Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Navigating Rough Seas

I learned some important things about myself yesterday. The main one is a reminder that I'm only human. So, sometimes I am going to feel things that, really, if I had any say about it, I just would rather not feel.

It all started on Sunday, on the way back from the family reunion, when I got some news (in a text message, which is sort of an "ouch" in itself) from a dear friend. It wasn't anything I was happy to hear. In all fairness, it was news I knew I would be getting at some point; I just wasn't expecting it so soon. Think bombshell, and you've got the idea. No forewarning, no time to duck into a bomb shelter, no time to even put on a sturdy helmet to lighten the blow.

You know that feeling--the one where all the air gets sucked out of you and your mind goes blank and you feel a bit disembodied as this big wave cascades down your body? That was the first thing I felt. Then I just kind of went numb. Then I sort of went into "bridal blackout"--so much adrenaline in my system that honestly I can't remember the next hour or so. I know I answered graciously. I know I didn't lash out in anger.

I had fitful sleep that night, and I stumbled through Monday, still sort of numbed out. Thankfully, I had a long shift at work in the afternoon, so there wasn't much time for living in my head. I continued numbing out a bit, letting things sort of internally settle, by spending Monday night watching a movie. I had trouble sleeping again and finally resorted to taking an extra tablet of melatonin, putting in my earbuds, and closing my eyes while I let some documentary about Sacco and Vanzetti drone in my head, just to shut up the voices that were beginning to nag at me.

Went for a run on the treadmill yesterday morning when I got up. It's a good way to purge myself of hateful emotions. At the end of my run, as I was cooling down, I even shed a few tears. I decided to write to my friend telling her how I was feeling. (I'm open that way. I'm not one of those persons to keep others guessing. At times this is both a blessing and a curse to those poor souls who befriend me.) But I measured my language. I was careful to state that I wasn't angry (because I'm not). And I even said I wasn't hurt (because I'm not, at least not in the sense of "oh my god, you've fucked me up and I will never be the same!") I did say I was sad. And I did say I was disappointed at being blindsided.

I've written here before about how one key thing sobriety has taught me is to not have expectations of other people. This is because most expectations are completely unrealistic--human nature being what it is--and, as the saying goes, "Expectations are just premeditated resentments." The degree of how hurt you can get is directly proportionate to how high your expectations are. Nowadays I try to have only two expectations of those I hold dear: don't lie to me (and this includes lies of omission) and treat me as you would yourself like to be treated (ie, with some measure of caring, respect, and regard). This last thing can be pretty muddy at times; there's lots of wiggle room I give people and myself, so this becomes: "Do the best you can." If a person's intentions are at least in the right place and they're not acting from a place of utter selfishness or malice, I can pretty much forgive anything. Sometimes I, too, can be pretty self-centered and not think through as well as I could have how my actions or words might impact another. That's true of anybody.

And I tried to get on with my day, figuring that my friend and I would talk all this out at some point and I'd reach an understanding of why things shook out the way they did, and then I'd get over it.

And as my morning unfolded, the emotions I'd numbed out on the day before starting rolling in. Hurt, first; for having my feelings so disregarded. Then anger (doesn't most anger come from hurt?) My thoughts went something like this: "What a deceitful, selfish bitch! Telling me this in a text message! What kind of coward is she? Loser." You get the picture. I was working myself up into a frenzy and then it hit me.

Fuck. I need a drink.

I wanted a drink so bad I started clenching my jaw.

So I sat down, took deep breaths, and thought it through. What would a drink do? The first one or two would lighten the intensity of my emotions, chill me out, make me laugh at the humor in the situation. I would feel better. So I'd go for the third, the fourth, the fifth. And then I'd find myself right back where I was at the start, hurt and angry, only this time minus any inhibitions or "self sanity" checks. My inner ranting would have continued, gotten worse, and--and HERE is the key thing I realized, the thing that hit me--I would have started to believe my own ranting.

Sober, I am perfectly willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and not believe that she's a cowardly, selfish liar. I'm willing to get the story first. I sincerely believe that, once I get the whole story, I'll understand why things happened the way they happened and no longer have any use for all these nutty psychological defense mechanisms that are presently working overtime to assuage my ego and comfort hurt feelings.

If I drank, I would no longer care if I got the whole story and in fact I'd just prefer the version I made up in my own head. And like a fish story, every time I drank henceforth, her evils would grow bigger and bigger and I'd just write her off as a total cruel jackass who'd used me.

This realization nailed down for me exactly how it is that a using alcoholic or addict comes to live in a world of illusion, what I've been trying to explain in this blog about how we just make shit up.

The desire to drink was gone, but I called my sponsor anyway. We chatted; I don't think I even mentioned that I'd had a bad few minutes of cravings, because they were gone.

I understand my disease a lot better today. I hope writing about this helps someone else understand.

Back to the situation with my friend: who knows? I've asked for the opportunity to talk but so far there hasn't been a convenient time for her. So clearly I'm not up there on the list of priorities. Does this hurt? Yes. Should I take it personally? No. I reckon she's in a bad, mixed up place right now and perhaps isn't thinking straight. Been there, done that. I'll wait a few more days and see what happens.

A caveat: if I find myself craving a drink again, I may need to put a lot of space between the two of us for a time. And to Chelle, my sponsor, and my BFINMs (you know who you are), if you're reading this, thanks for the support yesterday. You helped me more than you may realize. You've given me gratefulness, something that's hard to find when the sea is rough and sailing isn't smooth.

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