It has now been several weeks since I’ve actually “written” a post, and each time over the past week or so that I’ve tried to start, I’ve felt more and more uninspired. So now I’m just starting in on one, lest I lose inspiration entirely. Lack of posting has stemmed from a combination of: a busy personal & professional schedule; general laziness; and, quite simply, a lapse in recovery-related topics to write on. Which is not necessarily a bad thing – as my recovery evolves and enters different stages, so too does my intent with managing this blog.
However, no matter where the level of my program is at, it will always remain important for me to continue writing. I probably can’t stress this enough, because I know I’ve repeated some version of those words several times on this page. I’ve toyed with the idea of restructuring content and formatting of published posts, and I think eventually I will do an overhaul. “Eventually” being when I finally find full-time employment, as sort of both a celebration and a send-off.
For now, I’ll continue with long-form essay-style posts, sparsely as they may come to me these days. The past month has had its share of topics to cover (despite my laziness/aversion to taking the time to sit and hash my thoughts out into coherent writing). I suppose I’ll start with the most current, and work my way backward in chronological order.
Last night I worked a short shift (two hours scanning glasses frames at the Wal-mart Vision Center). Usually when I go in for a store at 6:30 pm, I am not getting out until at least four to six hours later, so it was a bit jarring to find myself with a free night at 9:00. As I was making my way through the aisles, past the shoppers ambling by, I was hit with a sudden pang, and I was not immediately aware what caused it. I was still trying to understand what this twist of feeling was when I stepped into the parking lot and was swept up in a gust of that crisp, end-of-summer/start-of-autumn air, and it dawned on me: this is precisely the time that I would be starting up fall semester at Geneseo again.
Three years previous, on exactly this weekend, this day, this time of night, I was probably also just walking out of a Wal-mart. But then it would have been with my housemates, to pick up a few cases of cheap beer for the night; to revel in the start of our senior year, having somehow made it through the preceding three years alive. The end of August/beginning of September always held the most social excitement in the air. While I had (for three out of four college summers) stuck around town working odd jobs and generally partying on a nightly basis, most other people had gone off to internships or spent time at home away from intensive boozing. So all were eager to get back to it, and guess who had built a healthy tolerance? Anyone that spent summers with us in the sleepy town of Geneseo would easily outstrip those returning in the fall. And we loved it.
I will probably forever associate this time of year not only with moonlit backyard beer pong and friendly front porch forties, but with a sense of exploratory optimism, as well. The new college year always held so many opportunities, so many distinct possibilities. Even last year in Rochester I was filled with a sense of excitement and novelty as the students at the city’s universities began to return. I would vicariously re-live my college autumns past as I wistfully wandered my way across their campuses, hoping to capture their attention not with a basement frat party, but now instead a basement downtown bar party – my livelihood, in a new era.
As it were, I was reminded of my Rochester lifestyle just the night before last. A fraternity alumni and long-time friend of mine was having his bachelor party, for which many of the brothers had gathered together at a local lakehouse after crusading through downtown Rochester’s nightlife scene. Though not in attendance, I know that this gathering was monumental and had been met with great anticipation; this particular individual is revered across many generations of our organization, and is in so many ways very much an alpha leader in any group he aligns himself with. He is several years my senior, but we had formed an instant connection from when he first met me during a visit to his alma mater my freshman year.
As I grew into my own over my collegiate career and carved my own deep niche among my peers, I found myself more and more included amongst the alumni and elder statesmen of my brotherhood. By my junior and senior year, I served as essentially the lone point of contact with current students, for brothers as far as 10 years out of college. I never put a whole ton of thought into this, as it felt natural and I was often more comfortable in their social circles than my own.
Naturally, while actually sharing a geographical locale with these men in post-grad life, I saw a lot more of them and was invited to participate in fairly exclusive gatherings (i.e. the Bills game). So when it came time for me to pack my life and move home, as I struggled to understand what was happening to me and ultimately found myself in rehab, it was extremely difficult for me to share this kind of internal turmoil with them. I had up to that point been an infamously brazen party animal, down to get down always anytime 24/7. How do you tell a group of alpha males, who “socially outrank” you on a variety of levels, that basically…you can’t handle your shit?
After several months at home and dwindling text message invites/updates, I finally sent this particular acquaintance an email explaining where I was and what I had been dealing with. It was some time before I got a response, but I was pleasantly surprised by what he had to say. It helped to reaffirm that the personal work I was doing was nothing short of extremely insightful and to be held in the highest respect. Here are some particularly relevant & meaningful paragraphs that moved me.
“I think you should know a few things. First, I believe I would’ve felt a bit betrayed losing a ‘party-friend’ back in high school or even college. Second, I’ve lived long enough to see the damage done, and value the macro picture more so now than at any other time in my life. Finally, I was never your friend because of your capacity to have a good time in social settings. Although it would be a lie to say that didn’t make it more fun at times, that was just a small part. I hope you would consider me a friend.
I have met hundreds of people, probably thousands, that were fun at a party and none do I care to keep any sort of friendly communication with nor care what they are doing now. It is honestly why I kept off Facebook. I saw in you a curiosity for the world, an eagerness to try things without fear of failure and no real pretension about you. To me, that was why you were going to be such a fine MAC brother, and likely why I sought you out whenever I went down to ‘seo. Those things travel best in life. I hope you haven’t lost that.”
