How A Little Bit of My 32 Year Old Soul Died The Other Night

I realize I’ve always been a bit of an outcast. I’m totally ok with that. In fact I’ve actually embraced it and just got used to the fact that I was the odd man out. Picked last for football? No big deal, football sucks anyways. No date for the prom? Whaaatever, prom is freakin expensive anyways. Wait, actually I went to a shitload of proms…my first few years of high school were terrible, but I did sort of grow into my own but anyways, I adapted, it’s what you do when you don’t know what else to do. You either adapt, or you get destroyed when it comes to being young and you’re trying to be social. Well, I’d say that’s true when you have self-esteem issues, or self-image issues and all of those wonderful, crazy thoughts that go through your head as a child all the way up to, erm…now. So anyways, I learned how to make it work for me because I had no other choice until I couldn’t make it work for me. I think there just came a time and a place where I could no longer balance how to juggle fake smiles, rehearsed laughs and always being on point around people. I never understood how people could just be happy all the time. Were they too faking it? It didn’t seem like it. People seemed and still for the most part seem, genuinely happy and a part of me doesn’t quite understand that very often. So, getting back to it, there came that point where I just really couldn’t socialize anywhere correctly, I just wasn’t able to fit in and of course the best cure for that sort of thing is alcohol because it just so happened to occur right into my freshman year of college.

Now, looking back it just makes sense that I had mastered the art of being a chameleon at my high school. I had gotten comfortable with it, too comfortable and when I decided to go to Valencia College, my whole world changed. I was out of my comfort zone, these were uncharted waters and they were getting very, very rough. I do wish I would’ve just kept at it, learned how to socialize, forced myself to seek out new friends but I retreated into myself, I begged my scared, inner child for mercy and just began to drink it away. Alcohol is a wonderful social lubricant and I don’t think there’s really anything wrong with that. Of course, when you use it for a decade and completely forget how to socialize, how to exhibit normal human behaviors for the most part in a large group of people, when you don’t really know how to pick up or hit on or converse with women now because in the past you’ve always had a bit of the ol’ liquid courage in you it’s pretty devastating.

Over the past year and a half I’ve had to reinvent myself and it’s not been an easy thing to do. At the same time it’s been pretty freeing because not many people get the opportunity to wake up and say “I’m going to try this today and see if I like it.” Honestly, I really don’t know if I enjoy surfing or kayaking or golfing or playing football or kickball or things most people enjoy because I was either 1. too hungover to try them 2. did them drunk and don’t really know if I actually enjoyed them 3. preferred to just get drunk instead or 4. was too intimidated by the thought of doing it in the first place. So I’m in this brave new world now and there’s a recovery community at UCF. I figured, ok, this could be a good opportunity to meet some other people in recovery and the program also includes people who just don’t really care to have alcohol or drugs around them. Sweet. This could be good for me.

Wrong. I hope you were able to get through the boring part. Here’s where the story begins.

 

So this gathering aka Game Night starts at like 10:00 at night on campus. That should’ve been my first clue that this was a bad idea. On campus. On a Friday night. At 10:00 PM.

10:00 – The directions or the whole thing really about where it was and what was happening there were very vague and I didn’t want to be the first guy there so I kinda hung around a local outside mall for a bit, got a coffee and just shot the shit on my computer and then  figured ok, it’s go time, I put all of my anxieties aside because I was nervous as all hell and forced myself to go to this thing.

Apparently there are two locations that this group meets. One location is off campus where they have meetings. The other location is where they meet for get togethers and parties and game nights, things of this nature. I for whatever reason, my guess is the insane amount of anxiety I had been feeling, either misread or misunderstood where the shin-dig was going down and went to a building complex off of school property which was essentially a normal looking office building.

10:30 – There were maybe 3-4 cars in the parking lot and the building maybe had some main interior and exterior lights on but that was about it. Odd I thought but it’s the first get-together so maybe it’s just not a big thing this early in the semester. The door is locked, no go. I drive around to the other side of the building. Other door is locked. Obviously something is very wrong.

