A little over a year ago I had become a master at hiding my reality. I wouldn’t answer the phone after a certain point in the day. I wouldn’t make calls before a certain point in the day. I didn’t want to be seen by people who knew me. I spread my liquor buying habits out among several stores. I buried my empties deep in the recycling bin. I hid what was really going on from the rest of the world.
Only my immediate family could see how bad things were externally, but even they didn’t know the true depths of despair that were the result of my daily drinking. That’s because I didn’t speak about what was going on. And when I did, I spoke in broken code and half truths.
None of my friends knew how far down the scale I’d gone. To the outside world, I appeared to be fine. I had a job, a house, a wife, a car, nice clothes — all the trappings of success.
But inside, it was different. Inside, I was trapped in a hellish cycle. Inside, I had feelings that even I didn’t understand. Feelings of hopelessness, frustration, anger, isolation, and despair. Feeling’s that I was worthless, undeserving, and unloved.
I was in a place where I couldn’t drink enough to pass out before the feelings crept in and took over my soul. On a few occasions, I tried to cry out for help, but I don’t think anyone understood. To the outside world these cries for help appeared batshit crazy.
And they were. I mean, really, look at that post. Let it sink in. What the fuck does it mean? My brother said it best when he replied, “Sometimes I feel like a park bench, too.” One friend understood, and I was grateful. Eight months later I understood what he meant when he wrote, “I hear you” after we had dinner in San Francisco and talked openly about our lives and our headspaces. But to the rest of the world, I might as well have posted something like this image that night, because nobody understood it anyway.
That’s what happens when you encrypt your feelings. What the rest of the world sees doesn’t make sense — it’s gibberish. Random characters, strung together.
Even as I was reaching out, I was careful to make sure that no one could truly understand. I was the only person who had the key to unlock this encryption. There was no public key available. I didn’t pass it out. In truth, I didn’t want anyone to understand because I knew that once others understood I would have to change.
Over the past ten and a half months, I’ve started to unlock those codes. I’ve started to hand out the public key. More importantly, I’ve stopped speaking in codes and started to speak about what’s really going on in my head. And a weight has been lifted from me. My relationships are getting better. My life is getting better. The way I feel about my life is getting better.
I’m living in clear text these days. It’s nothing short of a miracle.
This week hasn’t been easy. I traveled to Orlando, FL for a work conference on Monday. The first event was billed as a BBQ and Cocktail Reception. There wasn’t a thing on the menu that had seen a grill. I ate sushi — at a barbecue. Really?
Tuesday and Wednesday were jam packed from 7:00 AM until 10:00 PM with meetings, buffet meals, and more cocktail hours. In the past, the cocktail hour was the reward for sitting through 8 hours of PowerPoint hell. But I don’t get that reward these days. And I’ll be honest, on Tuesday night, I really wanted that reward.
I didn’t follow protocol. I didn’t call another sober person before or after these events. I tried to rely on my own strength. And I did, but it was not a fun time. When I first got to the party I was confronted with a bar that was serving several craft beers from Florida. Because it’s all about me, the first thing that I thought was, “sure after I get sober they finally start having something good to drink on offer at these things.”
I saw the fun. And lets be honest, sometimes drinking was fun. In fact, most of my drinking career was fun. Except for the puking. Or the falling down and busting my tailbone. Or the hangovers. Or the pit of despair that I found myself in at the end.
I have to remind myself of those times when the drink looks like fun. I have to remind myself that picking up a drink will lead me right back to that pit of despair where I found myself less than a year ago.When I think about that, all the fun of drinking slips away in an instant. Because that wasn’t fun. It was hell.
So that’s what I did on Tuesday night. I thought about the reality of my drinking. I thought about how much pain I was in last year and how no one could crack the code. And that’s all took to make me come to my senses.
I asked for a bottle of water. I’ll gladly have a glass of water to avoid an encrypted life of hell.