Sunday, June 6, 2010

Once upon a time, when I was young(er) and foolish(er)

From's article, "How I Became a Pothead" by Cary Tennis:

"Sometimes in recovery we will say things, like, For all the trouble it caused me, this drug or that drug also saved my life. These things we say are sometimes true. We need something at a certain time in life to get us over something or get us to something or through something; we are lost and empty, and some of us would kill ourselves or kill somebody else if we couldn't find something to momentarily give us what we need. So we find these things. We find pot or alcohol or pills. We take it and we feel better. We figure, now we know the answer. Later, because this is only a substitute for an answer, or a temporary answer, our reliance on this thing brings us to grief. But we can understand how these things happen, especially when we are young and don't know anything."

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I've been feeling pensive about drugs, addiction, the medicated mind, and the need for even legal, prescribed medications following an experience with a room mate both dysfunctional with and without his perfectly-legal medical-industry-approved need for Adderal to function. My own trip to the ER, sent by well-meaning co-workers, and the hell that was the 3 days it took me to process the Atvian out of my system has generated its share of rage, shame, and tears.

Frustration that I let myself get so burnt out and spent that
1) someone in power concurred that I needed to go the ER
2) other folks working there who had known me for all of 2 days declared that I was surely drugged out of my gourd
3) a new friend, seeing parallels in my experience and her own (all true) took me in and promised it would be okay

I had suspicions of what anti-anxiety drugs would do to me; I've avoided like the plague other pyschotropic drugs. I've also avoided the therapy that could lead to such prescriptions: I watched all my friends from 1997-2010 bouncing from experimental drug regimen to the next, hoping for balance, feeling, life. Thirteen-year-olds shouldn't have been put on Paxil, as far as I'm concerned, because I was the one holding the hair, pleading with my friend not to slit her wrists, not tonight, oh please, at the age of 14. That's a lot for anyone, at any age.

I had pitcher ears, a deep shyness and social anxiety, and because I was so much better at hiding my own brokenness, I was often called, "the most stable" of friend groups, always available to help sort the pieces, encourage the anorexics and bulemics to eat something besides celery and gummi worms and laxatives. This makes my friends today laugh, belly laughs filled with pain and disbelief. For years though, I was the best post-Victorian Methodist-Minnesota-raised Protestant-Christian girl -- I couldn't sin, I wasn't permitted. But Jesus said, "Make me a servant, humble and meek," and I have that song memorized as perfectly today as when I learned it for choir at the age of 12.

Serving meant listening, hugging, hoping, praying. It meant holding sobbing bodies and telling them that no matter what the teacher had said, the parent had said, the ex-boyfriend had said, that I believed s/he was beautiful, intelligent, and perfect. What else could I say? I believed these truths; I could see inner beauty glowing through spiderwebs of self-doubt.

At the time, and even today, I often have trouble seeing my own beauty, in mirrors, writing, and in life. I have those same spiderwebs wrapping me up tight, tangling my hopes and dreams in a slurry of disbelief, anxiety, and conviction that I shall never be good enough, not for anyone, any job, any man or woman, or for my society/religion/family.

I believed myself an ugly duckling, a boyish, bookish girl trapped by obligation to God, family, education. The first boyfriend was a shock to my system: how could he think I was cool, or pretty, or worth his time?

I doubt there is any surprise that this kind of emotional roller coaster has chased me up and down my teens and early twenties, even to today. How could I be loved, when I couldn't love myself most mornings, days, and nights?

I'll tell you the lie I tell myself when I wake up in the morning, and before I go to bed at night: I am better now. I love myself. I know that I have imperfections, that I am learning, that I often fuck up the church's money and that I will likely continue. I will try too hard, I will give too much, I will let my people-pleasing, child-protecting, heal-and-serve mechanism devour all of my self, my being, and my energy and I will crash and burn.

Once downed, I shall wallow, deep in shame and regret. I will wish I had done x, or y, or z differently. I will dream of how, one day, when I grow up, things shall be different.

When I crawl out of that gutter of despair, it will be with a rope-sheets-braids-ladder of love for myself.

And if some nights, it's nicotine or alcohol, loud industrial dance music, or Ani diFranco sing-a-longs with my cat that help me to believe that I love myself, I will use those tools. I will drink the last martini, polish off all of the rum, and smoke 10,000 cigarettes until I am hoarse and hacking.

With these crutches, I will remind myself: there is love enough for me. And when I have more, I'll share it again.

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