The Portland State community wears many hats. Tiaras even. For the last couple years I have been a student, an employee and a musician. I have worked to keep my focus and maintain a sense of balance within my pursuits. This semester I finally admitted I was deceiving myself.
I wasn’t necessarily doing this on purpose. This was simply how I had laid out my life. At some point I decided it was more fun to drive the wrong way down a one way street, more fun to revel in self-destruction, to look the world in the eye and say, “You can’t kill me because I am willing to kill myself, slowly and methodically.”
I did this with a smile on my face. If there wasn’t a party nearby, I could find one elsewhere. When there wasn’t a party one could be mustered. Awkward, stumbling, forced – a crusade against boredom, a wall against responsibility.
But the signs the party was ending were there. They had been for a long time. I increasingly felt disconnected, suffered from overwhelming anxiety and fully realized my goals and lifestyle were completely incongruent. Yet I continued to push myself.
There is no explaining what finally gave. A glaring recognition of all I see now? Turning 30? A simple act of self-preservation? It is impossible to know exactly why, but one spring morning I stood outside Portland’s abject detox and rehab center ready to voluntarily check myself in. I had no health insurance and no direction. I did have an extra pair of socks and my toothbrush.
Once inside I was no longer a student, a writer, a musician. I was merely another addict, filled with Librium to stave my shaking and sweating, laid out to dry. I realized I have as much in common with society’s overlooked as I do with any of my PSU peers. I realized I was not special and I realized the lies I had been living.
This is not the first time I have had such a revelation. There have been many attempts in my past to cut down, to stop, to turn over a new leaf. But this time things feel different. I am no longer living with a sense of denial, no longer sardonically referring to falling off the wagon. No longer putting things back together just long enough to fuck them up again.
And I am remembering to say thank you. Thankful for the friends that have looked me in the eye and told me they were proud, thankful for my roommates and bandmates who have had patience with me while I refused to face responsibility. Thankful for the many anonymous that walk among us and have made the same discovery I have and are always willing to reach out a helping hand and offer a supportive word.
With trepidations and fears I face this new revelation: I admit I suffer from a disease. But I move forward with a sense of possibility, of excitement. This excitement comes with highs and lows, manic energy and pensive quietude, my excitement is sometimes hard to control. I am enjoying this excitement and making peace with this revelation.
This excitement is not a condemnation but an incredible opportunity, a difficult opportunity but an opportunity worth taking advantage of. Not an ending but a beginning.
This summer I will do many of the things I previously planned on doing. I will complete some papers to straighten out my GPA. I will work, and I will tour the western states playing music. On June 22 I will play with the band that epitomizes success and integrity to me, Dead Moon. In August I will see my band’s second album released on vinyl. Next year I will finally graduate and will hopefully have my grad school plans in order.
And I will do all this with a new hat. Tenuously perched atop my head will be the hat of a recovering alcoholic.