As mentioned in my previous post, I’m no angel. Although I am a highlydedicateddivorceddad, I’ve made some pretty big mistakes in my life. At the top of the list is the decision to hop in a car after having a few drinks (no kids involved). Hopefully you’re not rushing to judgement but, if you are, I can assure you that I’ve already thought about any negative conclusions you may have about my irresponsible actions and unfortunate decisions. In the end, the mistakes I’ve made will not define me, nor will they derail me. If anything, the difficulties I recently encountered are bringing a heightened awareness of who I need to be, how I need to change and what I am willing to give up.
Just about now, dear reader, I know you are waiting for me to get to the story. Recently I received homework, as part of a support group I have been attending to help me address my issues. The prompt? Identify a time that you felt sad, ashamed, depressed or lonely. Explain some of the negative thought patterns that reveal your tendency to handle situations in a self-destructive way. Discuss some healthy strategies you employed to manage the negative emotions and thought patterns. Star student that I am, not only did I write a creative narrative, now I am typing it up for all the world to see! So here we go:
The exhilaration was unreal. History was made. American Pharoah exploded down the stretch, winning the Triple Crown of horse racing for the first time in 37 years, and I was there- screaming, cheering, celebrating, high-fiving strangers and hugging friends.
Then, one hour later, I felt alone. Still surrounded by the slowly depleting crowd, the sadness returned. Was it my fucked up brain running empty on endorphin, the desire to share the moment with my kids, or a yearning to be next to a woman I loved that left me hungry for more? Who knows. What I know is that I felt like shit.
Old familiar cravings returned. Maybe if I cashed in on a big long shot- or even better, two coupled together in an exacta- the feeling would subside. But my long shots, of course, crossed the line in second and third, leaving me tantalizingly close to a big pay-off yet still wanting more.
Next up, I wandered down to enjoy the after concert with the raucous, jubilant, dancing and stumbling remnants of the crowd. Bumming cigarettes from strangers, I briefly satiated my gnawing hunger with a dangerous, highly addictive- yet legal- drug that I avoided for the past 15 years. Inhaling deep, holding smoke in my lungs, then exhaling into the twilight sky, for a brief moment my nerves calmed and I, too, swayed to the music. But just as quick the feeling faded, and I found myself drawn to empty spaces in a crowded place, allowing my emptiness to simmer.
“You deserve to be alone,” began the familiar inner monologue, as I departed in solitude, beginning the long trek home. Quietly, I walked a straight line to the train platform, deftly avoiding frolicking friends and laughing lovers. I filed onto the train and searched for an empty seat amid the buzzed crowd. Surrounded by drunken frat boys blatantly hitting on slurring women, I placed my headphones in my ears, hoping to block out the laughter of those around me, replacing it with my old familiar friend, Bon Iver, singing the blues. Soon we arrived in Penn Station, spilling out into the still busy night, full of individuals just beginning their Saturday night escapades.
“Why can’t I be a normal happy person,” I questioned, standing on a subway platform, waiting for another train to take me a step closer to home. Soon the musings of my mind were set to a sad tune, as I dreamed of the eternally unfinished musical documenting the dismal endeavors that constituted my existence. The train came and I squeezed in, simultaneously stuffed among humans and utterly alone. “Why can’t I do what normal happy people do?” I sang to myself.
Gradually I drew closer to where I desired to be, asleep in my bed, leaving what should have been a purely amazing day behind. I found myself standing on a street corner, waiting for a bus to come, listening to laughter and music spill out on the streets from the corner bar. Briefly I walked in, hoping I could rally, somehow “put on a happy face,” perhaps wooing some unsuspecting woman, poisoning her with my venom, paralyzing her in my web, and carrying her home. But, finding their bellowing laughter and superficial smiles to be discordant, I wandered out, heading home, knowing the answers to the questions that plagued me wouldn’t be found in a bar or on the bottom of a pint glass. To home, I continued, seeking rest and recuperation for my suffering soul.
When the bus came, my batteries were drained. My phone no longer provided a soundtrack for my solitude, leaving me in silence, humming the tune to my untitled, unfinished musical drama. Working title: from Happyhealthyhusband to Dumbassdrunk to Strongsobersilentstud– while always being a Highlydedicateddivoceddad (needs a lot of work, I know). At last, singing my sad song, I arrived home, alone, and collapsed in bed, quickly whisked away to a night of sleep.
In the morning I woke up, my mind precariously teetering between the utter jubilation and deep desperation of the day before. “Flight to health,” echoed the advice of a therapist from years earlier, during one of my brief attempts to get help. Pushed by his words, disheartened by the emptiness I struggled with, I went to church.
Some days, I sit in the pews and it is as if the sermon is written for me; this was one of those days. The Reverend’s message dealt with God’s acceptance of the broken and his presence during the empty times in life. When the congregation sang, I tried to sing along; my voice often trembling with emotion, I quieted down for a verse or two, then resiliently lifted my voice again when my emotions passed. When the time came for communion, the Reverend invited all forward- the broken, the confused, the lost- to taste and see that the Lord was good. And I did.
Next up, after hearing from my children on the phone, I went off to the gym, as “flight to health” became my mantra for the afternoon. The rhythmic pulsing of my blood and the clink-clank of iron slowly soothed my torment, leaving my body physically exhausted. After an hour of exercise I departed, feeling my physical strength revitalized, matching the morning rejuvenation of my soul.
Still, my day wasn’t done. There was one more journey I had to make, one more path that called me. “Flight to health” exhorted me as I returned to what has recently become a part of my routine: attending Alcoholics Anonymous. I walked in and sat down, listening to my brethren tell tales of being alone, being broken, and, eventually, being better- one day at a time. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone. At the end of the meeting I returned home, tired but satisfied after a long day.
Going to God, getting exercise, and attending A.A.- my own personal Triple Crown complete. And the crowd went wild!