This morning my head is aching, my eyes are swollen almost shut, and I am pondering my life choices.
But I do not have a hangover.
Booze would be one reason to be awake a 4 AM, sobbing silently on my couch. The last season of Friday Night Lights would be another. I suffer today because of the later, not the former.
When I first became sober an unexpected thing happened. For months I was completely overcome with emotions. Not any particular emotion all the time, more like continual waves of all the emotions I hadn’t had in so many years. By the time I couldn’t put down the bottle without divine intervention I had no capacity left to experience emotions. I was completely hollowed out inside; able to hate my job, be lonely, and occasionally get angry, but that about covers my range. I can remember now moments along the way, individual times when I was unhappy or discouraged or overwhelmed, and life seemed hard but being drunk was easy. Eventually it’s impossible to muster unhappy, that’s out of reach, beyond the need for more alcohol. Once there is no more alcohol (and the shakes wear off) there is a seemingly endless barrage of emotion. This is all perfectly normal, but I had no idea it was going to happen. (I’m starting to wonder if people don’t necessarily talk so much about early sobriety because it is scary as fuck and if you were still drinking and heard what it was going to be like then you’d just keep drinking?)
As I said, for months I was completely overcome with emotions. This resulted in many things: babbling conversations that didn’t make any fucking sense; occasional cake binges; crying and laughing at the same time. But the most noticeable result in my life was that I couldn’t watch any TV that was in any way serious, or that I was attached to, or that dealt with anything real. I just couldn’t. I started and dropped new shows, because there was no pre-sobriety association. I tried to take comfort in the lighter shows that I had loved for so long, but after a few seconds I would turn it off.
In this time ended one of my most favoritest of all shows: Friday Night Lights. And I knew it was there, haunting me, calling to me with all of its humble and touching perfection. But I wasn’t ready. And over time this became a huge joke among the friends that I had convinced to watch this show and then had finished it before me. Conversations would occasionally include the gentle nudge “so, how about finishing Friday Night Lights.”
Last night, after a false start 3 days ago and getting through the first 2 episodes of S5, I forced myself to sit on my couch, ignore the planning work I “wanted” to do, and started up the Netflix. It was time. When I said I wasn’t ready before, I mean that in more than one sense. I wasn’t ready for my beautiful show to be over. I find it one of the supreme injustices of the world that shite like Family Guy and Grey’s Anatomy run for season after season and getting more episodes of FNL was like pulling teeth. I wasn’t ready to face a world that had no hope of new episodes of the Taylors and their team, both football and marital. But I wasn’t ready in another sense. After somewhat weathering the storm of early sobriety I wasn’t ready to invite that kind of turmoil into myself again. It’s been nice to make the choice for myself to not let something into my life that is going to reach inside of me and start playing in all the parts I don’t like or am frightened by. I knew what would happen; that seeing characters I love struggle and strive and fail and triumph, all underneath a vast, quiet sky, would crack me open and expose that which I didn’t want to see. With that knowledge I got to say “no,” to protect myself. Asserting that “no” was like a tiny balm against all of the things that I can’t keep out.
What changed? Why now?
Over the last week I’ve been unbelievably pissy. And unable to sleep. It seems like everything that everyone says makes me annoyed. Now, in all fairness, this isn’t technically any different than the way I normally am. I’m always annoyed. But it is different in the sense that I don’t want to stand up for what I think is right, I just want everyone to shut the fuck up and leave me in peace. I came frighteningly close to throwing something at a guy in a coffee shop on Sunday. I was working on a discussion outline for a book I’m teaching next year and at the table next to me two bros were catching up on the latest tedium from their lives. For 2 hours I listened to this man-child (30 years old, same age I will be in 2 months) ramble on about how anyone not “having fun and making memories” is shallow, how he can’t stand when people talk about their jobs because he makes more money than they do, how his date was super-hot but not into sex on the first date so he won’t call her again, but she was super-hot, and how even though he is still married he should have proposed to a woman that he “loves” and needs a greencard. His buddy nodded along and inserted appropriate approval during all this drivel. And then added his own drivel. I shit you not, I thought I was going to explode. Between the basic misunderstanding of what words mean (being only concerned with physical appearance is just as “shallow” as being only concerned with status or money) and the inability to look beyond immediate physical desires (Hey asshole, do you think the fact that you can’t seem to keep it in your pants is why you will be divorced at some point? Most likely 3 or 4 times?) I decided that lifelong celibacy was a small price to pay for not ever having to actually exchange words with that type of cretin. But the whole time I barely suppressed my desire to stand up and tell him, on behalf of human dignity, to shove it. Most of the time I can tune people like that out in public places, or realize why their stupidity is hilarious. But not this last week.
Oh yeah, and not sleeping. Well, when I say not sleeping I mean not sleeping when normal people sleep. At about 10:30 every night when I get into bed I am suddenly hit with a sharp stab of depression, and then I can’t sleep, until about 3:30 when my body can no longer function, so I sleep until 11 AM or so. I find this unpleasant not just because pre-sleep depression is super sucky (it is) but also because it is most definitely summer here in greater DC and early early morning is the only time being outside is somewhat pleasant, so it’s a total waste to be sleeping through it. The flare-up of insomnia coupled with the general irritation at the rest of God’s creation made me think maybe I was bottling some stuff up inside.
At about 6 PM I started watching. By midnight I was crying. By 2 AM I was sobbing. At 4:07 AM the final credits played. At around 5 AM I stopped crying and fell asleep. I cried for the student I never managed to figure out and may have left worse off than when she met me. I cried for the ordinary life that seems forever out of my reach. I cried for the fact that without love life is meaningless. I cried for the hours behind me and the hours ahead. I cried for Texas and a life derailed.
And I cried because it will all be ok.
It took me a long time to figure out the whole “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” thing. Sounded like sports mumbojumbo to me. And some days it’s easy for me to forget. But, if you live with honesty and with love then you’ve succeeded, whatever the outcome. That’s what I mean when I say I cried because it will be ok. Because despite setbacks both major and minor, despite days of easy peace and days of white-knuckle-wine-avoidance, despite floundering and flailing, and despite being the difficult little person that I am, everyday it is easier to be more honest and to be more loving.
So thanks Dillion, it’s been real.
(1 Year, 9 Months, and 6 Days Sober)