What frightened me about Robin Williams’s death was that he died alone.
When I am hurt, like a vulnerable, wounded animal, I fear predation. I hide.
I am afraid that – without awareness or consciousness – I will cross the line from being able to handle, alone, distress from the challenges I face, to not being able to handle it.
“Why didn’t you call me?!” is a question I have been asked over and over again in the past 19 months.
The whole point of being a member of a recovery community is not having to handle distress alone.
But making that phone call…
Ron Weasley, Harry Potter’s best friend, accidentally curses himself with the Slug-vomiting Charm. Without having meant to, without having any control over what’s happening or how long it’s going to happen, he vomits up slugs. Hagrid hands him a basin and Harry and Hermione keep Ron company until the spell passes.
That’s the best metaphor I can come up with to describe the visceral experience of sorrow that overwhelms me and what feels like a physical inability to reach out for help. I can only vomit pain. For various reasons I won’t go into here, I learned to vomit alone and to clean up after myself so no trace remained.
But my lonely little heart longs for Hagrid and Harry and Hermione’s company. Maybe just be with me for a little while? I’ll clean up after myself, I promise. The slugs take my breath away.
Who wouldn’t want a drink to take that away?
For me, the “spells” happen without warning. Yet Lance Dodes asserts that if I can practice “sophisticated self-awareness,” I might be able to identify the thoughts and feelings that foretell the possibility of a future drink.
August 27, 2014, the day before I turn 20 months sober, will be the the 3-year anniversary of my mother’s death.
Yes, I hear, “I don’t do anniversaries” and “Anniversaries are constructs.” I am smart and rational and I sense, before I have a moment of smartness or rationality, that some time on August 26, in spite of my best intentions to be present for my feelings and thoughts and present for those I care about, I’ll begin to weep and be unable to stop.
I should make myself call this time. I should use my willpower to force myself to reach out.
It won’t happen. I’m a work in progress and that is progress I have not made work.
Last August, I grieved alone at 8 months sober. I feel currents of fear running up my arms just thinking about it.
I wrote my mother a letter last week. Unsendable. Where did that come from?!
Today, a week out, a part of me thinks I’m fine, I’m over-reacting, over-dramatizing. People’s mothers die, Anne. They handle it just fine. You’re anticipating the worst, you’re making it worse than it has to be, you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Get over it. Get over yourself.
I just have a feeling this isn’t going to go very well.
Will you call me?
(I feel skinned when I write that.)
I set up a Doodle with the times I think I’ll be suffering. I believe the spell will have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Last year, it was about 48 hours.
Will you sign up to call me? It’s anonymous so your name won’t be visible to others.
You may hear miserable, slimy slugs of pain, unceasing, dropping into your ear. “Better out than in,” I’ve heard. Yikes.
If I don’t pick up, will you leave me an encouraging message?
If I do pick up, will you just listen? Without judgment, without advice? If I’m silent, will you please just say encouraging things? I probably won’t even remember what you said. I will remember the cool compress of your kind words on my hot face.
And I will not be allowed to be alone.