Fucking… man, fucking, like… this shit happened where a person I was close to went to rehab and it just fucked my shit all sideways agoddamgain, and like, I just gotta fucking talk about it, ok. Yeah man, I have a fucking therapist, relax. But she don’t know me like you know me, you know? You and me, we got a thing going on.
Wait, OK first, HELLO! Been a minute since I farted hot clotted cottage cheese into your brain canals, no? Come here and lemme squeeze thos li’l bunzies, ya big softie, how could I stay mad at you, look at that face! The face of a fucking ANGEL, bro! Bro!
This is probably where the Head Blogger in Charge of one of the bajillion sparsely updated blogs floating out in the internet ether says that they got busy or whatever, but I did not get busy. In fact, on the surface, I’ve not been doing much at all. Making a lot of art and craft shit I guess, but that’s just to pass the time, it’s kind of mindless crafting. Smoking weed and thinking a lot. Doing some groundwork prep for next year’s MVP, and a bunch of movement shit with those dance queens I like to gig with.
What I’ve been up to, in a larger and deeper sense, is protecting myself from the absolute horror of human beings, because BOY FUCKING HOWDY do we suck every saggy, sweaty ball in the universe.
So anyway, back to us: a person in my life went to fucking rehab.
Anyone reading this thing probably drank long and deep from the veritably industrial-sized trough of tea regarding this person’s manic, very public and devastating race to the bottom. Before they sent her off to what looked from afar to be a fancy spa with a doctor hanging around or some rich white person bullshit like that, she managed to tornado her way through a lot of people and circumstances, causing all kinds of fallout.
The profound effects that an addict can have on your life are stunning. You know that scene at the end of The Usual Suspects when the detective lets Verbal leave and then starts putting two and two together and suddenly he’s like OH SHIT I JUST GOT PLAYED A FOOL? That’s basically been the past six months. I really hung on to that hope, you guys, but it was fucking dumb of me and I’m annoyed at myself.
I felt like I was going crazy. People would know things about me that I had never told them. Personal shit - private things about my health or deep personal feelings about a situation that I wouldn’t mention to someone I didn’t trust (LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL4ETERNITY GET A FUCKING CLUE VK).
People I thought were casual friends just stopped saying hi or avoided me, and in a few cases, got kind of fucking nasty about their disdain for me. I blamed myself! I’m not perfect, and I clearly pissed some people off. I suck all the bags of all the dicks! Of COURSE people hate me, why would they feel any other way? I don’t belong here! My dudes, I tried to move to Minnesota for a minute, like a coward weirdo. What in the actual fuck?
But then also I’m not living with my head up my ass, I had a clue as to what was going on. So I tried to address the bullshit with point blank questions about what she had said and to whom, and I always received the same gross performance of feigned innocence and victimization, followed by a tirade of the most vile, insulting, mean-as-fuck shit about whomever it was I had asked about. For the record, I believe none of the bilious slime that was served up to me.
I think the most effectively diminishing power play was this absolutely incredible move: after minutes of frantically texting and snickering, she’d look up and say something like, “duuuude, <PERSON> fucking haaaaaaates you,” then laugh, reengage with the phone and continue to text.
COOL BRO, THANX. MAY I HAVE A FUCKING NOTHER? Always with the texting. I’m so goddam sick of farcebook, and fucking constant text conversations, and how if you say one fucking thing to anyone, they’ll screenshot that shit and broadcast it to anyone who gives a damn, and probably a whole bunch of people who don’t. Now a fuck ton of strangers know you have to have an abortion, or broke up with your partner, or got fired from your job, or fucked your ex who is now dating so-and-so, or whatever completely meaningless but personal shit you just wanted to tell a friend in confidence. HA. This is 2019. The cell phone is every unarmed citizen’s greatest weapon of domestic terror.
But that rampant proliferation of your private crap is actually a massive and deep violation of a lot of things: trust, boundaries, respect, ownership of someone else’s story; it’s selfish bullshit and I am full UP on fucking selfish bullshit. Enough.
Look, I haven’t even been in Portland long enough to have, like, given all your cousins herpes or gotten into a drunken punch fight at your sister’s wedding or whatever. Gimme a minute, I’ll get there, I’ve got a couple good years in me before I just shrivel up into a cobweb- and Chunky Monkey-filled kitty litter box or whatever it is that our sick culture assumes happens to women over 19. What? She’s 27? UNFUCKABLE. Put her up on the shelf in the garage with the rest of the antiques for the yard sale.
