Monday, September 21

Alcohol was my Czech hedgehog.

The last time I saw Audrey was in 2004. My parents were on a bullet train to separation and I was struggling with the typical teenager nonsense of who I am versus what I'm supposed to be. The four of us agreed I was to enter outpatient rehab while unknowingly agreeing to poor SAT scores, slipping grades, high school generated rumors, a penchant for further experimenting with sex and drugs, and an unhealthy start to a career in self-hate.

The office where her practice is located hasn't really changed. Little toy figurines line her window sills. She has an updated DSM-V on her bookshelf. She still has the same clock we both use to keep track of when my emotional outpourings need to come to an end. She has a Macbook now.

I caught her up on the melee of the last ten years of my life: moving to a different state, my pancreas giving up on me, voluntarily going to inpatient treatment, reassuring people that doing stand up comedy isn't just a hobby, and going through a slew of relationships, only a few of which I regret. She listened intently as I gave her a crash course in my career of bad and risky decisions. I was neither embarrassed nor ashamed of my emotional résumé which landed me in hot water numerous times. She didn't seem surprised things got worse. In her words, "To be honest, after all the stuff you've gone through, you're still going. And that's good." She got a little Churchill on me, which I suppose is better than Eisenhower.

After I talked to her for about 40 minutes, she and I came to the very blunt summary of my depression and grief: I can't accept things I can't control...which is strange because I've been reciting the serenity prayer at least twice a week for the last seven months. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. There are thousands of things I cannot change, but only a few of them really get under my skin and make me want to make vague Facebook posts about it or completely have a melt down at a time that's inconvenient for everyone around me. I am completely stuck on wanting to change things, people, and events in the past which concluded with an unfavorable outcome. I can't let go.

I'm curious as to why I have such a hard time letting things go. When I was in rehab, some of my counselors told me "to embrace new opportunities and let go of the old opportunities that did not come to fruition." It's hard to let go of the fact my body gave up on me when I have to think about it 4-5 times a day. It's painful to realize that some of my family members have never acknowledged or apologized for the pain they brewed in others. But the hopeful and unattainable outcomes have been just another instance of me heightening my expectations. I'd like to think that the people close to me will do the right thing, the logical thing, the human thing, the compassionate thing. But not everyone in my life is going to act the way that I expect them to.

I have major issues with control. Right now, I'd love for the children outside of the apartment to stop screaming like they stumbled upon a murder scene from SVU. I'd love for the Seahawks to use Jimmy Graham for his intended skills as a tight end and not completely ignore him during an important game at Lambeau. Why must I have control over everything around me? In a lot of ways, I think that 10 years ago, the last time I saw Audrey, everything was out of my control. I had no say in a few monumental things that occurred in my life. So today, I try to make sure a trip to the grocery store or a phone call to Walgreens goes according to plan and doesn't completely shit the bed.

I was reminded about how little Audrey's office changed because I have a tendency to zone out and focus on the physical things around me when there is a serious, crisis fraught conversation going on around me. When Audrey, my parents, and myself were discussing my fate as a junior in high school by entering outpatient rehab, I zoned out on her clock. Her clock makes a distinctive tick when the second hand goes around. When the room became silent and thick with judgements or concerns, I stared at her clock, listening to the mathematical sound her clock expelled each second. I zoned out on the carpet patterns, which used to be sort of a brick red but is now an intricate wheat texture and pattern. I haven't seen her African tribal masks or her pueblo figurines from New Mexico on top of her book shelf in years. I have been temporarily leaving serious conversations for years, even when I was much younger. I would get in trouble at school or there was a detrimental matter at hand that affected the whole family that sat lump and unavoidable on the table, and I would be lost in the place mats on the kitchen table or the one barstool on the peninsula that was off kilter. Perhaps the perpetual zonings out were a way of me escaping before I discovered the use of alcohol would amplify my escape tenfold.

Without alcohol, I actually need to face my problems. I can't drink them away from under the covers because I hate myself and everyone around me. The struggle is literally real. When I enter "worst case scenario mode," I am quickly under the impression everyone is against me and no one is listening to me. I've even caught myself a few times reaching for a beer in midair. The depression and grief went side by side with Coors Light, cheap pinot noir, and Jameson. I couldn't have one without the other, sort of like Coors Light and Jameson. Facing these struggles without alcohol leaves me feeling weak and defeated, but I'm getting through it. I don't feel as if there is a giant reward at the end of the recovery tunnel. I mean, maybe there is, some much needed peace from the bullshit monotony of going through the motions, perhaps.

Sorry, (well, not sorry) this pity party needs to come to a close. It was nice to see Audrey today because she was a positive and supportive reminder of my past and not the onslaught of horseshit that transpired in 2004. She supported me and helped me communicate my needs and my fears. She is the type of person to which I should be renting space in my head. There is a long list of applications vying for the questionable real estate that is always two inches away from crumbling over the cliff. But it's always nice to have people in my corner.

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