So, I double check everything on my phone and realize fml…the event is on campus in one of the whatever recreational rooms at one of the dorms. Now, please understand, UCF is a massive campus and my goal is to get to campus, go to class, and get the hell out of there. I don’t exactly hang out “in the quad,” or just walk around for the fun of it. I don’t know anything other than where the main buildings are for Psychology, Financial Aid, etc. So, the dorms…ok…there’s a ton of them and it’s not like they have exact addresses here so I figure I’ll find the closest parking garage and wing it.

11:00 – I finally get to what I think is the best parking garage to get to my final destination and my credit card gets declined when I try to pay for the 3.00 parking pass…why I don’t know. My card is fine, so F you parking pass giver outer machine. My debit card won’t work either, obviously this thing is broken and the next one is like the next floor up. It takes cash, no big deal so I open my awesome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Wallet and I’ve got a 20, a 10 and 2 1.00 bills. FML. No big deal…all good…I’ll just take the elevator up to the next one, use my card, get a pass come back down, put the pass on my dashboard, ask where the recreation room is for this particular dorm is and I’m well on my way to meeting people who will be just like me and all will be well.

11:15 – Elevator is broken. I walked up the parking garage ramp because there were no stairs on my side of the garage. I’m sweating like a whore in a church on Sunday. I throw the stupid parking pass on my dashboard, sit in my car for a few minutes with the A/C on and just consider if I even want to do this anymore. The event ends at 1:00 AM.

11:30 I’ve now made it to some random part of UCF that I didn’t know existed. I’m surrounded by what appears to be 14-16 year old students. I wasn’t aware that UCF had a high school program. I’m guessing they were freshman that were actually 18-19 years old but I think the older you get, the younger young people appear. I’m going to have to put a pin in that and maybe see if I can do an experiment of some sort to see if that theory is true. I believe it is. I ask directions from a few of these youngsters and I can feel them looking at me as if I might be a professor or a janitor. One of the two. I can sense pity, like “How does he not know where this rec room is? Maybe he’s suffering from memory loss due to his old age…that’s so sad.”

11:33 I think I understand the language of the younglings. Some of it didn’t sound like English, or any language from the planet Earth to be honest and I continue making my journey to my destination. I am now determined. I will meet with my people, we will break bread together damnit. I have come too far to give up now. It will happen.

11:35 Fuck this shit. I wanna go home.

11:40 I ask for directions again but this time I stop in an admin building, they tell me it’s literally across the way. Like, literally 30 paces from where we are standing. Sigh, the admin desk is also run by these young individuals who I don’t fully understand. The contempt or sorrow they feel for me is now nearly causing me to boil over with anger. I hear them laugh as I walk outside. I am a grown ass man. I am accomplished, respected (by a few people, sometimes. I think.)

11:41:30 I walk into the room and just sort of freeze. There are a good amount of people in there. I’d say about 40-50. One group is playing a super sized game of Jenga. Is this a thing? It looks pretty dangerous. The thing toppled over and probably could’ve killed or maimed a small child. Another group is playing with pokemon cards…at that time I felt my eye twitch a little bit. I kept walking further into the room and there was another card game of which I wasn’t fully aware of. I believe it was similar to Pokemon but worse. Then, I stopped. Looked up and did a complete 360…I was completely surrounded by these beings, kind that I had been seeing all night. The younger than average looking, prepubescent, saplings that seemed so foreign to me. I grabbed a Coke out of one of the coolers they had, sat on an empty couch by myself and just stared at the floor.

11:45 Somewhere between 11:41:30 and 11:45 PM on Friday, August the 25th, a small part of my soul died and I realized I was old. I could no longer be the “outcast,” and be ok with it. Or be the outcast and drink or the be outcast and find a few other outcasts to hang out with. I felt as if I was surrounded by my peers, fellow people in recovery yet still miles away. It as a terrifying, unreasonable, unfair experience.

11:47 I walked out the door without saying a word to anybody.

