also addiction but it didn't really fit into the headline
Welcome to hugpunch, here are the things I can’t stop thinking about that have recently hugged and/or punched my brain.
the guy outside my apartment who, while walking his really old and big dog, leaned down to say sweet things to her while she took her time sniffing the drying, yellowed summer grass.
the way hippos gracefully point their toes when they glide underwater.
the ‘shades of magic’ series by v.e. schwab
Recently, and I saw a DoorDash commercial featuring Cookie Monster and Daveed Diggs. It’s a very cute spot, with Cookie and Daveed chilling as roommates and Cookie has ordered a surprise feast.
Daveed calls Grover to invite him over for some ramen and that’s that, a sweet little vignette about a person living with a monster that cannot help itself. Which felt oddly familiar.
“Holy shit,” I thought. “Cookie Monster is living the addict’s dream.”
Cookie Monster was my favorite of the Sesame Street gang growing up. None of that saccharine Elmo bullshit - Cookie knew what the score was, and that score was cookies.
Cookie was so funny, and I loved the monster’s unbridled honesty about really, truly wanting something. It’s vulnerable to show desire and failure openly, and like so many, I didn’t like those soft spots exposed.
Learning to limit hope as a way to avoid the pain of disappointment is a coping skill, a shield that, while keeping me safe from potential discomfort, also leeches a poison into my arms. Not allowing myself to have hope was a slow poison, but I figured it had to be better than the immediacy of bone-shattering disappointment.
And as a kid, I always wanted more.
More bacon (there never seemed to be enough with five kids in the house). More frosting. More store-bought snacks that came in their own wrapping. More that I didn’t have to share, or worry it would disappear throughout the day because someone else found it in the fridge or the cupboard.
But more didn’t exist that way in my family. Desperately wanting something didn’t mean I needed it, and, if I did feel I needed it, I could earn and save up money to buy it myself. (Which ended up being a really great life lesson born out of necessity, but again, my kid brain wouldn’t comprehend that until it grew some more.)
I didn’t know yet that focusing only on getting A Thing to make you happy would never get you there. But even if I had seen and understood Cookie’s obsession this way, I don’t know if there’s anything I could’ve avoided the way alcohol took over my life in my 20s.
Drinking was the only coping skill I had for a long time, and I abused the shit out of it.
My 20s were a churning cement mixer of untreated depression, anxiety and figuring out how to incorporate being gay into my life. Being drunk smoothed the jagged loneliness of it all, so I chased this quiet and muted version of my life as though said life depended on it. I wanted more.
Addiction isn’t always a scary monster in your head. Sometimes it’s an cuddly monster repeating over and over that the answer to everything is what it wants. A blue buddy with a toothless maw leading to a bottomless pit, never to be full.
Which, I realize, was a horrible way to feel about the beautiful and kind and perfect Cookie Monster, who I’ve heard is now even eating vegetables.
So instead, I thought about Carrie Fisher.
Carrie Fisher wrote about these feelings in ‘Wishful Drinking,’ a memoir about addiction and mental illness and living a flawed life that is beautiful because it’s yours. (I accidentally stole this book from my therapist when I stopped drinking in 2013, and then my dog chewed on it, so obviously I couldn’t give it back.)
“If you have the expectation that you’re going to be happy throughout your life - more to the point, if you need to be comfortable all the time - well, among other things, you have the markings of a classic drug addict or alcoholic,” she wrote.
That was the ultimate goal when drinking: Shutting down inconvenient and heavy feelings entirely and having silence in my head and heart and guts and soul. I needed that or I’d have to deal with what was happening in my life.
Or, as Carrie puts it: “My only intent was to feel better, which is to say, not to feel at all.”
The trick is, no matter how much you try, you feel the whole time.
I felt headaches and the scorch of vomit in my throat and regret and bad decisions. Mornings when I didn’t know who I was supposed to apologize to, I just knew I was sorry.
But I didn’t want to give up my favorite thing, the only thing I thought I loved. And when I did, it sucked for a really long time, and I missed alcohol the way Cookie Monster would miss cookies.
But it’s not so bad anymore.
I don’t feel that ache as much when I see cold beer in the summer or think about tequila in general. But still, watching Cookie Monster order warm cookies and cold milk any time, I wondered just for a moment if the monster’s pulse refused to slow down until the cookies were in hand, blood rushing with the certainty that there’s plenty and will always be enough for more.
Lucky blue bastard.