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This Is Your Brain On ... / Week 5

It's almost my turn. Choose A, I can talk amongst peers. Choose B, I retain my sense of identity, through silence.

* * *

There was a time when life was steeped in alcohol and oddity. There was a time when life was unpredictable and exciting. There was a time when bed was anywhere I fell asleep the night before and waking up was just another adventure. There was a time when there were heaps of vivid images and isolated memories, but no narrative thread to string them all together.

* * *

“Hi. I'm Destiny.” They wait for me to finish. There are no more words.

“Hi Destiny; you're welcome here.”

* * *

At 1:00am a baker's dozen parades through downtown. I am one of them. We sing sea shanties that resound off the library facade and echo through Monument Square. We stumble and giggle. We hold hands and swing our arms joyously. At 1:00am I belong. This is my tribe, crossing from West End to East End on the promise of more beer.

* * *

This circle accepts me. They share stories of struggles and heartache, of inspiration and shenanigans. Sometimes it's hard to listen. The tales are too painful or they are too rambling and unfocused. I don't belong here. Still, I try to listen. They need someone to listen.

* * *

The restaurant has closed and I'm standing in a parking lot, engaged in the ritual passing of the joint. There are a half dozen conversations volleying across the circle—all of them important, all of them frivolous. I join in, speaking to everyone and no one. Above us the stars sparkle in a seemingly infinite expanse. This city, this night, this experience is magical. Soon we'll scatter to the wind, but for now we live the moment. We all smile.

* * *

They talk about how difficult it is to let go. They talk about turning things over to a higher power. They talk about high rates of failure. After 24 years clean, they still identify as addicts. Not me. I just decided I was done one day.

* * *

Friday night and I've got two bottles worth of wine tucked in my cleavage and strapped to my thighs. We can't afford the prices at the concession stand, so I volunteer as pack mule. By the time we're sitting in the balcony, passing Sigg bottles while Toto trots down dusty Kansas roads, I'm feeling giddy.

After the movie we run into friends ordering pizza. When I relate the legendary achievement for the night, Karl asks “Do you always need alcohol to have fun?”

* * *

Left to my own devices, I probably never would have gotten drunk or high. Sure the risk profiles were there—substance abuse in the family, mental illness, poverty, growing up in a pseudo-single parent home, being a teenager in Maine. I just wasn't all that interested. But I didn't want to leave my friends behind. So when the time came, I jumped off the sobriety wagon and waved goodbye.

* * *

I have skipped classes in order to drink. I have missed work because of hangovers. I have blacked out in situations where my safety could have been compromised. I have drank by myself. I have vomited in more places than I'd like to admit. I have kissed people I did not know without acquiring their permission. I have lost personal effects. I have peed in neighbor's bushes. I have laid down in the middle of the street. I have been hospitalized.

I'm not an addict. I thought I might be. I don't have a problem with addiction, though. I have a problem with belonging.

* * *

“I've decided to stop drinking for a while.”


“I don't know. It's a test.”

I still want to run around town wearing life jackets and silly hats. I still want to have impromptu jam sessions where I sing and twirl. I still want to discover secret stairs in hidden gardens that lead to grand adventures. I still want to lounge around with three others in a hammock inventing constellations. I still want to belong.

One by one they stop inviting me to hang out.

I don't tell them they've failed the test.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 22nd, 2013 07:26 pm (UTC)
this pushes all my buttons surrounding anxiety over losing friendships. I really like that you turned it around though, and made it about them not passing your test, and not the other way around. I think I'll try to look at my lost friendships like that.
Feb. 22nd, 2013 11:33 pm (UTC)
This was really powerful. I could relate to it in a lot of ways. My years of substance use were largely about belonging, and it's funny how many friendships faded and died when I left that lifestyle behind. It's sad, but I guess there just wasn't as much there as I thought.

I still haven't entirely figured out how to belong, to be honest. But I'm kind of okay with that.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 12:01 am (UTC)
Well screw them, then, if they failed the test. ;) You don't need to do any of those things to belong, and it's nice to hear that you stopped. I drink occasionally, and I feel that moderation is so important.

I really, really liked that last section, btw. That holds so much impact, especially with that last line. Good job.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 02:20 am (UTC)
Wonderful! I love your last line.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 03:41 am (UTC)
This is beautiful and wonderfully told.

I don't have a problem with addiction, though. I have a problem with belonging.
I think that drives us more often than we're usually willing to admit.

This is really breathtaking.
Feb. 24th, 2013 01:57 am (UTC)
Well-put together.
Feb. 24th, 2013 08:53 pm (UTC)
this really hit home for me. I have a similar problem with belonging.
Feb. 25th, 2013 03:38 am (UTC)
I don't tell them they've failed the test.

People's actions when they don't know they're being taken into consideration can be awwwfully damn telling.

Loved this piece from you.
Feb. 25th, 2013 06:28 am (UTC)
Feb. 25th, 2013 08:24 am (UTC)
It's a hard choice. :(
Feb. 25th, 2013 11:08 am (UTC)
You can totally do those things without alcohol. Your old friends are losing out if they think that's not the case. This was another really strong entry from you, Destiny. Well done!
Feb. 25th, 2013 06:04 pm (UTC)
This was very moving. It must have been difficult to open up such as you did.
Feb. 26th, 2013 01:39 am (UTC)
um. this is kinda of awesome. Raw and awesome. So many great words here.

I'm not an addict. I thought I might be. I don't have a problem with addiction, though. I have a problem with belonging.
I understand this
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )