Archive for July, 2011

Emotional Anorexia

Emotional anorexia.  It’s not a real syndrome.  At least not that I know about.  I’m fairly certain I just coined it.  Doesn’t matter.  Point is, it applies.  And I’ll grant you that the last thing I need is yet another diagnosis.  The list of things that are wrong with me is already quite absurd in length and is probably better left alone.  And it is possible that I am simply a deeply masochistic individual committed to as much self-torture as I can get my hands on.  I don’t know.  Overtly, I certainly don’t feel like I go looking for new and interesting corners of my pathology.  They just seem to present themselves.  And I believe that I try my hardest to acknowledge and treat them to the best of my ability.  And yet, regardless of my best efforts to stem the tide, the onion just keeps on peeling, drawing me further down the endless aperture of my own reality.

Victor Frankl said, “There is a price to be paid for self-awareness.”  I wholeheartedly agree.  And his point is not that self-awareness should consequently not be pursued.  Matter of fact, he is one of mankind’s greatest proponents of staunch vigilance when it comes to the quest of understanding self.  His point is that with the seeking comes the awareness that there is no going back.  You can’t unknow what you know.  So before you go looking, be clear that you might not like everything you find.  He maintains that the fearless searching is undoubtedly the road to salvation while still acknowledging that the road itself may well, at times, be strewn with deep potholes and shards of broken glass.

The last line of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous reads,

“Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.

May God bless you and keep you – until then.”

The key word that stands out for me in that passage is “trudge.”  And I guess that was Frankl’s point.  It’s a trudge.  It’s work.  And you don’t have to do the work if you don’t want to.  Denial is certainly an option.  And then, of course, if you find the denial being compromised by the truth stubbornly trying to break through, there are always the many anesthetics of the human world to assist in keeping it buried.  And, as to the anesthetics, the reason that something like hard-core narcotics can prove useful is that they tend to, in fairly short order, force something of a fork in the road.  What I mean is that for those who utilize work, power, sex, food, etc. to staunch the truth, it is far more possible for the pain they produce to be just benign enough to allow a person to live a long life of mild dissatisfaction without ever hitting a bottom severe enough to force the issue.  On the other hand, if you’re a crack smoker for example, the chances are pretty good that you will eventually hit the sidewalk like a bullet and be presented with an overt life or death choice.  I chose life.  At least, so far.

And so I trudge.  And sometimes the trudge is exhausting.  Well, if I’m being honest, more than sometimes.  Often.  It’s often exhausting.  And, again, I’m really not entirely sure how much of the exhaustion is self-created.  I only know that, within my limited brain capacity, I certainly feel very much that I want to be happy.  That all the work is an investment in the deep desire to live comfortably inside my own skin.  And sometimes I do.  Certainly I do a hell of a lot more than I did twenty years ago.  And on many days, that is enough.  On those days, I have the cognizance to recognize that I am awash in more blessings than I could ever have imagined for myself and that I am exactly as happy as I am and that I have myriad opportunities to work toward greater happiness.  Course, there are also a hell of a lot of days where I get stuck on questions like, “Why am I still so bloody damaged?  Why are there so many areas of struggle?  Why does my skin feel like it is made of tracing paper?  Why does it continue to be so damned easy for the circumstances of the world around me to capsize my little rowboat?”

And this brings me back to the idea of emotional anorexia.  You see, if there is anything I have come to unequivocally understand about this journey that I am on, it is that left to my own devices, my comically limited human will, I am something of a train wreck.  And that the solution to this basic problem is some sort of spiritual connection.  Not God necessarily.  I have a lot of trouble with the notion of somel omnipotent individual making definitive holy decisions casting the fate of all of us.  On some level, I long for that sort of rigid, compartmentalized notion of a higher power.  At least for today, though, it falls short of cutting the mustard for me.

