Note to self: always bring a choir and wear sequins. Always.
“Just pick up the phone. Just reach out. Just call.” These are simple directions but when I’m a shit storm of self-pity and feeling like I’m the worst person on the planet, picking up the damn phone is impossible. Besides who’d wanna listen to my crap? No. I’ll just sit here in the corner and silently bleed to death. Don’t mind me.
This is what my brain tells me when I’m in pain. Over the years, I’ve gotten better about calling or texting or sending an SOS that says, “Hey I’m really out of my effing mind! Please help!” But as we’ve discussed a zillion times, my pain threshold is pretty high so it usually takes me being horribly miserable to finally reach out. Sponsors, siblings, my husband, friends of mine- all of them get frustrated at how long I can feel miserable and not say anything. Lately, however, I’ve seen how vital reaching out can be.
Last month, I was walking back from the bank and I thought,”I could have a margarita.” This thought morphed into, “I DESERVE a margarita! I mean it’s the middle of the day, who would know? Just one wouldn’t kill me. It sounds fun!” Thankfully, I quickly remembered that one margarita has never existed for me. It’s usually 6 more, followed by blow, followed by several beers and wanting to die. Yeah. That sounds really fun. Well, I knew that I’d have to tell on myself and tell somebody I was having these thoughts. Sitting alone with wanting a margarita, regardless of how passing the idea was, is something that I as an alcoholic can’t get away with. The urge to drink after almost 7 years? I gotta be honest– it scared the crap out of me. It wasn’t something I should keep to myself and yet I did! For a few days! Finally, I reached out to my sponsor who informed me that, “Congratulations! You’re still a drunk.” Getting the thought out of my head and in front of another sober person took the terror out of the moment. Plus, we figured out I hadn’t had lunch and disastrous ideas always happen when I’m hungry. Now, I’m not saying I would have drunk had I not reached out but how long could I keep secrets or lie about my program until drinking or using sounded like a good idea? Not very long, as proven by past personal field research. Opening my mouth and picking up the million pound phone isn’t easy or even something I like to do. But I gotta do it if I want to stay sober.
Telling the world, “I’m fine. Actually, I’m great!’ just because I don’t want to inconvenience anyone with my pain is utter garbage. Not to mention the fact, it’s some of my oldest and most toxic behavior. Around this time of year in 2008, I’d talk to my family and sell them a load of how happy I was when all the while I was on the verge of eviction and alcoholic collapse. It was all “Merry Christmas!” when it should have been “Please help me.” Needless to say, the people in my life were surprised when I admitted right after New Years that I was fucked and needed help. This practice of asking for help and picking up the phone is just that. And I frequently fail at it. But eventually, I come around and I call someone. This is certainly progress for person who really enjoys bleeding in the corner.
If you hang out in the rooms of recovery, we see how terrible sitting on your pain can be. Over the last few years, I’ve witnessed a lot of lovely folks who don’t share in meetings or talk to people afterwards or even make their presence known simply disappear. Or relapse. Or die. It fucking sucks, mainly because it happens a lot. This isn’t a theory or something sober people say to scare each other. I’ve personally seen friends and people I love sit in meetings and smile, all the while they’re hurting inside. It’s happened a couple of times lately in my circle and it’s horrible. Horrible because seeing people you care about in pain sucks. Mainly, it’s horrible because it’s so unnecessary.
However, as they say, the phone works both ways. If I see someone in pain, I can get off my ass and call them too. Not like I’m so magically sober that I can keep other people sober. Thank God I don’t believe that. But reaching out–calling a new person or someone struggling- can’t hurt either. And it might just save my life too.