The Return

Thank you for your reads and comments—your emails and phone calls.

While not an urgent plea, the last post was certainly a call for help. I had to surrender, it’s true. At this point in my sobriety, surrender has become habit.

The hardest thing to do in that post—for several reasons—was the to use the tag depression. I understand depression is a mental illness, often chronic and deadly, that involves a chemical imbalance in the brain. I refrain from using the word because I haven’t been diagnosed as suffering from depression. I have too much respect for those who do suffer to claim that I do. Still, I thought to add the tag. When I told my wife what is going on with me, she said, “You know these are the symptoms of depression, right?” It is a clinical term and I don’t know if it explains the feeling—the “Something in the Way” feeling—that I was going through.

I do know this:

Writing about it and sharing helped. Understanding I am not alone in this sort of thing did me some good in breaking down that imaginary wall between the world and me. Also, coming out of it wasn’t an instantaneous thing. I didn’t wake up with a snap of the fingers like I was hypnotized. I’ve been crawling out of that state of mind all week. And I believe that making others aware of what I’m going through has helped.

My wife knew I was going through it before I could even admit to her that something was in the way. It’s freeing, and the good kind of infuriating, that she can pinpoint my emotions better than I can detect them in myself. It’s like living with an inside-out mirror.

On Tuesday night, when I brought the dishes in from the back patio where we ate dinner and started doing the dishes alone, she called me out.

“What are you doing?”

“Just going to get these done,” I said, mid-scrub. What got me through the weekend was the acceptance that going through the motions and not drinking were the most spiritual acts I could muster.

“It’s beautiful outside and your kids are playing in the backyard. Leave the dishes alone.”

My fingers tightened their grip. “Okay,” I said.

As I was walking out, my wife continued, “You know I follow this blog called the miracle of the mundane, if you’re still feeling down, you might want to check it out. It’s beautiful out. The kids are playing. This is as miraculous and mundane as it gets.”

And she was right. My son kneeled on his chair, watching a bird nest we discovered in the ivy. My daughter held out a net to catch the bubbles flying out of the semi-automatic bubble machine. She turns two tomorrow. I can’t keep up with her impetuous spirit. Her language is exploding too; she is describing her wants and needs and feelings.

When she saw me sit down, she gave a “Uh-uh-uh” while running to me; her uneven steps made her voice sound like she were bike-riding over the wooden planks of a bridge, or speaking into a spinning fan.

She crashed into my arms and giggled. When I set her down she lapped the patio table and ran into me again, giggling earlier than she did with the last crash. Gratitude broke through. Not like the “let me list all that I am grateful for” kind of gratitude that can help me break through anger and selfishness, but a moment where I recognized that what I truly want is what I already have. A feeling that didn’t turn on happiness in my soul like a finger flicks a light-switch, but a recognition that I am on my way back to being me.

She took a few more laps, my soon-to-be two year old did, plunging into my arms with the carefree trust of a diver into water. I held her tight.

 

Yes, you chop wood and carry water. But you also can’t forget what you chop wood and carry water for.

I can’t pinpoint when, where, or how the funk or the gloom or the thing-in-the-way overtook me. All of a sudden, I was in it. I was ambushed. I was without recourse or alternative. I was forced to feel it all the way through. I was the mime in Central Park unable to punch through his imaginary glass box.

I can, however, cite specifics—conversations, exchanges, my wife and our children in the backyard—that are calling me back to life again—not as a casual observer, but as an active participant—to no longer feel like life is an arm’s length away, but squeeze it in my arms the way I do my almost two-year-old daughter.

30 Responses to “The Return

  • Saoirsek
    6 months ago

    The urge to isolate can be so strong when the big black dog comes to visit. This is when I drank. Your wife sounds wonderful. In fact I always get the most fabulous feeling of family from your posts. This is what matters to me most and the greatest gift of sobriety was being present for my own family.

    • I share that. I took people closest to me for granted while I was out there. Now, I realize they’re everything. They’re all there is. Family. Other people. It’s what it’s all about. I think that’s why it sucks especially when you don’t feel that appreciation, and you feel helpless about doing anything about it. Go squeeze a loved one for me.

  • What a blessing. The cycle of your life. You live. You write it down. Your wife follows your thoughts and words. Your children live out what it is you watch over them for. You stumble into the darkness. Your wife and your children bring your words to life again. You find the blessings again. And again and again. You write it down……

  • stepsherpa
    6 months ago

    A summer rental at Santa’s village. Super! We’ll wait.

