathing with shallow gulps, that something is very wrong. I wore bright lipstick several times this week without admitting to myself that I was trying to cover my lips, as opposed to showcasing pure fabulousness. This can lead to me internalizing everything until it all comports as anger and I implode (in private), or I just burst out crying (in public). Both scenarios visit me with alarming frequency, especially around the holidays.
All told, I feel sucker-punched every time anxiety attacks.
I know–somehow, someday, someway–I will become a more seasoned mental health practitioner. For now, it is enough to recognize what things trigger my anxiety and alcoholism. If you are like me, you know that this is a major feat. Panic, too, shall pass–
Alcoholics are highly sensitive people. I, for one, feel like a bruised mango at the bottom of a heavy load of fresh produce–and that’s on a good day. This fact about myself kinda sucks, as I work in customer service. But over-sensitivity has been cruel in every job I’ve ever had. I am not surprised that I used alcohol as a solution. Alcohol bites back, though. Much harder than the sting of rejection, boredom or hurt feelings ever could.
I believe that the spiritual solution to my malady is a Higher Power. I take the 12 steps plain, no sugar and no room for cream. But sometimes it’s hard to admit out loud that I have to follow through on self-care, too. The way I have been taught to feel better is to help other people. Eating regular meals, meditating and exercise are some pretty basic measures that help, too. But sometimes all I can muster is putting on a face–smiling, with contoured cheeks and matte-finished ruby lips. I acknowledge that some of us in recovery and many others of us on a different path need to know that the burden to “feel better” is not ours to carry alone. There are some groovy people out there who are willing to work with you, even though they might not understand exactly how you feel. But it is our responsibility to speak up, sooner rather than later. It can feel embarrassing to show what people might view as “weakness” when we admit that situational depression or overwhelming feelings are getting to us. I can promise you that it is worth speaking on it. People might surprise you. Time and time again, I have found that when I expect no one to understand, someone always shows up to defy my expectations.
The dividends for being honest pay handsome rewards.
Today, I had an anxiety attack at work. This time, it came out in tears rather than anger. My default was to quickly run outside to cry it out. But before I excused myself, I paused to tell someone in the kitchen–albeit through broken sentences–that I was having a panic attack. I don’t know why I did this; I just needed someone to know. To my fear’s dismay, two managers came outside to see if I was okay. It made me feel safe and protected, not judged. Not for one second. I feel like that was the first/best Christmas gift I’ve gotten this year. Their compassion and kindness grounded me enough that I could finish my shift with a non-bullshit-fueled smile on my face. It is not often that I am humbled enough to be (almost) speechless.
It is a curious thing to be forceably made vulnerable because of mental illness. The -id in me hates that my shit is laid bare like that. But the super-ego of my psyche is straight up grateful. I do not think that I could last more than a few days in any job if it weren’t for people who attempted to understand rather than to be understood. Groovy people, I tell ya.
Featured Image: courtesy of spin.com , photo by Marc Baptiste
We started our luna de miel with a missed connection in Atlanta. There were tears–there were many tears. But they dried when the dude at Delta’s customer service counter upgraded our seats to First Class on the last flight of the day leaving for San Jose, Costa Rica. The subsequent eight-hour layover resulted in our first Atlanta 12-step meeting. My husband insisted on getting a good start on our photo-journalism tour of Central America with an airport picture for posterity:
We made it to San Jose in roughly five hours. The internet did not come with us. Though Waze was available every now and again, we felt supremely confident that we could mesh our Rosetta Stone and Kitchen Spanish-speaking skills to ask for directions if we needed them–WHEN we needed them. I’ll spare you the details of our trip from Hertz rental cars to the phantom toll booth peaje de fantasma where we were forced to drive backward on a one-way highway. I don’t know why I didn’t hit “avoid tolls” on Waze, because here in Los Estados Unidos, I firmly believe highway tolls are unconstitutional. I refuse to pay them in dollars or colones. My stubborn streak forced us to learn the word and deeper meaning of “change” in Spanish: cambio. We had to, considering we only had a $100 bill to pay a $2 toll. Lady Luck would have come to visit the teller if we chose to surrender to our own ignorance.
The policia took pity on us, too. Our language barrier resulted in a telephone call to the b&b bungalow we reserved for the night. Two ex pats from Germany–a retired couple–answered the call in sleepy tones, asking if it was John on the line. The officers thought this whole thing was hilarious, but neither we nor the Germans found a phone call from the police in the middle of the night amusing. We followed the police van for a few minutes through Altenas, arriving at Apartmentos Altenas. The couple showed us to our bungalow, all the while explaining our late-night intrusion gave them no time to prepare for us as they typically would have. All things considered, it was perfect.
