A Brief Study in Madness

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.

Lady Gaga Dreams
Photo courtesy of Arizona Foothills Magazine

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.

chandelier LA

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.

In sleeping and in waking, I am me.

A dream scenario.

 

Featured Image courtesy of Anne M. Peterson

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Snowlidary Confinement

Day six of snowed-in-ness and the plows JUST arrived. Side streets all over Petersburg¬†were¬†caked with snow and ice, long after the storm had passed. Snowzilla–or Storm Jonus–swept¬†Virginia¬†last Thursday night, right on the heels of news that I’d be my school’s new¬†permanent science class substitute.

I haven’t been to school yet.

But I now know a hell of a lot more about plate tectonic shifts, velocity, photosynthesis and convection. I saved about 100 articles on Facebook from I Fucking Love Science, too. I’ll¬†do myself the favor now and¬†tweak that URL for the kids, out of common decency.

Kids love snow days. I have never much cared for them; I don’t do cold weather, nor do I revel in snow play. I’m sure that¬†teachers appreciate them a whole lot, though. These snow days were different for me, however, because they were my first ones spent sober. I was grateful for them, but¬†with a caveat: I fear¬†loneliness. And, irony/pun intended,¬†I am not alone.¬†Isolation of any kind¬†is a big cause for concern in the recovery community. The same can be argued for those experiencing depression. Often, individuals dealing with addiction qualify as¬†dual-diagnosis¬†cases (myself included)¬†facing the double-whammy¬†that is¬†mental health issues AND addiction. Generally speaking, isolation makes me feel kinda bleh. This means that I have to get out to meetings where other humans are; coffee, dinner and movie AA dates are nearly non-negotiable (trust me, I’ve tried). I’m not a fan of contrived socializing, any more than I am a proponent of Netflix for a week straight with no outside interaction.

But now that I love being in my own company, otherwise-isolating snow days¬†are a blast. I did online AA meetings, I spoke on the phone to my recovery and non-recovery friends and I blossomed within my at-home¬†30-day yoga practice. Thanks to a few¬†hours of intense yoga sessions–with candles burning as I wore my skivvies–I can now do headstands. I have been practicing yoga for NINE years without ever achieving such a thing. The best part of all of this is what I discovered: isolation is not the same as spending time alone. Being snowed in was not my choice, but spending quality time with myself very much was.

Not every¬†person in my very (very) small circle of AA friends out here agrees with my opinions on alone time. I don’t blame them; alcoholics in a snow storm is like a set-up for a bad punchline. Setting aside the pleasant shock of seeing snow for the first time since 2008, I had a few reservations myself. At the slightest glimpse of a storm, I would be the first one in the liquor store line to stock my shelves with “provisions.” But the closest I came to that kind of self-sabotage were the relapse nightmares I had for the past two nights.¬†As scary as it is to imagine a life back in active addiction, a dream is just a dream. (I had one exception: I dreamt three nights ago I went to space with Rob Lowe.)¬†My reality is much sweeter, albeit quite cold. Altogether, free of any Rob Lowe not on a screen.

I’m not saying it’s good to hole up inside your home and tell the world to go fuck itself. I’m merely pointing out that it can be nice to take a break from constant socializing. I think we could use a little more of that.¬†What is most¬†important for me to remember is to jump back into face-to-face interactions as soon as possible. I’ll do so, with snow boots on. Maybe some flannel.

Enjoy the sun, Cali.

Photo courtesy of ToppixGallery