    Before there was Bi-polar there was North-polar. Identified as one who was always out in the cold looking in at the circle of family and friends, sharing emotional security with hands outstretched, warming themselves without the risk of death by friendly fire.. To be a part of, a participant? This willingness seemed to come as standard equipment with most yet with me a special order unfilled. No paperwork, no validation. No proof of existence. Willingness delete.

    Help me obi wan Kenobi.. I’ll have a double shot of Daddy with an ex-wife chaser. I’d make it to the bar sometimes early sometimes late but always make it. I had to. It was my shanctuary shitty…No dinner waiting. I’ll have 2 denial dogs and an order of I’m a nobody nachos. Another double shot of Daddy to the head. Thanks.

    Welcome, are there any newcomers who would like to give us your first name so we may better know you and meet your needs? Great..There’s hot kerosene with chemical whitener and delicious dollar store Sugarlardo’s on the back counter ..We used to have day old gourmet donuts? But they were full of holes..ha ..haha.

    I’m alcoholic and my name is Stepsherpa. Tonight’s topic is the “live” part of the bumper sticker “live and let live”. Caring enough about yourself to care for yourself. The reading begins on page 86, would you like to start? Yeah, read a paragraph or two and pass it on. Thanks.

    • Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. That’s where my reading brought me recently.

      Those denial dogs sound like they need some condiments. Maybe some mustard? They go down bitter when they are plain. The nobody nachos at the bar will require some heartburn medication as well. Pepto? Or Tums, perhaps? Something to break up that acid-reflux that comes with scarfing down dinner in a painful state of lonely.

      Have you heard the one about the two versions of the afterlife? Heaven and hell are both a table of people unable to eat what’s on their plate. In hell they starve, in heaven they feed each other.

      • stepsherpa
        5 months ago

        So…dew beedew beedew..I’m at the dollar store celebrating diversity with my kindness. A rich full flavored blend of acceptance, an acquired taste, we are all children of God. I’m feeling quite Spiritually fit if I do say so myself..

        I pull my sleeve down over my Rolex, why? Eh..It just doesn’t seem appropriate. Could possibly blow my cover. I’m a secret squirrel, 006.5, a spy. A top secret mission.. I need to give of myself and this is the place to find what I need, new material, the soft clean woven fabric of my existence is here to share somewhere, I know it.

        Nothing..I’m running out of store..As if I’ve eaten most of the cracker jacks and still no prize ..Then I see them! Next to the multiracial non denominational gender delete stuffed aliens. TEDDY BEARS!!! Oh boy! I knew they’d be here! Super soft Teddy’s and they even look like Teddy’s! I feel! I feel great! I fill my cart with 30ish, looking at each one in the face. Yes you’ll do, and you, you and you. EH, no nose button? You can come too…Teddy Bear trafficking..You have all been rescued from a Chinese shipping container just like on Mission Impossible.

        Plotting a course to the front register, all is clear except for an exceptionally wide woman in the isle but I think I can get around. .I’m going for it. She moves out of the way? I thank her. Odd..A polite person? A rare interaction these days..

        My one seemingly square wheel goes unnoticed as I wobble up. “Hi” she say’s. Hi…I smile. I notice her badge, Doris and she’s been doing this for four years? Geeze..She say’s that’s a lot of Teddy Bears you got there looking to have some fun with me. Yeah…I just smile staying in character. Still a secret mission. Then out of nowhere I start blabbing as if I’m giving it all up to the Germans?

        Yeah, this is great! Teddy Bears. I buy these to donate to the child and family shelter. Usually Christmas but there’s no reason to not celebrate Tuesday right? Lots of abused people especially kids there, who can always use a soft secure Teddy. Look at me spiral into myself, how do you like me now lady..She like me! She’s my Teddy. Look at me create my own self worth using people..OH…..this is bad.

        WHAT THE…WHY? HOW COULD l?…I blew it. I blew it all. I had everything. The willing to give. the desire, the ability to pay for everything and yet there I go putting expectations on it. I couldn’t give and just leave it at that? no, I had to tell her what I was doing, validate myself. Look at me and how kind and generous I am..selfish prick.

        So now? I want to follow through sure but feel as if I have contaminated everything with my selfishness. Loud mouth, blabber mouth, can’t even keep a confidence. I have sabotaged the best of intensions. Torpedoed it with self. I can’t even give right..