When I asked the husband proprietor how long he and his bride have been married, he replied, “150 years.” I knew right then that my being a directionless wonder, leading my new husband down one-way highways to avoid tolls at all costs, got us exactly where we needed to be. This humble and intelligent couple not only cooked us desayuno the next morning, they told us all about their journey from Germany to Costa Rica while giving us a tour of the property. They showed us this elaborate garden with a homemade irrigation/mini-drip mechanism, where they grew vegetables alongside exotic herbs. The only word I remembered was Bohnenkraut, meaning Summer Savory. Smells like oregano, taste bitter like something else (I’m not the cook here, John is). Evidently it’s a German must-have, akin to cilantro for Costa Rica. An herb I despise but also wish I loved because IT IS IN MF EVERYTHING.
We were sad to say goodbye to this place. But we had three-point-something hours more to drive through weaving mountain roads with the ever-present possibility of mudslides and/or detours. Not to mention the abundance of stray dogs who don’t seem to mind oncoming traffic. We learned the hard way that stopping for puppies is not welcomed, though hazard lights are; that motorcyclists care little for their own safety or for ours.
The best part of our trip was the free coffee with a view. Another impossibly generous couple offered us coffee and dulce de leche on a mountaintop perch. We literally sat with our heads in the clouds watching the winds take shape … bosque nuboso.
Our first resort stay was one of the prettiest and loneliest places I’ve ever visited. We stayed at El Establo, where the Pizotes outnumbered humans 2:1. The Hydrangeas everywhere balanced the flora and fauna considerably, though.
Monteverde, turns out, is a city/town/province that is enormously influenced by Quakers. We were psyched to know this mini-colony has a Friends Meeting House. Too bad we showed up for a scheduled meeting that Wednesday to an empty wooden play house. Empty of 12-steppers, that is. We read to each other from the literature out loud while two actors practiced stage direction and lighting for an upcoming Halloween-themed production. It was weird, but it was enough to keep us sober and pleasant enough.
The Monteverde leg of our trip was designed for us to “explore” the area. We got lost a lot. That’s what helped us transmute our sense of panic and doom to wanderlust and an electrical humility. John drove us using 4-wheel drive down and up every calle. The roads were rife with pendejos, but the locals were incredibly gracious and warm. We ate olla de carne and casado at places like Sabor Tico and Tico y Rico; drank coffee at Cafe Besos, Stella’s Bakery and Choco Cafe. The air smelled like chocolate and coffee. The rain was barely chilly or obstructive. The nights were clear and quiet. We may have stumbled over our spanish words a bit, but the locals continued to speak to us in the most charming and calming way. Not much was lost in translation.
There were many frijoles, but not much touristy activity on our part. If one more effing person asked us if we were going zip lining, puede haber perdido mi mierda. We opted for hiking at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, instead.
I think our hike(s) amounted to about five miles. At one point, we paused to take a picture of this giant tree that seemed to sneeze out a glorious flurry of butterflies. Seeing sanctuaries for all of the mariposas made me remember the nickname one of the cooks at my old restaurant job gave to me, mariposa traicionera, roughly translated as “treacherous butterfly.” I still am not sure what to make of that one. Alas, the hike was brilliant.
So brilliant by design, this hike was, that we ended it at the mouth of las cascadas.
There were besos–there were many besos.
But as is our way, the fun didn’t stop at the cascades. There would be more driving. Lots more driving.
We spent four nights at El Establo, with awesome service and spotty internet. The channels were all in spanish, so we did our best to reckon with Netflix, taking it as an opportunity to watch Mindhunters (give the series a chance, it gets really good midway through the first season).
We off-roaded for our third hours-long trip, heading toward Guanacaste. The rain never stopped falling because we were in the rainy season for the region, but we kind of enjoyed it. Never were there more appropriate circumstances than these to continuously hum “I’m Only Happy When it Rains,” by Garbage. And we got miserably lost, this time to an excellent soundtrack. We anticipated no connection while driving, so I downloaded one of my favorites, The President’s Summer Playlist 2016 (PRESIDENT OBAMA IS THE ONLY PRESIDENT FROM WHOM I’D TAKE MUSICAL RECOMMENDATIONS). We stopped to ask for help reading un mapa, got some fried pork rinds and unwittingly used someone’s home toilet, mistaking their storefront for a tienda rather than a casa.We took the Pan American Highway/Route 1, where instead of stopping for stray dogs, we were halted by giant livestock.
