Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Out of Isolation

Day 58

I can't hide anymore. And I don't know if I'm cool with this.

A few years back I jumped on the MySpace bandwagon. (Basically, to flirt with someone else's wife, but that's a story for another post.) I quickly learned how rigid the walls were between my carefully separated circles of friends.

I mean, I'm a pretty nice, easy-going guy, and a people-pleaser to boot. So basically, I will get along with you. Maybe you think the earth is 6,000 years old, and you don't drink or smoke, and you voted for McCain. Let's get coffee! Maybe you use a Mac, love Jon Stewart, and shop at Trader Joe's. Fine, we'll get tea! (Maybe you're a brilliant anarchist alcoholic who composes subversive post-modern music – In that case, sorry I never came back for my Master's Degree...) The point is, I get along with many crowds, but they don't necessarily get along with each other.

So with the MySpace thing, I had to pick one single version of me that everyone would see. I chose to see it as a growing experience, a chance to be more honest with all my friends, whether they drive a Prius or a Suburban. It was a really big deal for me. I don't think I knew how much of a chameleon I'd been.

Fast forward a few years: Myspace is out, FaceBook is in, the economy's crashed, Britney's back on tour, my grandma still doesn't have email. My personality is much healthier. More publicly integrated. I'm a Christian, I'm a composer, I'm a political moderate. I like Chocodiles. Pretty much the only schism left is the one between my sober self and my addict. But it's been a big one. If you read what I write here, you know my addict. If you also know my real name, then you're in a pretty small crowd. And that's where the madness comes in. Trying to be a musician/encourager/father on the outside, and hiding in desperate hopelessness in my living room at night. This is where all those years playing piano recitals actually hurt me. I learned to smile for you, perform for you, look competent for you, no matter what was going on inside.

And I learned it well. What I've heard, over and over and over, is that I never make mistakes. Well, I do. I'm just really really good at looking like I know what I'm doing. One example should cover it. I played for my friend Claire's wedding a while back. I was deathly ill, disorganized, late, unprepared etc. Classic Eli. I couldn't find my music the day of the wedding. I eventually realized I'd left it at the church, which was in totally the wrong direction. I was so late that I pushed my Chevy Astro to 100 mph several times on the way there. This is simply too fast.

I sang and played live for their first dance at the reception. I had never practiced the song all the way through, and was reading some of it for the first time. Everything turned out beautifully. I'm not bragging, I'm ashamed. I literally risked my life on the freeway that day. It was stupid.

Oh wow, is it uncomfortable to let people in on that flaky, insecure, afraid-of-failure me. Every step away from isolation and towards disclosure has been a little battle. I will never forget walking into my first few AA meetings. That kind of honesty, that vulnerability, was contrary to everything I'd ever learned about survival. Linsey sometimes points out my continued (unintentional?) efforts to keep the details of my personal life slippery. I show my therapist one part of the picture, my sponsor another, my 12-step groups another. But I'm trying to get past this. I'm trying, a little at a time, to look at all the pieces in my mosaic - what I'm proud of, thankful for, ashamed of, afraid of. And it hurts. It really does. With a kind of searing heat that I didn't know existed. There's just no way around it. But the miracle is that even if I pass out from the pain, I wake up again, and life's a little bit better.

On a practical level, it all comes down to a few silly things: I don't like to talk on the phone. I don't like to be noticed. I don't like it when program people ask me how I'm doing. So when a couple of people checked in on me this week, and I felt happy, I knew that something good is happening in my life. I'm and addict, and I'm struggling, and you still cared enough to ask me where I'd been, and remind me to keep at it. I'm here, I will, and most of all, thanks.


  1. You've got me addicted (not funny! sorry) to your story.

    I hated opening up, but it really did make me a better person.

  2. This is a fantastic, honest, beautiful post. You've given me lots too think about. I recognize so much of myself in what you're saying. Thank you.

  3. "Maybe you use a Mac, love Jon Stewart, and shop at Trader Joe's. Fine, we'll get tea!"

    Hey wait a minute... that's me, your brother! :)

    Would it help to know that when I read about the wedding incident I didn't think "Wow, he's awful... how could he have done that?" Instead I thought, "Hmmm, that sounds like a mistake I might make too."

    That's all I can write for now because I've got to get to pack up my Mac, run to Trader Joe's and pick up some stuff before meeting my friend for some (organic!) tea.

  4. I can identify with pieces of this so well - the I dont like to be noticed part, you sound like you are going places. Good for you.

  5. So you'd get along with a conservative atheist in recovery with absolutely no musical ability! hehe

    I'm pretty congruent in my face to face life, but once you add blogging and facebook, it gets confusing for me. Without someone standing there, I lose track of my audience. I don't want my employer or my children to read words meant for other addicts.

    This was a great post. Gave me a lot to think about.