Here I sit in the Frothy Monkey in the 12 South district of Nashville, just down the street from the restaurant where I arguably spent most of my time during the years I lived in this fantastic city. It was in this coffee shop I sat down and decided that if I was going to make it in this world as a writer I was going to have be dedicated to my craft. I couldn’t continue to find excuses on why I couldn’t write today. I had to find the dedication to take the time to pull out my laptop and type, even if it was only a few words. There were definitely days when I would write 100 words and just be over it, but at least I remained dedicated to the one activity I always cared about.
I know most people would find it odd that someone would have considered the staff at any particular coffee shop their family, but I did consider all of the wonderful people who worked at the world’s greatest coffee shop my family. Even today, after my two and half year absence from this city, I look upon the people who still work here from when I was considered more than a regular as people I respect and care about in an intense and honest way.
There is a table tucked away at the top of the short set of stairs, barely big enough for two, that I would regularly commandeer. It was there I reread an old manuscript, deciding it was not good enough for what I wanted to present to the world, and scrapped it, starting over from scratch. It was on that mostly uncomfortable wooden bench I bled across my keyboard, releasing every demon I had stored in my subconscious onto pages of blank white.
These pages would become my first novel, Dear Jack: Diary of an Addict, and with the completion of the final page of that manuscript I realized that no longer was I handcuffed by the drugs I once couldn’t live without. For the first time in years upon years, I felt free.
Today I sit here, contemplating if it’s time to begin the sequel I one day knew I would have to write. You see, even though it has been a countless amount of hours since I last used, I only exchanged that addiction for another one, a “safer” one, a more accessible one. I exchanged my drug addiction for the more acceptable addiction of alcoholism, and that addiction has been the root of much strife in my life, and one of the reasons I have never been considered well-adjusted or free.
“How can this be?” some of you may ask. “You have been sober for almost a year.”
Yes, this is true. It was almost a year to the day I write this that I had the last drop of alcohol to grace these lips. Much like how when I sat down to write Dear Jack: Diary of an Addict, for the second time, it had been years since I had last used any type of hard drugs. It still took me years to let go of the desire I clung to like a baby needing his mother’s touch. It is with the same unending pain that I sit through night after night, wishing I could sleep for more than a few short hours at a time, hoping one morning I wake up without sweat-drenched sheets clinging to my hot, wet body.
But how does one truly let go of what he held close for longer than most of his friendships?
You see, as I’ve stated before, addiction is a part of my life. Not everyone understands what it is like to truly need something. The way everyone requires oxygen I require a habit, and while I wish I could get addicted to exercise, natural foods, or water, I have always been a person on the path of self-destruction. I need a habit, for some morbid reason, that will eventually end my life, long before it probably should.
This was a realization I came to last night, as I was lying in bed at the condo some of the friends whom I happily consider family let me use whenever I come into town. As I lay there, sweating to a point of sheer anxiety-ridden self-hatred, I considered the consequences of ending my nearly 1-year of sobriety, knowing that just one sip of whatever beer had been sitting in their fridge would make the pain stop, and a sound night of sleep would be my reward for being weak.
You see, I still have yet to let go of the desire to swallow what is essentially poison, because I refuse to allow myself to really love and care about myself. Drug addicts and alcoholics may love the people around them, but there is something non-existent in them causing them to search for love at the bottom of a bottle, within the contents of a needle, or in a line of cocaine. It is because of this that so many recovering addicts turn to religion to aid them through the dark nights.
Even I, a self-proclaimed agnostic, found myself praying to a god I don’t really believe in for alleviation from the constant, low-grade, pain burning within my thighs making it impossible to get comfortable enough to sleep more than an hour or two last night, or many other nights over the last year. When sleep finally grabs hold of me one day, I understand it will be for the course of days instead of hours.
“Where does the torment end?” I ask myself often. I do what I can to ensure I will live longer than most ever assumed I would. However, there are moments when I realize I am not as strong as those who cheer on my sobriety, wishing they wish they could do the same, think I am.
(Sidebar: I just walked past a, presumably, high school cheerleader whose exposed arms allowed me to see that someone had grabbed her hard by her biceps, and I was filled with anger. I wanted to inquire who had done this to her, but I knew I would be nothing more than a stranger who was poking his nose into business that wasn’t his, but seeing it made me feel a disdain for mankind I hadn’t felt for some time.)
It is with that question, and knowing that I am not as strong as others perceive me to be, that I realize I must find the answer of how to let go of who I have been for the better part of my life. I have to see it’s not a temporary solution, and I must embrace the fact that I no longer drink alcohol, and am choosing to be a healthier me who understands he has no true self-control. Once I start I know I won’t stop, which is why I can never start again.
But how to let go? How to succeed where I have struggled throughout my life? The only way I know how, of course. I must bleed once again across the keyboard, hoping that with every passing word I will feel slightly freer from the bonds of my self-imposed addictions that have held me back from any sort of true success over the course of my lifetime.
It is time for me to find out what exactly my dear friends Neal, Chris, Rich, and Johnson have been up to over the last few years. It is time for me to allow them to take on my struggles, and for me to finally release every ounce of pain I have held onto, like that baby needing his mother’s touch. It is time to write the next adventure in their stories.
Once again, while I sit at a table in the Frothy Monkey, even if it’s not the table I consider my own, I realize it is time to finally let go and allow this self-described narcissist to learn how to love himself in every way narcissists don’t know how to love.