An Ode to my Hometown: Rock Bottom

I’ll cut to the chase. This one is rough for me to write. As I wrapped up my last post, I was spiraling out of control. I was deflecting and refusing to look my demons in the face. I was scared. But I was still arrogant.

The drinking had become my escape. I wasn’t an alcoholic in the sense that it is portrayed in movies and television shows. I was drinking 2-3 nights a week, which now seems like a lot. But I was in college, newly 21, and wanted anything to make me feel better.

I ran out of anti-depressants, but the damage had been done. I needed to keep feeding that beast. And at the time, my job was located two blocks from the downtown nightlife scene. Perfect.

I know most of this probably sounds like normal early 20s behavior, but the problem wasn’t the drinking. I don’t particularly like the taste of alcohol. But it was that removal of my mind from reality that I became addicted to. If I was conscious, I wanted to be thinking, doing, being anywhere else, but where I was. And to compound the problems, I was hellbent on trying to figure this out alone.

I was drifting between work, the bars, and home, and I got lost in the haze that had become my life. I was staying busy at work, going to the bars and drinking, and then sleeping, none of which involved me thinking about my own issues. And I existed in this bubble for a couple years.

It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom, a drunken night with friends that I decided I needed help. A group of us had gone downtown, my usual spot, and were having a good time. My friends decided they wanted to leave, but I wanted to stay. They left me with someone I had known for a minimal amount of time, and the next thing I knew, I was alone.

No problem, I’ll just go back in and keep drinking. It wasn’t like I had never done it before. But there was an allure. I wanted to meet back up with my friends. And, in a moment of drunken decision making, I tried to drive myself to them.

Now, I was fortunate that night. Not because I made it to the next bar safely, but because I didn’t even make it out of the parking garage. I had started to drive but wasn’t coherent enough to figure out where the exit was. Finally, a security guard stopped me. And to this day, I have no clue how I wasn’t arrested. He took my keys and told me to call my friends.  There’s part of me that wishes I could ask him why that had been his decision. The more substantial piece of me wants to stay as far away from that night as possible.

But my night wasn’t over. I sat against the wall of the parking garage, calling my friends with no answer, drifting in and out of sleep, while getting sick on myself. I was a complete embarrassment. I sat surrounded by those stone walls, thinking about my life to that point, a prisoner in my own mind.

What felt like an entire evening passed before my friend came to pick me up. In reality, it had been a couple hours. And the real twist of it was, I knew I could have called someone else to come to get me, and they would have been there in a heartbeat. Much quicker than what had actually happened. My parents, the woman I was dating at the time, other friends, and family, all could have gotten there ASAP. But I was ashamed. I couldn’t even muster the courage to do the right thing, after doing the wrong thing all night. I was a coward.

I still drank after. Still do. There have been low points and rough days when the willpower hasn’t been there. And nowadays, I can drink without delving into those negative emotions. But I’m careful. I rarely have more than two drinks, because two turns into seven very quickly for me. And I never drink if I’m not in an appropriate mental headspace.

Eventually, I’ll stop drinking altogether. There are social circles, especially in Louisville, where it’s hard to not drink. And I haven’t figured out how to tackle that. I don’t believe this an acceptable excuse, especially given my past, but I’m working on it.

The good news is, this is my rock bottom. Which means from here on out, it’s much happier. There are significant things that happened to pull me out from this stretch in my life, but it took roughly five years to get to where I am. No matter where we come from, we can always be better and do better. But we have to want it for ourselves.

An Ode to my Hometown: A Toe in the Water

Back again!

For those new to this series, it is meant to tell my story through the places that shaped me. I wanted to show some love to my hometown as I prepare for a cross country journey and potential move.

Today, high school is the topic of discussion. For those of you not in the Louisville area, high school is a big deal here. It’s one of the qualities of the city that I always disliked. Essentially, in a big Catholic city, if you didn’t go to one of the big all-boy or all-girl high schools here, you were judged, at least by the upper to middle classes. I’ve seen this ease up in recent years, so maybe it’s getting better. Then again, I’ve also seen middle-class families struggle to make ends meet just to send their kid to one of these schools.

So, in case it wasn’t clear, I didn’t go to one of those schools. All of my friends from grade school did, but I was the only one from my class that went to Seneca. Which meant I was transitioning from a small Catholic school of around 250 total, grades K-8, to over 2000 in a public high school, 750 just in my freshman class. But the drastic differences didn’t stop there.

The cultural change was huge. There were a small handful of black and Asian kids in my grade school. Again, spread over 9 grades. And being that it was a Catholic school, there wasn’t much in the way of religious diversity either. Jump ahead to high school, where there were people of all races, sexes, religious backgrounds, and cultures, and my world scope was opened up massively.

It made for a rough freshman year, adjusting to a totally new way of life, but I made it through and made a few friends along the way. And that was…about it. For four years, I barely recall much. There were definitely moments.

I remember some of my teachers, who I learned a lot from. One math teacher, Mr. Adams, who actually taught math in a way that made sense to me and that I enjoyed. Mr. Cooksey, who taught English, but fundamentally changed the way I watch movies. He taught us about symbolism and the intentionality of everything that a director chooses to put in the background of scenes.

But high school was largely uneventful. I hung out with my grade school friends a lot, I got mediocre grades and I made it to graduation. It was fine. The main things I took from high school was how sheltered I had been in grade school, and how being the small quiet kid doesn’t pay off.

I still got picked on a lot, but with fewer allies than grade school provided. It taught me about my own independence and possibly fed some of the isolation issues I experienced once I got older. But at that moment, high school was fine. A slightly bigger bubble of protection. It wasn’t until later that I started to experience what life would really have in store for me.

Thank you again to everyone who is following this series. Most don’t have much context for these posts, but they’ve been fun to write and interesting to dive into.

Grew Up

An awkward kid

A small clique of friends,

Made me feel accepted

 

Teenage years a wreck

Drifting between groups

Never really in, or out

 

Work came and went

Ambition higher than

My need for community

 

Everyone left in the dust

No one there at my lowest point

A nightmare of my own design

 

Buried in the dark, damp soil

I began to evolve

Straining for a light I had yet to accept

 

Breaking through to a new life

Reestablishing lost connections

Finally accepting who I am

 

I am not a sympathetic character

Sure, I’ve loved, lost, felt and cried

But I’ve also hurt, ran, pushed away and lied

 

I’m just thankful for the life I’ve lived

Every good, bad; high and low

I wouldn’t be who I am without it 

~

Photo by Michel Catalisano on Unsplash

Blow

Plucked from the ground

We stop growing

We leave our roots behind

Our frayed stem trailing behind us

But we’re rising

Slowly, our viewpoint expands

We can see more of the earth

We see freedom, open space

And also containment, death

This trip will come to an end

Much sooner than we can ever be ready for

We’ll get our chance to live forever, though

A strong wind, or one big blow

Will spread our seeds

Each one creating something new, different

~

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash