*spoiler alert: I have used images in this post from the HBO series finale of Sharp Objects
Like many of you, I got hooked quick and hard on HBO’s series, Sharp Objects. Not only do I now have a girl crush on Amy Adams, I’m also terrified of her. In a beginning episode, she’s buying liquor at 9:30am on a weekday and another scene shows her flying down the road, windows open, smoking a cigarette with Zeppelin’s What is and What Should Never Be blasting, as she downs a bottle of vodka, and tries to stop the horrific memory montage in her head.
On some level, it was like looking in a mirror. Her character differs from me in that she truly seems to want to do the right thing, and only hurts herself. She suffers less rage than abject pain, but one certainly leads to the other. It hit me dead-on as a disturbing reminder of myself in years past. The freedom of not giving a shit. The liberating abandon of no one caring, including yourself. The sweet but painful release of all of that poison escaping out into the universe, instead of just rotting inside of you. Music so deafening that you cannot process your own deepest thoughts and isn’t that exactly the point? My fists repeatedly striking the steering wheel in uncontrollable anger as I screamed into the night sky. Warm vodka burning like turpentine down my throat as it lit a furnace of anger, fueling more and more absolute black rage.
And for a split, sick and deranged second, I really missed it. I missed my old coping mechanism. I could feel the warm wind in my own hair as I watched her driving, trying not to spiral out of control. Sweat and mascara dripping from too much booze and the relentless pursuit of release. Release. I could feel the pulsating steering wheel beneath her hands while the screeching music swirled through the car, adding to the chaos. The suicide soundtrack, I used to call it.
It pains and shames me to type it, but let’s be honest, there are times when I still want to handle my problems exactly this way. We may know better, but we obey our pain, don’t we? I sure did and three years into this journey I’m still not sure why I held on to so much hateful and consuming rage, and for so hopelessly long. Almost anyone from my past can recall some sort of snippet of the vehemence of my fury, I’m sure. I was infamous for it, especially in my Hollywood
I would create a path of ruthless destruction in my wake on a mere whim, channeling vitriol wherever I could. I suppose I wanted everyone around me to feel as hollow and useless as I felt. I was seething beneath the surface because in effect, I was poisoning myself with my own hatred. I was above happiness, if that makes sense. I knew suffering and felt the vacuous void of emptiness all around me. I knew better than to be happy, I thought. If you were happy, I reasoned, you weren’t paying fucking attention.
As I move forward in this recovery process, I am humbled and sickened by the flashbacks my brain still allows me. Like nightmares, I recall brief but haunting images of the wounded and shocked expressions (how I absolutely reveled in shocking people) of the people I’d hurt and I can hear my own cutting and barbed remarks searching out their targets and the dark satisfaction I’d feel when they’d land and deploy, bullseye.
The real horror is that I enjoyed it.
I truly believe that back then, and unfortunately even in the not-so-distant past, that I took folly in causing pain. I equated it with power, somehow, and I’m ashamed and repulsed to admit it. I justified my behavior to others by saying that I simply would say what no one else had the courage to say. I would “tell it like it is”. I was brutally honest, after all. Emphasis on brutal.
It wasn’t courage, it was cruelty.
The truth is that I was vicious and mean, and I was a merciless bully. I put you down to make myself look more accomplished, stronger, more reckless and wild. . . whatever. It was sick and it was wrong and of all the terrible things I’ve done in my alcoholism, the worst of them came out of my mouth. I’d like to say “it wasn’t me” – it was my sickness and my pain, and my own insecurities spilling out like infectious tendrils, trying to strangle anyone within 6 feet of me.
But I’m not sure I believe that. As Amy Adams’ character quotes Machiavelli, “it’s better to be feared than loved“. There is a part of me where the darkness still resides and as long as I choose not to feed it, it will continue to lie dormant. Some days that’s a tall request, you see, because rage is hunger. A hunger for something missing, something stolen, something that will make you whole and enough and worthy if you could just find it amongst all the carnage, hopelessness and despair. There are days when I can still feel it.
I have a lot more peace now, and I’ve tried to atone for the wrongs I’ve done. I’d like to think that I’m not the same person anymore, in all the ways that matter, but I know that’s not completely true. However, I try to be better, every day. I’ve certainly been shown more forgiveness than I’ve allowed myself, but I’m working on it.
Most days, the light wins.