Blackout One

I was 15 the first time I remember drinking alcohol. Really drinking it, not just tasting it when I was 9 because I stole my mom’s Zima or one of my family members thought it was funny to give me beer as a child. I mean full on drinking it. I was a freshman in high school and there were a lot of extenuating circumstances. A bunch of us threw a party and it was a bust. No one showed up. So we drank vodka out of a bottle because everyone was frustrated and pissed. Then the seniors started showing up. I don’t remember any of this, of course, because I was already blacked out. 

There’s a photo of me holding a bottle of vodka and chugging it, posing in some goofy split stance of power. I didn’t have any power that night. When I look back on this scene with a sober mentality, I can see so clearly it’s where my true addiction started. I got shitfaced and eventually showed my tits to a senior, who then took a photo and passed it around to the entire school. When I tried to confront these men, they all lied to my face and said they had no idea what I was talking about. Surprise, surprise. I would allow this to be the narrative of my life for a long time to come.

I had been waiting for a guy to show up at this party, one I was enamored with. I was always waiting on this guy and he almost never showed. I learned that night to cope with my feelings outwardly, to express anger by drinking or feeling entitled to my rage or upset instead of feeling it internally, not letting it overtake me. Everyone else was happy to do the same. Throughout the remainder of my 20s, this was the kind of behavior I continued to seek out in friends. It allowed me to blackout drink. It was the only truth I knew. It was my normal.

That evening in question, my friends had decided I was too drunk to deal with and dropped me off at MY HOUSE that night where my dad was asleep. I knocked on his door and said I didn’t feel well. He never mentioned anything about it the next day. I still don’t know if he was subconsciously choosing to ignore the signs or if he genuinely did not know how drunk I was. He was unemployed and drinking heavily himself at the time. It was my first realization that I could get away with this kind of behavior. The next day, the girl I had been partying with the night before posted something on a social media account about what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. This wonderful person would eventually die of an overdose years later.

I will say the most confusing part along my progression of alcoholism over the last 15 years has been that no one ever took me aside to let me know that drinking to blackout drunk wasn’t normal. People thought it was funny. When I told people, they laughed. I didn’t have parents watching over me or, really, anyone that I could confide in who had any sense of what was healthy or to admonish me. All my friends drank this way. We had a high tolerance. Plus I kept my shit together during the week. For a time.

Looking back, I think the only reason I didn’t progress more quickly into alcoholism was, ironically, because of my eating disorder. I used bulimia as a way to numb out the same way I used alcohol. I caused pain to my body to distract me from the suffering my mind was constantly enmeshed in. I created a worry cycle of scarcity, needing to eat, overeating, feeling pain, needing to not feel said pain, feeling a sense of control by giving myself relief by purging. Alcohol was no different. I just used it in secret. I drank openly and suffered through my eating disorder in private. There was no respite.

I’ve been in recovery from bulimia for three years now. It’s taken an enormous amount of introspection to heal years of malignant coping mechanisms for trauma that stayed with me. I knew for a long time I needed help but I didn’t know how to ask for it. I felt like a small child, constantly looking to others to see if my behavior was acceptable. I was a small child in a lot of ways. This behavior felt the same with alcohol. I had been circling around the idea of sobriety for many months but was too afraid and too ashamed to finally say it: I want to stop but I can’t. So one day I just looked at my partner and said it. I called my women’s circle and said it. I had been drinking champagne and I knew I couldn’t feel this way any longer.

The funny thing is, saying those words was the hardest part, both for my drinking and my eating disorder. I love everything about sobriety. Now that I’m sober, I can see that this is exactly where I am supposed to be because it’s exactly who I am. I know I will have challenges with alcohol in my future, but I love spending time at dinner parties being fully present, having no self-confidence issues, and being totally myself. I love myself. I trust myself. Don’t get me wrong – there’s so much work I have to do around this still, particularly with forgiveness and learning to hold the emotions that are really hard for me sober (anger, frustration, embarrassment), but I am willing to look at that stuff now. Because none of it is as scary as the idea of spending one more day out of control or out of my mind.

Sober Curious

This past weekend I did a staycation. I spent the weekend in San Francisco eating out and ordering expensive wine, drinking tequila out of a flask with my boyfriend while atop one of those horrific tourist buses (which, in fact, are not as fun as you think they would be). My partner and I ate good food and drank good wine for two days before I called it quits. The city was too loud for a highly sensitive person like myself and there was too much chaos around to relax. We decided to head north to wine country and spend a night in a quiet town where we did wine tastings instead. We went to some small wineries and talked with the people pouring and had an okay meal with bad service before getting too drunk and getting into an argument over something ridiculous that we never would have fought about before drinking wine all day. We almost never fight. This felt like a warning sign to me.

