Something in the Way

I needed to write this post because I was unable to write all the posts I wanted to this week.

Since Thursday, there’s been something in the way.

I always have a document ready. It’s my parachute document, my last resort document. I open it when I can’t write anything else. It’s filled, like diary entries, with days when I couldn’t write. Each entry begins in a similar way: “I can’t write today.”

But what do you do when you can’t write about how you can’t write?

I slept more. I ate more. I tried to play the H.A.L.T. card—H.A.L.T. stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired—four states of mind you can do something about. So I ate, meditated, reached out for help, and rested. And I found that—while full, calm, connected, and rested—I still couldn’t do what brings me joy.

Maybe you know the funk?

It’s like being at arm’s length from living. All of a sudden you are a step behind—a day late and a dollar short. The old routines don’t have the same effect any more. No matter what you do, you are going through the motions. It’s like your world is held together by string and that string is unraveling but you can’t find the scissors to make a clean cut of things. You have to watch it unravel. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

You know you’re in a bad place and that you need to reach out for help. Your friends have died from this. You’ve seen mothers weep and fathers lose their words. You have the tools to do something about it. So, you do something about it. You call your sponsor or a friend. You tell someone close to you what is going on. You use the tools of your recovery. And nothing changes.

You discover the funk you are in has no name. No treatment. It is that which remains when you do everything else that normally works.

You’re not irritable or discontent. If you were one of those, you could pen the problem on paper, pray it away. Not this. This is a state of existence, best expressed by that phrase you use in public to describe yourself to others when you’re in it: “I’m fine.” It’s the words—“I’m fine”—the words you know can’t ever honestly express how you feel that honestly express how you feel. Just. Fine. Thank you.


You curse the knowledge that cures you.


You know what the right thing to do is, but the funk has settled over you like a three-day rain. There’s no staying dry.

Well wishes all just magnify the fact that there’s nothing really wrong in the first place.

The power of positive thinking reminds you that you are powerless to think positively.

A gratitude list is a list of people you’d do anything to feel appreciation for because if you felt appreciative of them, something wouldn’t be in the way any more.

Prayer is the thing that used to bring you comfort. And you can forget about meditation.

They say the unexamined life is not worth living but the funk makes the examined life suffocating. Its microscope examines every thought and action down to the molecule. You meditate and you discover that all the smaller problems you’re experiencing are part of a larger existential malaise.

So you go through the motions because the motions are all that you have to go through. You stop expecting an embrace to make you feel better. You stop hoping that some exercise will break the spell. You stop trying to fight the funk with food, sports, words, hugs, tears, posts, chores, sleep, talks, books, calls, smiles, frowns or laughter.

You acknowledge that there is no way out but through. Then you curse that knowledge. When something is in the way, there is no way through. And if there is no way out but through, there is no way out when something is in the way.

Your sponsor tells you the most spiritual thing you can do in a funk like this is not drink. So you don’t drink. You accept that you will be going through the motions until further notice, and you hope that if you don’t drink, it will get better.

Something’s in the way, and you need to accept that.

Acceptance won’t take it away, but it will keep you from all the shame you feel when you pretend there’s nothing there.

So, you accept the thing that cannot change; you find the courage to do everything that should change the thing, knowing that nothing can; and you cling to the wisdom that a drink or a drug won’t help.

One thing is for certain, when something is in the way, there’s no good in denying it.

22 Responses to “Something in the Way

  • As always, you nail it. I’m glad you are feeling better! I’m in a funk, too. I know why, and I also know that my gratitude list literally swamps my troubles. Such a weird deal. I’ll snap out of it but in the meantime it sure is weird. This is certain: I won’t drink about it. Have a good week, Mark.

    • How is your week going, HD? I’ve been thinking about you. I hope it has passed (or is passing). The fog is lifting for me…slowly. Ain’t that summing with the gratitude list and all? How the solution we know works can lend to the problem. Weird is right.

      • Today I do feel myself coming out of it. Slowly, as you say. Not entirely sure why it’s so hard to pull my head out of my ass! And throw in a big dose of “me, me, me.” So wild how we can know it intellectually but not still requires emotional acceptance for us to make progress. Anyway, thanks for asking. 👊

        • Weird. Maybe it’s connected to the planets. My mom would say that. But, the relief is happening for me now too.