This leg of our journey marked the first time we truly stopped taking ourselves so seriously. Up until this point, we were so wrecked from all of the travel and lost-ness. It felt wonderful to laugh at how clueless we are as a unit. We solidified what I so lovingly refer to as our travel trauma bond. In spite of the chaos that unrelentingly ratcheted up our stress levels, we have never been more kind to each other throughout our entire relationship. If we got nothing else out of our honeymoon, that alone would have been worth it.
But we did. We got massages, aromatherapy, home-cooked meals, enormous surf at la playa El Jobo, poolside beds and coconut virgin daiquiris. We felt like royals at Dreams Las Mareas. That ish was fancy.
We arrived at night, skidding into the parking lot breathless from the insane roads and parrots in our periphery. The staff greeted us with two full champagne glasses, which we promptly insisted they (kindly) get the fuck out of our faces. They didn’t really understand, and we didn’t need them to. We simply can’t afford that kind of luxury.
We ate seafood, steaks, salads and plantains aplenty. The fruit at breakfast was unlike anything I’d ever seen or tasted. There were tourists from all walks of life on their honey moons, birthday vacations and retirement trips. We felt happy, but the continuous service and attention felt uncomfortable. Not too uncomfortable, as we stayed for three nights, walking the grounds for hours and returning to our suite each night to wear our swanky plush bathrobes. We ordered room service and watched the ID channel in English. There simply is nothing better. We gifted the room service guy with our free bottle of wine. We spent too much money on getting our clothes laundered and we used the balcony Jacuzzi, but not before we thought we broke it. This was opulence at its finest.
We ended our stay with the gift of a gorgeous sunset. The next day, we schlepped through our final road trip. When we arrived at Liberia airport, I realized we left all of the beautiful souvenirs purchased at Don Juan coffee/chocolate tours in the trunk of our Kia rental. THERE WERE TEARS. Those tears quickly turned to anger then defeat. We hugged each other, then shut up. There was nothing more we could do to change the situation while lining up in zone 2 to board our plane. I cried and prayed until we were seated then greeted with Starbuck’s coffee on the flight. It’s like they knew what would settle me down.
Our trip to Costa Rica changed me. I am a little less fearful, and a little more willing to trust the person I am. My husband was the real MVP of the trip, thank god. If you’ve made it this far through the blog post, you’re probably almost as exhausted (if not more) than we were when we arrived home this past Monday. Thank you for reading. There is more to come, there always is.
Do you ever get that feeling that your dreams are there simply to remind you of who you are not? I do. Almost every night. For instance, when I dream that I am back in high school and on the verge of falling off of bleachers that turn into cliffs over top a New Zealand seascape, I know that I am A) well-past high school age, B) that I have never really had a huge fear of heights and C) I have only ever traveled to three different countries outside of the U.S., none of which was New Zealand. But then there is that suspicion that I am not unlike an insecure adolescent who fears yet another “jumping-off point” in my life. Anxiety haunts me in my waking hours as well as my slumber. OH, good.
There is this news, though: The Wedding Dress was Won. I found it, and then some. It took about 10 minutes after posting my blog when I walked into The Oak and discovered my dress in a lacy display of Fuck Yes. I basically live-Facebook-commented with some newly-married friends as I tried on the dress clearly meant for me. One more item checked off The List.
Back to those dreams, though. I posted this on April 7th:
Last night I dreamt that I pulled out all of my teeth while I sat on a dentist’s chair. Then I sobbed and begged for this lady dentist to give me false teeth, so she did and I was dissatisfied. Then the other dentist dude refused to make my teeth real and he turned out to be a pervert. So naturally I performed on stage in the scene from The Bodyguard with no teeth.
What if our literal dreams were actual reality? It would be madness. I’d be a toothless pop star, a would-be murder victim with a deadly fear of heights, a lesbian lover with Lady Gaga and an active alcoholic who cheats on her husband. One of these is not like the other.
