I’m an alcoholic.
I’m a liar. Over the past 2 or so months numerous people who care deeply about me have asked if I’m OK and I have said “yeah I’m good.” I’m actually not good.
I’m a broken person.
And yet, I am incredibly loved and respected by so many people here in the Downtown core of Memphis, Tennessee. People seek me out. They ask my advice on places to go, things to do. I bet less than 1% of the population has as many wonderful friends as I have.
Today I’m going to tell you what’s been going on with me the past couple of months. However, for those relatively new to the blog, I need to fill in the back-story.
On July 17, 2018 – more than a year ago – I lost my job. It was the second time I lost a job that calendar year. I’d only been at the new job 4 months. I was incredibly anxious and depressed. I felt like my skills had fallen behind the times, given the fact that I’d been at the previous job 9 years and missed out on a lot of new technologies. I didn’t know what to do.
There was also the fact that my chosen career path – IT/web development – felt like a path I had grown apart from. It didn’t use much of what I thought was the best I had to offer – teaching ability, writing ability, being a connector of people, inspiring others. I really dreaded the thought of going back to IT. Yet I didn’t know what other option there was.
I felt overwhelmed in other ways as well. I was still reeling from the death of my mom, and the guilt that I could have been a better son to her. (I was an only child, so she didn’t have anyone else.) I had health issues that left me barely able to walk in October-November 2018, and without insurance I couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. I also listed “people being shitty” as one of the things overwhelming me. For the moment I will leave that vague but it has been something weighing on me for more than 4 years.
So, the second week of August, 2018, I made a decision. I decided I would live out my remaining days on the money I had left, and then kill myself. No I am not kidding. By deciding to end it all I freed myself, or so I thought, from my responsibilities, the parts of life we jokingly refer to as “adulting.” No technical job interviews, no fear of rejection from those hiring managers, no more upkeep on my car. I wouldn’t have to figure out how to file my mom’s 2016 and 2017 taxes, which I never bothered to do after she died. I’d be free to spend my remaining time enjoying my many friends and the places in my Downtown neighborhood that I love the best. Which I did for quite a while, longer than I thought the money would last.
On April 23, 2019, it was time. I had $13 left to my name and my April rent was way past due. About 11:40 that evening I rode the elevator to the rooftop of my 16-story apartment building and walked to the edge. I was two feet away. All I had to do was jump and my plan would be complete.
I couldn’t do it.
The security guard on duty saw me on camera and came up to the roof and talked me into coming back inside. The police were called and I was taken for a psych evaluation. I voluntarily committed myself to 5 days in a Crisis Safety Unit in the Medical Center District. There I got to see a psychiatrist, who thought I was doing such a good job in recovery that she released me on Saturday, April 27, the fourth of the planned five days. I walked back home to my apartment. While in the CSU I had contacted my apartment’s leasing agent and she said she would work with me on catching up on rent.
I checked my mailbox, which was pretty full since mail was one of the “adulting” responsibilities I had thrown to the wayside for the past several months. There I found statements from two retirement accounts. There was a John Hancock account from the almost 9 years I spent at the bridge league. There was also a VALIC account from my days teaching at the University of Memphis. I could take an early withdrawal on one of those and get caught up on the rent and get enough money to keep me afloat.
I wrote a blog post explaining where I had been. Once again my wonderful friends came through for me, taking me out for drinks, PayPalling me donations, even offering me a couple of small consulting gigs. Their generosity got me through until May 7 when the money hit my account and I caught up on rent. That left me with enough to last about 3 more months.
One of the things I did to hide my plan to kill myself was I spent $400 on BBQ team dues. I hated to lose that money but I knew that not paying dues would arouse suspicion. Now that I was still alive, I was a paid member of a team for a BBQ festival that was about to happen. So I decided to enjoy BBQ Fest, spend time with friends and remind myself how much I love my Downtown Memphis, and then get my life together after BBQ Fest week was over.
The problem was, I had done too good a job destroying my life before the suicide attempt. I had too much of a burden on me.
For one thing, there was the car. I last drove it on October 24, 2018. During the period when my legs were bad I was scared I’d fall getting in and out of it. When my legs got better I never went back to the car and it has sat in the garage ever since, one of those dusty, abandoned cars my friend Uncle Ray complains about. Thinking my time was short, I didn’t spend the 100 or so dollars to renew its tags when they came due in January. I stopped paying the monthly parking garage fee. So by May, catching up would have cost me hundreds of dollars to get the fees current. There was also the fact that the car’s fuel system had probably been damaged by being unused for so long, damage that could cost me thousands in repair bills. That could deeply eat into the remaining money I had left. And it broke my heart that I had ruined such a nice car.