But I digress.
So anyway, what I’m describing to you is a particularly nasty form of gaslighting, and it’s a form of emotional abuse. Which is WEIRD TO FUCKING THINK ABOUT in this context, but there is one unifying thread that binds all forms of gaslighting together, whether from a partner or, as in this case, someone you consider close enough to be family: it is always carried out by a narcissist, and the self-obsessed human doling it out isn’t thinking about the person they’re trying to snow AT ALL, other than how manipulating them makes them feel powerful.
It’s fucking sad. I’m sad. I mean I was hurt for a while, then I was mad, then I was hurt again, and then I found some peace. And then I heard all kinds of horrible things because people started talking to me again, even if mostly it was only to find out what was up with her since this whole town seems to have some sort of perverted fixation on this person. And no, I don’t feel any regret writing about it, actually. She had her time to sling my dirt. It’s my turn now.
So yeah, she was away for quite some time. I wrote supportive letters on cute letterpress cards, still laboring under the delusion that what had gone down was just a matter of drugs and booze clouding an otherwise good person’s mind, and that there would be some kind of moment of redemption afterward during which I’d be able to address all of this and, hopefully, get some kind of closure on it.
Nah. This shit doesn’t work like that. I didn’t realize that with addicts, you have to let them go completely. If they heal themselves, you have to meet them as a brand new person, and get to know them all over again. And that can only happen IF you can let go of all of the resentment, sadness and anger that they probably left you holding the bag on when they decided (read: were forced) to get clean. It can happen. My bestie is clean after years of addiction and we managed to work it out. But shit, it was not fucking easy, and it took like five years.
The second time she went away to sobriety glamp AKA #DisneyDetox!, I finally took a hard look at what in the goddam fucking hell I was doing with myself. I quieted down and just stopped putting myself into situations that felt bad. Tamped out some smoldering ashes of what could have been healthy fires if not for the poisonous wood with which we had built them.
In the process of having to sit back and identify what people and situations made me feel consistently anxious or left me feeling raw, diminished or drained of energy, new shit came to light, man. And I guess somewhere along the line I accepted that I’m an addict too. It’s just that my addiction is shitty people treating me as an afterthought unless they need something from me. Narcissists, basically. I’m addicted to narcissists. Well, and cigarettes. I’m also addicted to cigarettes, but we’re not here for nicotine today. We’ll get there, relax champ.
So I did a narcissist detox, which basically involved avoiding any and all social contact that didn’t fill me with a feeling of joy or comfort to think about, and so like, you know where this is going, I didn’t fucking speak to a soul in a social context for months. I just held my space and held myself as I would a best friend or family member, and when opportunities to socialize came up, I got to consider their value to me in context.
Here’s what I mean by that. Stay with me. Our environment and culture has us so wound up about everything that we consider convenience a good thing. But convenience is not always a good thing, and leaves us worse off in a lot of contexts.
Say you’re hungry and it will be an hour before you can get home and make yourself a lovely healthy dinner. You see the Snickers Bar, and you’re like… ok I gotta get that Snickers in my maw right now. Because you want and you need and the Snickers fits the bill in that moment, EVEN THOUGH it has zero nutrition and ultimately you’ll be hungry as soon as the sugar rush is over. EVEN THOUGH you know in your heart of hearts that if you can just wait it out, the healthy home cooked meal you’ll make if you can just. get. home. will be so much better for you and make you feel better than the Snickers. You kind of don’t care that the Snickers is actually damaging your health because you just feel this raging desire to stifle the hunger for the short term.
I didn’t have the confidence or self-control to realize that what I was doing was filling myself up on Snickers people instead of heading slow and steady-like toward a fortifying plate of kale and sweet potatoes. I couldn’t slow down enough to see that I was even eating a Snickers, I just grabbed on to it because it’s what I had always been used to eating.
It’s been a lesson in patience for me, and also a lesson in identifying the why behind any particular hunger. Why do I want to spend time with toxic people, why do I go out of my way to serve and help others who actively talk hard trash about me and can’t be bothered to return a text message or follow through on commitments? Why do I let myself get to the point at which I’m so exhausted by other people that I THEN IN TURN CAN’T RETURN TEXT MESSAGES?!
