I didn’t write about the events that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021. I didn’t talk about them in our Echoes of Recovery group. It wasn’t a writing prompt for our SHOUT Sobriety program. Not a word about it was mentioned during our monthly Marragevolution session, and I don’t even remember a related side discussion on our Untoxicated Podcast. I didn’t ignore it, Far from it, in fact. I internalized and anguished about January 6th. But as the most hyper-political and toxic event of my lifetime (if you think I’m exaggerating, please challenge me in the comments), I didn’t want to pour fuel on anyone’s fire by sharing my thoughts and emotions.
That was a mistake. People relapsed over January 6th.
I might not have been able to prevent the relapses of other people. To think that would be beyond arrogant, and it would put a pressure on my shoulders that I’m not comfortable owning. But I should have shared my experiences and feelings, because the first step to processing our emotions, is to identify and try to understand them. Together, maybe we could have made sense of the impact and managed our reactions.
I won’t make that mistake again.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is the most threatening conflict of my lifetime (again, if you think that to be an exaggeration, I welcome your opinion in the comments). Our world leaders are openly explaining that the decisions they are making are intended to avoid World War III. I have never heard an American president talk like this.
I have referenced “my lifetime” twice now. For clarity, I am forty-nine – too young for the Cuban Missile Crisis, but plenty old enough for 9/11. I learned about mutually assured nuclear annihilation from the 80’s movie, War Games. Don’t watch it if you are looking for something to help you sleep better during the previously unthinkable and currently escalating land war in Europe.
Our mutually assured annihilation is supposed to be our protection. As War Games proved, nuclear war is unwinnable. Any rational human can understand.
So what happens when the guy with his finger on the button is showing signs of insanity? What if he is a tyrant dictator without the power limitations and global protections of a system of checks and balances? What will protect us then?
What does any of this have to do with alcoholism, sobriety, and relationship recovery? No one turns to me for political punditry, so why am I writing about war in Ukraine? Because it is not just a threat to our physical existence, it is also a threat to our mental stability.
Most of the time, I can go about my day, working, eating, loving, communicating, empathizing, trying, thinking and getting some sub-optimal amount of sleep each night. In fact, I am embarrassed to admit that I am already becoming desensitized to the catastrophic death and destruction taking place across the Atlantic. But if I think about it – if I consider that the survival of humanity is in the hands of an unstable narcissist who is losing the war he started (and by all accounts, doesn’t seem to take embarrassment well), I can tie myself up in knots with dread and worry.
I was an alcoholic. Alcoholism is, among other things, the disease of self-medication of anxiety and depression. I am not asking to live life peering obliviously through rose-colored glasses, but I also don’t need any help getting worked up and anxious. The potential for WWIII is really unnecessary and unwelcomed.
My dread and fear comes in waves. One minute, I am struggling to come up with a writing prompt for a story-telling workshop, and the next minute I am thinking about how many cases of water, canned tuna and beef jerky we should have in the basement in case we need to flee to the mountains to try to survive (I am also a fan of 1984’s Red Dawn).
The pandemic didn’t scare me. Not like this. I wore my mask and kept my distance from others when possible. I encouraged my parents (who it turns out, are older than me) to hunker down, and I got the vaccine, and the subsequent booster, just as soon as they were offered to me (I don’t have an airborne infectious disease laboratory in my basement – there is no room for that what with all the tuna, water and jerky – so I didn’t do my own research). See how much less scary COVID is for me – I just made three jokes in the same paragraph. There is nothing funny to me about the tragedy in Eastern Europe.
Unthinkable. That’s the word that comes to mind. How is it possible that we have come all the way from cavemen banging rocks together to try to start a fire to billions of humans walking around the planet with supercomputers in our pockets while Captain Kirk takes a real-life joy-ride into space, and yet one lunatic with increasingly thin skin has the power to end it all? Couldn’t we see the potential for this coming? We humans are familiar with human greed and insecurity. Shouldn’t we have anticipated this contingency?
So, I’m scared. And I’m angry. I’m disappointed. I’m also assimilating this threat into my routine activities. I am normalizing the possibility of human extinction. That normalization makes me angry all over again.
I’m also filled with empathy. Not only do I pray for and ache for the people of Ukraine and Russian and all of Eastern Europe, but I have empathy for Vladimir Putin.
I feel quite sorry for the man potentially orchestrating my destruction.
How does the human mind get so warped and twisted that it has the capacity for such a reign of terror? What happened to him as a child? How did his isolation and paranoia spiral to this unimaginable point?
Celebrities, sports stars, politicians and powerful businessmen have proven time and time and time again that wealth, power and prestige don’t lead to glory. They lead to depression, further isolation, neurological collapse and suicide. Can’t Putin read? Has he never seen a documentary? Or has his ego grown to the point where psychological reality and the sanctity of life no longer register in his quest to restore glory to mother Russia?
I don’t know. I don’t understand. But I feel sorry for him.
How do you feel? I invite you to process your feelings and emotions with me. Send me an email. Put your feedback in the comments. Just don’t keep making widgets or going to work meetings or watching college basketball without stopping to deal with the fear and anxiety. We can only ignore it for so long. The truth always wins, and our experiences and worries will quite literally eat us alive.
I know drinking won’t help me through this, but you already expected me to say that, didn’t you? Honestly, drinking is the furthest thing from my mind. Five years of sobriety, and five years of curiosity, have blessed me with routines and understanding that makes drinking alcohol a laughably ridiculous notion. I would sooner sand my lips off with a nail file.
I don’t know or care if any of this makes sense to you. I didn’t write it for you. I wrote it for me because I refuse to ignore the greatest global threat of my lifetime in hopes that it will magically go away. I wrote this because the first step to managing my emotions is to identify and express my emotions. I wrote this because it is full of toxic thoughts, and toxins don’t serve me when I keep them bubbling around inside. I wrote this for my healing.
What are you going to do for you?
If you are sober or curious, and you want a place to help flush out the toxins, please consider joining us in SHOUT Sobriety.