It has been quite a month, more then a month really, but we've survived the big move from Utah to Oregon.
And the entire time I completely neglected this blog and my book.
Making such a big change really causes you to reflect on the things in life you want to keep close to you. Not just material possessions, but people as well. We've lived in Oregon one full week now and I miss some of my Utah people a LOT, but there's something big I've gained since moving here, true freedom to be myself in a way I never could have been in Utah.
I'm not necessarily here to rag on Utah. Utah was my home, but Utah is toxic for people like me. It's changing, and it's been interesting to see how the culture has started to shift, ever so slightly, since I was a kid, but far too much is still the same.
Last night a very dear friend of ours took us out for drinks, not far from our new home. I confided in him that I wasn't so sure I would end up publishing my book because the reasons I wrote it were largely because I had no outlet for the pain I've felt in my life back in Utah, but suddenly, I can just be a person. I can just be me without the expectation, or hidden pressures to be perfect. Out here people engage on a completely different level. I absolutely have culture shock, but I also absolutely LOVE it.
I want to say two things: 1- I have a great support system back in Utah, and I appreciate all of you who have listened to my words as I've struggled over the years to figure out what I'm doing, and why I'm doing it. 2- yes, the LDS culture was/is a factor in my loneliness and inability to fit in in my surroundings in Utah, but it isn't the whole story and it isn't the reason I'm posting.
There is a terribly toxic mindset in Utah, that isn't for church members only. However it began, it has infected all who reside there. You know what I'm talking about, because no matter your background, you feel it. You know what I mean. It's the perfectionist complex we all carry. It's almost subconsciously expected, and although we all feel it, and we all hate it, we all do it to each other. We all hide it, suppress it, tell ourselves "I'm OK, I don't need anything or anyone" and put on that humble facade, and slowly break into smaller and smaller pieces over time as we realize that despite how connected we are on social media, in church, in our community... etc. we are alone, and where do we turn?
Where have I been turning this last year?
I have to share something. I don't believe I've been at any true risk of becoming an alcoholic, at least not any time soon, but it's been very easy for me this last year to feel the stress, or the pressure, and at a certain time at night, once I've realized I don't have anywhere to go, or anyone to see and the loneliness seeps in... I drink.
It's not that I drink that's scary, although for people in UT who have never had a drink the idea of even one is a scary thing to think about. I know so many people who think that one drink means drunk, and no, it absolutely does not. There's a wonderful slow heat that envelopes your body and all of the anxiety you feel all day long just starts to melt away and you begin to calm, to relax, to take a deep breath when you haven't had that chance through all the stress and madness of the days and weeks that all blur together in a maddening fog inside your chaotic mind.
Utah, you have a problem OK, it's about time we recognized this.
It was not OK for me to drink around most of the people I knew back home, and yes this makes a difference in life. Yes, some of you are saying "but I drink, we could have had a drink" but did we? Did we ever have a drink together? Did we ever casually hang out and get to know each others families, and stresses, and stories? Did we relate, and unwind and feel better for having that companionship? No, we did not.
So at the end of the night, when I realized I had no one to talk to, no one to be a companion, I drank alone in the comfortable darkness of my home until I was tired enough to fall asleep.
The difference is, instead of drinking because it's a socially fun excuse to hang out and unwind together, and accept one another, I drank alone, feeding a growing habit and possible future addiction because I was using it to shut off the unpleasant pieces of my mind.
This is when it's an addiction.
I feel that social habits are fun experiences that bring people together and aren't really harmful because there is a time and place for everything and having fun with friends is a much different experience then sitting alone and drinking in the dark hoping to fall asleep because, although you have a truly wonderful life with all you could ever hope to have, you are alone, and it hurts. You don't relate to those around you, you stick out in your community like a sore thumb, and it's... it's so many unpleasant feelings, you can't quite articulate it, and you want to shut those pieces of yourself off for one damn minute... or more hopefully.
Instagram and Facebook don't really show you these moments.
And I didn't realize this was happening to me, until I caught myself saying "Alyse, you don't need it, you'll probably get a headache like you always do. I can control this, I'm just not in the mood to... I just want to relax. How much do my kids need me tonight?" Wow. I was falling. I'm not saying I'm not still falling but for the first time in decades I have this new hope, and excitement that I haven't felt before, because I'm normal here. I'm normal. I don't have to hide myself from the people around me and drink in secret.
Our real estate agent came to help us unpack, and brought wine that we shared in the middle of the day over laughs and fun stories. We went out on the town with a friend to a local brewery where kids were welcome, and families and friends, and people on dates just had a drink and spent time together.
Am I doing a terrible job explaining this?
And what am I even getting at?
I will publish my book because too few people in Utah feel that they have the voice to share their pain , the same pain I've known for so many years, a pain that shifts and changes in ways you can't predict or recognize as pain. Far too many people can relate with everything I've experienced, and I want to put words to it, I want to share it.
How does my drinking relate to the drug problem in Utah, and across the nation? When you're alone, you find a way to dull the ache that otherwise eats you alive. When does it become a disease? I don't know. I've been addicted to all kinds of things from coffee, food, even running and the physical pain and exertion of my previous healthy lifestyle, my writing because it was all I had to express myself and I was desperate for even so much as a piece of paper to understand what I was going through, I've been addicted to my child, my baby boy, smothering him because I NEED him to love me, and keep me distracted from all other things in life, also sex, however uncomfortable that thought is to have for anyone reading this, it's a deep dark secret of mine that I have used this to comfort myself and as I grew up in the land of shame (UT) I did feel shame and guilt, it ate me alive that, God forbid, I'm human and have natural desires and urges, and now... alcohol. I didn't even see it. I didn't think I was capable of it, but how is it any different from anything else I've listed? It isn't.
Utah is a toxic place to live. Utah, the culture, killed my family because my family felt isolated, lost, alone. Drinking, taking their drugs, indulging in junk food, and easing their pain in the easiest way possible, and maybe because... why not? What else matters? And why should they have put more effort into their lives that were ultimately going nowhere anyway? Or so they felt, because of the perfect culture they just couldn't fit in to. The same culture I could not fit in to.
There are so many aspects that feed into the addictions sweeping our nation. The flood of depression and anxiety, and as each generation grows, people are being impacted at younger and younger ages.
Of course, it's not just Utah, but at least for me, Utah was a major culprit in my own slow decay, and for most of my life there.
Each state has a different culture and different problems to face, but I've at least been able to recognize for myself both the reasons why I wrote the book, and why I'll likely still publish it. Utah has SO MANY problems that could be solved, if only we could stop shaming people for the things that make them normal instead of perfect.