Sleepwalking

This acoustic version of Sleepwalking reminds me of the hours and hours I spent alone in my Melbourne apartment, writing, drinking, freezing, singing, crying, hating, loving – feeling terrified, empowered, and lonely.

At the time, I was numb to all of it. Those emotions were ripples across my surface – except the loneliness – I felt that as keenly as the icy winds that greeted me every night as I left the call centre I worked at.

I remember feeling new, like paper. I was blank, nothing – a few etchings beginning to appear as my new person developed. Someone wholly separated from the person I’d been in all the years leading me to that point. I vowed I’d never be that girl who hurt herself by staying where she wasn’t actually wanted. I vowed I would never date a musician again. I vowed I would stop being scared of losing everything, and start living.

So I took a job in a call centre – something the old me would never have done, because I was too anxious that the people sitting next to me would hear how useless I was at the job. I went out to nightclubs on my own and introduced myself to people. I wandered a lot. Had hair style changes, new piercings, new clothing… and while it felt exciting to create a new me, it felt like it was all happening to someone else.

It’s only through hindsight that I can see how close I came to actually losing everything, and to just how completely disconnected I was from reality, my emotions, and the idea of consequences.

When I listen to this song, I remember the smell of that apartment, how cold it was, how small, but wonderful it was. The way I heated it using the oven, because the idea of buying a heater to keep myself warm never once occurred to me. When Sid asked me, flat out, as he shivered that night of our one night stand, why I didn’t have a heater, I remember the sadness, the horror, as I realised I’d never considered it because mentally, I didn’t feel worthy of warmth.

Until that very moment, I’d had no idea just how much I had confused my numb, reckless, alcohol-induced Brave New Person, with simply shutting down and not coping.

People say that you drink to forget. The only time I remember Important Things, is when I’m drunk. But the next day, I can’t remember what I remembered, and I wonder how many secrets about myself and my past, that I discovered and lost, alone in that apartment, with this song the only witness?

I wonder what the walls heard, or who I spilled my secrets to at 4am on threadbare couches in darkened corners of dirty clubs and 24 hour pubs – There are strangers out there, walking around, who know things about me that I will never remember, and the shapes of their faces are little more than a faded blur of a whiskey soaked memory, and yet, they probably know me far more intimately than people who’ve known me for decades, because when the whiskey goes in, the walls come down, and I feel safe to be myself.

Until I become The Other Self, the one that’s too Too – too loud, too violent, too angry, too sad, too lost, too lonely, too desperate, too broken, too confused.

So now I’m a new Me. Again.

The walls are higher and thicker than they’ve ever been. Nobody gets through the generic How’s The Weather layer. I don’t know how to let them, without alcohol, and now I have new reasons to be more scared of the consequences of drinking than I ever had in the past. I have a child who doesn’t deserve to witness the demon inside me, or my punishment for who I apparently become.

This new me is a bit like the old me, in that I feel no connection. I have friends – those satellites who orbit my world, never getting inside, because I don’t know how to have friends and trust them. It’s easier to keep everyone at arm’s length, than to lose them, or have them leave you.

So now I find myself missing those days in that freezing apartment, where my whiskey words let me make the strongest connections to any friends I’ve ever had.

I wouldn’t trade what I have now for what I had then, but it sure would be nice to learn how to let go, and live.

Reason #458973 as to why I am trying not to drink. Also – this if a family warning. Do not read this if we are related. Trust me. You don’t want to know this shit.

Sharing drunken war wounds with Darbiel, the Sunshine Angel, I was reminded of that one time that I scared a man out of my apartment.

It was during Melbourne Whore Week, a week spent with a fellow wordpress blogger who shall remain anonymous unless she chooses to reveal herself, where we were stoned, drunk and/or having sex, the entire time.

It was seriously, the most fun week of my life.

I wish I could say that it was the most debauched, but to be honest, the events of this week are quite tame in comparison to the everyday life I lived when I first lived alone in that beautiful, cold city.

Nevertheless, on this particular occasion, my cohort and I met two men outside a popular eating establishment. We struck up a conversation, and, because I was guilt-ridden and hated myself for drinking, and was terribly, completely lonely, the only way I could alleviate that guilt and loneliness was to coerce others into drinking with me – any time of the day, any day of the week, any person who showed an interest in being an accomplice to my next drunken adventure. And that is how two men we met outside Hungry Jacks ended up naked in my apartment.