But I believe in something.  Some sort of divine energy from which I may draw power.  Nebulous as my notion of this mysterious power is, I have abiding faith that it exists.  But believing in it, in my experience, doesn’t do a whole lot to assist me in my plunge down the rabbit hole.  I need to do more than believe.  I need to connect.  I need to connect to it.  And, of course, the challenge of establishing connection is that no one can really agree on the most efficient way to do it.  With that said, one common factor that I believe you’d find no matter what framework of spirituality you examine, is that communing with other people is a key piece of the puzzle.

Love and support from our fellows is right at the heart of how we find spiritual wholeness.  I know that to be true the way that I know that the sun rises in the east.  And you’d think that this knowledge would make it fairly simple to seek out the love and support I so desperately need and then, once found, welcome it into my heart with ease.  And the first part of that equation I actually do accomplish with incredible ease.  With almost no effort at all, I attract hoards of  loving and supportive people into my sphere who want nothing more than to freely offer me adoration and comfort.  And then, for reasons I do not fully comprehend, I hesitate to let them do it.

Last night, I had a delightful conversation with my friend Andrew.  Andrew lives in New York.  I love Andrew.  I love him deeply.  He’s a wise, empathic sage.  Just the sound of Andrew’s voice when he answered the phone and said, “hello” filled me warmth.  We updated each other on this that and then I began to tell him of my recent struggles with my newly diagnosed ADHD and the Adderall that I have been taking to treat it.  He was supportive and understanding and non-judgmental.  When we hung the phone up, I felt awash in his love.  I also felt myself overcome with sadness.  Because I never call Andrew.  Previous to the phone call in question, I don’t think Andrew and I had enjoyed a phone call together in nine months.  He had left me a few messages over that time and I had not returned those calls.  And here’s the thing.  I have no idea why.  Andrew would, I believe, be overjoyed to have me call him every single day.  Accordingly, I sense that I too would love that.  And, obviously, I could go ahead and do that.  And I might.  But, if history serves as any indication of what we will do in the future, I probably won’t.  And that’s where the sadness comes in.  I want the love and support that Andrew so freely doles out so much, and yet I am aware that the chances are pretty good that I won’t allow myself to have it for another nine months.

As I was writing this post, I paused after the first paragraph to call my cousin Howie.  Howie is the closest thing in this world that I have to a brother.  Like Andrew, he lives in New York.  We enjoy each other on a multitude of levels and a phone call with Howie is always stimulating in an effortless sort of way.  He’s a devout reader of this blog and was very interested to garner some further data on my relationship with my new medication.  He knew some of what was going on.  But the information that he had successfully gathered had come entirely from his reading the two posts which preceded this one.  And the reason for that is that I have not called Howie in months.  He has shot me an email or two over that time and perhaps dropped me a phone message.  But I had not responded until now.  The conversation moved from Adderall to work situations to home life to movies to the two new albums from Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes.  We shared an “I love you” and hung up and I felt the very same sadness.

The two calls to Andrew and Howie ultimately took place because I have been going through a very difficult time and have once again come up against the way in which I starve myself of love and support when I need them the most.  So I am painstakingly trying to work against it.  This is not to suggest that the two phone calls were hard to make, just that in the wake of both of them I found myself overwhelmed with the covert deprivation which has me spending an enormous amount of my time feeling emotionally alone.

I could give you a pretty long list of friends who you could call and inquire about their relationship with me, and while I believe (hope) they would have a host of lovely things to say about why they care for me, I am also quite sure that the lion’s share of them would eventually toss in the word “unavailable.”  Or maybe they would use “aloof” or “distant” or maybe even “selfish.”  I am equally sure that if you interviewed my mom or dad or sister or aunts or uncles or cousins or in-laws you’d encounter the same pattern.  In fact, the only people who I can say with a somewhat solid degree of assurance would not frame me in such a way are my wife and my children.  For some unknown reason, I seem to have figured out how to take the love in from my bride and the two little beauties we created.  I can feel, with almost no limitations, the depth to which Sydney and Ryan are wild about their daddy.  And Lorri?  Well, if you’ve paid even cursory attention to this blog, you have read the many things I have written about my wife and know that I worship her and absolutely believe her to be an angel sent from the heavens to rescue me.  I have, over a long period of time, come to allow Lorri to love me.  It hasn’t been easy and it, on some level, continues to scare the living shit out of me.  The wounded little boy inside of me continues to harbor the still, small belief that I am wholly unlovable and that God hates me and that his ultimate revenge on me for my very existence will be to grant me the greatest love that a human being could possibly imagine and then violently yank the rug out.