I woke up the next morning and felt like I was trapped in my own body again, a feeling I hadn’t grappled with for some time. I wanted to stay clear mentally all day, but I had a goodbye party to attend before leaving for college on the East Coast, where I knew there would be champagne. And a lot of it. Fuck it. I went and I drank and, as much as I wanted to have a good time, I was tired. Tired of drinking alcohol. Tired of who I was when I drank. I didn’t do anything offensive or embarrassing, but as soon as my partner picked me up, I realized I couldn’t lie to myself any longer. I hated alcohol. I hated that I wanted to have one glass and instead had more because saying no was too hard. I hated the pattern of it all. Mostly I hated myself.

After three years in therapy, I realize now that I no longer need to use alcohol as a way to protect myself. I’m doing well enough on my own. Alcohol no longer enables me to numb out. Instead I feel everything tenfold. I realized that if I wanted to stay alive I had to quit drinking. The first time I took a drink I was 15 and I blacked out. I wish I could say my relationship with alcohol was different from that moment on and that I learned a lesson, but I continued to blackout drink my entire adult life, probably the product of an addictive substance I didn’t realize I had no control over as a teenager. I didn’t know how to regulate my drinking. I have never had a healthy relationship with alcohol. I’m not sure why that was so hard to admit. I was entangled with a group of people who never saw this as a problem, and perhaps that’s why I never questioned that everyone drank like we did, but as an adult it’s time to say enough is enough. Alcohol is harmful and scary and it’s okay to decide that it’s not a good fit. I wanted to make this decision for years but I’ve been too afraid to label myself as an alcoholic. Our society is not kind or forgiving to people who can’t consume alcohol like a normal person. Maybe I’m not normal. But I know I can be whoever I want in this world, and I know now that person is sober.

Trigger Stuff

Trigger warning for those sensitive to material about eating disorders.

I have been in remission from bulimia for some time now. Lately it’s been coming up for me. I am moving across the country in a month and am working a stressful case in order to have enough savings to get my through my last few years of my bachelor’s degree. Tonight someone made a joke in front of me about being triggered and I snapped back that triggers are a real problem for those of us that actually battle with eating disorders. It was an ugly way to handle the situation and I later apologized and explained I am struggling. It was a reflection of my own inner nastiness. None of it felt good.

The frustrating thing about an eating disorder is, as much as you’d like to think yourself well versed in your own triggers and healing, the truth is it can be a slippery slope in recovery if you aren’t diligent about self-care. I’m working too much, not eating healthy, and exercising almost nil. Any of those things alone are manageable for me, but not all at once. And I’m frustrated because I don’t feel like going to the gym because I’ve been pulling long days and I’m tired. Plus I am afraid to put on exercise clothes. None of my jeans fit right now. Pulling on a pair of leggings that are too small makes me feel fat as fuck. I already feel bad enough. I can almost see the comparisons my brain will make about how not-in-shape enough I am compared to my past self and all the other people around me.

But I know the answer to my problem: I HAVE TO WORK OUT. So I’m going to go to the gym tonight and get my heart rate up and then spend ample time in the sauna. That’s all good self-care. I want to share that years in remission is not a free and clear field. This is a long-term battle for some people. It’s okay to not have it together. Just keep trying.

turning away from narcissism

There was a period after I entered therapy when it dawned on me that almost all of the people I considered myself close with were, surprise surprise, emotional vampires. I sort of hate that term because it sounds dramatic in a way that diminishes how desensitized our culture has become to its rampant narcissism. Look at influencers. Look at our president. But anyway, that’s really what dealing with narcissists feels like. They suck you dry emotionally. And for those of us that are empaths (sup Type 2 enneagrams!?) and perhaps haven’t yet learned how to rope in the endless well that is our attentive listening for those who actually deserve it, it can be devastating to our mental health.

Engaging in one-sided relationships exacerbated a cycle that kept me down and unsupported. I had almost no one in my life who cared for me in a reciprocal way, save for some lovely boyfriends, and thought the people who would talk at me about themselves without pausing to see how I am doing or ask questions about my life were a sign of social success. I also look back on other friendships and wonder if I mirrored those traits because this is what I thought friendship looked like. I had people who wanted to drink beers with me or told me they loved me sometimes if I behaved the right way. I don’t want to negate the love that developed in certain relationships in my life. Just because it was fucked up doesn’t mean it wasn’t love. We all have our own way of giving and receiving it. It’s just not always healthy. 

Over time and with the counsel of my therapist I eventually phased out almost all of those relationships and, in the case of family, I learned better boundaries. I still get frustrated and don’t fully understand how to deal with wanting someone to fuck off because, I realized, not all emotional vampires are mean or ill-intentioned. Some people just need love in a quantity that is both exhausting and insatiable. I’m sympathetic to this scenario because I very genuinely see myself as someone who used to behave that way. This is where self-awareness and growth are necessary. There are people who don’t want to seek help and rather choose stay wrapped in their cocoon of safety, their vampiric lair. 

