Spirits In My Head, and They Won’t Go

I used to love Asti Spumante. Way back when I was in college, Asti was my party drink of choice, because it made me happy. Very, very happy. 

There are more than a few photos floating around of me holding a bottle of Asti in my hand, with my head thrown back and my face full of laughter. I always drank it straight out of the bottle. Why dirty another glass?

Last week we had a college reunion of sorts at our house. My dear friend Michael brought 2 bottles of Asti Spumante. Half way through the evening I poured it out into so many tiny paper Dixie cups (nothing but the best for these folks) so we could raise a toast to our long lasting friendship.

As I took a sip for auld lang syne, I was immediately transported through time. Standing there on my deck, surrounded by the old familiar faces, darkwave music playing in the background, the voices and the laughter mixed with the taste on my tongue. It was an absolute perfect moment. I drank it all in, and I thought,  

Tonight’s the night I drink again
It hit me like a hammer, and my monkey woke up. Oh yeah! It’s on

I haven’t had a drink in 6 months, and this was the first time that I felt a real craving. It was big. It was strong. It filled my whole body.

So I poured another swig in a Dixie cup, and I sipped it slowly. While the party swirled on around me like a dream sequence, the monkey in my head planned to go inside and get a big glass. 

But I realized that pouring it into a glass wouldn’t satisfy that monkey. He didn’t want a glass of Asti. He wanted to drink it straight out of the bottle. Big bubbly mouthfuls. In quick succession. He wanted to grab that bottle tightly around the neck, wave it up in the air, dance, sing, and say inappropriate things way too loudly.  

It was the entire flashback that my monkey wanted. All of it. 
So, I brought the bottle into the house and put it on the counter. 

For the rest of the night, every time I walked through the kitchen I looked at it. I felt the flashback each time. And each time I thought about picking it up, and drinking it down. But I didn’t. I just let it be. 

It’s still there. Half full.
I’m keeping it there because it’s powerful. So powerful it can wake the dead.  

At a very young age my brain was programmed to hide things, to bury them, as a means of protection. I kept big secrets and I stuffed my feelings deep down and put a cork on them. Denial and avoidance are the tools of that trade.

The sober practice of meditation has taught me that everything we hide eventually comes to the surface. Like spirits they emerge from the grave, scratching and clawing. They sometimes come back subtly, and sometimes with a vengeance. They usually have a score to settle. 

We can dig a deeper hole, and bury them again, but they will resurface time after time. Because they’re not really dead. They have a lifespan of their own. 

We have to face them, meet them where they still live, listen to what they have to teach us. We have to resist the desire to let them go, and learn to simply let them be. 

They are always there, buried under the surface, under the business, under the noise. If we avoid the stillness and the silence and the situations that will trigger them how can we work through them? If we live in our busy, noisy comfort zones; if we avoid people, places, things who challenge those thoughts, feelings, beliefs, how are we growing?

The bottle on the counter will encourage me to embrace the spirits that rise up to the surface. It is a constant reminder that things come up. Things will always come up, and rather than bury them, I will acknowledge them.

I will meet them face to face. I will allow them to be there. I will allow them to live with me as long as they need to live, until their business here is done.

Out in the open air, uncorked on my kitchen counter, until their lessons evaporate into my life.

The song that has been haunting my house. Spirits by the Stumbellas 


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