Unaccustomed Comfort

I’m slowly growing accustomed to not checking my rearview mirror obsessively after passing a cop on the road.

I don’t have much to hide these ideas. Although I do speed still; I still conduct cruise-control experiments to maximize the miles-per-hour over the speed limit I can drive while still deemed innocent by state troopers. I drive with both ear buds in when the kids are asleep; an act my wife informed me was a crime, suggesting I take one bud out. I refused. One-ear-bud listening is like going to a concert and turning profile to the band performing the show. And yes, when it is a futile act, I don’t use my blinker, cruising across both lanes of highway like I own the road: who doesn’t love that easy-rider feeling?

It was this open highway nonchalance that last got me pulled over. It was New Year’s Eve, when 2015 became 2016, and I was driving home after midnight solo and sober from a wedding. The only thing that was keeping me up, aside from a fat pouch of tobacco, was an audiobook, Mary Karr’s Lit. A few hours on the road after a night of dancing and stealing streamed glimpses of the College Football Playoff, I was exhausted. The policeman pulled me over.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?”

“Yes, officer.”

“Why?”

“I was swerving between lanes a bit. I’m sorry about that. Just exhausted, that’s all.”

“Where you coming from?”

“Baltimore. A wedding.”

“Have you been drinking?”

His flashlight clicked on—a mini spotlight, scanning in between empty children’s’ car seats and finding chicken nugget containers and neglected toys.

“No, sir.”

He asked for my license and registration, which I provided. While he ran them through his onboard database, I sat and wondered what crime my nonchalant driving could be categorized as. Is it reckless driving if I’m the only one on the road? Reckless endangerment sounds like I would have to endanger others to be guilty. I wasn’t speeding. He could only bust me for changing lanes without signaling. Will that strike points on my record?

As I processed the possibilities, a calm came over me when I concluded I have nothing to hide.

 

Now that is something.

This having-nothing-to-hide business. It’s wild considering I once was a man who hid everything. I even hid me from myself in that self-delusional denial sort of way. I was afraid to look in the mirror. Literally, I’d grown afraid of the what the face looked like that stared back.

So, the road of self-acceptance and cash-register honesty—a when-no-one-is-looking honesty—was new to me. Brand spanking new. New-car-smell-off-the-lot kind of new. And in those early test drives, I had trouble growing accustomed to the comforts of clean, honest and decent living. I was perpetually waiting for the other shoe to drop. I couldn’t shake that feeling that some consequence loomed around the corner, waiting to smack me in the face. For so many years, consequences for past action—whether remembered or forgotten—kept an around the clock vigil around each corner.

 

That unaccustomed comfort scared me for years.

But, like a good addict, I got hooked on it. I replaced, gradually, some instant gratification pleasure centers of operation in my mind for deeper ones of prolonged satisfaction. Doing the right thing, even when no one is looking, just felt better. And when it comes to addictions, I have always been most feverishly hooked on that which makes me feel good.

The white-picket fence is an unfortunate symbol for comfort. Unfortunate because it is an object with no innate comfort. In fact, the expectation of having a white-picket fence as a requirement for comfort likely causes more discomfort than anything else. Our fence, for counter example, is half chicken-wire, and we are plenty happy.

I write all this to attempt to describe the joy I experienced this weekend.

Forty-eight hours with my wife. Just my wife. No kids. I wrote a few thousand words, read a few hundred pages. My wife and I talked. Really talked, with no interlocutors—phones, kids, responsibilities—to take our attention away from each other. We went to the movies twice. Enjoyed some much-needed alone time. Much needed, that time alone.

I did not have a single thought for what consequences waited for me at the end. I was not once choked with anxiety for the other shoe to drop. With responsibilities met, and kids safe with grandparents, I explored the notion of true bliss with the woman I love.

27 Responses to “Unaccustomed Comfort

  • Living an honest life is a gift. Such freedom….beautiful piece of writing Mark. And the mom in me is so happy you had an entire weekend alone with your wife to reconnect and refuel what you share together. ❤

  • Well said. i know that feeling of not wanting to look in the mirror. The anxiety….again, another visceral piece of writing! thank you for sharing your insight and talents with us.

  • I remember those getaway weekends when the kids were young. “Blissful” is the right word. We had a getaway weekend as well, though they’ve changed in meaning now that the kids are grown. Thank god they are nonetheless still blissful! Every now and then something about recovery just hits me between the eyes. “Nothing to hide.” What a feeling! Joyous, happy, free. ?

  • You know what? I have never had a speeding ticket. I’ve never even been pulled over. And yet, like the rest of my life, I feel like I am about to get in trouble or someone is going to be angry with me. It never goes away. Always fear. And a huge sadness that I’m not trying hard enough. Yes, I am codependent and so sick.

  • Love this post. I want to get there too, where you do the next right action even when no one is looking. Also the nothing to hide thing! Feels like feedom. x

    • It happens if you keep working at it! I have a bunch of posts I want to write. Often, my mind will be convincing me out of something, but I will do it anyway! In a good way.

