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  • Writer's pictureeschaden

Independence Day?

I woke up the other day, no, not that kind of wake up, but the kind of wake up that reveals to you things about yourself that had remained hidden and unexamined.  It was an ugly revelation.  Hard in its receiving and I have been laboring under it since its arrival.  Attempting at first to resist its harbinger of despair.  But over a month later, it is still here and my despair feels ever growing. And it is blossoming in its connectivity with everything I do, say or even with my just being.

I have 29 years of living without alcohol, drugs or cigarettes.  29 mother fucking years.  Which is a very long time.  And that is something to celebrate, I mean a lot of people don’t even get 30 days.  Or they do and then fall back into relapse and self annihilation.  Me, I got out.  I have surpassed the odds by a very large margin.  And I have done the work.  I have inventoried, I have attended, I have served and I have abstained.  I don’t think anyone could make a case that I haven’t worked my ass off to be sober and clean. 

So it came as a shock to me, while in the wilds of Ireland, that while I do have this great amount of time practicing recovery like behaviors, and have a great deal of real estate between me and that person I used to be, I also haven’t really progresses really far as I thought.

What I saw is that while I do have a long history of recovery regarding drugs, alcohol and smoking, I have almost no time at all in refraining from other addictive behaviors.  In fact, in all likelihood, I only HAVE the time I HAVE because I picked up other things to be addicted to that were, let’s just say, more socially acceptable.

I shopped alcoholically and called it self care.

I dated compulsively and called it anything but addictive.

I ate in a way and manner that was either overly austere and lacking or like a pig at a trough.

I exercised compulsively either being at the gym for 2 hours a day or not going for months at a time.

What I see is that it doesn’t really matter whether I am fueling the beast or starving it out, it still controls me, rules me really.  And this has been a very hard thing to accept.  I used to think I was doing so well.  But now, I am just despairing over my complete lack and ability to see anything other than me putting down certain things and just picking up things that don’t destroy me as quickly...The process is really still the same.

And it is hard to talk about with other people because for the most part, what I get back is some variation of the following:

“Yeah, but you aren’t killing yourself anymore, so it is all good.”

“Hmmmm, I can’t relate I don’t do anything addictively anymore...”

“Cool insight.”

But no one seems to understand that my life has been leveled.  I mean my whole way and manner of being has been addressed.  I have been able to change without really changing at all.  The addiction still ruled my life, I just found more socially acceptable outlets for it.  Ones that no one felt like they had to call me out on or intervene.  I was able to make it look like it was somewhere between some socially acceptable it wasn’t an issue.

But it IS an issue.  And now I can’t see anything else.  I feel like my whole life has just been this gigantic lie.  One I told to myself, repeatedly.  But all I have been doing for the last 29 years is putting some things down and picking up other things so the real pattern of living and relating in addiction can live on.  And I am leveled.  I just don’t know what to do with myself anymore. And talking about it with others, many of whom, remain mired in their own delusions about themselves acts as a completely and overwhelming barrier to relating at all. So I feel very alone...and unable to connect up with, well, anyone.

I am grappling with life without the highs and lows.  And while I don’t miss the lows at all, the dissatisfaction with doing the behaviors to get the hit, and then realizing that there was really no satisfaction in it at all which just leaves me set up for more behavior just like what I just did that didn’t help, didn’t change anything, just got the pattern more ingrained and stubborn.

So now I am just down.  Like totally depressed about how little progress I have actually made.  Sure, yeah, I have a long time being sober, but recovery, I am not sure I have ever really had that at all, like ever.  And that is a very depressing thought, one that has completely undermined the whole of my existence, and now I find myself unable to do anything without this constant and rapacious doubt about my motives and true intentions.  Am I making progress or am I just kidding myself again?  I will tell you that there is nothing about the last two months that feels progressive.  It all just feels bad.

I have stopped shopping altogether and I hate to admit it, but it feels like a limb has been cut from me.  No more dopamine hits.  No more highs of the story I tell myself about what the item that is coming is going to do for me.  No more excitement or fun or exiting.  I am just here, with all this other shit that I purchased and hoarded, a constant reminder of my addiction in full swing.  And I can’t do the behavior anymore, well, I could, but it has lost its luster for sure...and I have no idea what else to do in its place.

