Tag Archives: Alcohol

Maybe Pain and Misery is the Only Way

guy at bar alone


I was drinking a lot of vodka to numb the pain.

Not scary amounts. Nothing dangerous. But I was using alcohol medicinally for the first time and that’s probably bad.

But when you feel jacked up on the inside and everything hurts no matter what, and you’re so scared about tomorrow because for the first time you don’t have any sense of what the future might look like, you only have so many options.

I didn’t want to die, even though that’s the one thing I stopped fearing.

I tried to have fun, but when the brokenness is inside you, it comes with you to parties and friends’ houses and holiday gatherings even when it’s not invited.

Sleeping sounds good. But when every night your subconscious delivers a highlight reel of your wife with someone else, even falling asleep starts to scare you.

So I drank a little. Two or three vodka drinks in an ice-filled tumbler. Feeling sorry for myself. Binge-watching Netflix, but not digesting the escapist fare not doing its job.

I missed them so much—my wife and son. And the only relief seemed to be the nights my little boy was home with me. But when he was home, it meant she was with him. More unwanted highlight reels—my mind concocting vivid X-rated scenes I didn’t find arousing.

I puked a lot.

I finally knew what it meant to be a broken person.

Two things happened when I started blogging in late June 2013.

The first was that writing stuff down helped me feel better. Tangibly. Like a miracle, even though the psych community had been touting the merits of doing so for as long as I could remember. I don’t always believe things until they happen to me.

The second was that a bunch of people started writing me telling me they felt the same way. Men would write me to say they’ve been where I am, or that they were going through it also. And when you find someone who really understands you, you heal even more. Even if they’re faceless strangers on the internet. Women would write me because they were married to, or dating, men who were behaving in ways I identified as the likely cause of my divorce.

And every one of those women still emotionally invested in their relationship had one obvious question: “How did you figure this out, and what can I do to help my husband understand what you now seem to?”

Divorce is the Worst and I Can’t Be the Only One Who Thinks So

I didn’t think: Hey, I know! I’ll write about divorce stuff!

I actually thought: Maybe it will be interesting to write about being freshly divorced and single with a young child and trying to build a new life. There will probably be some hilarious dating stories!

My ill-conceived attempt to journal my dating experiences quickly turned into something else. It turned into a written journey of self-reflection while I tried to find an answer to the questions: What did I do to cause this? What could I have done differently? What will it take to make sure it never happens again?

And as the comments continued to pour in from damaged spouses (mostly wives struggling to connect with their husbands while feeling emotionally abandoned), this seemingly inconsequential slice of the internet developed a meaningful purpose.

To make people realize they weren’t alone. Husbands. Wives. Boyfriends. Girlfriends. Straight. Gay. Everyone has their own tragic love story.

Everyone wants to love and be loved.

And everyone wants to know the secret: How do I find that Happily-Ever-After kind of love?

The kind where it always feels good.

The kind where it always feels safe.

The kind that lasts forever.

Whether your soul has been infected by the worst kind of marital fuckness, or your heart simply aches for someone who is always just out of reach, love—the kind attached to marriage and dating and sex—hurts. Badly.

It’s the kind of pain you have to numb or tough out until time heals you because there are no simple fixes.

And no one makes a scar cream capable of erasing this kind.

It’s the Pain

That’s what makes us change.

The pain.

When we’re kids, we learn not to touch hot surfaces or play with sharp knives or avoid hard impacts, because when we are burnt, cut or struck, we feel pain and learn to try and avoid it.

I lived my life having exclusively positive relationships with girls. I was nice. I didn’t toy with people emotionally. And pretty much everyone I’ve dated has liked me after we stopped.

I think it might be that simple.

Hey wife! Everyone likes me! I’m friends with everyone I used to date! No one else EVER complains about me! So tell me why I should believe you’re not the one with the problem?

