Saturday, July 9, 2011

Postcards from the Edge

You know what's difficult about addiction? Everything.

I was going through a journal I wrote during college, after I was instructed to keep one as a means of coping with withdrawal. I've kept it after all these years, despite my predilection for hating diaries and hating even more that I succumbed to it. I no longer use or really need one, but learning of Betty Ford's death tonight, I was inclined to reminisce about a darker time in my life.

I was staring at the mirror. All I was hearing was the drip-drip-drip of the faucet and the whiny sound of the restroom fan. I wasn't sure how much time had passed. I was hypersensitive to sound. Each droplet falling from the faucet sounded like a bomb. A plane flying over my apartment sounded like an approaching tornado. And the fan continued to change pitch, now slightly lower.

Thirty minutes had passed before I came out of it. I wasn't even aware my roommate had returned home. I don't think he noticed, but I doubt he would mention it if he did. I'm not really sure why it happened, but it seemed I was stuck in time -- awake and comatose. The drip-drip-drip will haunt my dreams for days.

A couple of days ago, I was playing a video game. That's all I remember about that day. As I'm writing this, I can't remember really playing the video game at all. I've played that game so many times, that I'm not sure if I should. But soon it was over, and it was the next day.

I'm still not sure how I should be acting, but I go to class, talk to my roommate, hang out with friends, and keep a smile on my face. I've recently begun going to bars, and after the initial trepidation -- it almost seems like a new life. They check for my ID, and my involuntary reaction is to say, "Oh, I'm the designated driver." I'm not sure if there's such a thing as a "new normal", but if there is, this is what it is.

I don't say much at the bars. I generally listen to others, laugh at jokes, and watch the slowly draining steins. I still wonder why they drain so slowly, but the urge to drink has been replaced with something more fundamental. My urge is to be like them without having to do what they do to be like them.

I can't stand montages on TV. So pedantic, so melodramatic, so manipulative. But damned if I don't live these moments in super slow motion, with the same hypersensitivity as the mirror incident. Gulp-gulp-gulp, just like the drip-drip-drip. The clink of glasses, the ding of an ice cube hitting the bottom, the unmistakable sound of an opening beer bottle, the rising bubbles -- magic to the senses, even after everything. I still see and hear all of it as magic.

Mostly, I just observe. Gulp-gulp-gulp.

[Name omitted] keeps telling all of us that recovery is a lifelong process. I've always wondered if recovery is a misnomer. I see it as substitution. I had one life, and it wasn't working. So now I have another, and I don't know if, in the end, it will work. I'm pretty sure that staring at a mirror for thirty minutes without being cognizant of it is not "recovery". Then again, I haven't changed my new life yet, and I haven't gone back to my old one.

What is addiction? To an addict, everything. To a recovering addict, everything. Still. Always.

Betty Ford should be remembered for many reasons, but her courage above all else. An addict perceives everything through the very thing he/she is addicted to. Ford fought back, and helped others in the process. That is amazing.