I was troubled. When I let it show it was shocking, disturbing, because there was another side. There was a happy, healthy person in there too, but he was being eaten alive, unable to do damage control for himself.
On paper, I was high achieving, popular, friendly and warm. I was my high school valedictorian, and then I was a student at Brown.
People would ask: How do you have so many close friends? How do you maintain so many genuine friendships?
If someone was upset, I’d often be the first person they’d call. I was sympathetic, empathetic and actually listening. I loved my friends and family so much, I’d feel their pain; I’d offer advice so deeply thought out, as though what was at stake for them was at stake for me.
If you didn’t see my medical records, if you only knew me from afar, you might have thought I had it all together. But that’s so far from the truth. I was like a wildfire, tempestuous, unpredictable and uncontrollable. But, if you didn’t get too close, not only would you not get burnt, you might it even think it was beautiful, fascinating.
From puberty, from the onset of my sexuality and the awareness of its implications, a civil war raged within me; I was trying to destroy myself, while I was trying to save myself, and the resulting personality inconsistencies were noticeable, tangible. I was respected; there was a part of me that was a leader. I cared about fighting injustice; I worked with immigrants, refugees and the formerly incarcerated. I wanted to be a human rights lawyer and eventually a politician. I was bold and brave; I’d go out of my way to stand up for my friends.
But, I was also feared. There was a part of me that was awful, monstrous. Many mornings my friends would verbatim tell me that I had behaved demonically the night before. I believe it. I was possessed by self-loathing; I was possessed by despair; I was possessed by addiction.
The addiction empowered the bad parts of me I worked so hard by day to repress – the insecurities, resentments, fears and jealousy; it injected them with steroids and armed them with weapons of mass destruction before setting them free from their usually padlocked cells. They ran rampant and free. They attacked people, and in the morning they attacked me. I would curl up into a ball, confused shaking and crying. I would regret the words I spewed, the things I did. But being an alcoholic is like having Stockholm syndrome, and alcohol is your captor. I had brief glimpses of clarity where I admitted to myself that alcohol was ruining my life, but I’d scoff at myself moments later for being so hyperbolic.
Alcohol is what makes my life happy and magical. Alcohol is how I have fun, how I find release. If I’m misbehaving while drunk I don’t need to change my drinking habits, I need to change the essence of my flawed being.
When I was drunk, I was so aggressive, physically and verbally. When sober, I liked to be liked, perhaps too much. Maybe sometimes I bite my tongue too much, smile at things I don’t find funny; I am a master at burying negative thoughts; an expert at locking my lips, turning them up into a smile and pretending everything is fine.
But, one cannot bury their feelings; well, you can, but you are burying them alive. And the grave is always so much more shallow than you thought, the lock on your lips so much looser, so much weaker; it lusts to be unlatched.
Just add wine, and my feelings would shatter the coffin I thought I had so tightly nailed shut. I’d feel them making their great escape. My stomach would drop. My face would flush. I could feel them brewing in my core. I could feel them searching for the way out.
I’ll drink so much that I’ll wash them away.
But, by now they’re loose; they’re wild. They could swim, and the wine only lifted them closer to my throat, nearer to my brain.
My throat would constrict as they made their way up. Now, they’re in my brain. They feed off of alcohol, off of inhibition, and I’ve given them a royal feast.
Get out of my brain. Get out of my mind. Get out of my thoughts.
But, it’s too late they’ve taken over. They’re taking over my body; they’ve taken over. I’m no longer calling the shots; I’m weak, passive, willing.
They’re in my mouth now, making my tongue move, and when the fury flies out, when the tear ducts open like the Hoover Dam, I’m confused.
That voice sounds so much like me. These tears are my own. This is me speaking; this is me feeling.
I didn’t feel this way earlier, but it’s so consuming, so powerful; it must be real.
I would commit. My drunken distortion was my new reality. What had earlier been a minor annoyance was now the end of the world.
“YOU’VE WRONGED ME!” I’d scream. “FUCK YOU!”
“I’LL KILL MYSELF!” I’d shake as I announced my decision. I meant it. “YOU DON’T ACTUALLY LOVE ME!”
Maybe I’d pass out, or maybe I’d throw up. Maybe I’d text people in my phone until I found someone to come over and press their naked body against mine, to enter me, until I passed out or threw up.
In the morning I’d wake up after a dreamless sleep and half admit I’d behaved like Pazuzu in Reagan MacNeil’s body. I had no Father Karras to rescue me, to extract the demon.
Besides, I welcomed the demon; I opened the door and let it in.
The demon was me.
So, I’d have mental breakdowns; maybe I’d feel ashamed, or maybe I’d feel violated. Many times I felt nothing at all.
A part of me was dead, but I’d murdered it, so who was I to mourn?
It is what it is.
Anyone who tried to save me I’d verbally attack or shun. I manipulated and intimidated, pacified and lied.
I got my wish. People stopped trying to help.
No one knew what to do but watch me flounder and hope I’d wake up one-day and raise the white flag to myself.