Well, one of them ended up naked.

The other one, I chased out of there with a broken wine bottle.

At least, that’s how he saw it.

What really happened was that he and I were standing next to the concrete wall in my bedroom. My wine bottle was empty. I didn’t enjoy that, so I broke it on the wall. I didn’t anger-smash it, I just “naughty bottle!” tapped the base of it against the wall, where it cracked and broke in an awesome crazy-heartbeat shape.

The fact that I was so clearly enjoying the sight of this broken bottle in my hand apparently alarmed this gentleman, who began to back out of my bedroom, saying nothing to his friend.

I looked up and saw him leaving, asked where he was going, and slowly began to follow him. I’d forgotten all about the broken bottle I was holding in my right hand.

It didn’t take long for his walk to turn into a bit of a run, until I was standing on my balcony in a t-shirt and my undies, holding a broken wine bottle and asking a man in unbuttoned jeans why he was running away from me.

“Because you’re holding a broken wine bottle like a crazy lady!” he shouted, as he ran down the stairs.

And that’s when I remembered that I was holding a broken wine bottle like a crazy lady.

I walked back into my apartment, put the bottle in the bin, went back to the bedroom and informed the naked people in there that I had just accidentally scared the other one away with a broken wine bottle.

Thankfully, the other guy was so enamored with my friend, he didn’t care.

Later on that week, we jumped into an already-taken taxi, and kidnapped convinced the passenger in there to not go home as the sun was coming up, but instead join us for our trip to the 24 hour bottle shop on Chapel St, and then to my apartment at Hawksburn station.

For half a day, he’d given us a fake name, because he was scared that we might possibly harm him.

Ha-ha. Those common misunderstandings!
*fake-smile-quiver*

The wounded flies

“I didn’t know how to buy underwear”, Jack smiled, from the bar stool beside me.

His hands were grease-blackened from decades spent beneath the body of a jacked up car. The grease had pooled in the wrinkles that deepened over the years, and with Mabel gone the way she went, well, sometimes he might forget to take a shower for a few days. Or sleep in a bed. Or cook a meal.

We were sharing war wounds, this lonely old drunk and me. At 32, I already had my own contribution to the Things Only Widowers Can Understand list.

“I didn’t know how to work the TV”, I replied, the ghost of a smile whispering through the pained grimace that had become my constant expression when something made me think of Janie. Which was every three to seven minutes, on average.

“With Janie working from home, and me never really watching TV, I never had to actually touch it myself. I discovered this the night I got drunk and decided I wanted to watch our wedding video”.

“That’s one thing I can say is I’m glad that sort of technology wasn’t around in my day. Photos and memories are hard enough”, Jack slurred over the top of his beer.

I nodded, and drained my whiskey. It burnt my gums and my throat on the way down, before settling like a small volcano in my sloshing stomach.

“Voicemail’s the hardest”, I replied, pushing myself up off my bar stool and nodding to the bar tender to pour us another round. “I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve called her phone. I don’t know if I’ll ever ring up to have it turned off. I just keep paying the bill each month”.

Now it was his turn to nod with understanding as I unfolded a twenty and dropped it on the bar. “I’m going to take a piss. There’s his cash when he comes back”.

I wormed my hands into my pocket and made my way through the back of the bar. The carpet had ceased to be fabric many years ago, and was now just a brownish-grey paste of cigarette ash and stale beer. It stuck to your shoes and made your flesh crawl, but it was home.

At 4pm on a Tuesday, the bar was only populated with the handful of dedicated regulars who knew each other by name, but spoke to each other only in short nods of acknowledgement. One of them, a heavy bloke named Bob, in a cheap, polyester suit and runners, sat in a booth near the bar, beneath a greasy lamp covered in dust, doing crosswords and drinking vodka.

In another booth a few rows back sat Karen, an overly-friendly, prone-to-crying, used-to-be-blonde woman with a penchant for whiskey and wine. She was exhausting, but thankfully her attention was occupied today by an unfortunate stranger who came in here looking for an easy woman. Well, he’d found one, but nothing is ever really easy.

