Vulnerability Hangover

I just spent a few moments looking for quotes about vulnerability that might speak to what I am feeling and have been feeling as of late. No such luck. I knew I would bump into the positivity of some Brene Brown, but I also hoped that I might find something that described the utter fear, insecurity, and disconnect that I have been stewing in for the last four days. Nope. I found quotes about courage and love and intimacy and catharsis. I even found a page dedicated to inspirational quotes by my seemingly constant companion, the late drunkard and writer, Charles Bukowski. Really? Really? I call bull shit.

You see, on Saturday I told my story—my life story!—to a small group of women. In a very honest but abbreviated way, I started from the beginning and shed a brief light on the past thirty-eight years. I focused both on healing and on pain. And, I felt great. Well, thought I felt great. Until my neck, shoulders, and jaw started to ache. Until I started feeling all second-guessy and insecure. Until I got depressed.

Mapping out the particulars of my personal Lifetime movie might not have been the only catalyst for this trip to the ledge. I have also been doing some work that requires me to face ugly truths about myself, and I have been triggered by some situations and little loving criticisms that have brought those truths to light. I could go on and on about my inability to communicate my needs and about my selfishness and self-centeredness and my constant state of denial. But, it probably isn’t necessary. You get the point.

As a writer and a frequent flyer at the therapist’s office, I didn’t think vulnerability would get to me. I feel like I often lay it all out on the line. I generally think that I am open and honest and raw. But, for some reason, this time is different. Scary different. I want to weld shut the hinges on my clam shell and hide in the dark with my long black tongue. I want to keep my mouth forever closed.

This, my friends, is (as my therapist refers to it) a vulnerability hangover.

Ugh. At least it’s not a bourbon hangover.

But, a bourbon hangover is, perhaps, a little easier with which to deal. You just have another shot of bourbon and you’re back in the saddle feeling great. Looking at the nasty about yourself is not mollified by looking at more nasty. There is no real sedation. Still, this is the pain of genuine change. I am truly growing and not just surfing the same monotonous unemotional wave of inebriation.

I’ve started a piece several times about the anniversary of my first sober post. I began the piece like this:

On October 12th of last year, I published my first sober post “Dos Carnations.” I was three weeks in and decided to write about life’s little gifts and the possibility of the divine within us. I distinctly remember writing that post, hunched over in bed, rapidly tapping the keys of my laptop. Even though I was newly sober, I was already experiencing some real clarity. I had been a daily drinker and in denial about how much it was affecting me.

For some months prior to that post, there had been little creative inspiration. I didn’t know it at the time, but as I sunk deeper into my liquid prison, I was losing my voice. I was beyond hoarse. I was dying. Sure, there were a few shitty entries about how I feared love, but they were forced and had little soul. (Funny, I no longer fear love– another of the gifts of time and sobriety.)

So, this year has been a year of miracles—from the moment I decided to quit drinking to this very moment.

And, this has been a year of miracles not the least of which is regaining and using my voice. Yet, I feel so damn icky. I know that awareness is one way to elicit change, but, as they say, ignorance can be bliss. Especially ignorance to your seemingly abundant shortcomings. But bliss is only blissful until it is no longer blissful. And, the hell of my life was trumping the bliss.

So, what can I do with this icky feeling? This awareness? I can journal. I can pray. I can humbly ask God to remove my shortcomings. And, I can tune my voice and focus on the miracles. I must pull up my big girl pants and march through the fear. Just spelling out that intention here alleviates the discontent just that little bit.

I have a very dear friend and movie buff that lives by this quote from the Shawshank Redemption: “Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.” My fear, I suppose is of abandonment and of doing the wrong thing and of being exposed as the ugly creature that I am. My hope, however, is my voice. My voice is my gift. It is, I believe, a gift for each one of us. It is, perhaps, all that we truly have. I am fortunate enough to be able to have that gift of articulation. Instead of living in fear, I should trust. I should let it set me free.

I was, in my Googling, reminded about these lines in the poem “bluebird” by Bukowski:

there’s a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out but I’m too tough for him, I say, stay in there, I’m not going to let anybody see you. there’s a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out but I pour whiskey on him and inhale cigarette smoke and the whores and the bartenders and the grocery clerks never know that he’s in there.

I know I must let that bluebird out. I don’t want to be too tough for him or to fearful. It is part of the miracle that is me. So, here, yet again, I must make that commitment to use my voice. If only to get rid of this damn hangover. This verbal hair of the dog has actually helped. So, in that way, I am being selfish again by subjecting you to it. I guess all I can say at this point is thank you for being there for me as you scan your eyeballs across this screen. Thank you for listening.


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