  • I feel this way quite often. I find comfort in feeling a common vibe with the uniqueness yet sameness in our paths and who we are. Its like I can read what you write and know you know what I feel and think. I sometimes think that these “funks” are either one of two things. Deception due to my fear and self doubt, telling me that I am in a funk and I can’t when really it is the fear of pushing through and failing that keeps me slothful some days. Or it is actually God himself, presenting me a challenge, a test, so that I may realize the power within me, the power He has given me to overcome anything that is in my way. Thanks for making me really think and gain some clarity to start my week. Keep fighting.

    • I like to think of it that way: a test. I pass by not taking a drink, by persevering. Hope to hear from you sometime this week Kip!

  • “You stop trying to fight the funk with food, sports, words, hugs, tears, posts, chores, sleep, talks, books, calls, smiles, frowns or laughter…”

    When all the distractions of society fail to help, then that funk you are facing is reality. You are seeing through the wall and are looking into the abyss.

    All IMO, of course.

    • I share your opinion. Although, I know an abyss. I know that “feel”. This feels different. It’s like I’d love the release of staring into an abyss, but something is stopping me from getting there, from putting my feet on the edge. I guess, for me, this feeling is more like a slow suffocation than a free fall.

  • Thank you so much for this!! It is good for someone who loves someone who is struggling with an addiction to hear!!!

  • Kristin
    3 weeks ago

    I have been struggling with this for longer than I can count. Thank you for your ever eloquent words describing what I’m feeling! I guess when they say “You are no longer alone” they mean it! I hope your path through it is short. 🙂

  • Through it…
    All your words touch me…but these 2 …THROUGH IT… rock my core.
    Funk Sucks… but hope we can all get through it is what I see as a brightener.

    Here’s to shining brighter.
    M

  • Thank you Mark, for expressing how I feel when my depression is bad.
    You expressed how I feel when I sick, which is often, and I get very down.
    I understand I have to go through it, but it’s hard.
    Sometimes, there is no through, for me it’s learning to live with it, side by side with my other self.
    My sick self, lives with my healthy self.
    If that makes sense.
    xo
    Wendy

    • It makes total sense. There is a balance to it all. So glad you could relate Wendy. It’s just sometimes the scales tip a little to far in one direction.

  • saoirsek
    2 weeks ago

    How timely… I was just reading a piece on the way back from a meeting. It was about accepting and acknowledging your feelings. The writer spoke about the Buddhist belief that all feelings, good and bad pass. Ride the wave, thanks for another wonderful post.

  • Mark, I can’t relate to everything you write about (because I don’t have that experience). But I always relate to something. This ‘felt’ familiar in many ways. Thank you for writing it, sharing it, and letting me (and others) reflect on it.

  • stepsherpa
    2 weeks ago

    I ran outside to play with the neighbor I don’t like and was stung by a bee. Life isn’t fair.

    I’m up. I’m awake. Living others lives on Youtube with my new headphones. I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari, I’m willin. Yeah, My back pages…I’ve, my…me, take me..make me an angel..Huh? What? Don’t cry.

    My wife couldn’t sleep. Her body ached. My partner. I hear faint thumps and bumps from the bedroom as I begin my decent into my abyss of fragmented imagination. I write about symptoms of deceptive marketing, why? Not sure. Maybe my sister complaining about her new flawed bath tub yesterday. I am already convinced the world is a ghetto. Hoping to be redeemed for not having painted mine when I had the chance. People…I’m fighting, why?

    I await my turn to complain as I double dutch my way into the day playing an aggressive validation hopscotch on the keyboard. Rocking back and forth, chomping at the bit, waiting for my move. Aren’t symptoms of problems, problems also? My mind is racing. What was just confusion? Has become bad. What started as clever whit has once again become madness.

    Jesus! The printer installer pop up again? Give me a break! This thing is in my registry. I need a new computer. While I’m at it? The porch window needs to be painted so I’m buying another house! Give it to me! I’ll fix it! Me..Mr pissypants.. I sigh heavily under the burden of the world.

    She had eaten some sugar bar I thought was healthy when I bought it for her from the healthy bar cul de sac at Food Universe. The place where toxic waste can be low on carbs and stamped natural or organic for double money. Here! Have a Horse puckie..It’s free range? eh..organic and local! yeah??Of course it tastes like crap..It’s crap! Idiot! Sucker! Oh, here we go..name calling. I am now officially beating myself.

    She still can’t sleep. I have my own issues. I’m in my zone. Somewhere between being Thor and ready to do battle and AAAAHHH! I got cat food gravy on me! It’s 5:00 ALREADY?