It’s not illogical. It’s damn near the scientific method—a systematic and logical approach to forming the (incorrect) conclusion that you are NEVER responsible for anything bad, and that you’re always a victim! Because you didn’t MEAN to do anything wrong!

I think most women think most men are: Selfish, dense, lazy (about activities that don’t interest them), and insensitive.

I think most men think most women are: Emotionally volatile, illogical, unfair, inconsistent, and ungrateful (because his flaws are constantly under scrutiny, while he never hears praise—which he craves—for all of his positive contributions).

I think women think this because it’s really hard for her to imagine how his brain works. She assumes his brain functions like hers, thus he must be mean and stupid.

I think men think this because it’s really hard for him to imagine how her mind and body work. He assumes she thinks and feels—mechanically—in a way that’s similar to him. Thus, she must be hormonal and crazy.

She says something to him that makes perfect sense, but he doesn’t get it.

He fires back with a perfectly valid point of his own, but she doesn’t get it.

The two translators are INCAPABLE of comprehending what the other is saying. Even more importantly, the man is befuddled by her reaction because what he just said would result in a way different reaction from him. The woman is totally confused about him not getting it because she’s speaking very clearly about this thing she KNOWS she is experiencing and he’s not validating it. He’s not admitting it’s true.

She feels a combination of rage and heartbrokenness and fear.

He feels a combination of shame and confusion and frustration.

Often he will feel better soon if he just gets some time alone to think about something else. He’ll come back later ready to hug, apologize and have make-up sex.

But she WILL NOT feel better if she’s left alone. She won’t think about something else. She’ll think about this and the 50 previous fights that were just like this one. She’s afraid he doesn’t love her anymore, and she’s questioning the long-term stability of the relationship which makes her feel afraid, and she feels totally disrespected and invalidated. So the hugs and apologies start to feel empty and meaningless after a while.

And she doesn’t want to have sex because he doesn’t make her feel safe, loved or wanted anymore.

It’s happening all over the world. Right now.

It’s happening to one of you. Right now.

And it ends in piles of shit and misery. Always. You either split up. One of you has an affair. Or you spend years feeling resentful toward the person you’re supposed to love, and like a prisoner in your own life.

And You Have to Want More Than That

You have two other options.

One is stay single. And it does seem easier and less complicated. But we get lonely and we crave companionship and most of us like orgasms. Preferably with other people. So, almost inevitably it seems, we seek partnership.

And for that to work, there’s only one option: Learning best practices for marriage or long-term relationships that last a lifetime.

It’s not so different than learning skills in a particular sport or hobby or profession.

The problem is, most people think they have it all figured out like I did. They’re “smart.” Everything will be totally fine!

And they take for granted that it won’t always be fine. And once it starts to get really hard because one of you lost your job, or because your house is financially underwater, or because of health problems and medical bills, or because someone really close to you dies—most people lack the knowledge and skills and emotional resolve to get through it.

More fighting. More affairs. More divorce.

More guys who don’t figure out what happened. More women wondering how they’re ever going to trust another man, because they all seem the same. More children who bury pain and put on a happy face around mom and dad who they secretly wish were still together.

It’s really hard to do what it takes to love another person more than yourself.

It’s really hard to put your spouse’s needs ahead of your own, and statistically challenging to find a partner willing to do the same in return.

It’s really hard to admit you’re part of the problem. Perhaps the biggest part.

Even the most unselfish of us still feel What’s in it for me? from time to time.

“Hey Matt! How did you figure this out? How can I get my husband to figure out what you did?”

I think there’s probably an effective way on the front end of marital problems. A way for men and women to proactively bolster their marriage so that the foundation is unshakable when the hits eventually come.

And I’m still trying to figure out what that is.

In the meantime, the answer to your question is: The pain.

Waking up every day and asking: What can I do to help my wife have the best day possible and know that I love her? (along with seeing your children every day) is the OBVIOUS choice over the gargantuan pile of shit divorce dumps on your life. You’re ashamed. You lose confidence. You have less money. You miss your children. You miss companionship. You miss the person who was your best friend, even though you can barely remember what that version of them was really like. You miss having a sexual partner. You miss holidays feeling special. You miss in-law family events you’re no longer invited to. You miss your friends who you always spent time with as a couple.