In October, I will be married ::inshallah:: In one million years +, I never dreamed that could happen for me. I never dreamed it, because I never acted as if I wanted to be married. I did what it took to work this time–it will be different this time. I desperately wanted a relationship from the time I was 14/15 to my late twenties, never coming close to achieving it. Notice how I used the word “achieve.” It was something else to check off The List. I had no earthly idea what it takes to be in a loving, committed relationship. That is, if you exclude my devotion and heartache relegated only to King Alcohol. In a twisted way, drinking alcohol gave me a free pass to avoid dreaming and having nightmares–I simply passed out.
Dreaming tends to cause me heartache. For the most part, I dream about relapsing (why don’t we use “nightmare” as a verb? Like, “I nightmared about my test last night.”) Every so often, I dream of my dad. One scenario that stands out the most is when I saw him appear at the house where we grew up. He was in front of the garage puttering with some plants. He stood up to say “hi” to me, then he slowly vanished before my eyes. I woke up crying and sweating. It felt comforting to see him, but the reminder ended up costing me more than a little joy. I think I dreamt/nightmared on that one.
For me, dreaming is lying. I far prefer my associations with waking hours (when I can, at the very least, choose my own lies!). Maybe that’s why I stay true to being a night owl. But now I am sober, which means I am breathing and walking among The Living. I need sleep like the rest of us. We all know that sleep-deprivation can cause poor health, bad choices and in extreme cases, hallucinations. When I first got sober, sleep deprivation caused sleep paralysis, something you should definitely read up on (maybe when it’s light out). There is a bugged out documentary on Netflix about the phenomenon. Mine happened when I lived in my gorgeous apartment in LA that I have definitely not stopped thinking about (nether the experience nor the apartment itself, it was beautiful). I was meditating while slowly drifting off to sleep. Above my head hung the best nightlight I’ve ever had. My neighbor, Annie, gifted me with a handmade chandelier, made of woven sticks of wood, lace and twinkling lights.
Beside it, ironically, was a dream catcher. I remember feeling comfort and peace as I lay in half-sleep. My eyes fluttered, then I felt something like human hands shove me. My entire body jolted forward. I tried to get up to see who was in my room, but I could not move. I lay there panting silently, trying not to make any noise. A few seconds passed, and I realized I was not dreaming, not at all. Something pushed me because I felt its hands between my shoulder blades. I then felt what I can only describe as someone’s lips press against my back. Then it started sucking in air. GROSS. I felt in that moment I might die at an intruder’s hands. For an instant, I stayed stuck. But I summoned up courage and jumped out of my bed. When I turned around, no one was there.
I later investigated this experience with my friend, Monty. He told me it might be incubus. I swore I was awake when this happened, but apparently I was only dreaming. In my life at that point, there wasn’t much difference between wake and sleep. My life was a waking nightmare and my dreams were an exhaustive necessity.
But today I feel the difference. I guess you could say that my dreams, nightmares, waking experience and ambitions don’t blur so easily these days. I don’t fear sleep because I want to wake up in the morning. I don’t fear waking because I want to be alive. I don’t fear who I lie next to because I know he’s the same man (whose name I actually know). Mostly, I don’t fear who I am, albeit she does confuse me sometimes.
There is nothing I hate more than trying on wedding dresses. And for my faithful readers, I will cut right to the chase as to why that is.
Ten Things I Hate About Wedding Dresses, The Musical (I also hate musicals)
I am a different size for LITERALLY EVERY STYLE / MAKE / MODEL OF DRESS.
The internet is a giant rabbit hole for wedding looks, i.e., Modcloth, JCrew, Pinterest, Wedding Wire, The Knot, etc., into which I’ve fallen for hours and hours.
One look at a dress and I’ve decided this HAS to be the one. Has to be. (It’s not.)
It’s almost June and I cannot stop sweating enough to zipper / button / clasp a dress.
Wedding dress material is extremely uncomfortable and impractical.
Nearly every dress I’ve tried on, on-site, requires alterations.
Alterations, I’ve discovered, cost almost as much as the dress itself (sometimes more).
Every single person has a differing opinion about what is flattering on me and what is not. By every single person, I mostly mean me.
My shoes are the only thing I have ever cared about getting right about the outfit.
The term ‘bridezilla’ actually exists, which describes me the second I walk into David’s Bridal–but only because I want to burn it to the ground in a taffeta blaze of glory.
Now I realize, dear friends, that wedding-dress shopping is most definitely a thing. Otherwise, why would there be several shows about The Quest for the Dress that most women I know watch with rapt attention? It’s an event, a group excursion. Except everyone is tired and I am fickle. Not to mention my attention span is short for shopping as-is. I just dislike any kind of shopping that is not for gifts, jewelry, perfume or books, and all of those I can get online.