I did my best to avoid making eye contact, the unwritten law of the seedy dive. When you’re at the bar, it’s acceptable to mutter an exchange about the weather or current Prime Minister’s latest arsehole policy, but when everyone was safe in their own personal drinking hole, you avoided any circumstance that would force you to intrude on their solitude.

People who wanted to be talked to sat at the bar.

I reached the bathroom door and steeled myself against the wall of stench I was about to encounter. It wasn’t the smell of piss, that smell I can tolerate, even on a grand scale. This was the smell of cheap urinal cakes. A lot of cheap urinal cakes.

I held my breath and did my best to avoid touching any surfaces with my hands. I pissed as quickly as I could, thanked God above that Management had at least forked out on taps that sense your hand beneath them, and fled from that filthy room like the hounds of hell were chasing me.

“Why don’t you just wait until he’s got his back turned and go into the women’s?” Jack asked me when I got back to my chair.

“Well, for three very good reasons”, I replied, hauling myself onto the bar stool.
“1. It’s the women’s bathroom;
2. Karen might follow me in there and;
3. I never thought of it”.

Jack laughed, finished his drink and slowly slipped out of his chair.

“See ya tomorrow, kid” he said, giving me a gentle slap on the back on his way past.

“See ya, Dad” I replied, watching my old man make his way toward an empty home. A man who hadn’t gotten used to it, he’d just had more practice at facing what I was still unable to face, myself.

I caught the bar tender’s eye and ordered another whiskey.

I took it to a booth and sat down, dragging my crumpled crossword from my back pocket.

Giving wings to this burden

“So what is it about drinking that makes you not want to stop?” asked my mental health nurse, today.

I had to think about it for awhile.

“I have no sense of time”, I replied.
“When I’m boozed, every moment is just that: a moment. Every booze night is nothing but a series of NOW with no thought about the future. I don’t get sick, I don’t get tired. I can drink beer for 20 hours and never throw up, never pass out. My body doesn’t know it should stop, my mind certainly doesn’t want to stop, and before I know it, the sun is up, I’m incoherent and the world crashes in on me again, taking me away from what is basically a magical place of No Worrying, hurling me into a place of pure self-hatred and regret”.

I lose days to drinking. The 12 – 18 hours of the drinking, plus the day or two hangover and comedown that sees me unable to move from the couch, crying at the drop of a hat.

I can’t do it any more. If I want a future, a life that is fulfilling, I just have to face the fact that it cannot involve alcohol.

I’ve made this decision on numerous occasions, but for the first time, it’s a relief. It isn’t something I feel I have to do to please others, this decision is solely for me, this time. It isn’t something I feel conflicted about. I am not sad that I will never share another wine with my mother, or drunk karaoke sing with my friends. Sure, I will miss those moments and I will struggle with them, but I’ve finally reached that place where all of that comes second to giving myself the very best chance that I have to live the life I dream about.

With any luck, my GP will prescribe me the magic no-booze pills that will help me to stay on track. If not, well, I’ll have to smack myself up the face every time I think about having a drink. I want one with every fibre of my being, but that feeling will pass. The self-hatred and disappointment of a binge is what stays with me forever.

It’s been a long and shitty road, but I’m so incredibly happy to be done with it. You cannot imagine the weight that has been lifted from my shoulders.

Onwards and upwards, amigos!

Reluctantly, the gloves come off

It’s a difficult place, the one I’m in right now.

Counselling allows you to unlock the door of the cage you’ve stashed all your hard times in.

Like an overstuffed cupboard, the moment you start pulling pieces out, the rest of them tumble all over you, smacking you in the face and piling up at your feet. No matter how hard you try, you can never put them back where they came from so you’re left holding things you didn’t want to touch in the first place.

They’re all sticky with feelings that come off on your hands and soak into your skin and worst of all, they come off on the people you touch, your special ones, the last people in the world you want to hurt.

Since beginning counselling, I’ve taken the dusty bottle off the shelf and emptied it dozens of times. For awhile there, it makes my ever-present depression float away. It seems the only place I understand myself is when half a bottle is sloshing around in my belly but that always comes at a price, one I’m all too familiar with.

We all know that what goes up must come down and the highs don’t have the longevity of the lows.

Mentally, I’m in a worse place than I’ve been in years and that’s without bringing alcohol into the equation. It lies to you, sidling up with its seductive, bad boy smile, promising painless moments of happiness, only to leave you half-naked on the bathroom floor crying into your vomit.

