Today there are websites dedicated to all things cringeworthy: creepy text messages, Tinder flops, inexcusable fashion choices that look better on a tiny dog or a doll with severe malnutrition.
Anxiety goes hand-in-hand with depression. As soon as my head hits the cheap pillow I bought at Target with coins and not paper money, I can't turn my mind off. Suddenly, every unfavorable interaction I've experienced in the last 15 years manifest themselves for me to become anxious all over again. Some memories have really stuck with me, whether it was just me witnessing something out in public or my blunder that either could have been completely avoided or handled very differently.
I always get caught up in the first lines of a conversation with someone.
Me: Hey, how's it going?
Them: Not bad, you?
Me: I'm okay, you?
Them: Not bad...
Most often when I see people, I'll usually just say "what's up" in hopes the greeting will give me some more time to scramble on forming the words that are going to be coming out of my dumb face. Now that I'm sober, I permanently lack the liquid communication skills I relied upon to be friends with damn near anyone. The inebriation lubrication was at an all time high for me, off stage and on stage.
Comedy began to get sloppy. Three beers was usually the perfect amount for me to be comfortable on stage. I could be chummy with the crowd while not being an asshole. But I could never remember my sets, and if I somehow managed to record the clusterfuck I was performing, I was always slurring my words and stuttering through punchlines. It feels good to be coherent and to really be able to revise jokes and take pride in where my jokes were to where they are now. They went from little baby premises to adolescent crowd work. It's interesting to see jokes grow over time. Some jokes die alone and unfinished, some jokes continued to stumble out of the gate time and again.
I'm so hyper aware without alcohol. Every interaction is a deluge of possible fuck ups. I'm right handed, so when someone approaches me and I'm either holding a cigarette or my cell phone with my right hand, I do this little t-rex arm motion with my left hand to not leave them hanging. Instead I look like I lost my purse or that I'm in danger without an adult, like two left mittens trying to hug each other.
These guys know what I'm talking about.
Life without alcohol is awkward as fuck. How am I supposed to get on an airplane? What else should I be doing at Friday night at 6pm? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO MEET NEW PEOPLE. Some people have told me that I used to be really friendly. Now that I'm more quiet and reserved without my Jameson, some have taken notice. Drunk Me was a handful, crying over dead pets or lost volleyballs. Sober Me is consistently rehearsing preemptive interactions or experiences with other people. I'm basically always on guard to be a real person, or the person I was no longer.
I talk to myself in the mirror a lot, and it's not the "you wanna piece of me" bullshit. It's "I feel hurt by your actions at this time and place." You know, therapy stuff. Use "I" statements! Slap an emotion on that bad boy and really hammer home how you feel. Or even pulling a Costanza and thinking up a comeback to something someone said days earlier. When I was in sixth grade, a girl classmate of mine claimed that "she owned the color yellow." She made statements to the kingdom of junior high that could not be disobeyed: no sixth grade girl is to wear yellow. It was a big year for Old Navy Performance Fleece, and there were a few girls in my class who received a verbal lashing from Princess Monochrome. Sixth grade girls are assholes, but they don't really know they're assholes until high school. At least the girls from the suburbs.
Is it fashionable? Is it expensive? No! It's just ugly.
So I think back to these seemingly insignificant moments in time, but they aren't really insignificant. These memories and feelings and emotions have wedged themselves in my psyche for whatever reason. They had an impact on me, whether I liked it or not. Yellow happened to be my favorite color. The blanket I was brought home from the hospital in was yellow. Big Bird was yellow. Most cheese is yellow. Why should I be banned from the color that makes me feel safe and pleasant and calm all at once? WHY ASHLEY WHY.
These thoughts keep me up at night because there was no resolution, but I also didn't have control of the situation. I didn't externalize how I felt or addressed my emotions. I didn't take a step back and think, "wait, how is this making me feel right now?" I'm finding myself doing this more often, thanks to my therapist and the loads of professionals I've had the mild pleasure of interacting with over the last few months. Stopping for just a moment to realize how I'm feeling has been beneficial. I'm no longer searching for that word to describe an elusive feeling.
She doesn't even go here.
And yeah, I do have a lot of feelings, but it's going to be a long-term process to learn how to regulate them into my life. Of course, now that I'm not drinking, my levels of sorrow and pain and depression and the tiny joy I experience during the day will be less severe. I haven't called Tom Hanks a "motherfucker" in months!