Sober Insanity

By Matej Purg 06/07/17

After getting sober, I experienced some severe relapses of rage that haunt me and squished the newfound hope from my life. 

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Man in strait jacket on a dark background.
I quit drinking, but I couldn't quit shouting into peoples' faces.

I was an angry drunk. Physical violence, verbal assault, emotional torment, the works. People, places, and things were the problem. The universe was dangling its gigantic middle finger in front of my face. No wonder I lashed out, how could I not? The drink, the powder, the puff, the pill—they were my medicine until they turned on me also. And, thus, I got sober. That was over five years ago. The obsession to drink has been removed from my life ever since. I don’t think about drinking when things get bad, very bad, like spend two weeks depressed in bed bad. However, after the pink cloud disintegrated on me, I experienced some severe relapses of rage that haunt me and squished the newfound hope from my life. 

The outbursts that rattled my sanity mirrored episodes from my drinking and using days: I got into a screaming match with a cop and called him a ‘fat fuck’ as other cops were holding him back from rightfully clocking me in the face. I spat at a parking enforcement officer’s car because he refused to admit that he would have revoked my ticket "if I had tits." 

There was that time I found myself banging my fists against the mailman’s delivery van screaming God knows what at him. I have ruined birthdays, caused plenty of tears, and traumatized my son and I did all of that without a drop of alcohol or a sniff of cocaine in my system.

This kind of insanity was supposed to be a thing of the past. It was sober insanity! I had gone through the steps, I was going to meetings, and I had even given in to meditation and prayer, albeit half-heartedly. I had turned into someone my old self would have kicked in the nuts. And yet I suffered these repeated relapses into fits of rage that left me defeated, disheartened, and demoralized. I had no excuses like I did before having supposedly been restored to sanity. I was beginning to lose faith in the twelve steps and the program as a whole. I couldn’t figure out why this kept happening to me. Maybe the program just wasn’t for me, I thought. I should just get on stronger medication and zombify myself because carrying the emotional aftermath in sobriety with me was not sustainable. The big bang that put me back into action was the “Great Kindergarten Potluck Explosion.” 

I was waiting in line to make a taco. The line was moving slowly, unnecessarily so. I was starting to judge the kids and their parents in front of me for their ineffective taco building. I mean, how hard a decision is chicken or beef, for crying out loud? Just as I was within reach of the tortillas one of the dads, yanking his daughter along, pushed himself right in between my personal space and my lunch. He didn’t say excuse me. He didn’t look at me or otherwise acknowledge my presence. He proclaimed to his daughter, to me, and the other adults in line that the children needed to eat first, this being a children’s party. Oh boy, I don’t handle passive aggressiveness well. Not at all. It lights up a whole switchboard of childhood trauma. I didn’t pause. I said no prayer. I didn’t take a deep breath. I relapsed. 

I subjected the man and, by proxy, his daughter, to a vicious verbal assault. The words that shot out of my mouth were severely misguided for a kindergarten graduation party, or any civilized event for that matter. "A sack of shit" was the most benign insult I hurled at the guy. He was baffled and tried to shield his daughter from me. “Not in front of the kids!” his wife who appeared out of nowhere yelled at me. Now I paused. Now, that it was too late. I was surrounded by silence. Moms, dads, and children were staring at me. Mouths wide open, heads shaking. 

Here we go again, I thought, as I fled the scene. I was leaving behind the scorched earth of yet another rage relapse, leaving yet another party, leaving my son behind. My wife directed me to stay away when I called her full of shame. 

The Kindergarten Potluck Explosion had long-term consequences. Every time I stepped foot on school grounds I was rattled by anxiety. I was sure that parents were shielding their children from me. I was scared to run into the guy or his wife during the Christmas concert and, when I did, I tried to appear as if I didn’t notice them standing right in front of me as the pit of shame inflated in my stomach. My life had once again become unmanageable.

I only had one option left: do the work. I went through the steps for a second time. This time I really was open-minded and willing and more fearless and thorough with my inventory. I needed to be. I was terrified of the consequences if I didn’t. What if I’d end up locked up? What if I put my son in danger? What if I’d finally fucked with the wrong guy and became a victim of gun violence?

I arrived at the boundaries of my willingness with step nine now that I’m facing having to make amends to the dad, his wife, and the daughter for my behavior at the potluck. I would love nothing more than to put the experience behind me but at the same time I’m paralyzed by fear and shame. I’m ashamed to admit to them that I was wrong to do what I did. That it was abusive, crude, hypersensitive, immature, ill-tempered, and childish. That I won’t act like that again. I’m afraid of their judgement. I keep forgetting to ask for willingness. I keep forgetting to ask for help and guidance. I keep forgetting that I’m always well taken care of if I do.

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