photo by Sarah Slater.
July 22, 2010 marks the forth year of my life as a sober person. Each year since I decided to get real with my drinking/life/personal shit, I've come to a new conclusion about what it means to be sober. A theme or idea or life pattern/wave surfaces, and I ride it out with major glory until my next revelation. This year, the overwhelming theme for me has been checking out, or the inability to.
Even if its temporary, drugs, booze, or whatever you choose to abuse offers a form of checking out—it’s often called an "escape," but to me, an escape means things might possibly get better if you leave for a while. Like a vacation or something. To me, it's called checking out; checking out of a situation, checking out of your relationship(s), checking out of responsibility, checking out of your feelings, and checking out of owning your own life. Life is pretty fucking scary. Being able to close your eyes on your life, if even for a moment, feels like the only desirable answer sometimes. Sure, mediation can offer a very similar, if not better answer to checking out via a substance. But that in itself is a challenge; meditation is something not easily accomplished, and takes effort and work and a desire to benefit from it. When you want to check out, the last thing you want to do is work for it. Checking out is about voiding all responsibility, not using any mode of thinking other than the one that leads to a path of obliteration, negating all investments/ties you have something/someone.
Over the course of the last few months, I've debated checking out indefinitely—ending one's own life is serious shit. But I figured, I had quit everything I cared about–my jobs, Titwrench, my attempts at relationships, virtually all social and creative engagements (except my band, my saving grace)—so why would I need to be on this planet? I began to see my body as a waste of energy, a producer of garbage and problems, a carrying case for a person who had never had to really struggle to survive, just a space to hold bogus complaints and an imperfect specimen not fit to be around other humans. I had never felt this way before. It scared the shit out of me, and simultaneously made me fearless of my own feelings. If I could die, i wouldn't have to be this anymore, because whatever this was, I hated.
My depression began pre-tour, around April, but was amplified when I came home from two weeks on the road and I realized I didn't want to be where I was, spatially or mentally. I didn't know what to do. I wanted to drink. I wanted to drink so badly. I had dreams about drinking (as I have over the last four years.) I even found myself (outside of the dream state) justifying thoughts of drinking. Of course, I was kidding myself in the way my slithering mind was working it all out; I would say to myself that if I did drink, it would be something small and minor— like a glass of champagne. But what I knew was that there is no one glass of alcohol for me on a table anywhere. I’ve talked about this a lot, when people ask me if I will ever drink again, but it will always be like this: all or nothing. It’s either no drink or its 14 gin and tonics. It's a beer and two shots of tequila for breakfast. It's a pitcher, a 40, a case, a handle. It's never one 4 oz. serving.
The other factor was the mental checking out factor—I was pretending that I would have one drink. Just to feel a little less real. But how? How could I do that when all that was running through my mind was an end to the pain of being dull? I wanted to get fucking obliterated. I didn't want to solve whatever it was that made me feel worthless. I wanted to get so drunk nothing mattered. I wanted to get so drunk I threw up. A lot. I wanted to feel like I let go. I wanted out of reality. I wanted a hangover. Have you ever wanted a hangover? You might never know until you quit drinking and you realize a hangover is just as much of a feeling we live to feel as getting drunk is. It’s a state of perpetual bullshit/I don’t have to do this/I have an excuse to be this way or act this way or treat people this way.
So, I didn’t drink. And I didn’t end my life. And I didn’t check out. I remember crying and screaming at my best friends and bandmate a few weeks ago about how fucking unfair it was that I couldn’t check out like everybody else. I just wanted to be like everyone else— able to let go, not deal, prolong and put off important conversations and life details. My idea of checking out had shifted from getting drunk to getting dead. I never thought I would be in that place, let alone be telling the world about it. But my struggle s no secret, because I know how important it is to let others know someone else is going through the same things daily that they might be going through. I can’t say that I’m 100% better. I am far from peachy. But I’m a sober fake peachy, and have decided I will fake it until my reality feels good again. It may be a while, but it seems like help is on the way.
100% sober and being in 100% reality is a fucking hard place to be. But it is not impossible. Not being able to check out just means you don’t have anything to hide behind. Authenticity is a pretty desirable quality in a human being, even if sometimes, I don’t feel like its my choice to be authentic. It's just how the world is. I have taken pride in being a “sober rager” many times, and when I get back up from this fall, I know I will be proud again.
It just reminds me that hey, we’re all human. And we're still human, even if we don’t have the ability to check out. Wouldn't you rather be authentic anyway?