Now I remember where most of my bruises came from.

The danger I’m in is that even in my sober moments, I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to use all my energy putting on that smiling face to keep my sharp edges away from people who’ve done nothing to deserve them. These days, I want to light a match and watch all the bridges burn, one by one. And once again, I know that it’s just so I will be left alone with my clinking bottles and nobody to answer to.

The only difference between now and six years ago is that I know the cost of making the cold bathroom tiles my bedroom.

My fear is that it may well be a price I’m willing to pay.

Time to let the dust collect on the bottle again. We’re back to day one.

Guilty of being me

Well, it was inevitable.

The highs always hand you over to the lows and the lows are full of little papercut lies that scratch at your surface and worm their way inside. The more often you let them in, the more they become a part of you.

Last night was fun and as far as comedowns go, this is more of a gentle tumble down a grassy slope than my usual plummets into hell but the familiar heartsickness is humming away in the background, reminding me of the many days I once spent staring blankly at walls in lonely apartments, telling myself what a bad person I was.

It’s a self-inflicted suffocation that clutches at your airways, closing them off for a few moments as the panic rises and drags you under the maelstrom of chemicals you’ve imbalanced in your search for the answers to yourself.

The fact that you have nobody else to blame just makes it worse. You deserve this, you know?

There’s been a long line of people who have told me what a failing and flawed person I am, but none have told me as often or as brutally as I have told myself. Tonight, I’m ignoring that wine-soaked voice and reminding myself that nobody got hurt.

Not even me.

I can’t be anyone except myself, even those ugly parts of me that nobody likes. I can’t keep making myself small to avoid inconveniencing other people, particularly when they’re probably not even asking me to. I don’t just walk on eggshells, I’m the one who places them there.

The drinking has never been the problem, merely a symptom of this disease of worthlessness that I’ve carried untreated for decades. The problem with the drinking was always the self-destruction it was powered by, and nowadays, I’m not really out to destroy myself, just to understand myself, and learn how to cope with the brain I’ve been dealt.

I have to admit, for all its flaws and idiosyncracies, it does occasionally have some great ideas.

Caught a glimpse of your heart

I’ve always loved the safety of the internet. The fact that the people who read what you say can’t quite touch you, or reach in and make demands of you.

On a face-to-face basis, I don’t do so well with people. I talk openly about the most inappropriate or personal of topics, but I don’t ever reach for that actual deep connection with another human being unless I’m drunk.

The sad truth about my life is that my favourite pastime is to get drunk alone  and blanket myself in that warm place in the middle of the bottle, the place I try so hard to stay in that I end up emptying it and slipping well and truly over the edge and despite the happiness the world gives me, it’s something that will always be there, hovering on the edges, waiting for me.

It’s been a long time since I let myself get here, and although tomorrow is going to taste like regret and the lung I’ve coughed up from the pack of cigarettes I’ve smoked, right now, I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

It’s terrifying to realise that even still, after all these years of fighting against this desire, I can still find myself here, actually missing the lonely nights I spent where Jack Daniels was my only company and the only way I could keep warm.

I only miss it because at the time, it felt like the only person I was hurting was myself. And that was okay, because I enjoyed the pain of it all. Do you have any idea of the freedom that lies inside a bottle?

Lies. Inside a bottle.

It’s harder now, because I know better. That still doesn’t stop me from having just one more glass. It isn’t always like this, though. I can drink without Bri drinking. Even tonight, I’m not the kind of drunk that has caused me to lose friends and damage my loved ones. This is the fun kind of drinking that sees me re-enacting scenes from Beaches for the cats, who just stare at me before yawning and rolling over to lick their bums.

But it doesn’t take long.. and the memories will wash all over me, the reasons I slipped inside a bottle all those years ago. We all have them and we all find our own ways of dealing with them. Or not dealing.

It’s okay, they all come out in the wash eventually. For now, I’ll exorcise them with another glass of wine and a visit to my favourite bands; the dudes who kept me company when even Jack had made me miserable.

This is a maudlin-sounding post, but it’s really a celebration of the life that alcohol gives me, when I don’t let it steal my own.

It’s just the slipperiest of slopes and I’ve never been very coordinated.