Which brings me to my most favorite part of this post: photos. Lest I invite some weird curse for being seen in a white dress before the wedding, I will attempt to fly in the face of my own superstitions. Below, I have compiled a few of my favorite dress failures for your viewing pleasure. And without further ado, here are the dresses I said ‘no’ to (just not to their faces):
The Sponsor’s Dress.
This one gets me. In my high school, traditions were big. One of those traditions was to get young girls in white dresses to parade around in a cotillion-like ritual with guys and their ROTC companies. The irony is not lost on me that as a “sponsor” to my guy’s company–baking cookies and pretending to care about their chauvinistic rituals–I would actually be foreshadowing my role as a real-life sponsor to women in my 12-step program. In a panic recently, I decided to try on this dress to a). see if it still fit and b). attempt to lock down a dress without having to put forth any effort. Shit didn’t fly.
2. The ModCloth Dress
I don’t even know with this one. Even though I exchanged it for a size up, this shit just did not feel good on. Also, it felt juvenile. And the need to get a bigger size launched into effect an ego-feeding frenzy until I finally stopped trying to squeeze into the tinier version.
3. The Mommy Dress.
Because I am a sucker for nostalgia, I tried so hard to want to wear this dress. Alas, the 80’s have come and gone. I cannot wear this in good faith to fashion.
4. The $20 Dress.
I mean, it was $20.
5. The Random, Unplanned Bridal Store Drop-in Dress.
I drove around town with my mom in a fit of willingness/inspiration, which almost never happens. We stopped at a bridal store in Chester, VA, where I tried on dresses in front of someone else’s family. They oo’ed and aww’ed.
When my mom snapped this first photo, I was literally in the midst of saying, “fuck this.”
I guess the answer to this dress saga will eventually be solved. If it doesn’t happen soon, I will choose a white bathing suit and proceed with a mixture of false confidence and madness.
Needless to say, I give a resounding NO to all of the above atrocities.
More to come,
P.S. Please Google “ugly wedding dresses” immediately. You won’t be sorry you did.
Alcohol was the master I served for over a decade. But like most alcoholics and addicts of my type, I often take orders from other afflictions. In fact, I’ve written about that for AfterParty Magazine.
I suffer from disordered eating.
There, I said it. Let me be clear, though: I do not identify as an anorexic, nor have I ever purged as a result of binge eating. But I struggle, every day, with the obsession that I am not the size, weight or body type I am meant to be. According to whom? That remains to be seen.
I wait about two weeks in-between “weighing sessions.” I allow that amount of time to elapse because every time I step on the scale, my heart sinks into my feet. The act itself ruins my entire day. It’s disappointing to self-report that I’ve gained another two pounds; it’s devastating to admit that I lost even more control over my weight. I never cared as much about such a small amount of El Be’s (=lbs, pounds) as I do right now. Not even when I was 16, tortured by the idea of going to Lake Mary for my sweet sixteen, forced to be bikini-clad in public. The idea that anyone other than my immediate family would see me in a bathing suit horrified me.
The first time I knew I had a problem with eating versus drinking was the first break I came home to visit my family freshman year of college. I studied at a small liberal arts college in Vermont, where I discovered the delights of Rolling Rock, 99 Apples and 10-foot glass sculptures from head shops. I mostly remember the -47 degree weather and the fact that one cannot step outside with wet hair without icicles forming. My family took notice that I gained weight, the dreaded Freshman Fifteen. It was actually the verbiage they used, saying my face looked “puffy.” That was code for fat, I thought. Looking back, i’m positive that what they saw were the first physical signs of my alcoholism. It stuck with me, despite their obvious love as evidence contrary to my negative thought processes. I spent the subsequent two weeks fasting on Yoplait and black olives. Fucking disgusting. Yet, effective–
I dropped 12 pounds in two weeks.
I came back to school expecting a huge reaction from my friends. There was none. I was bummed. More than that, I was super angry. Why had I gone to the great lengths I did in order to lose weight? Furthermore, why did I bother staving off my desire to drink in order to starve? I wanted someone to notice how much my hard work had paid off. I also wanted a goddamn potato chip. So I started working out, and I got both.