Furthermore, as I was writing this, I received this text message from another brother who had contacted me Friday night, expressing a universal wish for me to both be in attendance but to also be in good health:
“Sorry for the slow response. Glad to hear you’re doing better. Keep making progress on your goals. We always have you with us in spirit when we’re together. Just wishing you the best and keeping you in the loop so you know we support you. Hopefully soon we can chill. Love ya.”
There is a reason I am loyal to a fucking fault, and consider these men to be brothers: because they treat me as an equal, and in doing so, truly, genuinely care about my personal well-being. Words can’t express here how grateful I am to have this kind of support network at my back.
Now traveling backward in time to a weekend or two previous: I, for the first time in my recovery, went back to my “home town” to re-visit highschool friends (and consequently the barren social scene that exists in small-town central New York) as a sober individual. I was slightly apprehensive approaching this venture; these friends, unlike my tight-knit college crew, were much less a part of my life and were therefore that much more removed from any relative understanding of the direction my life had recently taken.
It turns out I had nothing to worry about. The one time I felt I needed to explicitly state that I was no longer a drinker (one of my close friend’s sister and brother-in-law had recently opened a very successful brewery, and I did not want to seem rude in declining their ales), my resolve was greeted warmly and respectfully. The night was mostly spent around a fire under the stars, but I put in an appearance at the bar for a good hour or so. Mostly everyone was just thrilled to see me and catch up; it was crowded enough that the act of drinking itself was not really the focus of anyone’s attention. I ran into a couple other old, close friends (who were aware of my situation), and got nothing but support and beaming pride at my handling recovery so successfully, whilst still being out and socializing.
We took a hike on the Colgate trails the morning following, and I snapped this pretty great panorama of the countryside.
Tracing the past month back one weekend further, I picked up a friend visiting from New York at the bus station late on a Friday night. Saturday we woke mid-morning and gathered ourselves for a trip out to Buffalo, to see my sister as well as a number of our collegiate friends living in the area. It was a great time, and especially notable because I brought my 17-year-old brother along with us. He really appreciated being invited to hang out in the company of “adults,” and I think it was refreshing for him to see that there are really worthwhile, caring people out there in the world. He, much like myself in those days, has been having trouble trying to form meaningful friendships amongst the generally immature and extremely superficial highschool populous. I hope he now understands that he will find those people in his life, when he finds his own niche at college.
But it was as I was driving my friend back to the bus station for his return trip to the city that he confessed he had an ulterior motive for making this visit, than to just hang and shoot the shit like old times. The details of what he shared with me are not so important to the story here, but the essence is that he had over the preceding several months been seeing an ex-girlfriend of mine on and off, and it had gotten to the point that he could no longer deliberate over – the feelings between them were real and mutual, and it was more official than not. I had actually had a tiny inkling in my mind that something of this nature was going on, due to a completely random string of events that I happened to become aware of.
The “ex-girlfriend territory” is almost always a sensitive issue between good friends. Again, while the details are not what matter here, I will say that this triangle is particularly complicated, due to the circumstances of friendship the three of us had shared in college. Point being, this had potential to be a very explosive element in my interpersonal relationship with this dear friend of mine – perhaps even a tipping point to cutting ties altogether. This girl had been my freshman year girlfriend, and when our intimate relationship ended it took me several confusing semesters to figure out how I felt about her, and relationships in general.
So there was history there. But, as I calmly explained to my friend, it was exactly that – history. That relationship, while absolutely a having a part in my past and definitely a role in determining the type of person I am today, is no longer a part of my life. I have no connection, emotional or otherwise – therefore, I have no reason to bring emotion into play at present. As we talked these things out, I started to more fully understand exactly why I could so easily remove myself emotionally from the situation: I am a new man. I am a sober, centered individual.
This, again as with many previous stories I’ve shared, proves only how strong the bonds of friendship are. Especially those that I am fortunate enough to have in my life. It takes equal parts courage and respect to do what my friend did, to bring this contentious issue up face-to-face. Were this conversation to have take place a year earlier, even though deep down I would have known I had no reason to be upset, I cannot guarantee that my unstable mind would have rationally reached that conclusion. I am able to move beyond it because I AM beyond it. Closure has been something I have struggled with in many different forms over the years of my life, so this was a very welcome moment of clarity. For this, I am grateful.
On a final note, I have for one month now been a member of an “online dating community.” As life is returning to normal and I actually have some form of cash income (miniscule though it may be), it felt like a natural next step in re-asserting myself as a functioning individual in society. I have written previously of meeting potential partners through A.A. meetings; though I have indeed met some great people in recovery in central New York, there simply are not many women in my range of interest and lifestyle. So far the online game has gone roughly about how I expected it to – casting a large net to reel in a few quality catches, some of which upon closer inspection were not satisfactory in some way or another and had to be thrown back. Not that I have any interest at all in diving headfirst into some serious commitment or being swept up in some whirlwind romance but…I have to start somewhere, and I suppose this is as good a place as any. My new, sober, centered self has a lot to offer the world, after all.
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