by Marc Lee Shannon
It’s 4:55 am and 18 degrees outside on this Ohio February morning. I’ve had one cup from the French press. Martin the dog is sleeping at my feet and the room is full with the scent of a leftover holiday cinnamon-something candle. A drugstore humidifier is blasting on high to keep the moisture constant in my cozy morning writing room. My vintage Les Paul Goldtop is on a stand in front of me, happy with that moist air. There’s healthy food in the fridge, and the bills are paid. Amen.
Still… I’m feeling disconnected, isolated and lonely. Say hello to my old familiar, unwelcome friends.
One of the things the recovery tribe members are keenly aware of is that, in order to be well, we need to be with each other. I think this is true for all of us that walk this earth, no matter what your unique blend of human imperfections may be. We are all the same in craving connection.
Being with others is not my first tendency when I’m feeling “less than.” My first thought, when I feel the film noir feelings roll in, is to pull up the covers, lay in bed and hide. Don’t shower, don’t get dressed, silence the phone. Distract myself in any and every way that I can to avoid the urges that push me into that room of silent, soft depression. Although my symptoms are mild and seasonal at this moment, they are longtime companions that come around from time to time, and remind me of what used to be. How I used to live.
My thoughts go back to The Chair. Years ago, I lived in a house that was my self-exiled dungeon, a very dark post-divorce place. Every evening, after procuring what I needed to get through the night, I would retreat to a bedroom-cell on the top floor. In the corner of the room by the window that looked out to the street was The Chair. My nightly throne of misery that was covered with whatever throw-over to camouflage or hide the spill stains, cigarette burns, unwashed body smells and remnants of the last drive-through meal. I had one of those fans in the window next to The Chair that pushed the blue-green smoke out, and then hopefully could bring fresh air back into the room. I was convinced it was working and no one could smell my secrets. Nightly I would pass out after some sort of sleeping pill then wake in The Chair in a fog of terror after a few hours of what was, during this time, the closest thing to sleep that I knew. Panicked and knowing the day was coming, I would have to find a way to pull it together and somehow face the world, or surrender again to the first drink that was the last drink I would remember that day.
I can look back now and see that it wasn’t The Chair or the room that was the most terrifying part of the illness. It was the bone-crushing emptiness and loneliness of isolation that comes with addiction. I was alone, disconnected and very afraid.
I am not the same person now, but the stain of that life will always be in the fabric of my soul. I will always be aware of the long climb to overcome those darkest of times in that room. It’s everything to know I survived and stayed strong enough to not give in, give up, and to have made my way through the despair to the other side of alcoholism. For now, and today, I’m OK.
Still, here I am again in the dark of an Ohio winter morning feeling upside down. But, thankfully, I know what to do. The answer is always the same simple things for me. Socialize and exercise. Get up. Get out. Get moving. Talk about this and tell on myself with another traveler in my support community. The one thing that always takes me out of this room full of blues and up into the world is connection. My medicine is staying plugged in with others that live in, and because of, the recovery movement miracle.
This world in 2020 sometimes seems so weird and uncomfortably diffused. We all hope to find each other through our ultra-modern communication devices, but the results are often less than what we need. Social media, it turns out, often makes us want to do the opposite.
But…we are all the same and in one way we are all connected: We all have a story and a struggle. We all have our own version of The Chair.
Reach Marc Lee Shannon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Angelo Merendino. Editor’s note: Marc Lee Shannon holds the trademark to “Sober Chronicles.”