 

As I walked back to my car about a million things went through my head. These millennials were having fun. A lot of fun. For the first time in a long time I actually truly felt regret for turning left when I should’ve turned right when I was their age. Or taking the path less chosen or whatever analogy you feel like putting in there. It’s all the same. I feel like I knew better but I didn’t. Like I could’ve stopped it but I didn’t know how. It was college, I was young, everybody was doing it, it was just part of the experience. Yet, I still hated every minute of my drinking when I was in college and not only that I didn’t really like myself that much either. I didn’t like the people that I was around most of the time. I didn’t like the fact that I had to drink to feel accepted, I didn’t like how much money I spent on it, I didn’t like driving home drunk and hoping not to get pulled over, I didn’t like feeling hung over, I didn’t like hoping that people would accept me because they were also drunk and maybe if they were drunk I would be good enough for them. Maybe if they were drunk enough they would lower their standards enough to accept me because I couldn’t accept me. These kids as goofy and young and as bad a taste as they have in recreational card playing are obviously willing to put themselves out there and take the risks I was not willing to take and for that I have to commend them and I was quite jealous and angry on the walk back to my car.

12:00 I got in my car and started on my journey home. It’s about an hour drive and I think that is one of the only benefits of being so far from campus. It does give you some time to reflect on the day. Maybe I should’ve stayed and really given those kids a shot. After all, I do have experience. I have lived a life that they are probably hoping they don’t wish to. Maybe mixed in somewhere there were some older people my age and I just didn’t see them. My guess however is that for the most part those who live on campus only do so for the first year so it was probably mostly freshman and those who run the organization. I’m not in a position where I want to step up and run a thing like that.

Anyways, it took me a few days to write this one up. It hit me pretty hard and pretty deep. I’m sure there are other groups or whatever where I can meet people who are a little closer to my age group or whatnot. I think the biggest issue was my expectations. As a recovering addict – or just addict in general we tend to have major expectations of people or things, events etc. If they don’t go according to how we expect them to, it can be a massive disaster for us. We’re control freaks by nature, we expect way too much of people and also of ourselves. It’s something that every addict has to be very aware of in order to recover and I think I definitely let my guard down on this one. It was a good learning lesson however and one that I will remember for quite some time.

 

Remember, you’re never alone. Including me.

 

C. Brooks

6 thoughts on “How A Little Bit of My 32 Year Old Soul Died The Other Night

  1. Alicia

    Hitting the mid-thirties is hard. I wasn’t an alcoholic, but most of my twenties got stolen by out-of-control bipolar disorder. While most people in my age bracket were getting married and having kids, I was…I don’t know exactly what I was doing, as most of that time is either hidden by the veil of depression, or manic actions I don’t even want to remember. I finally started to get my act together around age 31 or so. And while I am married now, I have little in common with anyone else. I’m not currently working, I’m caring for a husband with cancer, no kids. So what do people socialize about? Their jobs, their kids, their vacations. That leaves me with very rusty social skills. Even people of my own faith are hard to talk to, because if anyone is likely to make insensitive comments where cancer is concerned, it’s them. I too have pretty high expectations of myself and others, and I’m hard on myself because I’m not at all where I thought I’d be at this point in life. I’m hard on others when they make stupid comments about things like cancer, or mental illness, and so on. I’ve had to let a lot of those expectations go, as you talk about here, but it’s not easy to do. The “youngling” thing, (love that term, BTW, waxing a bit Star Wars), is hard, too. The last job I was at, my supervisor was 23 years old, with a degree equivalent to mine, and a lot less life experience under her belt. But she looked better on paper, so there you have it. It’s hard to know the older I get, the more likely I am to experience this kind of thing. But here we go. Life keeps moving forward.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alicia, you know I’ve been doing some thinking lately and to respond to your comment…I met up with somebody today (I just wrote a blog about it and it’s mostly in jest lol) and we well, I think we had a really fun time. *Update, she just told me she did too so it is official, she did have a good time.* One thing we talked about was, and I think I’ve brought it up before in one of my blogs is that people like you and I have the luxury of waking up everyday and being granted the option of trying new things, testing new waters, seeing if we like or dislike something that we may have or have not done in the past. I know all of my twenties were a complete mess don’t remember most of it not only because of my addictions but also due to bipolar disorder, depression and oh hell, ya know I don’t even like labeling whatever is/was wrong with me anymore because it’s just a bunch of Psychiatrists and Psychologists who get together and say “Well if you exhibit 5 out of these 8 things you must have (fill in the blank)” Well, define this or that or the other and to what extreme do you define it? How extreme does it have to be and how often does it have to show up? Ugh…Yes, I know mental illnesses are real and have real names. I guess for me I just got tired of being the twenty something with bipolar disorder or manic depression or maybe this time it was just hypomania or a mixed episode or blah blah blah….Eventually I just sort of accepted the fact that my brain was a tad bit different than most other peoples and figured to hell with them. I’m eccentric! So eccentric I have to take a lot of medications so I’m not too eccentric! lol I also know that it’s really hard to do what I just said as a caregiver but it’s always worth a try. I like to think that when I do get those moments it does make them that much more special for me. Luckily, I haven’t had some snot nosed kid be my boss yet but I saw something really neat today by Bill Nye. It appears that every time I post a blog about something, I find something that reminds me of just how wrong I am! Or, at least how I should keep an open mind and how I should think outside the box. By definition I am or, am training to be a scientist so I’d better get used to it. 🙂 I found this to be very thought provoking. I’ll try to have a little more respect for the younglings. Maybe they know things that I don’t. 🙂 https://www.goalcast.com/2017/08/21/bill-nye/