        I go home and sulk, rat myself out to my partner because well? I don’t know what else to do. I wasn’t even going to tell her originally. I tell her I have 30 Teddy Bears to donate to the woman’s shelter but I told the check out gal about it so now I feel selfish like I ruined everything. She says man, you are a heavy one today Stepsherpa. But ya know what? I still love you. You’re a good man. And hey! Those are some nice Teddy’s! I’m sure the kids will love them and the adults too. Can I have one? And yeah I like the whole celebrate Tuesday thing…

        • stepsherpa
          5 months ago

          Alright then, I’m over myself for now…, didn’t take long to cut myself in the bathroom mirror.

          See, I’m Big Book 12 Steps. Mr AA..Little Billy Wilson. The “knows everything about everything” except when to shut up, guy. The one so self centered he is always in control, who say’s no before the question is complete in order to selfishly redirect. Give me a tad bit of you and I assume your life history keeping me emotionally safe.

          I am creating the fellowship I crave. Socialist media. A frustrated dictator with an original Big Book manuscript. Plus a copy of the historical things in AA that nobody else knows pocket book for quick reference and or a I know something you don’t self esteem boost. But all that aside? Just alcoholic? Addict? I’ll have the self centered fear plate with two sides please.

          I go to a basic stand up meeting last night where my old friend Dan is the speaker. Honestly? This guy is loyal to me and always a friend. I feel it’s my turn to show support. He surprises the room with some real down to earth (what it was like what happened and what it’s like now) experience. When he finished I noticed I had removed my Kevlar.

          I was smiling at , well I’m not even sure what I was smiling at I was just smiling? I was comfortable in my own skin, where I belonged. I was alcoholic and in an AA meeting that was tailored to me.

          No defense needed. No argument over 12 Steps are better than just meetings. No Bill W was a scoundrel debate. No AA is a cult. Nope. No right or wrong way..Just a focus on abstinence with an honest desire to serve the suffering man. Me. I was the suffering man. But I’m 30 something years sober? Houses, lots of shiny and dull stuff everywhere to distract me. Friends and family. Yes, even a new lawn tractor. Me, the pillar of sobriety, the example of power. The sponsors sponsor. Well apparently I had been de- throned. By me? I voted my self off the island. Chosen wisely finally after a ruff 48 hours. I was humbled as a suffering man. An alcoholic man. I found my way home to the front row left of center.

          It was me. Who I am. The man who wanted to live and let live but could not do it alone. The man who could live one day at a time as long as I could somehow quiet the noise of yesterday and tomorrow I was here and now, present. And I got to tell you, grateful.

          Yeah, the whole me me it’s all about me depression alone in a crowd thing? was gone..I let myself go. I was a part of life again. What a relief.

          • My dear sherp –

            I read both of these as a tandem. I don’t get to the blog much on weekends. What a 48 hours indeed.

            Sorry there hasn’t been too many good exchanges for you lately. Although, that exchange at the meetings sounded like a big one. Like, the one exchange to rule them all, so to speak. If that one brick is in place–that one piece–like a foundation of a house–let the storms come. Let the hurricane blow. We’ve got this if we’re sober.

            I can’t tell if the cutting in the bathroom is euphimism or real. In either case, it takes other people–like that AA friend of yours–to take me out of my own personal doomsday visions. I’ve never got out of it on my own. Stick to others who are sober like rice. I believe it can get better–even when it seems like it will never change–evidence in my life says it will.

            Stay in touch, Mark.

          • stepsherpa
            5 months ago

            Yes Mark, the mirror in the bathroom is a common term used to express inner realities or stark self awareness..Off the top of my head? 1980 English Beat hit about getting honest with yourself. Rocknrolla soundtrack, 1998 Guy Richie choice is always good? Jewel, save your soul video has a extensive and powerful bathroom mirror scene. The movie “Sleepers” bathroom mirror scene with witchi tai to playing in the backround also a classic. Facing reality alone, getting honest with yourself. So cutting myself on the bathroom mirror would be facing my hard truth. Seeing only my true self.

            Anyway, I apologize. I have been lazy. I generally post everyday somewhere and have not been paying enough attention to where and what or who may be reading me. I have been having trouble keeping focused on a seemingly important post on another site so I find myself becoming selfish, just looking to talk . Although pushing the envelope is not intentional I find myself pressed for time and unthinking.

            It’s all good, it’s all fun, you have my email. Thanks for the kindness.

          • Can you link me where you’re posting?

            I’ll add another good bathroom mirror scene: Royal Tenenbaums. And I’ll add the best advice I heard for this whole funky fog / life business. Don’t beat yourself up when there’s nothing you can do about it.