Then there was the job search. By May I had gone 9 months without a job. However, since I only had the previous job 4 months and had basically failed at it, I never bothered to put it on a resume, leading to a gap of 16 months that would have to be explained. Employers and recruiters would have quite legitimate reason to question whether my skill set was up to date. Who in their right mind would hire me, I thought?
Then there was the fact that I still didn’t want to go back to IT. It had become a world of Agile design principles, of Scrum, of pushing your code via git, of dependency injection, of SOLID object design principles, of controllers and views and models. It had become a world of sitting in a cubicle all day with eyes constantly on you. I didn’t want to go back to that. As I said in a previous post, I would never have picked a computer science major at age 19 if I had been able to look into a crystal ball and see the future.
Then there were other things weighing on me. Besides not having done my mom’s taxes for the last two years she was alive, I never did my 2018 taxes. By April 15, I knew (thought) the end was near and I would soon be taking a 16-story leap. Why would I do them? But now, still alive, I had all that hanging over my head.
The “people being shitty” situation continued to exist. I’m so tempted to go off on a long tangent about this. I won’t though. I’ll just say that it contributed to my depression and led me to mostly stop going to South Main, a neighborhood which I had always enjoyed.
So I had a lot hanging over my head, which made it harder and harder to be productive. I made a deal with myself that on weekdays, I had to stay home and be productive until 2 PM, when the Silly Goose opens. They have two dollar happy hour PBR from 2 to 8, so it’s relatively cheap to drink there. I know, an argument could be made that I shouldn’t have been out spending money on alcohol at all, but some of my best friends hang out there and I wanted to see them. Daniel the owner is a longtime friend and Jessica the happy hour bartender was one of my most supportive friends when I got sick last fall.
By mid-June I really started to get nervous, knowing I only had about six weeks’ worth of money left. You’d think that would have made me work even harder to try and make something happen in my life financially. It didn’t. Every day I woke up so stressed out I could barely think. The anxiety was overwhelming. I couldn’t bear to be home alone with my own thoughts. I had to get out and be among people to relieve the anxiousness. Staying home until 2:00 became nearly impossible. It was all I could do in the morning to get a blog post done and do household chores like laundry.
So my new “goal” became to not go out until 11 AM, when Blind Bear opens. The staff that work lunch there are all my friends and are all awesome. It makes me so happy to be greeted with a smile and a wave and “Hiya, Paul!” when Feeny is working. Deedra is my movie-watching buddy. Tre is one of the most entertaining people ever. Mary is on her way to becoming a star yoga teacher. Then there are the regulars who come in for lunch. I enjoy their company so much. I am grateful to them for taking my mind off my problems. Of course, since I was going out 3 hours earlier I was adding to my bar tabs – and my problems.
By July I knew I would have to hit that University of Memphis VALIC retirement account to keep afloat. However, I engaged in one of my favorite habits, procrastination. I put off calling the VALIC office until after the Fourth holiday, then put it off for another week. Then I called and discovered my rep at VALIC is the type who always kicks his phone to voice mail and rarely calls back, and when he does, it’s a day or two later. That added to my anxiety even more. Also adding to it was the knowledge that making that VALIC withdrawal was not a solution; it was nothing more than kicking the can down the road, and I’d face a huge tax hit in 2020 because of those early withdrawals.
My anxiety got so bad that even staying at home until 11 was not a realistic goal for me anymore. I had to do my morning routine, get a blog post up (most days), and get out of my head and into the world as quickly as I could. (un?)Fortunately, I have a bar around the corner from me that opens at 8 AM – Bardog. I’d typically get there around 9, 9:30, some days a little later, some days a little earlier. I absolutely love that place. The jukebox soothes me. The people who work there are like family.
Trouble was, by July I don’t think getting out to see friends was even my main motivation for going to the bars so early. I couldn’t wait for that feeling that would kick in around the beginning of my third PBR, sooner if some kind soul bought me a shot of Jameson. That feeling that everything would be OK, at least temporarily. It turned down the volume on my anxiety to a reasonable level.
Of course, by going out even earlier I was running up even bigger bar tabs. Not good when you’re running out of money.
At the end of July, I tried calling my VALIC rep again. I got his voice mail but this time the message was different – he’d be out of the office all week. ARGH! I knew I would be late on my rent. I hate that. Up until April I prided myself on having never been late on a rent payment in my life.
