Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What it feels like... from my book Everything I Never Wanted To Be

This is what it feels like. You are in second grade. You do alright with your grades, your classmates. At home your parents think you are the most beautiful person alive. You are a second grader that someone would glance at and think, 'Cute little girl'. But, something is wrong. You're little so you don't understand. But you can feel that you are not like the other kids. They like you, but you secretly don't know why. Everyone around you acts like you blend, so you try to blend.
You grow older, and still, you just don't quite fit. You don't get it. You don't feel connected to other people. But you play along. You're in High School and you really can't let anyone know you feel this way. You never feel comfortable. Some days your skin crawls. You're nervous. You feel moments of panic like you are gasping for air. But no one can know because you're still blending. You look around and wonder what the secret is. Why am I just never quite good enough? You have to act normal and be the person people think you are. Not this shaking, frightened teenager. What it feels like is the feeling you get when you are under water. You know that little bit of panic right before your head surfaces? You walk through your school, or your home, or the mall and you feel different, and not in a good way. You can feel the pressure on your skin. And you have to get out. Because you're suffocating and not one person has a clue. You're hanging out with friends and someone has something, a drink or a drug. You give it a try for the first time. You will never be able to take this back.
You can feel your body coming up out of the water and you take a huge breath of air. You can feel the rush of relief. You can feel the warm sun on your face. You want to stretch your arms out and scream because you're not dead after all. For the first time in your life, you can breath. And it is fucking amazing after an entire life of suffocating. You suddenly, for the first time in your life, feel... like other people. You can breath. You are not just you, you are more you than you've ever been. You don't feel high, you feel like everyone else. Your skin stops crawling. You're not in complete panic. You are for the first time in your life.....alive and safe and calm.
The fact is that people who are not addicts do not have this reaction to drugs or alcohol. Normal people have a few drinks and feel a little floaty and think, that was fun. Or take a pill for an injury, (I know, but this is why normal people take pills) and you feel kind of happy and silly. An addict or alcoholic's brain chemistry reacts completely different. A drug or a drink is a life changer. You have saved your own life. It's an awakening from a life spent in loneliness and fear. And once you've surfaced, above the water, your brain will never let you forget it. From that moment on your brain says... get it, get it, get it, get more, get more, and it never quiets. It is relentless. It is bigger than you. It's so loud it's deafening. To tell an addict or alcoholic to stop is the equivalent to saying, "Go back under the water."
Making the choice to go back under the water is an impossible option. An addict will do the most horrifying, demoralising, immoral act to avoid going back under the water where they will no doubt die.
So what do we do? We must learn to live above the water without the drugs and booze. To feel the sun, and stretch our arms out and embrace and love life. We don't have to go back under the water... but we must find that tiny flame that burns in all of us and help it grow until that fire is so big, the stalking voice in our head, shuts the fuck up. Until then, you must protect that tiny flame because at the end of the day, it will be the only thing to build a new life on. And because we don't quite fit in our skin, it's like holding a candle in the wind. The fact is that I am still struggling. I had six years in sobriety. Then one day I didn't anymore. One day, I too, will accept that big breath of air...I will choose life. One day I'm under the water and the next, looking for something to pull me out. I can't self destruct to such a level that the little flame blows out. I can still feel the little flame in my heart, but I'm cupping with my hands with my back to the wind.
It's a life time deal, if I'm lucky, which most people aren't, I will be around to not only come out of the water without help and feed my fire, I will feel peace. I will also be laying on a raft with little pieces of gauze between my toes and be tan like the Kardashians.