So, considering the challenges I have around the intimacy I share with my wife, I suppose the reluctance to do it with others is less than completely surprising.

And yet, still the question, “Why?”  What’s the problem here?  Why the persistence in throwing up stop signs when it so clear that what I need is a steady green?  It’s a conundrum all right.  I suppose it’d make more sense if I was unloved as a child.  But I wasn’t.  I was loved.  I was plenty loved.  For whatever foibles my mother and father may very well have had in their attempts to parent me, I never had any questions about whether they loved me.  I was told I was loved every day.  I was hugged and kissed and held and squeezed and petted with reckless abandon.  And, as a result, I am a very loving person.  My parents, along with my extended family, certainly taught me how to love.

And yet somehow it seems to have fallen short of showing me how to be loved.

And most confusing of all, my ability to love seems to be the ultimate smokescreen in terms of shielding me from how little love I am taking in.

My tendency to take on the pain of countless others and gently nurture them through it very easily serves to manifest the illusion that I am engaged in genuine intimacy while, all the while, I am slowly going to pieces as a result of not getting my own buckets filled.  And it isn’t until I burn out on all the service and take a step away, that I am able to see that my fuel gauge has long since fallen south past the line marked “E.”

I hit one of those bottoms about six months ago.  Since then, with the great majority of my commitments to service let go of, I have experienced a deep void that I have been slowly trying to figure out how to fill.  And as each day passes, I fight the urge to plunge back in and resume my futile quest to save the world.  Because, paradoxically, it is a mostly selfish quest.  It’s a drug.  And I want it.  I want it because. at least from the standpoint of immediate gratification, it works.  It makes me feel valuable and useful.  And, of course, that’s not all bad.  But it will also allow me to ignore the central problem.

It will allow me to starve myself.  And that needs to stop.

Because I am hungry.

The phone calls to Andrew and Howie felt surprisingly nutritious.  In spite of the sadness, my belly was full.

Perhaps tomorrow, I will tuck my napkin into my shirt, pull up to the table and eat some more.

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The Evil Drug

We had been flying down the Atlantic City expressway with the music blaring at speaker-busting volume when I began to gently press the brake in anticipation of the toll booth fast approaching.

“Give me a single,” I said to Mark.

“Just pay it yourself, okay?” he answered.

“Dude, I’ve got nothing but twenties.  That woman a the 7-11 gave you like seventeen dollars in ones when we stopped for the Slurpees.  Just give me one, man.”

“Michael,” he said, “JUST PAY THE TOLL!”

We had just pulled forward and the woman in the box had her hand held out waiting for the forty cents.

I begrudgingly reached into my pocket and peeled off a twenty.  After being handed back a messy pile of wrinkled bills and random coinage, I turned to Mark.  I was about to rag him out for being a pain in the ass when the problem became painfully clear.  Mark was frozen in place staring down at an overabundance of white powder circling the area around his groin.

Somehow, when he had gone to pull out the dollar bill I had requested, the bag of cocaine we had procured for our late night jaunt to the casinos had broken open.  The damage was troubling though not critical.  We had a lot of blow in our possession and the amount that had spilled did not seem significant enough to  put too big a dent in the evening’s festivities.

With that said, there was still the matter of our mutual commitment to never waste even a granule of the cherished narcotic.

