I cried in my bed right after I awoke this morning. Like, one or two minutes after I regained consciousness. It was brief and undramatic. It was like what the weathermen here in this schizo weather area (Tri-State) describe as a “light, random thunderstorm!” I don’t think that I made much noise. By coincidence, I had my very best sheets on my bed–the sheets which have such thread count and quality that they are always dense and crispy, even though they are five years old now. They were a gift to me, a long time ago. I put them on my bed yesterday after I did my laundry and changed my linens.
I put my head underneath the crispy clean sheets and curled up like a shrimp on my side facing the wall and did my little cry.
Then I got up, went to the bathroom, checked in with Tanita, poured myself a glass of water. And now here I sit.
I’m not here to be a coward.
I went to my Sunday crispy burnout AA meeting yesterday. As I mentioned on this blog, I have a new service commitment to make the coffee. I showed up an hour early, but the gate was locked. I waited with other committee people until the guy with the keys came to let us in (he was stuck in traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge). There was no time to make coffee, but I set out the cookies.
The meeting’s Speaker–the random person who shares his or her personal experience with alcoholism and AA–was good. (AA culture is that you’re not supposed to talk about what you see and hear in AA meetings, because you have to respect confidentiality and peoples’ privacy. I think that if I keep this vague and omit details and any identifying info, it should be okay to share here on this blog. I don’t see how it could hurt anymore.)
His story was comparatively undramatic. No jail, no hospital, no spectacular train wreck. His family didn’t drink. He maintained a modest but respectable job. And drank. Sometimes socially, mostly alone. Went to the bar alone, “for fun.” Gets older–no longterm partners. And this wasn’t an unattractive or unintelligent man. He was likable and there was no obvious reason why he had to live such a damn lonesome existence. He had no one.
I was very moved by this. I know what that is like to be alone, or alienated. That’s something about alcohol which is paradoxical: it makes the loneliness (or even boredom) comfortable. Acceptable. Unimportant.
Invariably, however, something happens–the tables are turned, and your companion becomes your jailer. Drinking becomes the cause of the loneliness. It isolates you and prevents you from being with others in a meaningful, nurturing way.
Just speaking for myself…when my drinking was approaching its worst…I was going through a very tough time in my life. I was depressed, stressed about school, and basically paralyzed by fear and confusion. Actually, fear is not the right word. Terror is more accurate. I was lifting at the gym in the morning and back again to do five miles in the evening, and my eating habits were becoming obsessive and abnormal (let’s just say…I kept spreadsheets. Excell spreadsheets. The data I had. Oh boy.). I didn’t tell anyone what was happening to me. Professionally, I kept up appearances–I wasn’t spending weekends in the labs or publishing my ass off or anything, but my grades and writing projects were superior. Many professors commented on my talent. But I was slowly becoming a ghost. I gradually withdrew from everybody I had a meaningful emotional relationship with. Even the people I loved. All my old friends, the professors who cultivated my intellect and spent time with me.
It was like I was a girl in a raft out in the sea, and my relationships were the ropes attached to my raft that kept me anchored to the shore.
I untied the ropes and let them go. One by one.
I raised my hand and shared a lot of that at the meeting. A few people came up to me afterward and said that they liked my share and that I sounded really good.
I eyed one of the men, suddenly suspicious. “Are you serious?”
“Of course. Why?”
“I was upset. I almost cried.”
“What’s wrong with that?” he asked.
I curled my lip and turned away, throwing my soda can into the garbage. “Crying doesn’t help a thing. It’s not dignified in public.”
And there it is. I can be a very hard person. It’s only a minor character trait, and it seldom evidences itself (thank God)…but part of me is very hard. Especially towards myself. I’m not proud of it, but it fascinates me, I must say. Where do I get it from? My father?
The man looked confused. “Why not?”