I’m such a fucking dick.
But you know what, after a few months, I started to feel better, and my health improved, and I felt relaxed and comfortable with myself, and then suddenly, people started coming out of the woodwork to chill with me in nonreactive calm.
It all started by going back to my happy place (“oh yeah, what’s your happy place VK, the dildo store? The city dump?” - you), the movement studio Hustle & Flow. A few weeks later, an actual lady scientist who goes there too said I was INTERESTING and asked me to share a meal in a public place, and we went and we chatted and it was very very NORMAL except the part where she is a scientist because I don’t think I’ve ever met an actual scientist with like lab coats and petri dishes and shit. Achievement unlocked, as 2016 indoor kid twitter would say.
Then an old high school acquaintance reached out to connect for the hell of it. I found time for small bites of nutritious conversation and vitamin-rich interactions. I reached out and apologized to a friend who had also been a victim of the machinations of our mutual addict friend and it had messed us up with each other. I suppose it was useful for her in some way to have us mad at each other all the time. Fixed that shit and set it right, and shook out all the toxic lies I was told.
Then I connected with a cool-ass new friend who called me on the goddam actual telephone JUST TO TALK ABOUT WHATEVER (what hero left on this planet does that? Is this the real life?) and we went to see that movie Midsommer? And like, initially I intended to write about that fucking insane modern masterwork, a movie that every reviewer seems to be getting wrong because they’re all young dudes who haven’t experienced a close death yet and that movie is basically going to read like a foreign language to anyone who hasn’t had to grieve a major loss and then throw on top of the film’s absolute master depiction of grief that it is also essentially a feminist manifesto about empathy, and that basically every dumbass male reviewer out there is like, “it was ok, it was no Hereditary, and it really wasn’t scary,” and it just makes me want to rip my hair out and scream, OH SORRY IT’S NOT A FUCKING MARVEL MOVIE, YOU FUCKING SELF CENTERED SCRUB, and I WILL get to writing about that, but the thing is, without telling you where my head’s been at lately, my HOT TAKE on that movie and the friendship that led me to seeing it and what happened in my head afterward would have been super weird to read. After reading my draft a couple of times, I was like… this makes no sense unless you’re me. So here we are. My comeback post, I reckon, though “comeback” would imply that anyone gives a rat’s ass.
See, withholding care and kindness and attention feels like love to me because that’s what things were like back in the day. My family did their best in many cases, but I certainly learned that if someone cares about you, they ignore you; and your time should be spent in a constant pursuit of what you will never have.
I’m like that, and the people I thought I cared about the most are like that. I’m just like them. It’s a fucking tough mirror to look into, but I’m fucking doing it because I think it’s so worth it to not be like that anymore. To figure out what care looks like, and what being held by my community feels like, and to stop giving my energy away like flavored condoms in a giant fishbowl on the countertop of an ultralounge bathroom circa 2001.
So this is on me just as much as it is on other people. You know how many awesome opportunities to hang with stellar humans I turned down or ignored because I thought that if I just held on and worked harder and did more and put my life on hold to help help help, that some day the people who treated me like dirt would finally see my value? SO FUCKING MANY. So fucking many. Incidentally, Midsommer is also sort of about this too. Midsommer is basically about everything. Please go see it and then invite me to a hot or cold drink to discuss it or better yet lemme just go with you I gotta see that shit again. I don’t have a car though, so you gotta pick me up. I’ll bring the canned wine and a portable cheese plate for mid-film refreshments if you can even think about food after SPOILER ALERT watching someone get their face smashed in - repeatedly! And at uncomfortably close range! - with a giant mallet. Good times, man. So brutal! Just like LIVIN!
So look, I’m grateful to have gone through this and to be still going through this right now. I don’t want to be a piece of shit anymore, I want to be, like, the butt that the piece of shit came out of, maybe. I do love butts. And as a lone butt out in the world that just wants love and a safe place to fart all night, perhaps I’ll start finding some really bitchin’ underwears to cover me up when I have to leave the house, or a big warm pair of hands to smack me when I’m being cheeky or like, a sweet ass couch cushion with a double dip shape already sunken into it for me. But in the meantime, this butt is a loner, Dottie. A rebel. You don’t want to get mixed up with a butt like me.