“It Gets Better”
Sometimes Facebook is a good thing. By being on the damn thing, it allows people I know who I normally don’t talk to on my phone to be able to contact me…although I would normally say that’s a deterrent for using social networking. Interacting with others? Gross.
Recently, a friend messaged me because they were having a crisis. It was a bad situation, and they were at that edge of complete despair. They needed to be “talked down” from that edge, and I did the best I could, which was apparently enough. They’re doing better and they thanked me for listening and talking them through it.
Why did they contact me? I’ll be the first one to tell you I am not a great resource for solid advice. I am a prime example of how not to do many things, so yeah, if you want to know the worst way to handle something, I suppose you could ask, “Hey, John, what would you do?” and then do the opposite.
“Hey Rabon, I’m having this horrible dispute with a finance company. They may ruin my credit if I don’t comply.”
“Well, fuck them, man. What do you really need credit for, huh? Expensive possessions that will make you a slave? It’s a burden. Don’t play their stupid credit game, it’s all made up anyway. Go out and live.”
“Ah. Set up a payment plan. Gotcha.”
No, my friend contacted me because they were at maybe the lowest point in their life, or at least it felt that way…and they knew I had been there. I know what it’s like to be devoid of hope and ready to just submit to the abyss. They didn’t want encouragement or a pep talk. They wanted someone who could relate and who wouldn’t bullshit them.
I don’t believe in fate, but I like to entertain the notion that I have made it to this point in my life to help others in just this way. I find it comforting to think that my purpose is to occasionally help someone up who needs it. That might be a bunch of crap, but hey, everyone is entitled to their own delusion. Besides…whether I help someone because of a mystical destiny or just because I owe the universe for over a decade of hedonism, the end result is the same. I’m stubborn and hard to kill…might as well put that to good use.
I don’t bullshit someone in pain. I may not be able to recollect much of the past 10 or 15 years, but I remember what “rock bottom” feels like, and I remember what I did not want to hear. There is nothing like positive affirmations from the misguided to really send you into a rage when you’re down. Forced optimism is more depressing than actual depression.
“Hang in there!” — As much as I love ridiculous pictures of cats, if you show me one of those with the kitten hanging for dear life and those three words on it, it tends to make me reconsider my opposition to violence.
“Smile!” — If you’re an individual who likes to walk by a coworker’s cubicle and tell them to smile first thing in morning (or at any point in the day), I don’t think you’re aware how close you have come to enduring a stapler bludgeoning. Oh, and guys: “You look prettier when you smile”? Just go ahead and say, “Hey, it’s harder to sexually harass you when you’re all down and stuff. It’s kind of a buzz kill.” Asshats.
I think the worst one to hear is the most common one people say: “It gets better.” Hearing this sucks because it comes from someone who (you think) isn’t going through what you are and hasn’t been where you are. How would you know? Don’t blow smoke up my ass! And then, when it inevitably does get better, you still feel like telling them, “Oh fuck off, you didn’t know.” I think we just don’t like some people to be right, because we don’t want advice. Don’t try to fix me, just recognize I’m broken.
The truth is, it will get better. Eventually. And then it will get worse at some point. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but our brains can completely forget this when we’re down in a hole. Your fears and thoughts can cripple you and send you into a spiral that you don’t think you’ll recover from or even survive. And this all sucks because it’s in our heads not real, and we hurt ourselves way more than the actual thing we fear will. We put ourselves through hell based on the perceived possibility of purgatory.
Four years ago, I was a junkie and lost my job, my apartment and the woman I loved. I was staying on a friend’s couch, and I was sure that was it for me. If I had a gun, I would have killed myself. Okay, actually, I would have sold it and bought heroin. But if I had TWO guns…it was bad. At the time, I considered it the worst moment of my life. I was wrong.
It got better. Then, 6 months later, I overdosed while living at my father’s house after being sober for a month. Dad happened to come home from work and saved my life. When I woke up in the emergency room, I had a brand new “rock bottom”.
(The only real rock bottom is death. Things can always get worse.)
Things improved. Because of that I went to rehab…started over in a new city. I made good decisions and poor decisions. Life went on. Due to getting arrested for public intoxication in 2012 while still on felony DWI probation, I had to come back to Austin and go to jail. While in county lockup, I was told I would have to do a 5 month alcohol and drug treatment program and remain incarcerated and that I wasn’t going back to my established life in San Antonio. I had lost everything again. And being sober in jail allowed me to really feel this low moment making it way worse than when I was strung out all the time.
About a month later, while still in the custody of Travis County, I had a high point. I had begun to rebuild my thought process without being heavily medicated by booze or drugs, and I was reading Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, laughing hysterically. Even though I was in the middle of an awful place with questionable people and dressed in reject nurse scrubs, I was happy at that moment. Another moment was being able to host the open mic again at the Velveeta Room a couple of weeks ago. It was a very “everything in its right place” moment for me. In fact, I have a brief feeling of euphoria every time I skate to or from work. The highlight of my day is usually when I’m on a skateboard.
And that is how it will go for whatever amount of life I have left. I’m going to enjoy those ups and fight through those downs. A low point is coming, and I can’t stop that. While I do wish sometimes I had an option again to escape feeling shitty, I am completely comfortable with feeling now. That’s the problem with heavy alcohol and drug consumption/abuse…and for some, with prescriptions you probably don’t need. You stay even keel and numb so you can avoid pain and sadness…and you also avoid pleasure and happiness. It took me a long time to figure that out. Everyone is different, so I don’t want tell you what you need. For me, being able to enjoy those beautiful moments in my life fully is worth the ordeal of completely feeling those times of despair. I just have to remember to keep fighting when everything just sucks. I think I just wrote a big long positive affirmation that would probably make me roll my eyes if it came from someone else. I don’t know if anyone will get something from this or not, and I probably would have been fine with instead posting the lyrics to R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts”. Truthfully, the main reason I wrote this tonight was for me to read in the future when life takes a turn. So, John, when you read this, take it from someone you’ll listen to (you, dummy): It gets better. Hang in there. You don’t have to smile, though. Fuck that.
Originally published at www.9thcircleofheck.com on July 28, 2014.