As I turned the wheel to the right heading toward the darkened roadside stop, Mark asked, “What are you doing?”  I smiled devilishly and found a convenient corner in which to nestle the car.  Mark looked at me with mild hesitation and said, “Alright.  Get it over with.”  He arched his back and put his hands on either side of the crotch of his jeans to smooth the area out as much as possible as I lowered my head and snorted up every drop of the spill.

As my Chevy Cavalier flew back into the center lane for the last leg of the trip, we were cackling like demented hyenas as Mark screamed, “I can’t believe you just snorted a line off my dick!”

And so it went.  We hit A.C. just as the clock hit 2am and partied like rock stars until the sun came up.

As the clock shifted past six, we ambled crookedly down the barren boardwalk, drugless, penniless, and passing a cheap bottle of wine shrouded in a slim brown bag back and forth trying desperately to stay awake.

All of a sudden, without warning, I bellowed, “OH FUCK!”

“What, what?!” questioned Mark clearly shaken up by my sudden exclamation.

“I have a huge job interview at 8!  I totally spaced!  Jesus, we gotta go… right now!”

We broke into a flat sprint, madly dashing for the car, hoping against hope that we had a vague idea of where we had parked the thing.

The car was pushing full capacity as it tore north shaking violently trying to hold steady at 110 mph.

“Dude, slow down!  You are freaking me out!” Mark pleaded.

I answered, “Shut up and open the glove compartment.  There’s a brush in there.  Give it to me… NOW!

I held the convulsing car steady with my left hand, while I used my right to hold the brush and desperately try to make my hair look like something other than a wild bush baby with the help of the rear view mirror.  “Reach back in and get the Visine… and the Altoids… give me the ALTOIDS!”

It was 133 miles back to Wayne and we were there in an hour and fifteen minutes.  By the time I reached the secretary and had been announced for my scheduled meeting, it was 7:53.

I plunked myself down on the plush couch in the waiting room and attempted to use the seven spare minutes to calm my insides.

It was impossible.  My heart was beating like Neil Peart was perched in my ribcage soloing on “Der Trommier.”  My extremities were all shaking violently.  My cowlick was stubbornly pointed to the heavens.  And everything from my forehead to the crack of my backside were drenched in dripping perspiration.  I was awash in abject terror.  I longed to flee but was desperate to tough it out.  I knew that at any second, my prospective boss would be headed toward me with his hand out and the chances of me looking straight into his eyes and screaming bloody murder were increasing by the second.

That moment of shuddering panic is remarkably similar to what the darker moments of these last eight days have felt like as the Adderall has pumped furiously through my system.

It’s hasn’t been like that all the time, mind you.  There are moments, short spans of time, where the drug seems to be effecting me the way the pharmaceutical warlords had intended.  And, so far, I am experiencing those moments as something of a trap; a sort of nasty chemical sleight of hand.  Because each day of the last eight, I have awoken feeling mass trepidation about swallowing the tiny bead-filled orange capsule, only to do so with the hope that the tide will turn and the sparse moments of satisfaction will overtake the dark ones and become the norm.  And if I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this shift would, indeed, take place at some point, I think I would be able to weather what is happening now far more successfully.  If someone could guarantee me that my brain and bodies reaction to being awash in amphetamine would undoubtedly regulate and work correctly at some point, even if that point would take months, I’d feel different.  But no one can make that guarantee.  Actually, no one even seems to know.  In the last week, I have perused the experience of hundreds and hundreds of people who have experienced being on this stuff, reading the contents of message boards, blogs and medical websites, and the only thing that everyone seems to be able to agree on is that Adderall is a fickle bitch of a drug.

