This is my journal. Which is kind of weird, because most people keep the contents of their journals pretty private. It’s the place they work out their neuroses, download their self-doubt and basically try to write themselves into being better people (or at least feeling better about the people they are).
That’s what I do here, too, I just don’t seem to care who reads it. It’s like I have a genetic flaw that makes me publish my darkness. I don’t understand why I don’t care. I guess I figure that the internet is an endless expanse, and while my most private thoughts are most public, I feel like you’ve got to have a pretty good reason to be looking if you are going to stumble onto my ramblings.
I remember the first blog post I ever published. I had it set to automatically release at 3am. I woke up at 5am and rushed to the computer to see how many views and comments I had. At the time, I had no email list, no social media presence – I don’t know how I thought people would magically seek out my blog post. They didn’t. The internet is almost infinitely full of people’s profoundness, and I’m a nobody. Still, I was disappointed.
But maybe that experience of a tree falling silently in the forest is the reason I journal out loud. The only people who read my blog either love me, or share at least one of my unsavory characteristics, so I feel a sense of camaraderie with my readers. The millions of people who have everything figured out would never read my journal. We have nothing in common, and “together” people are far too perfect to have an interest in my imperfection.
I’m in a pretty bad place right now. I hadn’t accomplished nearly as much as I had hoped to this past week when Friday came along. I was all jazzed up for a long day of writing, when the frigid tip of my nose led me to the discovery that my furnace was out. Thanks to the accumulated novice experience of a 46-year-old who tries not to pay for $500 service calls, and the near-completeness of the catalog of YouTube videos available, I scrapped my plans for productivity and went to battle with my house’s heat source. I won, and it’s warm in my house again, but at a significant mental health cost. I didn’t waste money on expensive repairs, but I didn’t do any writing Friday, either. It felt like a wasted day when I couldn’t afford to waste a minute.
The funny thing about having this “creative” job where I try to turn ideas into something tangible is that my work has no start and definitely no end. I could work 24 hours a day and still never finish. I’m trying to build something, but I have no idea what it will eventually look like, so I have no way to gauge satisfaction with my progress. I’m trying to be open with others about my experiences, hoping our shared experiences can help us both get a little bit better. Any minute spent not moving forward is a lost opportunity. I know how unhealthy that outlook is, but I can’t seem to change it. I’m not letting anyone down. I can’t get fired. But I disappoint myself constantly. So when I spent an entire day fixing my furnace, I now feel like garbage because I didn’t advance my mission. That’s when the darkness creeps in.
To add to that, Sheri and I had a disagreement. It wasn’t much, but it doesn’t take much. Back when I used to drink, I was not very transparent with my wife. I kept a lot of stuff pushed down. She wasn’t very fond of me back then, so she did the same thing. Now that we are making great progress and sharing openly, lovingly, constantly; it doesn’t take much of a dispute to really kick me in the teeth. That’s how I feel right now.
This setting is just right for the bad drinking.
When I drank alcohol, it was for a wide variety of reasons, and not all of them were evil. I drank with friends in a very social way. Sure, sometimes I drank too much in those situations, but if that was the full extent of the demonic nature of my consumption, I 100% guarantee I’d still be drinking today. I also used to drink alone when I felt good. The alcohol tended to cause me to isolate in those situations. But as long as I was in a good place and relaxing while I poured alcohol down my throat, it usually didn’t end poorly. It was gluttonous and wasteful maybe, but it certainly wasn’t excessive enough to make me quit drinking.
But I also drank when I was in a dark place like I am right now. I drank when things weren’t going right, I wasn’t making progress, and my human weakness left me feeling empty and pitiful.
I drank to make my failure irrelevant.
That’s the bad drinking. That’s the stuff that nearly killed me. That’s the reason I can’t drink anymore. If I started drinking from the mental state I’m in right now, bad things always happened.
I don’t think everyone goes here. I know that everybody experiences ups and downs, and people have different coping mechanisms to deal with their emotions. I get that. But I’ve read and heard too much about the darkness that creatives get sucked into, and I’ve felt it too many times myself, to deny its existence. It’s awful. It feels like quicksand. It is a lack of recent “wins” (productivity, accomplishment, progress, whatever) mixed with a total lack of motivation. It is times like these, three years sober now, that alcohol sounds exactly like temporary relief. I won’t drink, but I do know how alcohol could make this feeling go away. Knowing that the solution is off limits makes the darkness just that much darker.
If you are someone I know really well, reading this might be a little scary. You might be thinking you need to reach out – to check on me and offer support. By the time I edit this, find a picture to post with it, and do all the formatting, the darkness will have passed. You see, turning this journal into a published post requires motivation I don’t currently have. When you read this, I will have found the inspiration and I’ll be back on track (otherwise, you will never read it…do you follow me?). The point is, don’t worry. I’m fine. I’m out of the darkness now. If you were having a little panic feeling because you know you should do something but you don’t know what to do, relax. It is over. I’m better now, and I didn’t drink.
If you are not a loved one of mine, then you are surely reading this because you have your own set of challenges, probably related to alcohol. If that’s the case, then there is a very good chance you are familiar with the darkness, too. Maybe you can hold it all together as long as things go relatively as you plan them, but when enough stuff gets in your way, you retreat into the shadows, too. If you’re reading this, you have almost undoubtedly used alcohol to ease the pain of the darkness. If you’re reading this, you’ve almost undoubtedly learned the hard way that drinking in the darkness only makes things darker. I’m going to tell you what you already know. Don’t drink. It won’t solve this particular problem any more than it will fix any other aspect of your life.
Alcohol won’t help. Alcohol never really helps. The next time you are in the darkness, try journaling about it. That’s what I do now that I can’t drink through the darkness. But you already know that about me, don’t you.
If you want to find an alternative to drinking through the darkness, please consider joining our SHOUT Sobriety program for people in early sobriety from alcohol. Quitting is hard, and the challenges are mighty. We’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way, and we’d like to make the journey a little easier for you. We are a donation-based program, and we ask for a $25 per month recurring donation from our participants to keep this mission alive. To learn more, to donate or to enroll in SHOUT Sobriety, please click the button below.