My best friend in college was my favorite person to work out with. We used to giggle uncontrollably anytime we came to the gym still wreaking of booze (amateurs.) I take most of the credit for that one, especially after I started sweating. It was hard to take much of anything seriously by that point, but we prevailed. My modus operandi was the elliptical. I loved that I did not have to go anywhere or do anything except move in the exact same motion for an hour in order to burn precisely 650 calories. What a gift. What a coincidence, too, because that’s how many servings of pretzels/chips/crackers I would eat later. The law of averages doing its due diligence, I guess.
I categorize my second semester of freshman year as the darkest few months of my life. Well, until sophomore year when my dad died. Oh, and grad school in New York. Followed closely by the San Bernardino/San Diego days. It’s been quite the ride into the depths! More to the point, I found that no matter where I was, I felt better about my drinking when I could manipulate the intake of food I’d give myself in a given day. I decided never to count my drinks, only my calories. I saw just one snag in this plan: I got hungry after a few drinks. That meant Oreos after hours. Speaking of which, and not to get too far off track, but there was one point during my senior year of college when I went home for Thanksgiving with one of my best friends and her family. We got shit-faced with her friends going out to all her old stomping ground bars. When we got home, I felt sick. Sick, like, I hadn’t eaten more than half a bagel all day, so my body didn’t have the ability to absorb the narsty amount of alcohol I dumped into my system. Lest we forget my affinity for Oreos, I got to a point where I had to throw up. Once I did, I saw that the contents in the toilet were completely black. I ran to my friend worried I was dying. She very sweetly tried to explain to me that what I was seeing were the Oreos I ate earlier, not sudden death. I laughed out loud, but inside I felt like a complete asshole.
Two summers ago, I saw a doctor for my anxiety. My counselor was sweet and helpful, and eventually responsible for helping me turn to yoga as a physical calming method. However, my body had had enough. I was a year and a half sober, deeply immersed in my 12-step program, yet suffering from debilitating anxiety. She prescribed me a medication that, long story short, made me very sick. I won’t go into the ghastly detail it would take to describe what I went through, but let’s just say my symptoms mimicked those of food poisoning. Twenty-four-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, five-month-long-food poisoning.
I dropped 25 pounds in two months. I didn’t have 25 pounds to lose.
Once my symptoms let up, I had been on my medication for about six months. I felt so much better mentally. And eventually, I got my physical strength back. The one symptom I hadn’t anticipated remaining was the deathly fear I had of gaining all that weight back. So I began restricting. Multiple friends messaged me on social media, asking if I was okay after they saw a picture of myself I had posted. This made me feel exposed, guilty. Especially considering that the friends who said something were not in any way dramatic or critical, just worried. I felt embarrassed and stripped of justification. The medicine no longer caused me to lose weight. My doctor noticed, too. She confronted me about how much weight I kept losing. I told her what I was eating with about as much honesty as when I told my doctor in Los Angeles how much I drank–
The Limit Does Not Exist.
Another, little-known fact: my fiance is a cook at a swanky restaurant. When he moved home from NYC, he was taken aback by my appearance. If I’m being honest with myself, he had been concerned a few months prior. I chose to deflect then, but I couldn’t exactly swat away the truth with him standing in front of me, mano y mano. He expressed to me that there was deep irony in him dedicating his life to loving food, with a girlfriend who chose not to eat any. He was upset and worried. I came clean about how deep my obsession went, but I don’t think that allowed the worry to lessen. So I made it a point to eat every single meal he created. After a few months, I gained back nearly every pound I lost. I was at once proud and horrified.
It’s amazing. Amazing how the brain can convince you that you don’t need food, or love, or honesty. There is way more to this story than what I’ve disclosed here. But that’s because it’s an ongoing issue. I know there are people reading this–particularly women–who know exactly what I’m talking about. Those of us in recovery from anything know that there is almost always a long road to walk in order to heal. I am not sure what my road will look like, but I don’t want to know right now. If I knew what early sobriety would have required of me, I’m not sure I would have followed through with the journey. Thank God for blissful ignorance.
I’m going to write as much as possible for the next few days. It’s Friday, and students from all of the public and private schools where I substitute are on overlapping Spring Breaks. I kinda forgot the kids would be out of school for this long (two weeks). I’m relieved to have a break. As much as I bitch to those who will listen, I feel grateful to have more than one job. It’s times like these I can afford to be clueless about my constantly-revolving schedule.
