The bright sunlight is deceiving, as it often is at the beginning of March. Every deadened winter thing is gleaming in the afternoon light but the bite of the bitter cold when I step out the front door is immediately real. Hat, coat, sunglasses. The sound of my boots on the pavement as I walk the neighborhood on a Monday with not a single cloud in the sky.
They say writing is like painting a tiny universe to inhabit for a while. They tell me something happens at sixty days sober. Something in the brain. Like the intensity of the desire to drink gets dialed back quite a bit. I welcome this development but secretly concern myself that if I anticipate it too eagerly it will not come about. I shove my hands in my pockets and take a deep breath of winter air like a straight chilled shot to my lungs. No one is around. All the little sedans are at their various offices waiting patiently in big parking lots for their people.
Cravings are not about liking something. That’s the fucked up part. You need it so bad you are climbing the walls inside of your body and it’s nothing pleasant. It’s loud and distracting. You just want the noise to stop. Like when a kid is nagging you for something and you just want to give in to shut them up. Temporary relief – that’s the siren call. That’s the seduction. It isn’t even that you want the pleasure it’s that you want to end the pain.
There’s a lot of chatter about words like addiction, addict, alcoholic, recovery, etc. These are all words I refused for a very long time to even say to myself in my head. I was too afraid they had not to do with somebody else out there but everything to do with me in here. Inside where all my body parts were trying to keep me alive. People think it’s about how much you drink but it is not necessarily that. It’s about the mental prison alcohol erects around your mind. I was terrified to stop. And now that I am stopped I have moments of sheer terror that I could start up again and lose myself. Lose all the progress I have made, all the ground I have covered. You get into trouble when you are afraid of stopping and afraid of starting at the same time.
I am likely repeating myself. A lot of this recovery jazz is about repetition. Carving new pathways in the brain, entrenching new habits. It takes a lot of time, I’m sure, and I am getting there. What I think is cool is that there are words I was afraid to use but now I use them so often they do not frighten me the way they used to. I am starting to see the addiction not as part of me but as some kind of bizarrely twisted gift.
If it weren’t so hard to quit, quitting could not transform you so entirely. Because you cannot get clean without paying a hell of a lot of attention. I fidget with the keys in my pocket as I cross the street. I feel the skin of my fingers dragging along their sharp jagged teeth.
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