No Year's Solutions

By Amy Dresner 12/31/14

I'm still standing, but damn the ground is shaky—Bring on 2015!

Photo by Wendy Hall

It’s the day after Christmas and I’m sitting here, listening to Staind, vaping, drinking Yerba Mate on tap and going slowly insane.

Three years ago on Christmas, loaded on oxy and booze, I pulled a knife on my now ex-husband—altering my life forever. Thanks to a three-year restraining order, I have not been able to make amends with him or assuage my guilt for ruining Christ’s birthday for him, forever. As a half-breed Jew, I’ve never been a huge fan of Christmas, but it now has a distinctly bitter taste for me. I know guilt is “I’ve done something bad” and shame is “I am something bad” but right now they are both my cellmates.

This Christmas Eve I was bawling, alone, and house-sitting at my friend’s place—an apartment so quiet I could hear the skaters smoking blunts and doing tricks in the alley. But by far the loudest noise were the waves of shame crashing over me. It‘s still difficult to fully conceive of myself as somebody capable of domestic violence. But as Mrs. Drake told me in sixth grade, I’m “infinitely capable.” And that’s why I don’t drink anymore. The world is a safer place, whether you’re married to me or not.

“I love you for everything you’re capable of, Amy,” said the newcomer, 15 years my junior, who’d taken me on a volatile ride to hell and back for the last four months. Professions of love followed by “I just want to be friends” and his own distaste for monogamy had driven me within inches of the nuthouse and the liquor store. Newcomers are dangerous because they are crazy, in denial, sick and did I mention crazy? And that’s coming from somebody who’s been deemed certifiable by four different highly accredited facilities. “Cause you're hot, then you're cold. You're yes, then you're no. You're in, then you're out. You're up, then you're down.” Katy Perry could have been singing about 13th stepping. This type of “give, withdraw, repeat” innately creates obsession. It’s called “intermittent reinforcement” and it’s how you get addicted to, let’s say, gambling. I won. I lost. Maybe, I’ll win again. Hey, I won again. Fuck, I lost again…ad infinitum.

Despite having almost two years sober again, I am still innately attracted to things that are bad for me. Whether that self-destructive inclination is my alcoholism, or my thrill seeking, or my low self-esteem, I have no idea. But the fact that I could die shooting cocaine in my jugular or catch AIDS bare-backing with strangers was part of the excitement of my addictions. Some people like to go wing-walking, I like to test my mortality and luck. I am one sick motherfucker. And thanks to my bipolarity and the meth-induced lesions on my frontal lobe, I don’t have the best “break” system now. “Oh that’s a terrible idea,” I might think. “Oh look, I’m doing it now. Um, okay…” Welcome to my brain. I’m the polar opposite of those people I’ve heard say, “Yeah, I tried cocaine once and I liked it so much I knew I needed to stay away from it.” Huh?

I hate feelings. And I’m pretty convinced they hate me, too. I know feelings have a beginning, a middle and an end, but rarely can I get past the middle without doing something stupid. I’m hit with rage or sadness or desire and at first I think, “I can get through this.” But as the feeling builds, I feel like a rat in a cage that’s slowly heating up and I start furiously burrowing for a way out. That can be handing somebody their ass in a vengeful text that I’ll have to make amends for, or it can be masturbating over FaceTime with some freak I met on Tinder. It can be chain-smoking Marlboro Blacks and chewing Nicorette while feverishly trolling eBay. “Winning this homeless-looking threadbare tee will surely keep me from unblocking some toxic ex or googling noose knots!” I feel fairly “treated” when I manage to just crash out for 14 hours in the fetal position or sit silently in a meeting while kohl-stained tears stream down my face.

I wish I would stop announcing things and making ultimatums. “I’ve quit smoking.” “My sex addiction is cured.” “I’m never going back on Tinder.” “We’re fucking done. I’m over it.” As true as those things might seem and feel at the moment, they can be as fleeting as your attempt at veganism after you see “Forks over Knives." And then you’re left sheepishly saying, “Oh yeah, I’m smoking/fucking/Tindering/seeing him again.” So no, no New Year resolutions for me this year. I’m tired of standing on my soapbox one day and eating humble pie off it the next.

I can rarely put something down without taking it to the wall and then through it and into the neighbor’s apartment. I’ll get migraines from a nicotine overdose. I’ll order five-shot lattes until I need a defibrillator. And if I can’t walk away from a relationship, I’ll Sun Tzu and the Art of War it. I’ll bomb that bridge by being such a psychotic asshole that not only will you be unable to walk back over it for another round, you’ll cross the fucking street when you see me.

"Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties—all these chase away loneliness by making me forget my name's Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion—these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated.” - David Foster Wallace

What I’ve realized these last few months is that my rage and my sex/love addiction are just like my drinking/drugging. I do it. I regret it. I say I’ll never do it again. And then I do it again as if I’ve completely forgotten the pain and shame and degradation that it caused the last time. My sponsor pointed out that I’m more than insane because insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I do the same thing over and over again, knowing full well it’s going to be exactly the same. And underneath both my rage and lustful need, I’ve discovered, is the basic desire to be loved. When I say “I fucking hate you” or “don’t you want to fuck me?” I’m really saying, “Love me!”

The truth is I want out of myself. As much as I might be dearly loved by family and friends, I still don’t like myself. And as I sit here and write this, I feel lonely, so fucking lonely. I want transcendence. I want connection. I want to feel that brief wholeness I’ve experienced when the crowd is roaring with laughter over one of my stupid dick jokes or a man is looking deep into my eyes and telling me I made him believe in God again. But I don’t do stand-up anymore and I’m single so I’ll just bleed onto this page in the hopes that somebody else can know they’re not alone in being alone.

Amy Dresner is a columnist at The Fix. She recently wrote about women's safety in AA and about hating Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.

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