I can’t compulsively date anymore either.  My tolerance for that particular game, long gone and brought about way more angst and emptiness than it ever fulfilled. So I remain mired in a relationship that feels more and more every day like nothing...but it is all I have so I tend to cling to it in some hope that there is redemption there, somewhere.

What I am left with is eating.  And while I haven’t been engaging that all that much either, I will admit to eating my feelings on more than one occasion in the last two months. But it provides no satisfaction, because I can’t disassociate from myself while doing it anymore, so there is no storyline I can buy that provides any relief whatsoever.  So this kind of behavior isn’t even satisfying.

Exercise helps but I can’t even launch myself there anymore either.  I am tired, like bone weary tired most of the time and while I do get the lift from the gym, I have been knocked off my routine lately so that particular dedication has provided no relief either.

And that is what I am looking for in everything I do...relief.  And I know, it is this behavior over everything else, this desperate desire to destroy myself with SOMETHING, ANYTHING has never really gone away.  It has just transmogrified itself into something else, something more socially acceptable and more dubious and hidden...well, at least until it wasn’t anymore.

I have an inability to live with the pain of living without something to take the edge off, delude me into thinking, something, anything will provide that lasting salvation I seek...

So now I do not know what to do with myself.  I can’t act out, I have seen the futility.  Abstaining makes me feel so dead inside and depressed and scared and lost.  I feel like I have been dumped out of a space ship, landing here on planet earth with no skills at all.  I don’t understand how to do life like this even though I have been doing it for years...I just have this new lens with which I SEE myself and I can’t get away from it.  I see how addiction has still ruled my life in spite of all my years spent recovering.  And it is a blow I am having a hard time recovering from...

In some ways, I feel like the whole of my life has been a lie. And in other ways, I see this is just the latest epiphany in a long line of epiphanies.  More layers uncovered and revealed.  But I will tell you this one, more than any other, save the first one that showed me the error of my addictive passions of drinking and smoking and checking the fuck out, this one has left me raw, smarting and embarrassed.  And, if I am honest, I am having a very hard time bouncing back.  I mean what the fuck are you supposed to do in today’s world when you cannot act out addictively anymore?  Fuck me!  It is so hard.  And one more time, I am back to that surrender point, again, still.  Feeling dashed apart, hurting, feeling like my outsides are now inadequate to protect my insides, like at all.

And I am an addict, through and through, so my mind is just on this endless loop attempting to escape from myself.  I want OUT of me...and I really want that no matter what the cost.

And the only thing that has worked so far is this very nebulous and fleeting idea of acceptance.  Whenever I work myself into a frenzy, thinking things should be this way or that way or whatever the fuck my brain throws at me, I find the only peace available to me comes right after I find the courage (and it takes a lot of fucking courage) to just own that this, as unlovely and painful as it may be, is where I am right now.  This awful place where I cannot act out, it doesn’t work.  And I can’t sit still, because it is so mind blowingly painful.  All while knowing that any action I take is likely just going to reinforce the well grooved patterns of my life.  

So I am doing a lot of sitting on my hands and begging my mind for peace.  And when I do, I really do find some in the moment.  In presence.  In just being where I am at that moment.  Not trying to leave, and not locking myself in.  To be honest, I feel so trapped right now and that is not something I handle well.  I am like a wild animal caught, and it feels like I will resort to anything to get myself free.  But now, I see that all my attempts at freedom have only mired me more stuck in that which I was attempting to escape from previously. 


And while I laugh, and smile, it is only a thin veneer that attempts to disguise my complete and utter despair that permeates every single molecule of my being.  Nothing is working anymore.  No addictive, compulsive thing works and it makes me feel like life has lost all its meaning...and at the very same time, it feels like maybe I am finally getting somewhere.

Maybe I had to hit this bottom.  Maybe I had to have this revelation. Maybe it isn’t about me at all.  Maybe I am just supposed to experience it and write about it and somehow help someone else who is struggling with themselves right now...