I finally got the VALIC paperwork faxed in mid-August. But now they’re holding up the payment because a termination letter needs to be faxed from the University of Memphis saying that I no longer work there. Which I haven’t for 20 years.
I’ve turned into a liar and a user of people. Every Saturday I see my wonderful friend Randy at Bardog and he asks if I had a good week. I always say “yeah, pretty good” when in fact the last good week I had was probably BBQ Fest.
Most Sundays I see my friend Otto and he asks how the job search is coming, and I lie and say I’ve been actively looking when I really haven’t all that much. He’s not the only person who’s asked that question either. He’s not the only person I’ve lied to about that.
My friend Bob asks, “How’s your car? Have you driven it lately?” and I say yes even though I haven’t.
I cashed a $500 check my buddy Frank gave me as down-payment on website work. That kept me going this month but I have been so stressed out I have not been able to concentrate on his work and have not made substantial progress. I feel like I have used someone who has been a very good friend to me. I hate that. That is not who I aspire to be.
Many of you know that a few years ago, someone lied about me all over town, including falsifying police reports and court documents. It disgusts me to think that I am slowly sinking to her level.
Monday of this week I started off with $148. You’d think, knowing that’s all I had, I’d make an effort to conserve funds. But no, I spent an incredible NINETY TWO DOLLARS over the course of a SEVENTEEN HOUR day/night out drinking. I started at Bardog at 8:05, wanting to be there for new bartender Haleigh’s first Monday shift. I had a blast getting to know her, chatting with the other regulars, and listening to the jukebox. At 2 I went over to Silly Goose where my buddy Tyler was subbing behind the bar. Had a good time talking to him and the regulars who filed in after work. Then I went over to Blind Bear where my yoga teacher friend Mary was working Moonshine Monday. She had this new lemon moonshine and it was tasty.
I mean, there was no doubt I had a fabulous day but you’d think I might have spent some of that money catching up on my MLGW bill. I’m two months behind.
Tuesday, feeling guilty about blowing so much money the day before, I stayed home to 2 PM, which is as close to an accomplishment as it gets for me these days. I wanted to get out to Silly Goose and see my friend Brittini though, for her last shift before she welcomes a new baby boy into this world. I stayed there until about 8, then went over to Blind Bear. There I did something I’m really not proud of. I took advantage of my reputation.
You see, in the past I’ve had a pristine record of paying my bar tabs, of not walking out on them. So when I tabbed out, I handed them my debit card. As expected, it was declined, but the owner Jeannette told me it was no big deal, just pay it in the next few days. That stretched my dollars but at the expense of lying to/using a person who has been an incredible friend to me, a person whose bar has been my living room for the past 7 years.
I feel like such a piece of shit as I type this.
Wednesday I was not going to go out at all, but then…. guess what! I found a Bardog wooden nickel. That entitles the holder to a 5 cent PBR. Couldn’t let that go to waste, and I still had $19 so I could have a few more beers as well. That got me out of the house about 10. My friend David who sold me my car was there, and I had a great time talking with him about the antique, air-cooled Porsche he just bought. People bought a couple of rounds of Jameson and I once again got that relaxing “things are going to be OK, at least for a little while” feeling that took away some of my anxiety. Of course, that feeling was more fleeting than ever, and $15 of my remaining money said bye-bye.
At 2 I went over to the Silly Goose. I told Jessica the bartender about my money problems and asked, “Do you mind if I just sit at the bar? I need to be around my friends,” and she said that was no problem and even offered to buy me a couple of beers. Another regular bought me a few more beers, and in fact I still have a credit of one beer which I guess I will go collect this afternoon.
At 7 I went to Blind Bear. Normally I wouldn’t have gone in there until I could pay Jeannette back, but it was Charles the Trivia Guy’s last night and I wanted to be there for that. Charles has provided us with a lot of fun entertainment over the past 10 years, and is leaving trivia for the most noble of reasons – to have more time to be a dad to his son. Jeannette was bartending and I felt really bad about being there. I couldn’t even look her in the eye. My friend David from earlier in the day showed up and bought me a beer, which I appreciated and nursed for the next 4 hours. After that I left. The bar was getting packed and I felt bad about taking up a seat that could be generating revenue and tips.
So, yeah. Here it is Thursday morning and I have $4 in my pocket, a free beer at the Goose, and the knowledge that I’ve basically destroyed my life.
It’s a paradox. I love myself and hate myself at the same time.
Thanks for reading. My email is email@example.com if anyone wants to talk. firstname.lastname@example.org works too if that first address fails (I’ve been told occasionally it does).