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  2. Alicia

    Just saw the tongue-in-cheek entry about meeting the girl, but seriously, I am glad you and she both had a good time. *Does happy dance for you*. Yeah, the mental illness labels can get a little crazy, and they’re not always accurate. as you say, how extreme does it have to be, how many signs do you have to exhibit? However, I think I viewed my “diagnosis” a bit differently from the way many do. When I worked as a mental health peer support specialist, many told me they viewed a diagnosis as that their life was over, they were their label, and so on. For me, the diagnosis was something of a relief. It was like, “OK, there is a reason for all this stuff that I do, and feel, and that happens to me. I’m not just a crazy out of control bitch who hurts those she loves for no reason. There’s a reason, and I can do something about it.” I don’t hold with leaning on a diagnosis like a crutch: “I can’t do this or that, or worse, I can’t help my actions because I have bipolar disorder.” No. Knowing what was going on finally allowed me to start educating myself, and learning cognitive-behavioral skills to manage my emotions and behaviors, rather than having them manage me. That was a power I didn’t know I could have. Though I wish to God I didn’t have to go through all that, those coping skills are saving me now (and probably saving the heads of those around me) as I care for my husband. People say to me, “How are you handling this so well?” I’m not, necessarily. If people could see inside my head, they’d know that. But I haven’t landed in the hospital yet, and I haven’t started popping caffeine pills during the day and then abusing meds at night to sleep, so that’s a step up for me.

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    1. I agree. Keep in mind. I hadn’t slept in almost two days when I responded lol I probably should’ve waited until the morning. lol I agree with all of what you just said. I will most likely write a blog strictly on mental health alone eventually. Right now I’ve got a lot going on with stats and I just don’t have the time to do a really in-depth blog on something that serious. I suppose my frustration was vented in the comment last night because for years it was a back and forth sort of deal with my diagnosis. I felt like whatever flavor of the month mental illness was popular was what they’d decide was wrong with me so I decided enough was enough. I’m tired of labels. I knew *something* was off chemically or biologically just not exactly what. So, for me, it was just a matter of throwing away the label and pursuing a course of treatment which did a world of help. Of course it was bi-polar disorder. Well, it was a co-occurring issue that fed off of each other. I’d feel depressed so I’d need something to get me up. I’d be too up so I’d need something to get me down. Similar to what you said just now. Problem with me, I don’t, or didn’t have an “off,” button. Once the beast was let out of it’s cage, there was no putting it back in. So begins the vicious cycle of not only addiction but also bipolar disorder and now it’s a matter of what comes first? The chicken or the egg? Which one do you treat? How do you treat it when most of the medications needed to treat bipolar are substances that are easily abusable? Well poop!! Ironically, once I stopped with the boozin and the this and the that I all of a sudden didn’t even need half of the medications I was taking. And all of a sudden I sort of began to realize that most of my symptoms started when I started using. So, was this a case of psychosis brought about by drug use? Interesting. All of my doctors knew full well I was using yet had no problem giving me meds that only made the situation worse. So then, it begs the question, was there anything wrong with me at all? Well, yes I mean I had anxiety issues back in like sixth grade but I wonder now if it could’ve been treated with cognitive behavioral therapy or something. It’s all of this, all of these experiences, all of these questions that make me wake up every single morning and say to myself “Turn on the computer, open your textbooks, learn something new today.” I want answers. Not just for me but for all of the other people out there who were treated the same way. Who were cheated, out of years of their lives. Now, don’t get me wrong – my addiction is on me. I did it, I’m responsible. But how does somebody in the medical field justify making a situation worse than it was? Yes, I know. It’s on me, still. So, my goal is to find out, how can all of that be prevented. How can we circumvent that entire issue all together. Maybe it’s not possible but if it isn’t, I want to prove that it isn’t. Anyways, I have got to read this damn textbook lol