You can learn appropriate ways to give and receive love and to take care of yourself so you aren’t constantly asking too much of others. Because it’s not up to others to satisfy an unending or unquenched thirst for love. Especially if you didn’t get that growing up. Seriously, it’s a deep well and it’s okay to need it filled up with love and support. It’s okay to ask for help from friends. It’s okay to need to be heard. It’s okay to find your support system. But it’s also imperative to consider the person of whom you are repeatedly turning to for support. The frequency. The emotionality of your support system. And it’s imperative that you learn to fill your empty well up by yourself instead of turning to others to do it for you. Because drying up a well is not just exhausting for the empath, it’s draining on the relationship that exists between you as well.

Anger

I believe women are deeply shamed for anger in our society. It’s an emotion men are encouraged to feel and one women are not. I hope in the years to come those standards change. I hope men are encouraged to embrace all emotions on the spectrum. I hope women embrace their anger. It’s healing. Anger shows me when my boundaries are being violated. But that doesn’t make it any easier to express. I preface this piece with a note that I wrote this when I was first starting to processing anger instead of ignore it. I ended the essay with a note about how much I love my cat because I felt at the time the essay was too heavy with emotion and I was concerned about making other people feel uncomfortable. My point in publishing is to convey that anger is just another emotion on the spectrum of healing. Embracing it doesn’t have to be scary. And discomfort is fine.

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The truth is that I feel really angry deep in my core. I’m angry about everything and I’m angry with everyone. I’m angry my friend can’t ever fucking show up outside of our text relationship. I’m angry my ex is getting healthy while I’m still stuck in a depressive cycle. I’m angry at my family for being so fucking needy. I’m angry that old friends have moved on. I’m angry I was their sad friend they used to feel better. I’m angry that my English teacher isn’t more effusive. I’m angry about how unsure I am of myself. I’m angry that being emotionally raw is disgusting to society. I’m angry that I can’t be my most wicked self and unforgivingly so. I’m angry people are repulsed by me being the loud, outspoken feminist. I’m angry about years of patriarchal oppression. I’m angry about feeling shame around fucking everything. I’m so fucking sick of feeling shame. Fuck shame. I’m angry and I want to break things. I want to hit things and shatter windows and break mirrors and get cut and bleed all over fucking everything. I’m so MAD. I’m angry that I will never ever actually find fucking meaning in life. I’m angry that life is so useless and stupid. I’m angry that I will never find my tribe. I’m angry that I’m having to write this stupid essay about how angry I am because I don’t even have a women’s circle to be angry in for the first time. Because an angry woman destroyed the trust of the circle and of the group. Fuck anger. Fuck dealing with it. Fuck expressing it. Fuck having it take over your life. Fuck every happy, normal person who ever lived. Fuck feeling depressed. Fuck feeling stuck. Fuck feeling like I’ll never realize my full potential because I DON’T DESERVE IT. Fuck feeling bad. Fuck being told that I am broken. Fuck being broken. Fuck me for every time I’ve been a blind, oblivious, stupid fucking prick who has hurt someone. I’m angry at my fucking mother. I HATE NOT HAVING A MOTHER. I hate it so fucking much. I hate being stuck on this planet without a woman to love me and hold me and care for me. I hate having to do this work. I hate the struggle. I hate that every day is so hard. I hate fighting through it when things are really difficult. I hate that my cat is the only thing I truly love in this world and I hate that I have to leave her for two years in college. I hate being depressed. I hate abusing alcohol. I hate being poor. I hate biting my nails. I hate feeling smarter than most people and wanting to shut myself away because everyone’s stupidity and obtuseness makes me sick. I hate knowing I am stupid and obtuse in my own ways and that I cannot fully understand all of it in context. At least I have Martha. Martha, who has been through so much trauma and has barely survived, and been through so much pain, only to become the most loving, cuddly thing I’ve ever had a relationship with. Who gets under my feet when I’m walking because she knows I’ll pick her up and touch her and play with her. Martha, who squeaks at me in the morning to say hi and let me know she’s awake and wants a pat. Martha doesn’t make me angry or disappoint me. I love Martha.

Does real love exist?