    Still can’t write. It’s getting light out. The kid with the diesel monster truck down the street just left for work rattling my storm windows. I want to write about “letting go” but when? How? I have to get to work myself in a few minutes…damn.

    Me Me Me…what about me…Finally I’ve had enough selfishness and give up? Surrender.. More like I let it go.. It’s not mine, the world and it’s people aren’t mine, she’s not mine, the cat…no, none of it really. I just let it go……I kinda get some clarity. Like I’ve been here before.

    I see myself writing about something as if doing it is the same thing. Like thinking about cleaning the garage is as if I actually did it then agitated because it’s still a disaster area. Didn’t I clean the garage? Nope. Thought about it though.. Wrote about it. More unresolved issues. I set myself up to fail.

    OK I’ve had enough of myself finally. I realize in all my grand understanding of life my partner, my kind and loving partner is still rolling around in the bedroom in search of painfree slumber. I brought her a hot towel for her head ache. nothing. So now it’s serious. I search out the cat shaped stinky microwavable neck thing she got for Christmas and nuke for 6 minutes. Not quite Chernobyl heat but hot potato from the kitchen to the bedroom. She acts like this is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for her. I think of that Natalie Merchant kind and generous song..Geeze..Like what, I wouldn’t do it anytime? weird. I almost made some comment as if me getting her the neck thing was her fault.. Like this thing stinks up the microwave and of course that would be the end of the world. But I don’t. something is pulling me toward compassion and understanding. Maybe it’s her rubbing off, can’t be sure.. No it’s her. She is kind and loving always while I’m well..part time.

    Whatever…It’s time to go to work and I haven’t written anything about letting go. Wait. Maybe I have. Maybe it’s just this simple still. Even as my life becomes more and more of whatever it becomes, whenever I am headed straight for it or blindsided by it, I still must keep it simple. I mean, keep it simple, let it go..there’s no more noise in the bedroom. Everything is peaceful and quiet. Alright, new day, rough start. New day…

    I see it now. Me, her, life, all of it..It’s about letting go so I can give. I have nothing to steal today, nothing to preach, none of it’s mine. I am here to serve. I am lucky to serve. Man did I catch a break when I got scrooged. My life is more than I could have thought possible..I mean look at me! I actually have purpose in spite of myself…I am in control yet control nothing. I feel validated when I give without expectation? kooky. I would have never figured this out alone. The whole “less is more” thing.

    Be good to yourself that others may benefit.

    • stepsherpa
      2 weeks ago

      The Big Book 12 Steps suggestion for me? Pray for direction. Only when I’m jammed with self or constantly?

      It suggests emptying my head with a newcomer. I guess I never know what I have until I give it away. beep beep beep..back it up ok good! Hold it right there, DUMP. So, I’m going to give it all away today or if not by tonight for sure. That whole “God direct me to what you would have me be” chestnut. Maybe then I’ll forget about what I think I know about everybody else and how important this classified information is..

      My highly intelligent very attractive partner slept well last night. I got her a prime sirloin and fired up the grill for dinner. Veggies. Told her the new strange (in style?)patterned pants she was wearing to work looked good on her. She is a licensed child and family mental health therapist. Moving on to holistic equine therapy where she belongs. I should remember that she can have a heavy day and need to keep a confidence also. Lots of pressure.. Am I doing what I can as the man I want to be in her life? Yeah..I think so. I do try and generally do put her needs before mine. I like my life like that.

      Rut-roe..I hear her alarm. I think today I’ll get her coffee in the AA mug she got at some conference some time ago. 03 maybe? The white one with the triangle. That’s who she is, that’s who I am, that’s who we are. We live it today, everything else is a bonus.

    • Sherpa. It is always great to read your stream-of-conscious reflection.

      I hope you were able to get some sleep after this outpour. My sleeplessness comes and goes. It was real bad early on. Like I stopped sleeping altogether for a while. Someone told me later that 24 hours without sleep is the same as a BAC of .1 or something like that. Certainly didn’t help me sober up.

      The struggle is worth it, my friend. Carry on. And keep sending those streams of conscious my way. They–in that weird way–bring me peace.

  • You describe this so well! I get these depressive episodes too and it still freaks me out. I used to fight it and create a phobia around it, I was scared that by accepting it it would make it last forever. As soon as I relax into it, it seems to lift quicker…not immediately but quicker than the resisting/distracting method. Its still crap but I suppose a small comfort is that at least you recognise what it is and therefore know that it will end. xxx

  • Sometimes you just have to take it one day at a time. Just stumbled upon this blog today. You write beautifully BTW.

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