For much of my life I’ve been internally combustible and physically uncomfortable. I felt ill and under and unequipped just being human. Even trying to be human. Too much shit gurgling in my stomach. Never ending mallet beating my heart. Intestines put on backwards and inside out. My thoughts whirling and jerking back and forth by some restless, mechanical bull.
I’m melodramatic, I know.
But when I found drugs and alcohol as a teenager that fixed me, that calmed the bomb and made life tolerable, comfortable. The whole reason why I drank as much and as hard as I did was because drinking brought me relief. And not only that but it took me to a place of adventure, a place I was fond of, a place without restraints. A feeling inside and out that nothing mattered, nothing could touch me, and I just didn’t give a fuck. If it was sunny outside then that was perfect and if it were raining then that was fucking awesome, too.
Of course being alcoholic there always comes a point where the watered down solution becomes a problem in itself. Becomes more of a problem than the anxiety I was trying to do away with.
And then when I did stop drinking the pressures of everyday life were back. More painful than ever. I didn’t have many skills to deal with them and oh boy, did the mechanical bull launch full throttle again. The first year and two I was sober I felt the craziest that I ever had my whole life. Like every nerve in my body was exposed, every sight a cause for alarm.
Am I going to be able to drive all the way home? I can’t even fucking think straight.
And every sound twice as loud.
Why is everyone talking through a megaphone?
In related news, it feels like there’s been ringing in my ears since I was nine.
Freshly sober my anxiety would have me up at 4:30 in the morning, pounding down the coffees. Other times I’d be up well past midnight, smoking cigarette after cigarette. Day and night making my combustion worse by not sleeping and pumping more toxins into my system.
In the here-and-now, even well into sobriety, when I’m uncomfortable my go-to reaction is to fix how I feel. Reach for cigarettes that aren’t there. Look for something outside of me to soothe the unrest within. Something, anything to take away the worry, the doubt, the paranoia. Unplug the melodramatic bull.
After I got back into 12-step recovery one of the most valuable tools that I learned was the cosmic pause. To take an interlude. To stop. For a moment. To breathe.
And also to learn how to feel my feelings, especially the uncomfortable ones. I’m sure I’ve quoted Tony before when he said, “those that make it are the ones who learn how to be uncomfortable.”
My last divorce was certainly uncomfortable and plenty difficult for everybody involved. Every time I would get a text message from my ex-wife my heart would race and I felt like I was holding a bomb. My hands would shake as I was pummeled with nervous, dizzy emotion. And it would all happen in an instant. Maybe kinda like a panic attack. :)
Then of course I would immediately read/react/reply, and the text messages would explode with overflowing wells of anger. Puke and shit everywhere. It was the same story with my first ex-wife except we’d actually be calling each other all frenzy-like since cell phones weren’t an everyday thing.
And then somewhere along the way the cosmos gave me some insight.
I didn’t have to respond to someone’s messages right away. I didn’t even have to read them right when my phone popped up an alert. Hell, I didn’t have to read them at all if I didn’t want to. Fucking spiritual revelation.
When I get in those kind of tense situations where I’m feeling nervous or unsure I do my best to simply pause. Accept that whatever I’m feeling is how I’m supposed to be feeling at that very moment. And then say a little prayer, sometimes a big one, and ask the cosmos for direction. I breathe out and imagine I’m exhaling the anxiety. Blow it out like the smoke that used to give me so much comfort.
On a side note, imagine taking a drag off a cigarette and then never blowing out the smoke. That choking feeling, that suffocation is how I feel when I only hold on to my emotions and don’t process them.
Anyways, absolutely not doing anything when I’m in a mess is almost always the right thing to do. I’m not good at reacting under pressure. Even more so when there’s barbed history. I usually make the situation worse if I act on that first impulse. I can easily freak out and go some place emotionally I don’t like being. So I pause and ride my emotional, mechanical bull until it powers down. Afterward the feelings subside, if not pass altogether, and then I’m able to make sound decisions with a clear mind.
My solution is always divine. No amount of material things will ever fix me. I need to reconnect with the cosmic spirit if I want peace. By letting the cosmos care for and guide me I don’t have to take on the burden of trying to fix myself, trying to manage my anxiety. Control whatever situation I’m in or even control how I’m feeling. I can just let go and know that the answers will come so long as I allow myself to be a complete human being. With uncomfortable feelings and all.
And back to that “holding a bomb” feeling.
The funny thing is I know now most of that was pretty much all about me. My gears grinding and circuits working overtime. My heart would beat so fast and there I was the one holding the mallet.
Mechanical bull up in my head, glaring eyes of red, snorting steam they said.
I can’t speak for my ex-wives or anybody else but it wouldn’t surprise me if both felt just as nervous as I did when they reached out to me. My behaviors and responses were unpredictable. At best. And divorces are messy, too. Emotions high. Feelings hurt. That in itself is reason enough for anybody to slow way the fuck down.
Most of my messages in the here-and-now are light and nonchalant. I’m overall calm. I don’t feel the mechanical bull winding up and bashing me around when certain people message me. I do my best to stay consistently plugged into the cosmos and walk that spiritual path. When I am and when I do, I’m not as eager to race ahead and react to fear, perceived or not. If I stay ahead of the anxiety game I’m less likely to lose when it’s time to play.
When I’m plugged in nothing can touch me either. I’m on that spiritual journey and get a text message bomb, then it doesn’t matter. I don’t care. Other people can behave badly and I don’t give a fuck. And that feeling of being okay is what I was after the whole time I was drinking. I was trying to get okay. I just made the mistake of using man-made fixes.
Physically uncomfortable and internally combustible. Life doesn’t have to be that way. More importantly, life’s not supposed to be like that.
I needed a better way to live. My solution has been always divine but there were things that I could certainly do.
So when I stopped chugging coffees after 8 pm was when I started closing my eyes and falling asleep come bedtime. When I stopped taking things so damn personal, when I stopped seeing people as threats was when I finally was able to relax and life wasn’t so loud anymore.
When I stopped analyzing and scrutinizing every detail and started trusting in the greater good of my fellow humans was when l started building meaningful, long term relationships.
When I stopped worrying about getting hurt was when I was finally able to love you guys.
When I stopped using quick fixes for the major problems was when I started to heal.
And then when I realized that most of what I thought was important in life was irrelevant, when I finally let everything go was when I was finally set free.
“I never knew I had anxiety. I just knew I needed another cigarette.” I don’t know who said that on NPR but I was all like “YES” when I heard it. ↑
Text-based conversation is possibly one of the worst things that has happened to modern communication. It lets people write things that they would never get away with saying to another person face-to-face. ↑
Just to throw this out there, some people need medication. I’m not saying that everybody can get by on a spiritual solution alone. But for me much of my anxiety was driven by how I lived my life. ↑