  • I love this too post too, Mark, and it is hard to get used to. I’ve also written about lying and that plays into this feeling you describe as it so nice not to have to connect lies that don’t connect or the feeling of waiting for the truth to come crashing down.
    We come to quit drinking yet we become all around nice, kinder and honest people.
    The other phenomenon I experienced and had to get beyond was that I was owed something for being so damn good. Or resenting others for not living so well. Luckily it didn’t last long.
    Thanks for sharing, Mark. I’m so happy for you that you enjoyed pure serenity with your wife!

    • Thanks Greg! That’s the feeling exactly!

      We aren’t weaving these spider webs of lies and deceit anymore. It frees up a lot of head space.

  • “Nothing to hide. Amen.” Got pulled for speeding last January, nothing horrible…and the first thought that went through my mind? “My life is over. My life is over.” Took me 5 minutes after pulling away to realize all I did was get a speeding ticket. Sponsored called. Situation normal. Such a different life I have today from what was.

  • I love the freedom I had now!
    No hiding anymore.
    And I really love my hubs!
    We were high school sweethearts, dating for 7 years before we got married.
    Now married for 40 years.
    He stopped drinking when I did to support me.
    xo
    wendy

  • You described that feeling perfectly — just waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s the most freeing moment of all when you finally realize THERE IS NO OTHER SHOE! All this clean living produces the benefits of clean living.

    I remember the terror of having a policeman follow me, and my desperate plan to quickly finish the drink I was driving, roll down a window to let air circulate out the alcohol smell, pop in a few breath mints, and then gulp some of the decoy diet coke that I always had with me. Like James Bond, I had all of my moves in place. How nice not to have to worry about that anymore. But I still speed a little on the open road. ; )

    xoxo!

    • All the moves! That’s so good. I relate to all those little tricks to hide what we’re doing. I used to keep a huge bottle of hand sanitizer–the kind that reeked of alcohol–on my desk and I would douse my hands in it whenever anyone came around to cover the smell. I so relate.

  • So good to read this and hear it. The emphasis on doing the right thing, even when no one is looking, and how it just feels better. I feel the same way about doing what needs to be done- even if I really don’t want to, when I do what needs to be done, I feel so much better and like I am living with integrity, whereas when I procrastinate and avoid- which is a huge part of my disease- I just feel wretched and it gets worse the longer it goes on. Following a stressful weekend and with everyone in my family sick and not sleeping well, I lost my day count yesterday after 11 days- the longest I’d had in 6 months. I needed to come here this morning and remember why a life in recovery is worth everything I have to do to get there, and no matter how many times I have to pick myself up and start again.

    • I’m so glad you stopped by, Erica. There is no amount of attempts that matter as long as you want to do this thing. You can do it! You have the gift of willingness! That’s something that only our own misery can provide for us.

      I hope we can stay in touch on this journey.

  • Integrity and Joy..what a great combo. I’m putting these two words in my 2017 Bucket List.

  • What a wonderful weekend, Mark! Weekends like those are so good for our souls, and relationships!
    I can completely related to the feeling you get when a police car is around. I still feel nervous! I think if I got pulled over and asked if I had been drinking I’d blurt out “No! I’m — days sober actually!” hahah,

    • I get that impulse for sure. Are used to ride the bus is in the rails a lot. And I would want to stand in the subway cars and now it’s the glories of being sober.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • I still get that “other shoe about to drop” feeling still. Not sure why. Maybe I feel I need more punishment for my nonsense while drinking? I don’t know. But it is lessening, and I do enjoy the fact that I am pretty transparent in my affairs. I never was. I can hand my phone or computer or whatnot to my wife and not even worry one bit about finding anything untoward. The biggest crushing thing my wife and family had to deal with was my secrecy. So the idea of having secrets is one that I try to banish. I do have my times where I don’t feel the need to share certain things, but that is normal. Self-containment. But I always make sure that I share the bigger things with my wife before doing it let’s say on Twitter or my blog or whatever. I want to foster that trust that was lost years ago.

    Anyway, Mrs. Nacho and I will be having 22 yrs anniversary coming up on Saturday, and we have decided to spend it with our kids. I know we will have our alone time at some point (maybe when we’re at 30 yrs? ha!) but for now we just want to enjoy it all.

    Great post, dude.

    Paul

    • Congratulations to you and Mrs. Nacho!

      Wow, you’re my idol. Seriously. That’s a lot of years in a civil union. Incredible stuff.

      I do know that feel as a source of fear for me, pure and simple. It helps to know that others feel it too. This was one of those rare weekends free of it. And it sure did feel great!

  • My husband and I have a trip planned without kids that is more than three months and I am already looking forward to it, ha. It’s also nice to know I’m not the only one who digs changing lanes without signaling in the wide open highway.

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