Don’t Look DownUncategorized
Tip Toe / Chokehold
My wedding shoes were five inches tall, making me a five-foot-nine bride. I chose the shoes before the dress becuase I despise trying on clothes. When I settled on electric blue shoes, the splash of color and tradition were all I wanted to see. It wasn’t until I stood at such an altitude — across from my freshly-minted husband, wobbling with fright and panic under the oppressive heaviness of my beaded dress — where I realized I should have worn flats. What I remember most about my wedding day was trying not to faint. If you squint and hold the images close, you can see me bearing down most of my weight on whomever I posed next to.
I’ve held on too tightly like this my whole life. When my mother took my twin and I to swimming lessons as toddlers, she remembers me strangling her every class out of infant-sized fear I might drown. When my friends and I took a climbing/hiking trip to Joshua Tree, the best climber among us attempted to coach me up a rock face. I stopped midway in tears, glued to the rock and gripping so tightly my fingers bled. He insisted I had enough rope to lean back; what I heard, as I always did, was that he had given me just enough rope to hang myself.
I drank because I assumed it gave me more control than drugs would allow. I spent a lot of time with pot smokers, despite always passing the joint without a toke. No one understood why I would drink so much and not give weed a chance. I told them I prefered the diminshed responsibility of drinking. I coward at the thought of having one bad trip too many, convinced I could easily go mad. I failed to put together that I was the one with the least control of my behavior and my mind in nearly every group I spent time with, pot smokers especially. Once I get an idea stuck in my head, though, I act on it regardless of whether or not my experience disproves it. Over time, the more an idea did not work for me, the more I insisted on fixing the circumstances until it did.
The challenges of my recovery almost all point to my inability to let things go. I cling onto friendships especially, out of fear that if I don’t meet and keep the right crew, I will surely die alone. That is a pretty big leap to make at 32 years old. Side note: I texted my twin last week to ask how old we were. I got it stuck in my head that we had just celebrated our 31st birthday together, which means I spent the last six months telling people I was 31 when I am, in fact, 32 years old. You see? Old habits die hard.
I forget often that I am a different person than I used to be. The paint hasn’t yet dried on the images of myself in my drinking days. Every memory remains fresh. My friends in recovery remind me to stay in the present to stop the past from dictating my behavior in the present. My twin represents the most fascinating aspects of my recovery because she is the very best friend I have. She offers insights I was never open to seeing until I got sober. Case in point: she has always been the very best friend I will ever have. Our relationship plays out like a romantic comedy: the true love (her) waited in the wings until the protagonist got her shit together (me). What is funniest to me now is that I assumed I was always the protagonist.
I was devestated when my twin began dating her husband. I thought she would forget about me if she stayed with him. I kept that presumption close while distancing myself from her. I caused several pointless fights, trying to convince her that she was neglecting me. Even as children people saw our fighting like we were an old married couple. I thought it would be like that until she was in an actual married couple while I was left dangling in the wind. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I realized why she and I had grown far apart: it was me, and it had always been me. When I began losing my mind every time I drank, the absurdity of my assumptions led me to abandon my twin. Luckily for me, she knew enough to see what was happening and she did not give up on me.
Last week, she and her husband came to visit my mother and I. We all drove to Virginia Beach to celebrate my uncle’s 75th birthday. This is my dad’s brother, the one whose birthday fell on the very day my father died. Our family never quite grasped how hard that must have been for him. When we sang happy birthday as a group, I felt overwhelmed with sorrow and joy. He outlived many of the men in our family, something that probably made him feel a lot of pressure. My uncle’s birthday reminded me that when I focus on a storyline too long, I cannot see the other stories in my periphery. My uncle, just like my twin, had his own experience with a sibling.
My sister, mother and brother-in-law drove back to Petersburg that night, only to be snowed in the next day. My twin taught me how to leash train my dog and my brother-in -law shoveled my car out of 11 inches of snow when I ran out of nicotine and needed to get to the store. My family spent at least an hour and a half looking in the snow for the vape I dropped on one of our walks. I knew my crazy was showing, but I felt like I could actually be myself. They saved the day just by being there. In true WASPy fashion, I couldn’t share my real feelings of being sad for my uncle, so I cried from nicotine withdrawals. I think they understood.
What happens for me today is a constant shift in perception. I have felt multiple psychic changes from protagonist to supporting role. Sometimes it’s hard for me to give up my ego, but in the end I must. I have painful memories that want me to look back. But the only way forward is to stay the course. I have to breathe; my direction is forward and up.
photo courtesy of Hamza Deas via Maxim