Maybe you should try.
That might not be the exact words but it’s the meaning that matters and it’s not about what someone told me or that someone convinced me because no one did. It was me. It’s just easier to say “she helped” or to personify the bad thing. Taking credit isn’t easy and maybe it’s a sign of a good person, I’m not sure. What I am sure of is I’m glad I had enough respect for her then and enough will to try, to challenge myself. Because that’s what it was in the beginning. It was New Year’s Eve and I had only one beer left in the fridge. I told myself that’s it. Let’s just see how long you can go without it because yes a big part of me was convinced that I needed it to fall asleep, to cope with life, to be okay with breathing.
It was perfect timing, really.
I had decided I wanted to compose a collection of poems and put it on Amazon but I hated the idea of just sticking a handful of them together and calling it a collection. I still hate that idea. What makes them belong together? So as I was searching for a topic or a concept for a series of poems, I found myself facing myself and all these ideas I had about myself. Like I needed alcohol to subdue the pain and anger and loneliness I held onto, that I always held onto. I always stuffed everything down and then the alcohol helped drown it and store it deep below.
Quickly, the poems flowed out of me. I didn’t even know what it was until well into it. I had stopped drinking and began to notice things about myself, physically and mentally. I don’t want to go into much detail because the poems handle it all pretty well I think. I will say that alcohol does minimize testosterone in the body and then without alcohol your body is free to make more. It was strange—stranger than puberty was for me to be perfectly honest. But the biggest thing was the clarity, like I could breathe and see and listen for the first time. Yes, it was difficult but it all fed into the things I was writing at the time. When I read through that first collection, MY ENVELOPING REFLECTION, some of those I can vividly remember writing and others read like they were penned by another person. The second poem in the collection is incredibly scary for me to read because it is so true and representative of how I was for so many years.
It wasn’t all about the alcohol or substance abuse, perhaps the bigger theme throughout is the idea of manhood. I’ve heard so many people talk about this and especially growing up everyone is always so focused on being a man. And saying “once you’re a man” or competing to be the bigger man. I never understood any of it. I think it really became apparent to me right around entering my twenties that it’s all bullshit because everyone has their own definition. Once I stumbled on that idea I stunned myself because then I had to come up with my own definition. Trouble is, I never felt like a man in that odd sorta spiritual sense, for the lack of a better word, that people seem to subscribe to. Like just because you’re strong and have thick muscles doesn’t mean a damn thing to me. Or like the macho nonsense, yeah I’ve had the shit kicked out of me by bigger stronger “men” but that never seemed like being a man to me. Oh you can beat on someone smaller than you? That’s great.
I’m still not sure if I consider myself a man because it’s a very strange thing. It’s like calling myself a good person. I don’t know if I’m qualified to say that about me. Honestly, I rather not be called a man if all these assholes we keep hearing about are considered men. Too often it’s about pressure and I don’t want to put pressure on anyone. And who likes being forced into anything?
I’m incredibly proud of MER and its “sequel” ARMORLESS AND AFRAID because it’s not about what I’ve done, it’s not about the mistakes it’s about life. I’m alive. I’m probably the healthiest I’ve ever been. The most complete I’ve ever been. It’s been five years since I released MER and that’s incredible. If you bought it, you’re incredible. I truly hope that the people that read it got something from it but honestly, that’s not the point. I got a lot from it. More than I ever thought possible.
I’m proud of myself.
That’s something I never thought I would feel. I always felt like I was destined to not see past 25. Next month I’ll be 31. Next year I’m getting married. I’m marrying the girl that said “Maybe you should try to go without the alcohol.” When she said that it was something I had never considered like thinking about the sky being bright yellow instead of blue. And those words climbed into my head and every so often they wouldn’t leave. I think it was early December she said it and by the time New Year’s came around, I was ready. Not because she had any power over me, it was because I loved her (still do!) and I respected her. I didn’t know at the time that by taking that comment seriously I was saving our relationship and building it stronger because if I had kept with the alcohol we wouldn’t have stayed together.
If you are reading this and know someone that is struggling with some sort of addiction, the advice I would give you is to be genuine. Don’t say “you should quit” because that’s the worst. It only ever made me want to do it more. I LOVED SMOKING. I put that past tense only because I don’t smoke anymore. Everyone is always saying it’s bad for you. We all know. That’s not enough. The money isn’t enough either. I think the best way to get around all that bullshit is to talk to that person about what they want from life. Even if it’s a crazy dream, get that info and see if there’s a way to do it. Chances are there is a way. Chances are it’s easier than that person might think. In my case it was publishing a book, I haven’t quenched that itch exactly yet but I sorta did. I’m not sure if that is helpful at all but that’s sorta what happened with me. Focusing on MER gave me something to do when I felt bad about the withdrawals and whatnot. I poured myself into that, rather than pouring things into myself.
You don’t overcome, you swap. Think of it more like batteries than flaws. Gotta swap these batteries out for working ones.