Wow, is all I can say. I just got back from an acupuncture (and tui na) session with a well-regarded therapist here, and I’m… Drained? Changed? Blown away? Scolding myself for not having done it sooner along in my recovery (I’m on day 24 the second time around; it would have been day 90 today if I hadn’t drunk a couple times in August), AND for not having kept up with my health — mental and emotional — while drinkin’ that I let it get this bad.
The first thing he did, that all acupuncturists do, is “feel your pulse” (along your wrists) to take a read on you — your physical, emotional, and mental health. Mind is body, body is mind, and fixing one without the other doesn’t make sense to practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine. My back pain started 10 years ago, and I knew pretty early on that it was connected to my other problems: former bulimia, self-esteem issues, childhood trauma. (I store my reaction to stress and/or LIFE, considering the amount of pain I feel, almost entirely in my left shoulder). Today’s session told me that it is almost 100% related, as far as how severe it gets and how constant it is.
I told him all about my separate pains (sciatica, iliotibial band syndrome, and generalized pain along my left spine/left shoulder). He mentioned that the pain I was feeling running along my groin and down my hamstring is associated with the liver (energy) channel. HUH. SHIT, I thought. Better tell him. I gulped and admitted it out loud: I’m getting sober, it’s been almost 90 days (minus 2) and well, yeah, it’s been bad. How bad? Oh, I was blacking out about 5 nights of every 7 on a regular basis. Oh, for about 2 years. I’ve been drinking to excess for the past 5-10, I said. That makes a huge difference, thanks for telling me, he said. Not a big deal on his part, but a huge one on mine (I’m sure he sees a LOT of people with mood problems and substance issues. Although, I hope that what he was secretly thinking wasn’t, Wow, she’s seriously fucked UP.).
We then went to work. First, he performed tui na. THAT was awesome. Tui na is a push/pull massage technique; the main goal is to release energy, not so much to massage muscle tension out. Whew, his hands felt like STEEL! He knows his stuff, I thought, grimacing a few times as he dug in and “wrung” out the areas that were in near-splitting pain.
Then, I turned over (I was clothed the entire time; tui na is performed through the clothes) and he stuck two needles in me. That’s it. After my reaction to the first, he said he didn’t want to traumatize me. WHOA. I’ve had acupuncture before, and I’ve cried before from the emotional release it provides, but this was some next-level, out-of-my-world shit. He did some tweaking around both my lower left and right arms — of course, they hurt from typing all the time — and that somehow triggered me. I feel helpless against this pain, and it reminds me of work and stress and my job(s) over the years that helped drill it into me. Then, when he put the needle into my lower right arm and twisted it a bit, he hit a nerve. Literally and figuratively.
I felt a particular sensation of release, of warmth, immediately traveling throughout my right arm and creeping over my entire upper body. It literally felt like warm liquid, and — paradoxically, in this case — both calming and agitating. The twisting of the needle hit a nerve; and along with that raw, shooting pain, I felt emotionally unblocked. It was as if he had also opened up my “emotions” channel, and that started to flow. Boy, did it flow.
I just started bawling. Weeping, actually. I covered my eyes, as I never cry in front of people and in this case, I just COULD NOT STOP. It wasn’t sadness that I was feeling, it was pure GRIEF. Deep and raw and very personal. He told me to let it out, and I did. I told him that I felt so much pain, and croaked out how I felt so much guilt over what I had done while drunk — I feel like a failure, I said.
I continued to shake and cry when he left the room, for about the first 15 minutes of my 25-minute session. When it finally subsided, I felt deeply calm, quite heavy, and ready to sleep. When I got up to leave, I felt dizzy. I stumbled to the front desk, paid him, and looked sheepishly into his unflinching eyes and said, Thank you.
What were the biggest lessons I learned? One, that mind and body are so interrelated it’s sad that it takes us all so damn long to open up to this reality. Yes, reality.
Two, as I was lying on the table, I thought, The day will come when I will be able to shed this body and this brain, and man, I am actually looking forward to that day! Fucking pain in the ass, this life shit! Which, ironically, put me at ease: for the first time, I grasped the concept of three’s, one and two being my body and brian, three being something/someone over or outside each and both. Could it be that there IS something — tangible, present, real — beyond the body and brain?
Three, it became apparent to me that — at least toward the last 2 years, and possibly throughout at times — I drank not to numb myself, but to actually FEEL. I hold a lot of feelings in, repress them. Drinking was my way of expressing the sadness and anger that I wouldn’t and often, couldn’t let out. Sure, it was artificial — why am I crying my eyes out after two glasses of red wine? — and exaggerated — why am I screaming bloody murder at a complete stranger? — but it allowed me to express some version of the real sadness and anger that I felt.
I’m still recovering, and feel sadder than ever today. But, it’s a good sadness, a grief that isn’t artificial. I felt the real thing today. As my mom so eloquently pointed out to me after the one and only time I blacked out in front of her (Christmas, 2011) and dissolved into a teary, confused, sociopathic mess: I truly hope that you can start bringing out some of these feelings when you’re sober. Duh. I didn’t quite get what she meant, but it’s clear to me now.