  • Stephen Price
    6 months ago

    Thank you. This was beautiful

  • Thanks for the tear up.
    I have always appreciated your candid honesty, and as I related with “Something in the Way”, I read this and I know that soon I will be crossing that divide I didn’t know I built.
    All I have to do is keep going, and trust the process.
    Thank you Mark. Beautiful, honest, raw. And as always, I’m grateful to be on this journey with you.

    • Crossing the divide. That’s exactly it.

      I don’t know how I find myself on the other side of that divide, but I do find that I always get back by walking with someone else. Whether they know it or not.

  • I’m sorry you were having a hard time and I’m happy for you that you moved through it. I’ve only recently experienced my first real slump into a down state since I stopped drinking and I was shocked by how hard I found just sitting and staring down the heavy thoughts and feelings with no options to run away. Your description of that moment with your family sounds lovely. Best wishes to you.

    • Thank you for that. I have these downs or slumps a lot, honestly. This was the first time where said, F*ck it, what is this thing?

      I hope your downs don’t last and your ups do.

  • sorry to hear this has been a hard time–so glad your support system realized this as well, and encouraged you to spend some down time with the kids 😉 sometimes a night of peace and community can do some real healing. hope you continue to feel better one day at a time.

  • Mark,
    Your story is one for all of us who suffer with depression.
    If I pay attention to something outside of myself , I have a much better chance of feeling better.
    Mr. UT is happier, too, when I give him hugs and attention!
    xo
    Wendy

  • That is something I hope my son is able to grasp. To be an active participant! I pray for peace and joy to wash over him.

  • Molly Decker
    6 months ago

    There are some things you must do to be a happier person, one of them is to share yourself and your feelings. To commune with nature and allow yourself to leave the dishes and “be” in the present with your family is huge!!! It’s not just the tiny hand reaching for you – it was your ability to feel and respond. A crucial distinction between feeling a little down and depression. But, keep watch…
    I came to love “The Happiness Project”.
    Ten years ago, my mother passed away just prior to a very happy occasion that I know she would have loved. Then, as you know there was a grave illness in the family. Sometimes, the sadness could hit like a tidal wave-completely understandable. Nevertheless, you have find a find a way through it. The pursuit of happiness (not in a hedonistic way) is incredibly important for yourself and your family. Continue to pursue it…

    • Thanks for that Molly. I haven’t checked out the happiness project, but I will now. It’s important, definitely, to keep an eye on yourself.

  • Beautiful post Mark. Thank you for sharing your struggles and your victories. Bearing witness to your journey is incredibly inspiring and encouraging- fills those of us who see ourselves through your words with hope and gratitude.

  • Mark this is just so beautiful. Breathtaking. All the best to you and your family and happy birthday to the 2 year old.
    Marahu

  • “a moment where I recognized that what I truly want is what I already have.” this made my eyes teary. Wonderful post.

  • Like you, Mark, my wife can catch me when I am off before I can. It’s uncanny. Sometimes I admit I am off, other times I say that I’m okay. And like you as well, I am not one to toss the word “depression” around, considering that I haven’t been diagnosed with it, and frankly I don’t think I have it, but I certainly do visit the neighbourhood sometimes.

    I love the post, and I can say that I too can never pinpoint when I go down the rabbit hole, nor can I pinpoint the moment I pop out of it, but I do. It’s probably a combination of things – prayer, meditation, exercise, talking to others, family, etc. But the beauty is that we do get out of it. And so glad that you’re back!

    Paul

    • Thanks Paul – Your conversation last weekend was really helpful. I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me, and to leave this comment. Have a great week!

  • I wish I had found this blog sooner (or more specifically, stumbled upon it back in 2013 when I was depressed). Somehow I couldn’t get out of that slump of just feeling empty and sad. I’m OK now, but sometimes I find myself unappreciative of what I already have. To appreciate “the mundane and the miraculous” and learning how to experience and see life for what it is… I have to practice this every day, still! Also, I love your writing!

    • Thanks Nicola!

      I’m coming out of this spell or whatever, I think. Although each time I think I’m back to normal, there’s evidence I’m not. But, I know I’m doing better. I’m so glad though you trudged out of that place in 2013. And glad to connect, Mark.

  • Lisa Neumann
    5 months ago

  • Your wife sounds like she is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. What a blessing to have someone who speaks truth to you when you need it. The Mundane things are the only things that truly matter. SO glad you spoke out and reached out Mark.

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