Does real love actually exist? Like the kind that everyone is always waiting for. Or is this just a long wait in vain and a never ending string of filtering through people that for some reason or another start to annoy you or disappoint you or you realize you’re the fucked up one and you leave to head off the entire mess? But you don’t actually ever leave when you should, in the beginning, because the bandaid would hurt to rip off fresh so you have to wait until it gets dirty and is already peeling around at all the edges. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to stop filtering through people because being alone is scary and boring and sad. It’s sad. It feels sad. Instead I want to keep connecting with people and believing that they’re the one and that I’m going to be happy with this person and that they’re the answer to every question I’ve ever had about whether I’m good enough and deserving enough because they are actual living, physical proof, an embodiment of how good I am and how lovable I am and a guard against anyone who thinks anything otherwise. I am lovable. But that’s really a form of using someone and not actually loving them, isn’t it? That’s fucked up. That’s what I do. I am fucked up. The story I tell myself about myself is that I am fucked up. I am not good. I am bad. I am spoiled on the inside but my packaging is nicely designed and so it fools everyone into investing in me and then I’m really just rotten to the core and will make you sick.

But what are the facts? The facts are that I fall in love easily and that love feels tangible and whole and like life should be and safe and beautiful. The facts are that I connect deeply with others. The facts are that I fall in love with everyone I meet. The facts are that I have good intentions. The facts are that when I am with that person the feelings are real. The facts are that romantic relationships are the only sustainable way for me to receive as much attention and love as I need in order to feel connected and to survive without sucking everyone else in my life dry. The facts do not make ripping the fresh bandaid off any easier.

I believe I have become a person wholly incapable of commitment. I cannot bear to pin myself down to one person forever right now. I don’t want to because then I have to be disappointed by someone. Or more honoestly, because then I have to disappoint someone. I cannot cuddle anymore for fear of sex. I hate sex. I love sex in the beginning when I am in love and then I hate it when all the sparkle fades and it’s just two people’s wetness spilling out everywhere. I don’t want to have sex. But of course I do because admitting that I don’t want to have sex all of a sudden is shocking and scary and hurtful to my partners. They take it personally and think they are the faulty factor in the relationship, when really of course it is me. It is always me but people never assume it because the packaging is so delicate and beautiful and how could anything be ruined when I am so good and give so much to others?

Last night I dreamt that I birthed a child. I was swimming, at one point, in a pool of my own placenta and fluids and it was wet and disgusting and I had to get out. Then I remembered I had this child. It was clean and dry and warm and sexless. And I kissed its head but didn’t really want to hold it. My partner was some vague amalgamation of every person I’ve ever shared romance with and they left, angry, disappointed, the baby a burden to them, turning their back to me and bowing their head and strutting off to some corner of the world where I would never see them again. And alone I realized I had to tell everyone I had to give this child up for adoption. So embarrassed to disappoint everyone who I had told about the child that I actually didn’t love it after all and that I was going to have to give it away because I was leaving for school and school is my number one priority, I’ve been saying that all along, so obviously I can’t keep this child. It was sort of really someone else’s fault because I’ve always had these plans to leave for college and I made that very clear so it’s not really my fault. Please don’t hate me.

Then my shadowy partner returns, on his knees, crying. I am heartless to lump these people together, even subconsciously, every tender person who has ever given themself over to me, and here I am, leaving again, because I feel I have to. Because I cannot stay for this reason or that. I am tired of hurting people. It has become a responsibility, or perhaps it always was, just one I could never see or comprehend before, to abstain from hurting people. So I can’t commit. It has to be my responsibility. There is so much at stake. I am sorry for giving the baby away. It takes two people to care for this thing. But I can’t hold up my end of the bargain. I feel sad. I look for solace in other people’s approval of my actions.

Going Back

It’s a peculiar thing, self-sabotage. I think by this point I’ve become an expert in it, yet I’m still always surprised or upset once I’ve done something to get in the way of my goals. We do it to keep ourselves rooted in a way, I suppose. Moving forward requires change, and our brains would rather stay right where they are, surviving, even if our existence is flat. Taking chances is scary. I’ve  put off writing this blog for many months now. The vulnerability it takes to put my thoughts down for others to see scares me. I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want others to see how messy I really am. But I also live in a reality where I feel frustrated by a lack of meaning and honesty in the world and I don’t see any other way around that belief than to open myself up and expose what’s really going on. So I sabotage. It’s the easiest and most unconscious way of making sure I don’t have to publish anything. I’m too anxious. I’m too fragile. I have to do this or I cannot do that. I make bad decisions that I can point to and say, “Look at this. Look at what you did. You ARE messy. You cannot share this with people.” And I struggle with being open. But here I am. Here is my chance to connect. To offer something genuine to a world where others want to appear infallible. No one is untouchable. Everyone struggles with something. It’s part of being human. It’s the beauty of our species: in it blooms compassion and empathy. It’s so easy to see this in others and forgive them for it, and so difficult to give ourselves space to struggle and accept our faults, and at times impossible to love ourselves despite. But no one else is going to love us enough or support us enough if we don’t do the work first. It seems like a simple truth, but it’s difficult to overcome the part of the brain that wants us to remain stagnant, safe. You have to argue with that voice in your head. You have to set goals and decide to do what it takes to meet them even when it means coming to a wall and seeing no way around it. You have to get uncomfortable.