And you miss yourself.

The person you used to know when you looked in the mirror.

The one who didn’t feel as if they failed at the most important thing that ever happened to them.

I don’t know how to make men feel and respond as I did. As I do.

I only know how to write these things down.

Maybe for someone, that can be enough.

Even if that someone is just me.

And even if I no longer need the vodka.

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Technical Difficulties, Vol. 3

I'm so dumb.

I’m so dumb.

I premature ejac-posted tomorrow’s post while trying to edit it on my phone WHILE drinking.


I’m sorry.

It will reappear again in a couple hours. And in the meantime, you can enjoy this sweet one.

This will likely go down in history as my shortest-ever post.

You’re welcome.

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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

 With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.

With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.

‘Twas the night before Christmas and I was at home, totally alone, and writing a poem. The house is a mess. I don’t really care. My friends coming over, can lick my…

Christmas balls, brownies and cranberry dips! The beer tastes so good when the head hits your lips! There will be shots of tequila! Rum and eggnog! Ensuring this night that we’ll sleep like Yule logs.

The house has a chimney where squirrels once nested, baby squirrels rained down, and my patience was tested. So I installed a cage to keep the rats out, a cage that’s likely to make Santa shout.

“WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT?!?!” the old man might yell, frightening the reindeer who will jingle their bells, before flying away and stranding St. Nick, who will stand there dumbfounded, feeling like a dick.

With the chimney shut tight, and the reindeer aflight, Santa will sneak like a thief in the night, to my back door and let himself in, and that’s when he’ll hear it: The sounds of our sins:

Laughter and swearing and off-color joking. Eating and drinking and probably smoking. The Mowgli’s, Cake, Of Monsters and Men. Walk the Moon, Volbeat, and Radiohead. Imagine Dragons, Beck, and Lana Del Ray. Childish Gambino and then Hot Chelle Rae.

“Holy shit, Hot Chelle Rae!” Santa will say. “This song’s gayer than Freddie Mercury’s pants!” before involuntarily starting to dance.

He’ll stomp down the stairs to my basement bar, but no one will notice; we’re not seeing far.

Faster than magic reindeer, his angry voice will come, and he’ll scowl and he’ll point and make us feel dumb: “Now, Scott! Now, Angel! Now, David and Connie! On, Joel! On, Mindy! On, Pam and on Johnny!”

He’ll flash a quick smile, do a quick whirl, point right at me, and wink at the jewelry store girl.

“The idiot reindeer left and now I’m in trouble, please pour me a drink, in fact, make that a double!”

Obliging the man, I’ll pour a tall glass. “I can control time! I’m getting drunk off my ass!”

His eyes will not twinkle though his dimples will be merry. His cheeks—like roses. His nose? Like a cherry.

We’ll party. We’ll laugh. We’ll dance and we’ll sing. Only God knows what the evening will bring.

“Sonofabitch! Would you look at the time! Lord, where are my reindeer? Please show me a sign.”

And just then on the stereo—Bullet for my Valentine.

Santa will slam down his drink with a thunderous THRAP. “Happy birthday, Jesus! I hope you like crap!”

He’ll stand up and stumble—a drunken Kriss Kringle. Scott will leave early; his keys, he will jingle.

The noise will draw reindeer back to my home; and here I thought I’d spend this evening alone.

We’ll laugh and we’ll hug and become Facebook friends, then he’ll climb in his sleigh where the time always bends.

He’ll put his hands on my shoulders: “Thanks for the shots. You’ve been naughty this year. But when have you not?”

I’ll shrug and I’ll nod because that’s what I do.

“Look under your tree. I left you a few.”

The magic is back, this Christmas, you see, with the promise of treasures in 2014.

