I sat down Monday night and realized that I had song lyrics in my head that I had not heard in forever. It was a song I wrote with a friend of mine (we’ll call her Ryan for amusement’s sake) my senior year of high school. I recall the specifics of when we wrote it because we composed (that is far too kind a term) the piece on the way to Raleigh, NC to register me for college classes. I was a couple of days away from graduating from high school. The song humorously captures some of the oddities we witnessed on our drive down: the town of Bullocksville (which to our punk hearts was the funniest thing ever), some very cold fries from Hardee’s, searching for a copy of Playgirl that had a guy who looked like Pete Loran from Trixter, and a Budweiser truck (which, as I recall, was actually a Coke truck, but Budweiser sounded way better in the song).
The particular lines that got stuck on auto repeat were, in part, the title to this blog post, which literally described a guy we drove along the highway with for a while in NC. His car had Saran Wrap windows and was largely held together by duct tape (personally, I would have used gaffer’s tape, but to each his or her own when it comes to personal auto repair). As I recall, he was towing a relatively new BMW. You can see from all this, I’m sure, what inspired a song called “I Don’t Give a Fuck” (well, I think that was the title–it was the chorus. And someone was referred to as a duck along the way. For poetic purposes, you understand).
I initally had no idea why a song I co-wrote more than 15 years ago popped into my head unbidden on Monday. By Tuesday, however, it dawned on me why, as I had yet another emotional breakdown–this one inspired by TG’s departure for his summer with dad. At some point that night, I realized that I was barely holding myself together–and it felt physical. Like I was, yes, held together by very cheap, albeit necessary, means. Me and that car, man.
“Held together by duct tape” is a pretty fair description of my day-to-day existence, wherein I am doing whatever it takes just to keep it all in. Not just keep it together–keep it in. “It” here primarily refers to emotions, but also to thoughts and ideas. I have spent a lifetime building walls that look and feel terribly solid, but are often as flimsy as Saran Wrap and duct tape windows. These walls are meant to drive away pain, people, and fear (or, rather, hide away), and, moreover to keep me from causing pain–so I shut anything that I think might cause you anger, discomfort, or harm behind a wall.
And then I fight to keep them all standing. I can feel the fight viscerally.
Even so, I can touch one of those fears right now. Two of the three times I have relapsed were during the summer months. Both were in the second summer of sobriety (or perhaps alcohol abstinence is more accurate); I’m only in the first summer of this surrender. But I am scared. I know that the summer opens alcohol’s doors for me because for a few weeks I am not the every day parent–I am not responsible for anyone other than me.
Every summer, during those weeks, I imagine doing something for me–a something I don’t normally have time or energy or whatever to do: hit the beach by myself, get a tattoo or piercing (admittedly, G might fire me if I get another of the latter), go to concerts (all the metal shows are in Europe in June, so terrible timing), get a massage, hang out with friends–things I normally deny myself (I don’t deserve, don’t have time, don’t have money, G won’t like—yadda, yadda, yadda. Excuses, I’ve got them).
And all the self-denial, all the exertion of control over my emotions and desires eventually manifests as a desire to drink, which is the only form of excess and release from control I typically allowed myself. Of course I drank alcoholically; in addition to the genetic component, it was the only time I gave myself permission to be out of control–and I ran with it. Oh boy, did I ever run with it.
Music, my only other outlet for release, I couldn’t give in as freely to, since I am nearly always driving or running when I’m listening (both activities requiring a modicum of attention). Of course, I started letting myself go to concerts again this year, as I’ve mentioned before–and those moments of surrendering control to the music and musicians. Felt fucking fantastic. And, as a bonus, no hangover, no shaking, and no need to worry about what might have occurred during that blackout. Brilliant!
But, I’ve no concerts right now to help me pick at the binding tape, owing to an inability to take a quick jaunt across the pond, and I am knee-deep in trying to figure out ways to let go in healthy ways (and identifying what those even are). So the specter of relapse is haunting me right now, pretty brutally. I’ve got a better toolkit now, certainly, but it doesn’t change that I am terrified. I don’t want to relapse again. I don’t want to forget. And I don’t want to be so scared and brittle and controlled (an awesome combination, I tell you) anymore.
I want to surrender the duct tape, but I am so scared to do so.