I loathed the telephone.
Eight months ago, if someone asked me to call her or him, I would groan inside.
Seriously? Can't we just email like civilized people?
Sometimes I still loathe it. Except that when I first sought help with my sobriety, someone gave me a list of phone numbers and told me to call three numbers on the sheet every day. Three.
I didn't think it would help. I mean, call a complete stranger and talk about how hard it is not to drink? It seemed like madness or torture. In the early days after I quit drinking, I would stare at the phone and wonder who I should call, and what I should say. So confused and ashamed, I usually called no one. I finally asked someone what I was supposed to say when I called.
"Say, 'I'm calling you because someone told me to call three people on this list to stay sober and I'm doing it.'"
"Well, that's a little rude."
"No, it isn't. It is honest. Pretending you have crap to talk about is both lying and thievery."
"Remember that five minute, bullshit story that girl told us a few minutes ago? She stole five minutes of my life I will never get back. When you call, be honest. People will appreciate not having to chitchat. Then they will pick up your calls. One day you may call because it is the thing between you and a bottle of booze."
I didn't want to drink again. And I hadn't managed to remain sober out of my own stubborn will. I mean, I had for a while, but not forever. My father is an alcoholic. My uncles. My grandmother. On both sides, this disease runs rampant. I knew exactly what tomorrow was going to look like, a year from now, a decade...it was not going to be pleasant for me or my kids. Alcoholism is not a tidy, quaint way to die.
All of the alcoholics in my life were exactly like me--isolated and isolating. I realize now that that is part of the disease of alcoholism. The drink wants you alone, sad, full of resentments. The drink wants the drink. Nothing else, and it will take out anything in its way.
I guess it should be no surprise that after Lucia died, I couldn't reach out to friends, and I let their inability to reach out fester in me. When my friend said it was my turn to call six months after she stopped talking to me, but failed to tell me she was mad at me, or there were issues between us, I felt righteous indignation. She didn't tell me she was upset, or it was my turn to call, or that I should reach out to her. And it didn't occur to me that I should call her. My daughter died. I shouldn't have to call anyone particularly when I loathe the telephone. And it is all about what is comfortable for me. (That is sarcasm.) I thought everyone wanted to talk on the phone but me. I have come to realize lately that people call because they want to stay in touch, not because they love the telephone. (Yes, I'm a fucking idiot.)
I was given the gift of desperation. I was desperate for sobriety, for changing who I was. See, as much as I talk about my friends, something I realized after Lucia died was the only common denominator between any of them was me.
My daughter died. That fact did not relieve me of the necessity to be a decent human being and a good friend. I wanted my friends back. I wanted me back. I wanted to stop feeling the way I was feeling--angry, resentful, sad, alone, lonely, isolated, isolating.
We hold on to things that allow us to drink.Let go of resentments and you begin to let go of the things that justify addiction and alcoholism. And so I called three strangers every day.
It wasn't so bad.
In fact, it was good and a good skill to hone. Now I pass my phone number out to anyone who will take it. I really don't mind the phone anymore. I even email my phone number to women and men who just come into this community, because hearing a living human being breathing on the other end of the phone, who cries with you, that is fucking important some days. Sometimes when I would call people from my list, they would talk about themselves the entire time, and that was a gift. Other people struggle with alcoholism, most of them struggled with grief too. Grief and alcoholism tie together in an ugly, whopperjawed grey-colored bow.
That is one thing I wish I could have reiterated over and over again to friends after Lucy died--that I really wanted to hear about them. All the time. I wanted to be trusted to be a friend again. It is a space where I am most comfortable--to listen, rather than talk. I am not built for sharing my emotions. My people are stony and hardworking. That is why the blog became such an important part of my grief, because the computer gives me enough distance between you and me to share what I am feeling. To cry without the gawking.
But the phone, the phone has taught me to listen as well as talk. To be a better friend. Sobriety has given me many gifts, constant stream of gratitudes, but the most important is that I am learning how to be more human. And I believe the phone has given me a gift of being able to express my emotions in real life a little more easily. To sit with my own emotions, not just other people's.
I am learning.