I discovered a new place in LA this weekend. It’s a place I heard about back in December, and a place I’ve put off going to ever since.
Initially I put it off because I was really happy. It was January 1st, I was on my second adventure into sobriety, I had a solid living situation, a new, promising guy in my life, a hopeful pilot season on the horizon, things were good.
When things got less good, I still didn’t go. I mean, things weren’t that bad. The guy left, pilot season wasn’t happening, my thoughts were a little darker, I was a little less hopeful, but I could handle it.
And then I couldn’t.
Slowly, but surely, what seemed not-so-good only got worse. I was spending more time alone in my apartment, not always by choice. I was feeling left out, depressed, anxious, abandoned. Those feelings, on top of sobriety, started to become more and more challenging to manage.
The thing I forgot about sobriety (probably as a way of protecting myself subconsciously), is that, in the first couple of months, a lot of stuff comes up.
Think about a time you’ve had a rough day or an exciting day or an overwhelming day. Think about what you did when you got home after that day full of all that stuff. I bet a lot of people reading this had a drink, right? It’s okay. It’s etched into our society. Happy hour is a thing and it’s called “happy hour” for a reason. It’s normal to want to unwind after one of those days and the way a lot of us do that is with alcohol. That’s what I’ve been doing, especially post-2015 year of sobriety. So, when I went sober again this year, not only was I relearning how to handle “those” days, but I was also facing all the stuff I drowned in bottles of wine over the last two years and probably even before that.
Cut to: Oscar Sunday 2018. My OG readers know that Oscar Sunday is my Super Bowl. Hollywood’s prom night is my favorite night of the year. Normally, I’m watching the show with a small group of friends and copious amounts of baked goods. That’s what I had planned to do this year. But, all my friends cancelled and I didn’t feel like leaving my house to grocery shop for baking supplies and I barely felt like lifting a finger to turn on the TV. Before Kimmel could start his monologue, I was on the phone with a close friend expressing thoughts and feelings I didn’t even know I had, and none of them were good. I unleashed years of things I had buried, and though my friend was an incredible and supportive sounding board that night, we both knew I needed someone else.
So, Saturday morning I drove to the Southern California Counseling Center for a new patient intake. (Yes, even after all of that, it still took me another two weeks to make the move). This was the place I had been avoiding for the past three months, and once I got there, I realized I hadn’t been avoiding it because things were going right or because I didn’t have the time or because I thought I could handle everything on my own.
I was avoiding it because it was, by far, the scariest thing I have ever done in my adult life.
I saw therapists regularily from the time I was about six until I graduated high school, and even since being in LA, I’ve looked into therapy and tried a few things, but to sit across from a complete stranger and list all the reasons why I was reaching out for help, was something I’ve never done. I mean, I’ve never done that with my closest friends and family. Sure, the people who know me, know a lot of my story, but when you lump everything together in a 50-minute session, when thirty years of ups and downs come flooding out of your mouth at a rate of utterance so quick, my brain could barely keep up. I wasn’t ready for that. I was so nervous, I pinched the skin on the inside of my right arm the entire time, trying to self soothe, and didn’t even realize I had done that until I saw a tiny bruise a few hours later.
While I’m giving this very kind and loving stranger the rundown of my life, I just kept looking at her and wondering, “Do you even believe me?”
When you lump together everything that’s happened to you in your life, and then you start listing it off, it becomes kind of hard to believe. I even stopped halfway through to check in with myself. “Wait. You sure that really happened? You already talked about that other bad thing. How much more is there?”
There’s a lot. That’s what this session showed me. I have a lot of stuff.
Talking about this stuff doesn’t scare me. I’ve been pretty open on this blog about the cards I’ve been dealt; abuse, suicide, family tragedy, depression, anxiety. I can call my pain out and I can discuss it openly, it’s realizing how much of it there is…. that’s where I start to buckle.
It’s like I’ve packed this giant suitcase full of ugly clothes, worn out shoes, and socks with holes in them, and I put the suitcase in storage a really long time ago, but I always held onto the key, just in case. On Saturday, I made a copy of the key and I gave that to someone I don’t know, but she promises to take really good care of it, and pretty soon, she’s going to help me lift that suitcase out of storage and set it down someplace safe, and then we’ll start to unpack it. It sounds like a daunting task, I know, no one likes unpacking, but I’m looking forward to it.
It’s true what they say, reaching out is hard. It’s really, really hard, but if you’re reading this and if anything I wrote resonated with you, please do it.
Your suitcase may seem really heavy, but I promise it’ll be easier to lift with a little help.