Do things long enough, and they become your routine. Get stuck in a routine, and you don’t think about what else there is. Your routine becomes your life – your world. For most who work, the break in the routine is the weekend, when they might go out, unwind; for me, the weekend was just another two days.
So when a cousin’s wedding approached, I advised my mum months in advance that I wouldn’t be going. This was unlike the couple of times I’d been out, chaperoned in a controlled environment to buy Wolf, or see Mike – two excursions that were brief and which, if worse came to worst, I could back out of. This was an event. I’d be there for five or six hours, I’d be trapped, and I’d have to socialise and interact with people. My mum agreed that I didn’t have to go. That was a relief. Something I no longer had to worry about.
The day before the wedding, my mum said I had to go to the reception – I could skip the ceremony, but I was to do what was required to make myself capable of going to the reception, or I’d be cut off from any parental support. I don’t know if she would’ve and, if it really came down to it, it probably would’ve turned out to be a hollow threat, but that’s not what you consider when you’re vulnerable.
So I drank, beginning in the early afternoon, and by the time we left for the reception, everything was a blur. I drank steadily through the reception, talked with people, listened to speeches, watched the dancing, and drowned in the music. It was like all the weddings I’d gone to in my life, but now I was numb, overloaded not only by beer, but by stimuli I hadn’t experienced for years.
This was also the first cousin to be married from the generation of cousins in my age bracket, so it was a big thing, but sitting there, it made me think of the world ticking on, moving on, outside my sphere of comfort. Time didn’t wait for me – wouldn’t wait for me. It doesn’t wait for anybody.
Another time, my cousin Roo suggested going to the football. I hadn’t gone to a game for years – since before this had begun. I missed the ritual of it and decided to go. Again, I did what it took. What it took was having breakfast in the morning, then starting on beer from 10.00am. By the time it came time to leave, the road to drunkenness insulated me – and continued to throughout the game, although there was times I wanted to rush home. I countered by drinking more and faster.
Just to get in a mindset where I could contemplate going took so much badgering of myself that, eventually, a line was crossed where I backed myself into a corner and it became a matter of all or nothing – like climbing up to a high diving board for the first time and knowing that you either jumped, or had to climb back down the ladder, (not always easy, when there’s a line of people behind you). And then the beer did the bulk of the work. It not only relaxed me, but unfocused me, so my thoughts didn’t get fixed.
It didn’t always work, though. Several friends had weddings that I didn’t attend because the fear was too much. I tried talking myself into it, but to no avail, and even the thought of medicating myself with beer seemed futile. There were also times my screenwriting got nibbles, and I was too worried about trying to meet people to go out and talk to them.
But there had been a shift – and as small as it was, it was significant. I’d gone from never wanting to go anywhere to contemplating it. And as bad as my anxiousness would get about prospects, at least there were no panic attacks pounding me back down.
Wolf’s vet was initially a mobile vet, but he retired when Wolf was a couple of years old. So I took Wolf to a vet fifteen minutes away by car. The first few times, there was the typical apprehension. But it wasn’t long before I grew desensitized.
Then there was a new plaza, about a ten minute drive away. The first time I drove there, I stood in the middle of the promenade, light-headed. I wanted to rush back to the car and drive straight home. Then I decided to hell with it.
My stay at the plaza wasn’t long and it was edgy, and I grew anxious just walking around, but when I drove home I was elated. It was the furthest I’d gone alone. It wasn’t long before I’d assimilated the plaza into my sphere of comfort.
In my safe little world I found stability, and I again decided to give the antidepressants the flick. This time I did it much more slowly than I’d done years earlier, and once I’d weaned off the Tofranil, I decided the Xanax should be next. I went from one full .5mg tablet morning and night to halves morning and night.
That was when some obsessiveness crept back through. Xanax originally came in a bottle. Then it came in aluminium tabs. Whenever I filled a prescription, I’d pop all fifty pills into an old bottle. When I started taking halves, I broke all the pills into halves. Sometimes I would just refill prescriptions whenever it was convenient, and even if I had plenty of Xanax remaining.
A few times at night, I completely forgot whether I took my half of Xanax. At the dosage I was taking, it wouldn’t have mattered much to skip or take an extra half. Instead, though, I would empty the bottle and count the amount of Xanax remaining. If it was an odd number, I knew I hadn’t taken my nightly dosage. If it was even, then I had.
The weirdest thing about this whole ritual was that it didn’t seem weird at all.