I write this post event, no more than fifteen minutes from being under my home in the cold, wet mud. I take a small consolation from repairing one of the two leaks daunting my soul for the last three weeks. They are daunting because I am claustrophobic, a condition which has only grown with age. The discovery of the main, and still unrepaired, leak came four weeks ago. I noticed the floor in a corner of the kitchen darkening. I have been under the house about ten times (this morning was my eleventh) to make repairs to the plumbing. This is a side effect of living below the poverty line in California, a plumber would cost me one third of my pay check. The fear of going under the house again consumed me to the point of experiencing a dry relapse. What is a dry relapse? I’m glad you asked.
A dry relapse is something that happens to alcoholics when their deepest triggers are pulled. They do many of the things they did while drunk or stoned, but without the chemicals pumping through their veins. My sleep patterns disintegrated, my eating went out of control, and my writing suffered. My writing, the act of getting up to write for an hour or more every morning, is the only thing that kept me from falling off of the wagon. I would sleep in late forcing me to shower, and get out of the house quickly. I wouldn’t get to sleep until two in the morning, and often my fear would waken me for a few hours of torture.
I’m great at torturing myself.
The fear of going under the house ate at me. The funny thing is when I am finally under the house, on my back in the mud I am fine. The time before I take the siding off, gather my tools, check my headlamp, and sort my parts is when the fears reach their fulcrum. I remember to breath, and tell myself it’s only twelve feet to where the water is dripping. It is the size of a parking space. Laying there this morning I had a realization about fear. Fear is based on three things: a person’s last bad experience, the cumulative weight of all of their worst moments, and the perceived possible negative outcomes. Some of these fears are valid (getting electrocuted, an earthquake, Black Widow Spiders), but most are simply Harpies created by our waking subconscious in order to devil ourselves.
The problem for an addict is these fears carry more weight – everything negative carries more weight. A person doesn’t become an addict from over-confidence, and as problems arise, real or not, they turn to chemicals to hide from them. I have done a lot of work to disarm those triggers which sent me of course, and I have eliminated many. Only a handful remain, and claustrophobia is the hardest to resolve since climbing, or crawling into tight spaces is not a daily activity. The sick thing is the dormant addict inside me seemed to welcome this fear like an old friend just rolling into town.
Like I said, I am writing this in the immediate aftermath of today’s adventure, so I haven’t had time to put this last epiphany into perspective. I write this to share my thoughts. The only way addiction will ever be defeated is when we get it out in the open, this way smarter people can assemble the puzzle. I will, and I will tell you what I find out. I am still sober, and this is something to celebrate. Ten years ago, after climbing under the house, I would now be on my third Mickey’s Big Mouth having stocked up on two -6 packs at the store in advance. Now it’s just my Diet Coke.
I still win.