So on this 4th of July, this time where everyone in my homeland is celebrating our independence as a nation, I am kind of staging my own insurrection, quietly, alone in the hills of Lake Arrowhead, I am coming to terms with how free I have NOT been over these last 29 years. How much addiction and compulsion still ruled my life.  And now, on this day of assertion of a new way and manner of living, without the conscription all occupying forces require, I find myself standing on new ground. My ground and while it doesn't feel wholly mine, in all its foreignness, it is perhaps the only thing that has ever truly been mine.  My relationship to it and with it is completely rearranged.  I am, as we say, at that jumping off place.  Unable to live in the shackles of my old life, but very unsure about how to live without the monikers of safety I found while being chained.  Freedom IS a great word for nothing left to lose.  And I don’t think any of us, ever, get free until we hit a place where we realize that, while we have absolutely no fucking idea what is on the other side of our Declaration of Independence, we do know, with all our being, that staying the same, living the way we were living, no matter how desperate or not, just cannot continue.

So I am at the place in life where things are in flux.  And this flux feels like a flex, and it is pinching and binding and so fucking hard.  I want to escape back into my delusion.  Just go back and do all the things that used to make me feel better...but I can’t because in this whole revelation, they have lost their import, their satisfaction and there is nothing left there to comfort me because the saddest realization has occurred, that calling yourself free and actually being free are, in fact, two completely different things.

So today I exist in no man’s land, well, correction, no woman’s land.  I do not know what I am doing, and yet, I do know exactly what I am NOT doing.  And I just have to wait.  Like the people who have come before me, I have to live in that awful place where I stop doing all the things, and then wait for the new things to start.  And on today, I imagine there was a great, anticipated hush that fell over our country when we waited for the war to begin.  Quiet moments of dreaded anticipatory angst that caused many who waited for the rebellion to commence, who felt they might go mad in the waiting...and I am there too. Knowing that I will be launched into the bloody ravages of war all too soon.  It is my experience that addiction does not go quietly...and it wants me in quiet supplication to its demands and its desires, but if it can’t have that, it would just as soon have me dead. Eliminated. Over.

I have seen the enemy...and it is myself.  And how are you ever able to get yourself free from yourself?  Isn’t that what all addiction really is anyway?  A misguided, misanthropic idea that you can get free from you?  That there is something out there:  a drug, a drink, a person, a thing, a cause, a relationship, a fuck, a way of being that allows you some respite and reprieve from the occupying forces that took up residence in your body, your mind and your spirit so very long ago.  And isn’t this idea of recovery really a Declaration of Independence?  A great and sweeping proclamation that you shall not be ruled and govern and subjected to the parts of yourself that want you dead any longer?

Well, maybe not for you, but for me this is exactly what it feels like.

Again...still, and yet, and yet, it also feels like the beginning of something new altogether.  And while freedom may exist on the other side, right now there is nothing that feels at all free or independent about my current existence.  It all just feels hard and foreign and lost and defeated.  And I remain transfixed in this place that is neither reinforcing the old well worn grooves of my addictive past, I likewise remain unfree to find the boundless relief I seek.  So while I may be actually free, it certainly doesn’t feel that way to me right now.  On this Independence Day, all I see and all I feel is how much freedom is just another avenue of escape that only circled you back to where you started to begin with...and that is a very depressing thought, and feeling.  But today, it is just what I have.

And perhaps also this budding, nascent gnawing that perhaps when all the activity that mimics a paralyzed freedom ceases, there might really be something on the other side of all this self indulgent fodder that might actually result in a new independence and freedom yet unexplored....

Maybe, right now it all just feels like shit, to be honest.  But like all compulsive ideas and thoughts, the idea that perhaps someday there will be another way to live that is more free than my current attempts at living, might exist if I do not do the things, and I wait to allow for something new to land instead...that perhaps freedom and independence only come to take root in the gap created by waiting for the old behavior to die and a new one to be reborn...



Fuck, I don't know.

Have a happy 4th! Trust me when I say the loud and explosive concussive reverberations shall pale in comparison with what is occurring in my mind and soul today.

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