If the presents are late or the gifts too confusing, I apologize, sincerely, for adult-drink abusing.

A visit from Santa. A visit from friends. An abundance of blessings where fun never ends.

Be thankful for fun and for laughs and for life. Be thankful for friends, your family, your wife. Be thankful for children, for adventure—live free. Be thankful for wine and barrel-aged whiskey.

I’m thankful for you. You give my life light.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Please have a fun night.

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Almost Murdered in Peoria

Like this. Only totally sinister.

Like this. Only totally sinister.

It started the same as every horror movie you’ve ever seen, minus the part where I got to have sex with a beautiful girl.

Five teenage boys road-tripping together.

It was my junior year of high school—1996—the only year of my childhood where I wasn’t going to school and living with my mom in a small Ohio town. I was 500 miles west in western Illinois, living with my father for the first time since I was 4.

Because my dad didn’t get to see me as much as he would have preferred my entire life, he was really protective of me. As a younger child, he never wanted me to go spend the night at friends’ houses when I would visit during my school breaks. He felt those same protective instincts when I was 17, but was not unreasonable.

When he was 17, he was training to drop bombs on submarines in the U.S. Navy. So, he signed off on a road trip 90 miles away to Peoria, Ill. for a couple nights to watch our high school basketball team play in the state semi finals.

I was the youngest guy in the group. I was with three seniors—Eddie, Brian and Dan, and a guy who had graduated the year before—Charlie, but a lot of people called him Chuck.

Even though the eldest of us—Charlie—was only 19, we still had a bunch of beer.

We were sitting around our Peoria hotel room, being guys, drinking underage and smoking cigarettes, when Charlie said: “Does anyone have any weed?”

We all shook our heads.

“Damn. I wish we did,” he said.

Everyone shrugged, except me.

“That would be awesome,” I said.

Then, there was a knock on the hotel room door. Eddie answered. It was the pizza man delivering dinner.

The guy looked remarkably similar to the nerdy guy with straight hair and glasses in Dazed and Confused who wanted to hook up with the freshman girl.

Charlie, fueled by beer and natural awesomeness, said: “Hey man. Do you know how to get some weed around here?”

Pizza Guy, who was in his early 20s, studied us for a minute.

“I have some,” Pizza Guy said.

“Dude. That’s awesome. Can we buy some from you?” Charlie said.

“No man. Sorry. I don’t sell it. But if you want, I can come back after my shift and hook you guys up,” he said.

Charlie and I thanked him, and he left, promising to come back later.

Rad. We’re going to get high, I thought.

‘Want to Play a Game?’

Pizza Guy showed up just after midnight.

“Alright! Who’s coming?” he said.

Just Charlie and me. The other three thought we were morons, and told us so.

It was early 1996. If we got into a jam, my pager wasn’t going to help us.

But Charlie was the size of me and Pizza Guy combined, so I figured if we got into a jam, Charlie would do whatever big guys do when trouble strikes.

Sometimes, when you’re buzzed, getting ANOTHER buzz sounds like the world’s greatest idea, and you’ll do silly things to achieve it.

Like get in the back of a shitty light blue 1986ish Ford Escort. The smell was the perfect combination of disgusting and amazing, which makes total sense since he’s a guy who delivers pizzas AND will randomly pick up teenage guys from hotels, drive them around, and let them smoke his marijuana for free.

Pizza Guy drove with purpose—months of pizza delivery in his hometown making him a master navigator of the quiet late-night/early morning Peoria streets.

“I know the perfect spot,” Pizza Guy said, as we found ourselves heading deeper into a darker, scarier part of this strange city among old industrial buildings and warehouses.

Charlie turned around from the front passenger seat to give me the wide-eyed What-the-hell-is-happening-right-now? face.

Great. My emergency plan is terrified, too.

Pizza Guy pulled into a large, predominantly empty parking lot which belonged to an office building with about a third of its lights on.

He broke out his bowl (a pot-smoking apparatus, for those of who use your time more wisely), and packed it.

