One Year Ago Today, following a long & stressful day at work, I took a long drive to & from a stand-up set & drank a few glasses of wine while at the venue (performers typically get the first 1 for free). My 26 years was feeling long enough, too long even. Too many years of masking pain that was inflicted on me by others but mostly by myself. All the pain I consented to willingly, believing it was somehow what I deserved.
Upon arriving "home" to my lonely, sparse, studio apartment, I settled in for the longest panic attack I've endured so far. It lasted from before I left the comedy show all the way until the sun came up the following morning. I am no stranger to panic attacks but this was the longest & deepest yet. It was powerful & relentless. I hallucinated most of the night. I believed demons were shifting around the apartment, tugging at me, snapping snarly jaws at me. I knew that they weren't real but I saw them. I felt them. The fear was real.
If you've never experienced a panic attack, they can vary in strength from "I'm Pretty Anxious & need to stop & take some deep breaths." to "I'M DYING! ALL OF MY ORGANS ARE CONTRACTING & I WILL SURELY SUFFOCATE SOON!". Sometimes you hyperventilate. Sometimes you shake uncontrollably. Sometimes you hurt yourself or others. That night I felt as if I was having a heart attack that lasted for over eight hours with no hope that I would allow myself to seek out a hospital or medical professional.
On the morning of September 8th, 2018, I took a hard look at my life. I thought about how when I wasn't at work I had to be intoxicated as quickly as possibly to try to keep the pain away. I started avoiding loved ones because I didn't want them to know how bad it had gotten & risk hurting them with the reality of my situation. I drank alone or with others who drank like fish. We swam in schools from bar to bar. I knew with every fiber of my being that if I didn't quit drinking, if I lost control of myself, I'd stop swimming. I'd sleep with the fishes...in the mobster kind of way...not in the way that I was already sleeping with some of the fishes in my small town...
Side note: I don't believe everyone should avoid alcohol. I do know that I should. As my aunt, who has celebrated over 20 years of sobriety, puts it, "I have a problem with me drinking. I don't have a problem with you drinking."
It felt like I was joking, laughing, & smiling my way through life as it continually nailed me with no foreplay & the only lubricant I had was alcohol. Without my beloved lube, the few months following Panic-Ageddon were some of the most difficult & painful of my life. Not only was I dealing with my past problems that I was finally able to face because of the opportunity that sobriety gave but I was also trying to handle some new problems which arose between September-November. To name a few; someone close to me threatened suicide on multiple occasions without realizing how close I was myself; I was kicked out of my residence through no fault of my own & had to relocate in a single day back to my alcoholic father's home; I suffered a nasty infection that caused a fever & tiny red dots to explode over my body, my father was drunk at 3pm & I had to drive myself, deliriously to urgent care to find that my front teeth were dying/dead due to the acid from the alcohol & near-daily vomiting sessions, new teeth would cost thousands & the medical debt from my therapy visits was already piling up. I wanted so desperately to escape. I almost did a few times. Somehow, I remained sober with a combination of fear & self-bullying. I don't recommend this route but it worked for me in the beginning until I started to feel a shift around month three of sobriety. Months 3-6, I fell into the habit of not-drinking & it became more comfortable. It felt like using your non-dominant hand & accepting that this is how it has to be. I learned that in reality between December - March but that's a different story all-together. I was surprised to find that even without alcohol, I still made mistakes & bad choices on the regular but it was easier to understand, learn from, & remedy with sobriety now riding shotgun (my love for corny phrases has increased since then also).
In April, I moved half way across the country to take an opportunity that I never felt like I deserved before & stay with my aunt. In May, I started AA & I started classes at The Second City Training Center in Chicago, finally pursuing my dreams without holding myself back with chemicals & distractions.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE!
I wrapped up my first term of the Improv for Actors program at the Second City with some very comedically talented new friends!
This fun bunch celebrated the end of our first term of the Second City Training Center's Improv for Actors Program with Tacos & Sangria on Sunday, August 18th, 2019! Some are moving on to star in plays, perform operas, & follow their dreams in other ways outside of the Second City while others (myself included) are returning next weekend for Improv for Actors 2! Can't wait to see you guys again, either in class or on the stage, internet, &/or TV!
Thank you to Mary, Jacob, & Lauren for the great comedy commentary on the Pish Tosh Podcast in August!