My partner and I have broken up in the past. Our first breakup rocked me, shocked me, literally skinned me and hung me up to dry. I was working a hefty corporate job at the time, typing between tears and writing weepy poetry in between calls. I would lie in bed, my entire body feeling like a cramp, unbelieving that this whole break was actually happening. Stunned at how much I loved the man and paralyzed at the thought of losing him forever. The wild thing is that I didn’t realize how deep my love for him was until two weeks into the break up. I was shocked at the heartbreak, not because we did it, but because it even came. During that time, I stopped drinking— funny enough, while it took me until this year to fully commit to my sobriety, putting the drink down has always been the first thing I have done during times of great heartbreak or great stress. If I’m gonna get over this shit quick, I’m gonna just feel it all out now, I say. I ate better, I woke up earlier, I cried my eyes out for hours on end, but I took walks, I wrote poetry, I got mad, I was alive. I was alive falling in love with him all over again realizing I had completely missed out on him for the better part of two years. I was mending. Until the decaying raccoon came.
I got really tight with the Universe during this time. God. Goddess. Pick your name. They and I became close. I found a therapist who focused on mindfulness. Who asked me not to listen to the fears, or maybe just hear them, but not believe them. During this time, I would get down on my knees and pray that things get clearer to me, pray to bring him back, pray that this would all work out, this horrible nightmare. And then I would start to feel a heinous feeling. I can’t describe it better than rotting flesh. A decaying raccoon rotting deep inside of me. And I would think to myself, ok fine, I hear you, I hear you. We’re not meant to be together. Got it. Decaying raccoon. You have to let go of this guy. This is Universal Wisdom. This is It talking to my gut, and it’s my job to listen. Let him go. I thought. Low and behold, six months later we were back together, my act in order, and our hearts more open and ready than they’d ever been.
The panic would settle. Am I not listening to Universal wisdom, decaying raccoon? Am I getting in the way of The Plan. But I really love him, Goddess. This dude. He’s it. He’s the best thing. My daily blessing. I have felt the dying raccoon twice since that moment. The feeling settles, my stomach churns, my heart speeds and I think, this is Spirit talking. Spirit is angry. Spirit thinks I’m going against my path. I’m actually, on the wrong path. I’m not even on a path. And then I start to hear all of my anxious thoughts and I start to rationalize with them and next thing you know, I’m packing my bags, and I’m calling my sponsor, and I’m telling my man that I’m afraid. That our world is ending and the Spirits are mad. And he looks at me bewildered. We’ve just spent the best Christmas either one of us has ever had—I made duck, duck! I’m so bicultural we can’t even deal— we wrapped gifts, he bought me a Kombucha kit, he’s taking his first deep dive into The Beatles at the age of 28. Can you imagine the blessing of diving into The Beatles at 28? What planet are you living on, Priscila?
The decaying raccoon. And the feeling doesn’t relent. It doesn’t stop. It takes over my nervous system and for two days I swear I should go and he should be with every woman who can offer him the boobs that I cannot. I’m standing in line at Whole Foods, my whole wold crumbling as I know it, tears in my eyes, and that Raccoon is really really rotten. My sponsor tells me to get on my knees, to pray to Goddess that she make this really clear. You see because as an addict I have no idea if I’m just robbing myself of joy or if I actually am getting some deeper message from my wisdom raccoon and it’s time to make a change. I’m panicked. The Plan. It’s everything. I get on my knees that night and I pray. The next morning, I wake up sweating. I dreamt I banged down one-hundred-and-three doors, all chasing after my man and this time I couldn’t get him back. In the dream, my best friend intervenes and I break down, my knuckles bleeding from the banging, my voice hoarse from yelling his name. I wake up, overjoyed and relieved, released from my mania for a moment. The first in a week. I’ve got my answer.
I tell him about the raccoon, the angst, the utter panic of wanting to run away, while fearing he will leave first. Communication is our strongest suit, after all. I tell him I believe my fears are omens. We work at this. We know this. He looks at me and asks, “And you have felt this twice?” “Every eight months or so,” I answer. “But. You’ve been wrong, every time.” Oh. My Capricorn. My love. The rational in my life. My Cathedral. His black and white mind disarms me every time. I have been wrong. Every. Time. Do I just miss feeling crazy?