Some say that after a month, or multiple months, their bodies reaction to the amphetamine shifted dramatically and began to counteract the ADHD magnificently.  Many of those people claim that if you had asked them after a week, they were ready to flush every pill left in their safety-cap topped bottles down the toilet.  Alternately, there are an equal number folks who claim that it’s not like an anti-depressant, where it takes a while to work its way into your bloodstream and work the way it’s supposed to.  It’s an amphetamine.  It works immediately and the way it affects you is the way it affects you.  Granted, these are random people floating somewhere in cyberspace.  They are not doctors.  Quite frankly, a good portion of them seem to be teenagers who traded the answer grid for the upcoming Trigonometry test for three pills and are trying to figure out the best way to utilize them in the quest to get as high as possible.  So, yes, I am taking this into account.  Still, though, regardless of the competence or intentions of any of these people, they are people who have actually had this drug in their system and I think that counts for something.

If you look on Web MD, or many of the seemingly legitimate medical sites, they will generously list for you a whole circus freak show worth of potential side effects (I’ve already experienced most of them) although they give you no information about whether these side effects are temporary, and if they are temporary how long it tends to take before they begin to wane.

My psychiatrist wants me to give it a month.  That’s been my intention.  Take the drug as prescribed for a month and then reassess.  Simple enough, right?

But it’s not simple.  It’s anything but simple.  First, I’m an addict.  So, right off the bat, popping uppers is, at best, precarious.  And it’s not that I think I am going to find myself wanting to take more Adderall at one time than I am supposed to.  The last thing I want is a more intense version of what I am already feeling.  The problem is that I feel like I am on drugs.  I feel like I am high.  Not incapacitated, but definitely high.  And it’s not an enjoyable high.  It’s a frenetic high.  There are swaths of time where it’s not.  And when it’s not, it feels useful.  But when it is, and so far it mostly has been, it feels crazy.

I feel crazy.

The memory that I opened this piece with, the Atlantic City trip with my buddy Mark; I have tons of those.  Moments of being high to the point of feeling that I was walking the edge of my own sanity.  Paranoia on pot, bad acid trips, K-holes, crack-sickness.  One of the things I am most grateful for in this world is that I got sober before I had children.  The fact that my little girls have never seen me in one of those moments, jacked to the gills on something or other fighting to keep my brain matter from leaking out my ears, is the miracle of miracles.  The way they look at me, the admiration, the trust, the absolute assurance that I know how to be their daddy and that I can protect them, it’s everything to me.

In these last couple of days, I have had multiple experiences of being with the girls, coloring with Ryan, reading Harry Potter to Sydney, where I have had the experience I fear so deeply.  Neither of them have noticed anything, I am quite sure.  But still, being with them, but not being able to focus because I am using every inner resource I can muster to keep my shit together because I feel so jittery and out of control, is vile.  It’s heinous.  It’s pure, uncut shame.

I know that I am not engaged in recreational drug use.  I know that.  But I still feel like a bad boy.  That’s been the refrain of this last week.  The inner critic keeps chanting, “Weak-minded, soulless, unlovable, pill-popping, useless junkie!”  It whispers to me with sinister contempt and I can’t seem to staunch its flow.

“Stop,” I beg, “I’m just trying to help myself.  Please!  I’m doing this FOR my wife and children.  I’m trying to get better.”

“NO!” it bellows, “Cowardly liar.  You lie to them all and you lie to you.  Your bullshit has festered so long that you no longer see it for what it is.  Liar.  This drug, finally, this will be your undoing.”

I know it sounds a little dramatic.  But it’s not far from the truth.  The voice has always been there, but I generally don’t listen to its toxic propaganda, or if I do, I recognize it for what it is.  But not always.  Sometimes it gets in.  And right now, with this shit coursing through my system, it sounds far too much like my own voice at the moment.

Day 8 is winding down.  Sort of.  I’m still percolating, albeit in a manner that does not currently feel too uncomfortable.

Day 9 is nigh.  Will the evil continue?

Jesus, I hope not.

Post Script:

Friday, July 1st 10:52am

No Adderall today.  I just can’t.

To be continued.

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