Now, for this:
I’ve had a big, ongoing fear that I will one day run out of things to talk about. Like, somehow my thoughts will stop evolving. I think the deeper fear is that I will have nothing good enough to say that will keep people’s attention. But that’s a bullshit false humility. As long as my brain is functioning on all cylinders, I will have something to talk about. Every time I try not to think or not to write, my brain won’t let me be. Last night was one of those nights. I got to sleep around 3:00 AM.
At 7:00 AM I lurched out of bed. For the past week I’ve barely slapped together one night of decent sleep. It’s tempting to get frustrated by my exhaustion, but I know to pause; I’ve been here before. I did about .5 seconds of research just now to discover that others experience similar physical responses to mine when their Sixth Sense takes over, whether that’s sleeplessness, choppy breathing, sweating, racing thoughts or stomach aches. According to Method 3 of Wikihow’s “3 Ways to Follow Your Intuition,” I have good reason to listen to my Spidey Senses:
Pay attention to your physical reactions. Dangerous or uncomfortable situations may trigger a physical stress response. In addition to an upset stomach, you might feel your palms sweating and your heart racing. In some cases, our bodies pick up on the signs that something is amiss before our brains do. Listen to what your body is telling you: these stress reactions are a signal to the conscious mind to be on guard.
I haven’t talked about this in awhile, but I have a pretty intense story that I point to whenever I start to feel like my gut instincts lead me astray.
On a weekend in the 90s, my twin sister and I were at a Pizza Hut doing the whole “Book It” challenge (do you remember that?!) with our parents. We were two slices deep into our personal pan pizzas when I started to feel my heart beat hard and quick. I ignored it at first because I didn’t want to be perceived as a hypochondriac. (Note: not reaching out for help would be a theme that would follow me well into the next decade). I must have given a weird look, so my mom asked me what was wrong. She sounded worried when I told her, but for whatever reason we all decided to just chill and see what would happen. Minutes later, my heart started palpitating. It didn’t hurt, but I knew something was off in my body. I started to sweat and hyperventilate. Not a moment passed before my dad got a phone call from my older sister’s husband who had gone into labor. He told us that her second born child was delivered safely, but that he had a congenital heart defect. We all sat there stunned not really knowing what to make of this development. Thankfully, my nephew pulled through and is a healthy young man today. But even then, I knew this was something worth remembering. I believe I had a premonition that day.
Though I could go on about the negatives of my anxiety as a result of intuitive thought, having one to listen to in the first place is my favorite part of being human. It’s the most basic and efficient way to suss out any situation by leaning almost completely on my Higher Power. There is no real way to substantiate intuitive thoughts, at least not scientifically. Though, I have read some thoroughly-research articles on the matter, including one published the year I was born. All I know is that my inner knowledge wakes up when I hear certain music or smell familiar fragrances. Is it a spiritual thing? Do other people feel senses at the same time in potentially dangerous situations? I think it’s worth investigating.
It was two o’clock on a Sunday when my eyes fluttered open. The light was bright–like, make-me-wretch-violently, bright. “Good,” I breathed warily, “It’s not rush hour yet.”
It was two o’clock, to be exact, on Easter Sunday. Really, it was just another day. As long as the Ralph’s on La Brea stayed open until I could get there-or-be-square, fit to be tied, on the buy-one-get-one-half-off sale for Oyster Bay Sauvingnon Blanc wine. Give me wine (from obscure regions like Marlborough of New Zealand), or give me death! Though to be fair, what was more urgent for me was to keep my parking spot secured outside of the apartment. That would require some hustle on my part, to and from the store to secure our provisions. Ah, to be young and drunk!
I enjoyed the forgotten holidays the most. Forgotten to me, that is; Christ rising seems to strike a memorable cord with others. Merely a detail. I didn’t need divine celebration. Like, ever. Who needs God when something secret, magical and sacred happens on the days that officially require nothing out of me, an atheist, and even less from the general hedonistic crowd I worshiped booze with? Rhetorical questions for (holi)dayssssss.
I drank because it made me feel bright and shiny, like the child of God I was fashioned to be. Cloaked in a shroud of false confidence, I celebrated that shit out of holidays I cared nothing about. I had every reason to feel uplifted: good job, a designated drinking buddy (boyfriend), available friends, temporary money in the bank and tight jeans. That’s all I ever needed to have a good time. A pair of Ray Bans didn’t hurt, either. Gotta look the part. Too bad underneath those shades my eyes were blood shot, my energies fixated on my next drink and the future pack of cigarettes necessary to mask my homesickness for the holidays. Staycations are slightly less fun when your alcoholism forces you into them.