Then the three of us passed it around.

The entire thing was awkward.

Pizza Guy’s story could only be one of, or a combination of, three things:

  1. He was really lonely and desperate for friends.
  2. He was really weird.
  3. He was going to murder us.

We were only there for the weed. In Denis Leary’s No Cure for Cancer stand-up comedy special, Leary joked about this very thing:

“That was the worst part about the coke, man, was being in that bathroom with that stranger at the end of the night, wasn’t it? Huh? Talking about shit like solving the world’s problems. And the only reason you’re in there is because he has the coke. That should have been a fucking sign, don’t you think? I mean, if Hitler had coke, there’d be Jews in the bathroom. *snort* ‘I know you didn’t do it!’ *snort* ‘I like your mustache!’ *snort* ‘Fucking Himmler!’”

When you smoke pot, it takes about 15 minutes for the buzz’s maximum force to hit you.

We were just about to that point when Pizza Guy said: “Want to play a game?”

“Umm. What kind of game?” Charlie asked from the front seat, turning around to give me the look again.

Pizza Guy used to have a girlfriend, he said.

And what they used to do for fun was drive around and get high.

And then, they would randomly wander into office buildings throughout Peoria. They would walk down the hall, find a stairwell or elevator, go to the second floor, walk through that floor, find another stairwell or elevator, and go to the next floor, snaking their way up to the roof if they could make it.

The game was to always see whether they could make it onto the roof without getting thrown out by a security guard or someone who worked there.

If they got to the roof, they would have sex there, he said.

“You want to try it?” Pizza Guy said, without mentioning whether he wanted to have sex with us if we made it to the roof.

“No, thank you. We kind of have to get up early tomorrow. Maybe we can go back and hang out at the hotel?” I said, hopefully.

“C’mon! It’ll be fun,” Pizza Guy said, opening his car door and beckoning us to follow him.

He was about 10 paces away from the car heading toward the building when Charlie turned around, wide-eyed.

“What the fuck is happening right now? We are not going into that building.”

I just nodded in agreement. The marijuana was really starting to work.

And by work, I mean, make a really bizarre situation infinitely more bizarre.

Pizza Guy slumped, disappointed, and walked back to his Escort upon realizing we weren’t going to follow him.

Sometimes when you smoke pot, you feel a false sense of paranoia. You start making up frightening scenarios in your head.

That started happening.

Tomorrow’s headline in the Peoria Journal Star:

“Two Teens Found Dead in Parking Lot.”


“Two Teens Found Dead on Rooftop,” with the subhead “Police: Butt sex was definitely involved.”


“Killer Pizza Man Strikes Again.”


“Double Cheese. Double Pepperoni. Double Murder.”

Knowing Charlie—who could barely fit in the car because he was so tall—was freaking out made me freak out.

In my head, I was rocking in the fetal position, pleading: “PLEASE!!! Please just take us back to our hotel room!!! We don’t want to die!!!”

But because I’m good at pretending, I appeared calm as I sat in the backseat smoking Marlboro Lights and taking mental inventory of everything I might use as a weapon.

Before I completed my drunk-and-high assessment, Pizza Guy agreed to take us back.

Both Charlie and I were on high (pun!) alert.

Anticlimactically, Pizza Guy dropped us off outside our room. We thanked him probably, but I honestly don’t remember much at this point.

We got back in the room. Eddie, Brian and Dan chastised us repeatedly for doing something so stupid, but were curious to hear about our Adventure with Pizza Guy.

And as it turns out, it’s one of those stories that’s really interesting when you’re drinking and smoking in the back of an ’86 Escort, and not so interesting when you’re reading it on the Internet.

Almost murdered?

Almost involuntarily butt-sexed?

Probably not.

But it’s a prime example of how easy it was to get me to make bad decisions half a life ago.

I probably wouldn’t be that stupid today.

But one can never be certain.

Because I feel like pizza tonight.

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