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Early recovery: pain is more familiar than hope

Today’s piece is a guest blog from a young man near and dear to my heart, T.K.. His pathway to recovery is beautiful and a work in progress:

When I had a baby face and a penchant for $12.99 vodka, priced so cheaply it’s brewers should be a goddamn accessory in all my crimes (those of public record and especially those otherwise), I fashioned for myself a super power that I was legitimately proud of: The drunken Saturday morning workout. As my friends peeled themselves out of their dorms, I was ripping a handful of shots, wiping the remnants off my tank top and hitting the gym (and probably ripping a few more shots).

It gave me character; I WAS a character. Whatever my reason for starting, I kept doing it because it stroked my fragile ego ever so softly; it made me stand out in some weird way, it gave me an escape from the monotony of (*GASP*) just being me, and it made me feel good because everyone knows your abs look at least 5% better when hungover.

I never did stop to think why my friends all drank at “socially acceptable” times (and in college that term is flexible like putty). Almost like I was looking for a quick and easy way to get away from my own self….

Spoiler alert: That practice didn’t work so well down the road. Probably should’ve seen the signs.

The point of this isn’t really about drinking though. The point is that deriving some sense of identity through self-important self-destruction, such as wearing your bullshit as a badge of honor in a way that doesn’t say “look what I’ve overcome” but rather “look how many times I can punch a concrete wall before my hand breaks,” isn’t tough and it isn’t cool and you’re ruining my Facebook creeping with your statuses about it.

I’m all for airing out our wounds so they can properly heal; doing so in a therapist’s office has changed my life and I’m particularly humbled every time I can make it to a group session, those people have emotional x-ray vision and it’s a gift when they share it with you.

When people dramatize their problems, when someone glorifies their PTSD and depression, and holds their disorders, struggles, or just general pain-of-living so close that they might as well ditch the clinical terminology and give it their last name. I don’t hate these people, fuck, I’m one of them:

Aside from shots before the gym, shoving a toothbrush down my throat and leaving a whole fridge’s worth of food in a toilet and then pulling deadlifts made it a certainty I could tell anyone who asked just how hard a workout I had today.

I know what it’s like to not know who you are. When pain has been such a frequent friend, why not just marry her and then you at least get a “we” since you can’t identify a “me;” You’ve been dancing around each other so long anyways. It gives us a sick sense of pride and identity that we get to bear the scars of our families and the relentless pain of our every-day afflictions. It’s our “thing,” it’s what we see in the mirror, it’s what we hear when we’re all alone, and it may be the only part of us we can readily identify.

There is a power in our pain, but it’s not in overpowering ourselves. Trust me, if you really do suffer from PTSD or an anxiety disorder or bullshit that doesn’t have a proper name to it but that is certainly fucking you up, no need to worry, it’s not gonna go so far away that you forget what it looks like.

If you can recognize that pain, definitely share it, but do more than bounce it off the wall only so it can rebound into your face; WORK with it.

I remember talking to my counselor once about how I loved hanging out with my dog when I was feeling down, and he agreed that dogs can be very intuitive to our feelings, can make great friends, but how much do they really say back? He suggested maybe I share some of the stuff I was hashing over with the pup with any number of sentient human beings in my life that I identified as good people.

Whenever I summon the courage to do so (not the liquid kind), I’m 9.7 times out of 10 left feeling better than had I stayed silent or beat myself up with the numerous disciplines of self-destruction I’ve studied. These people don’t tell me it’s all gonna be okay or how sorry they are for me; they tell me I’M okay and that they’re devotedly holding out hope for less “sorry” and more “hell, yeah” in my future.

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