Standing in line that day at Whole Foods, my heart still racing, but differently. The Universe calls to calm me down before I can take my next step and The Beatles come on. Everything is going to be alright. Everything is going to be all right, all right. I can breathe. My nerves are still frayed but my heart can take a breath. I’m walking around that day craving a cigarette. Stop. What? A cig? I start laughing. I haven’t really smoked in years, and I certainly haven’t craved one or thought about buying a pack since I first put the stick down. A cigarette? Really? I’m laughing at my addiction because the transference is almost too obvious. You’re just handing me this one, buddy. I can spot you. I know it’s you and not actually me. And then it hits me. I’m a purger, I purge. The purging has always been the easiest for me, the most comfortable place. I threw up for ten years, damn it. Purging is my first nature. Anything else has been a learning curve. I had a nasty habit of breaking it off with someone and then thinking about them the whole time I dated the next person. I broke up with her, so then I would date him, and now I’m thinking of her, and now I break up with him, and date another him, and now it’s really the former him I should be with. I did this with everything. Jobs, books, school, friends, countries, you name it. A deep desire to never be exactly where I am. Addiction. Right? For me, a deep dive into another place, a hungry desire to either go deeper in my mania and further away from my body.
This trip I took down my neurosis is part of my recovery. Or seeing it is. I’m standing on the sidewalk, seeing it play itself out so clearly, so vividly. I’ve known about my escapism, I’ve known about not wanting to sit still. About the boys, girls, jobs, friends. Hungry to escape them but craving them, all at once. I’ve known about my doubts of commitment. After all, I have no true example of a healthy long-term monogamous relationship. I’m aware of my baggage. But I’m looking at this and I realize that once upon a time I came to the freeing discovery that I could choose not listen to my eating disorder cravings. I certainly could not rationalize with them— they do not live in a rational part of my brain. I will lose the fight if I do. Every. Time. What I can do is let them fly by, I can look at them, I can watch them like comic strips. And I know the same is starting to happen with my alcoholic brain. Same part of the brain. Same process. What I didn’t realize is that my anxiety— my fears— they’re part of that survival brain. This week it was my relationship, next week it’ll be my career. The survival brain has no rational thinking, it doesn’t know right from wrong, it doesn’t care about your goals or your morals. It’s there to keep you alive. Rewire it enough times with enough substances, it will believe that throwing up / alcohol / cigarettes / fear is the way to do just that— keep you alive.
I thought I was escaping into more self knowing, a deeper wisdom that is coming out. My dying raccoon is my connection to the Universe. The Plan. But the truth is that for a week I was reacting to a story that was simply being played out only in my mind. Fully, truly, I mean a nervous panic about leaving and being left, just after weeks of the opposite being true in real life. To call my dying, dying raccoon wisdom, is a load of crap. It’s fear. And I can’t rationalize with it, it doesn’t live in that part of my brain. But I do. And there’s no winning. I can’t fight fear with control. I can’t control my way out of it. I will never have boobs big enough, a waist thin enough, a brain smart enough, a talent great enough. The biggest truth is that the Indulgence of my fears is the same indulgence of my substance abuse. But this one is tricky. No one tells you that drinking is the way to control your life. Everyone knows that purging is not a way to get a handle. But fear. We love to believe it as part of being so smart, so in control, so on it.
I had a dream some nights ago that I was being held captive. If you know me, this is a very real, very big- I-grew-up-in-Colombia-daughter-of-a-politician-in-the-90’s-fear of mine. In the dream, I had a child in captivity and another woman there with me was teaching me how to breastfeed. The feeling of captivity was so real, so heavy, I could not breathe. And yet when my partner asked what actually happened in the dream— I told him that I went to the theater, and the mall, I walked through the park. I dreamt I was fine. Was I actually kidnapped? I don’t think I was. I made it up because, the feeling. My God. I felt my way into captivity. I’m not saying feelings aren’t real. I talk my life to death. I write about them. I ask you to open up to me about them. I do. Feelings. I wish we could all acknowledge them. But I am saying that fears are not. I mean as I write this I have a huge fear that some big-boobed lady will take this as an opportunity to slide into his DMs. Fears. They take you else where, they manipulate the chemicals in your brain, they sure as hell are not wisdom. They are drugs. My fears have done nothing for me but take me to an island where the sand is fake and the water’s cold. They rob me of the huge gift that is this love and I am missing out on him, under the same roof. I want to enjoy my duck for Christmas with the love that is in front of me. My Capricorn. I will not run away anymore. I will let them fly by like comic strips. Cigarettes, Alcohol, Purging, and Fear be damned.