There’s a patch of grass above the freeway near my house. The fence around it has several “No Trespassing” signs tacked to it. But the fence is easy to bend back and sneak in. So the homeless population sets up camp there. Today on my way home I saw city workers repairing the fence. They do this every month or so. Go in, evict the residents, clear out all the trash and cardboard boxes that have accumulated, and repair the fence. Double it up this time, maybe. Make it a bit taller, the wire a bit thicker. As if that is going to take care of the problem. As if that is going to put people in houses and off the streets. As if that is going to take needles out of arms. The city workers will always find a new way to reinforce the fence and the homeless will always find a way back in.
It occured to me that this is exactly the same as my substance abuse issues. Stop drinking and start smoking more. Stop smoking and start eating more. There’s always something that comes in to take the place of unaddressed emotions. The difficult problems. The things that are not easy to sit with. The feelings I don’t know how to feel. Something always slides in to take it’s place until I take care of the problem. Lately it’s disappearing into bowls of pasta, bags of potato chips, pints of ice cream. A hunger that has nothing to do with food and everything to do with drowning out feeling. Just like bourbon used to. Just like cocaine. It reminds me how much of a process this is. How far ahead I can be, but how far I have to go still.
I think about what I was like five years ago. Going through the motions of getting help, but never committing to it fully. I’d show up to my 10 AM therapy appointments still high on coke from the night before and not say a word about it. Only partially brave enough to face the things happening inside my head.
I think about what I was like two years ago. Just starting to re-admit that I need help. Finding myself sitting in my therapist’s office with lots of “I don’t knows” dripping from my lips. Never dropping in words like “worthless” and “suicide” and “desperation”. Refusing to admit that maybe I needed more support than I thought I did. Than I wanted to admit. That this thing is bigger than I’m equipped to deal with.
Only three months ago I finally started talking about how bad it’d gotten. It wasn’t the first time I was that scared. Wasn’t the first time I started investigating ways to end my life. But it was the first time I reached out to anybody. And I reached out to everybody. I told my therapist, I found a psychiatrist, talked to my medical doctor about it, lined up a DBT program. I told my family. My readers. It felt like unzipping my skin, standing up all tissue and bones. Terrified.
But that shows me that my capacity is growing. That I’m moving toward something more stable. So even when I feel like this isn’t working and I’m never going to make it. I just have to remember that I already am. I’m taking steps to address the problem, not the fence.