And that is the problem with need-holes.
When my life gets tedious, mediocre, BLAH is exactly the place I struggle the most. When I have to do the dishes, again, when I have to make dinner, again, when one week becomes indistinguishable from the next is when my brain starts seeking stimulation. And yes, a trip to the museum or a movie would most likely satisfy, but that is not where my thoughts go first. That feeling of lack, void, is the hole I filled with booze or sex or new shoes, so now when I feel its insatiable mouth gaping open, my first thought is ACT OUT.
I can't always see these feelings coming, but the longer I'm sober, the more certain patterns become clear. This is that time of year with Halloween on the horizon, I know Christmas and the New Year will come blazing in like a speed train and I'm already regretfully looking back at 2018 wondering if I've done enough, if I've landed where I want to be.
Um, future-trip much?
I've found myself fantasizing that I'm floating in a lake with my ears underwater, where all I can hear is my own heartbeat. If I stay there, time seems to stop. I just want to float and float, oblivious to time, ignorant of its slippage.
Let's face it, I still want to change the way I feel. I don't want to sit with it, move through it, lean into it. I want to throw any self-helping book-quoting meme across the floor and watch it smash into a bazillion pieces. But I don't. I don't act out either. I stitch. Stitching, with a threaded needle, is the one thing I've found in sobriety that forces me still except for my hands and that thread, in and out. It's the one thing that makes me okay with the maddening idea that I have to just stew in my feeling of lack, that there is nothing outside of me that is going to fill my hole so I may as well stitch up my fucking jeans because nothing else is going to get done and I have to be okay with that because I am okay. Time will still slip, dishes will once again accumulate in the sink, I'll make burgers for the 20th time this month and soon enough, it won't all feel so dreadful as it does now. I once heard that if you are drinking (or insert whatever you use to fill the need-hole) to make life tolerable, you must look at what is intolerable. Even though I haven't had a sip of alcohol in four years and some change, this feeling is here to remind me that I'm only tolerating some things and my guess is, it's bigger than dishes.
*Addendum: I published the above words in a newsletter that went out to my subscribers earlier this week. It resonated with many, so I wanted to add some thoughts I’ve had since.
I don’t think there is a cure for pain, as Morphine’s Mark Sandman’s words searched in song, but if he ever arrived there, he surely wouldn’t need his drugs. I wish that Mark’s addendum would have been that he found it, but his heart finally broke all the way on a stage in Italy in 1999. I guess my conclusion thus far is no conclusion. When pain comes, we have to see it, acknowledge it like I did in my words above, recognize that it’s in the room, give it a comfortable chair. Let pain prop its feet up, as it may be here for a while. See pain as a teacher because without the contrast, we wouldn’t really know joy. And when pain gets up to leave, know that it is never Goodbye, only Until We Meet Again.
It is no cure, but what I have realized in the last few days is I am much better when I have goals. Maybe that is my future-focused tendencies but I got out my Name-It Journal and jotted down the Big Ideas that I’d like to see to fruition in the coming months. I put so much energy around that yearly calendar flip, but it really is just an arbitrary construct and time is as expansive as I intend it to be. Over four years ago, I left the particular pain I co-created with alcohol behind, so I now have room to see that when I am feeling angsty, it is always something bigger than the dishes. The creativity I am not bringing forth will always be a pain-point for me, the universality of that said best in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas 70,
If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you.
It’s no cure, but it is a solution.