Being me in a relationship means spending a lot of time apologizing, coming clean, admitting to whackadoodle behavior and saying sorry. I do this to catch myself and to call myself out and mainly to prevent myself from acting a fool in the future. Yet every so often I’m a human being and I act like a total jackass and no mea culpa can get me out of it. Yeah I’ve recovered from alcoholism and addiction but I haven’t completely recovered from being a self-obsessed, ego-driven jackass. Take last night for example. Please.
The husband and I had a misunderstanding that snowballed into a flurry of hurt feelings, definitive “I quit!”- type of declarations and general huffing and moping. In addition to being married to one another we collaborate on theatrical and artistic projects. Most of the time we work well together. Last night was not one of those times. As I piece together the recent history of my assholery, I can see exactly where things went wrong. He was already in a bad mood when a work topic came up late last night after a day of rehearsals from Satan. Instead of just agreeing or offering to table the talk until later, I wanted to lock horns. Translation: I wanted to be right and wanted him to feel bad. Well as you can guess that worked out fabulously for me and we didn’t really talk until late this afternoon after spending several hours feeling horrible. I apologized last night. But it was kind of a Splenda apology, you know not the real thing. I was sort of like “I’m sorry but you suck because of …” Yeah not a great apology especially from somebody who routinely has to say sorry for the stupid things they’ve done. The fact is I was in the wrong for verbally jumping down his throat but I was too pissed off to admit I was wrong. This morning, he went to a work thing and I stomped off to a meeting. As I walked home, I felt sad that I was horrible to my best friend and sad that I allowed myself to act like such a tool. I don’t have fights or drama or ‘stuff’ with people anymore so when I do it really makes me feel awful. Luckily, we cleared the air when I returned and after some veggie pasta and reality TV, things got back to normal. I even apologized for my crappy apology and gave him the heartfelt, real thing.
The lesson here was one I seem to have to keep learning: I’m not done. I’ll probably have to keep saying sorry and admitting when I’m wrong and praying for willingness to change as long as I live. And that’s okay. It sure beats bitching in a bar somewhere about how the world is out to get me and how I’ve been done wrong. Talk about a sorry existence.
For the longest time, I thought I wasn’t getting better faster enough. I felt perpetually afraid that someone was going to walk by my desk and tell me that I was doing sobriety all wrong and that I would have to start over. Even as I chugged towards my first 365 days doubled over in pain and still majorly fucking up in most areas of my life something whispered, “You’re alright. You are getting better.”
Part of my problem has always been that nothing has ever worked fast enough for me– orgasms, drugs, liquor, chocolate, school- all took too much time to make me feel better. I wanted results, dammit! I didn’t have time to wait for things or to work towards things. All of that sounded pedestrian and decidedly unsparkly. I blame Bewitched for ruining me on instant gratification. Samantha could wriggle her nose and get herself out of trouble or make things better. Looked like a great solution to me. Only thing is I’m totally not a witch and I never could master that nose thing. Still, that never stopped me from giving up the dream that I could snap or wish or sit on a couch and will things to go my way. So when I finally figured out that drinking everyday for the better part of a decade wasn’t exactly a great way to live, I thought sobriety would be the quick fix I needed too. Alas, it wasn’t. My first year of sobriety was filled with pockets of time where I felt like Julie Andrews spinning on a mountaintop, my heart filled with song! I felt so great and the world needed to know about it. In between those pockets, however, were giant isolated valleys in which I spent most of my time feeling like some mythical beast had ripped my soul and spirit out of my body and I was left to patch myself together with scotch tape. I didn’t know how to live without being loaded. I didn’t know how to deal with problems. or how to talk about what I was going through. Or how to do anyfuckingthing but cry, smoke and eat cookies. After four months of staying sober and still feeling like my life was shittier than ever before, I cried to a friend in sobriety, “Why is this taking so long?!? Why does my life still suck even though I’m not drinking?” To which she replied, “That’s why we call it ‘slow-briety'” And I thought, “I didn’t know we called it that. Had I known perhaps I would have reconsidered.” I finally made it to that first year and guess what? Then my life really got crappy! I was sofa surfing and not in my own apartment. My health was a disaster and staying in school had gotten really difficult. But by staying sober and hanging in there I was unknowingly allowing things to get better. I believed down in my heart that things would change and they did. This is not because I am amazing. It is because I am crazy and I had no other choice than to believe that the Universe/God/Higher Power/Whatever was going to pull me out of the muck I was in. It needed to work and it did.
I feel like I need to tell myself this story today because I’m often ungrateful or negative or still doubting that my life is better and that I’m better. I’m far from perfect and my journey of recovery today is a different one. I need things at 3 years sober I didn’t need at 3 days. It’s evolving. I’m evolving. It’s not over and I don’t have it in the bag or have mastered the secrets of living sober. But today, the day after St. Patrick’s Day as I write with no hangover or shame, I can honestly and proudly say, “Sean Paul Mahoney, you have come a long way, baby!”
I had quite the demon collection back in the day. Terrbile, horrifying nasty little creatures that I carried around and kept hidden. The fear these demons produced was a warped,long playing record. On one side was the obvious fear of these little buggers getting out and ruining my life even more than they already had. On the other, the fear was more confounding. I was afraid to loose these demons. I knew that once they were gone, I would be left without any horrible nasty creatures to blame my misfortune on and it scared me to death.
Now dear readers, we can see that I was screwed either way and the best thing would have been to suck it up and face the bastards head on. Easier said than done. Telling an alcoholic like me to “face your problems” is like telling a hoarder, “you should really tidy up in here.” That is to say, the task seemed daunting, even impossible. For years I drank and used drugs and fooled myself into thinking I didn’t deserve more and then worked double time to convince the world at large that I was fine and the life I was living was more fabulous than yours. Clearly, the warlord of my demons is a beast called Delusion. The powerful and evil scumsucker ruled me for decades. Delusional is commonly described as”maintaining fixed false beliefs even when confronted with facts. ” Sounds like me for sure. And Delusion kept me from dealing with my other demons for years.
But the thing about demons, at least mine, is that you can only keep them contained and in pretty little rows for so long and once they’ve escaped, look out. As my demons became totally out of control and unavoidable three years ago, my life collapsed. Or that’s what I thought at the time. In reality, as these demons were being slayed one by one my life was being rebuilt. But in order for this to happen, I first had to say to my demons, “No more. You don’t scare me. I can change.”
These nasty little devils have been on my mind recently. I’ve heard grumblings of old demons wanting to rear their heads and wreak havoc. Lately, I’ve been pulled into selfish directions and I know that it’s my old stuff at work. Thankfully, I have a set of tools and skills to use to shut them up. Praying helps. Helping other people really helps. And telling the truth about where I am and what I’m feeling gets me closer to silencing Delusion and his friends for good.