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  3. Alicia

    Well, if your first comment was written without much sleep, then you write way more intelligibly than I do on no sleep. For that matter, not sure how coherent my writing is when I have slept. At any rate, your frustrations are very valid, and also very accurate. There are some very definite and large problems in the field of psychiatry, no question about it. As I’m sure you already know, it has led to an anti-psychiatry movement, people who are against meds or psychiatric treatment at all costs. I believe the term I learned a couple years ago was the “CSX movement,” standing for consumers, survivors, and ex-patients. These people do have a right to be angry. Many people are mistreated by providers in the psychiatric field, and that mistreatment can scar someone for life. Like you, I wonder how many of my problems could have been solved by CBT alone, or very minimal medication. Like you, the stuff I was being prescribed could be (and was) easily abused. I didn’t turn to alcohol or illegal drugs, but I did turn to abusing my prescription meds, and things like caffeine pills. If I’d ever gotten my hands on illegal drugs like meth, God help me, I probably wouldn’t be alive today. Polypharmacy is a big problem. how many meds can we put a person on? That didn’t work? Let’s just add another one. Side effects interfering with your ability to function? Oh, just take it awhile longer, it’ll get better. I know that negative experiences with meds probably stole years of my life that they didn’t have to. It’s by no means an exact science. But neither do I think the CSX movement, (sites like Mad in America) have it completely right, either. They’ve gone to the other extreme, imho. A lot of what organizations like that preach seems to be based on pseudo-science. Not all, but a lot. Or do you disagree? If so, I’d be open to hearing your opinions on this one. A statement you made in your comment also exemplifies why I worry so much about my sister, who has a history of substance abuse. You clearly take responsibility for your own actions and choices. You have my mad respect for that, by the way. It’s a rare thing. As of yet, she does not. She’ll say she does, but in the very next breath, says something like, “But if so and so hadn’t done this, or if they hadn’t pushed me to do that,” and so on. To me that clearly demonstrates the opposite of taking responsibility. I fear for her until she really does do the mental and emotional work needed, but as we both know, no one can make someone else do that until they’re ready.

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    1. Honestly, I didn’t even know such a movement existed. Over the past 48 or so hours I’ve had my nose stuck in my Psych Stats book and also been learning how to juggle. Yes, in one of my classes I have to learn how to juggle. I’ll be writing a blog on it shortly. I mean, I think most doctors do the best they can. There comes a point where like in any profession you have to keep your customers happy or they will just go somewhere else. I knew what I was doing every time I’d go in and have another “symptom,” knowing exactly what medication they’d probably prescribe me and what it would do. Again, I could probably walk into most pharmacies and know more about what they dispense than some of the pharmacy techs. I’m not saying this to boast, I’m saying this because I was a really, really good addict. As far as your sister goes, I hope she has a really good, strong sponsor. Typically they’re the ones who call addicts in recovery out on their bullshit when they say things like that. Normally when they get to their 4th step that’s when they start having those moments of ….oh damn… and realize it’s all on them. Until that time, all you can do is just grin and bear it. I appreciate the compliment. I still do it myself. I hold resentments and blames and my “best self,” gets represented here in my blogs because I get to do that. I try to be as open as possible with my faults as well though because even in the rooms, NA/AA rooms that is, we always say we’re sinners not saints. Just because we might be in recovery or we’re getting our lives together, don’t expect us, nor do we expect ourselves to all of a sudden be the hand of the king or this wonderful born again from the ashes individual, it’s usually quite the opposite.

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