I woke up nervous Saturday morning, thoughts racing faster than usual, and as the hour of the event drew nearer, my pulse steadily quickened. It felt like I’d been plugged into an electrical outlet, like everything inside was vibrating, and by the time I was set to leave the house, I was so on edge that I felt like crying.
My anxiety is pretty potent on a normal day, but on days when there’s a commitment on my calendar?
(It’s funny because it’s true.)
Leaving an entire pot of coffee on the counter, untouched, for fear that caffeine would trigger a full-blown heart attack, I pushed through the front door. Slowing my pace only to prevent my slick-soled knee-high boots from slipping on black ice, I got in the car and set off to speak at a recovery meeting in a local drug and alcohol treatment center.
I signed up to take this commitment over a month ago, and it had been about that long since I’d driven a car, or driven in a car, or been in the same room with another human being besides my husband. I’d barely left the house at all in the previous week, afraid to attempt a run or even walk to the park in the frozen, snow-covered tundra of my neighborhood.
The idea of physically entering a room full of strangers was both surreal and terrifying. I began imagining scenarios — losing my train of thought, jokes falling flat, awkward silence, people getting up and leaving…
Shoot, you guys, if I could use this hyperactive brain and this frenetic energy for…something, anything productive, I’d be positively Marvel-ian.
The most insane part of this story is that my speaking engagement never even happened. I got to the facility, walked up to the intake desk, and was promptly told that all outside meetings have been canceled due to COVID.
The ONE TIME I decide not to call ahead…😩
I could have saved myself a panic attack, and saved my husband a good six uneasy hours, if I’d just picked up a phone on Friday. I’m sure he was relieved when I finally left, and he didn’t have to listen to those boot-heel clicks back and forth across the wooden floors of our townhouse as I paced between living room, kitchen, bathroom, living room, etc., nervously practicing my speech.
And now, here I was, coming right back home with my “CAN YOU BELIEVE THEY CANCELED THE MEETING?!?” madness.
This blog post is turning out to be a pretty good reflection of my Saturday experience: much ado about nothing. I wish I could paint you a more peaceful picture of life at almost 20 months sober, but honestly, whose anxiety hasn’t worsened over the past year? Who isn’t dealing with cabin fever during these snowy, socially-distant times? And who wouldn’t get nervous about going to an unfamiliar place and staring into unfamiliar faces while sharing the most sordid details of their life?
I’m continuing to navigate my inner turmoil every day without reaching for a drink, and I’m at least trying to step out of my comfort zone to be of service to my fellow addicts. If that’s the best I can do right now, that’s not nothing.
I didn’t interview my husband about this subject — it’s 5 AM on a Sunday as I write these words — but I suspect he prefers Jittery Jen over Drunk Jen, who, on Saturday mornings two years ago, would’ve been creating drama of another sort throughout these same rooms. If I make him uneasy by (excessively) fretting over personal challenges I’m not used to facing alcohol-free, I wager it’s nothing like the heartache I caused by hitting the bottle and fleeing reality, from wire to wire every weekend for more than a decade.
Yes, I still end up passed out on the couch long before a normal person’s bedtime, but at least my fatigue comes from actually trying to live normally. And if I wake up nervous these days, it’s because of meaningful things I plan to do, not because of stupid shit I might have done the night before.
Well, y’all, it’s certainly disappointing that I don’t have a 12th-step service experience to tell you about this week, as planned. But even in the absence of meaningful activity, there are lessons to be learned, and so I’ll leave you with this bit of hard-earned wisdom:
Never stop trying. And always call ahead. 😉