We yanked the vodka out of his freezer to take some morning shots. “Oooo wait, there’s some Jager left!” he shouts, “Two more shots. Two for me, I mean. Maybe you, too.” Our couple unit had stayed drunk 28 nights (and some days) to date, a fact we were most proud to highlight. We woke up that day, like the previous 28, hungover and ill-prepared for human contact. And almost on cue, his parents called minutes after our morning “juice” to send their Easter love. And we felt the love. A bottle of Dom Perignon was in our future, sponsored by his generous and somewhat clueless family. “What do you two have planned for today? Dad and I are gonna enjoy this weather.” “Uh, we’ll probably cook some dinner, maybe go out later.” I covered my mouth to stifle my laughter. The only time he and I ever cooked anything, it was the elk his family hunted then put into the freezer. It was delicious, but not in my flavor profile. I think I had forgotten the greens (or was it a carb?) on the stove, setting off the fire alarm. We spent the next 15 minutes fanning the smoke away from the alarm and out of the windows. I took that opportunity to light up a cigarette with my head popped outside. I was selfish. Beyond that, I had a nasty habit of leaving shit on the stove or in the oven while wasted. By a grace higher than I deserved, I never needed to lean on mine or anyone else’s renter’s insurance for fire damage.
I composed myself enough to feign interest for this conversation. We chatted his folks up for awhile on speaker phone, batting away the sunshine streaming through the blinds as if it were a swarm of hornets. Might as well have been. “Oh, shit, we gotta call you back, Mom. We love you.” God forbid we don’t take the incoming call from his neighbor, a man I introduced him to when we moved my couch into his apartment. “Let’s hang out with Christina,” he chirps. For those of us who don’t abuse legal or illegal substances, Christina is a name we used when referring to cocaine. I guess you could say this was our version of an Easter egg hunt–search all the plastic eggs to find your perfect dime bag! Jelly beans are bullshit.
The Neighbors. This was the moniker we used to describe our troupe of European gay men who took us to The Abbey like every night. Easter weekend was no exception. Had I been more harmonious with a calendar, I’d be able to tell you when exactly The Neighbors introduced me to poppers. I know it was while watching sweaty men undulate under strobe lights, dancing to Britney’s Toxic. “Lift up your chin and close your eyes,” one of them said. “Inhale, NOW.” It was then I officially became the Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes. “Wow. This makes me want to do it.” “Do what? He giggled. “Dance like no one’s watching,” I very seriously replied. That was the same night my boyfriend dropped me while giving me a drunken piggy back ride home.
The Dom Perignon didn’t last but for a few measly sips. It kind of devastated me. Sixty bones for a legit bottle of booze and it lasted no longer than the Popov vodka we’d later destroy. For someone who blacked out regularly, I would never forget the nights when I justcouldn’t get drunk. Didn’t matter what swill I dumped down my gullet–my liver couldn’t process my drinking at the rate I was going. For an alcoholic of my type, there is no greater heart break.
I wish I could tell you I recognized my need to change right then and there, but I couldn’t. Not enough light seeped through the blinds that day, I guess.
Can’t explain, but it’s almost hard to recognize myself Slowly I’ve changed, turned into someone else I find myself doin’ things I’d never do Dreamin’ of [it] the whole day through Can’t explain, there is no need There’s no one else who’s been inside of me
Can’t be explained And there ain’t no reason to Something strange Just takes over you
I drank because alcohol made me feel less alone. I spent time with people who I had nothing in common with because it made me feel more interesting. I experimented with other substance because I wanted to defy my family who had raised me to love myself. With every sip of champagne, I spat in the fire, fanning the flames, drinking at others. I broke my own heart, repeatedly, in order to do what my disease saw fit: drink like no one was watching, until eventually, they couldn’t look away.
This is my third sober Easter. Dipped and dyed, purified. I don’t know that my sobriety makes me feel any closer to the holiday. It does make me wonder how many masses I’ve sat through white knuckling the pew. I have’t tried to investigate that too closely. But with every passing year, I get a little more used to celebrating holidays with my family. My mother continues to make me and my sister elaborate Easter baskets. I still wake up early on Easter Sunday to pick through the fake grass to find jelly beans hidden at the bottom of the basket. I don’t avoid the sunlight coming into my room, either, especially when the plants I have need all the light they can get. This year, like the last, I feel closer to okay. From Perignon champs to French Press cafe.