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Day 11 – A Fairy Tale

an•he•do•ni•a (ˌæn hi’doʊ ni ə)  n. Psychol. lack of pleasure or of the capacity to experience it.

After the Honeymoon period of No More Hangovers and Black and Blue Conscience mornings fades away (usually just about now), most of us find, well, that we’re bored out of our gourd. As a matter of fact, we’re more than bored, we’re apathetic about, well, everything. Our world has become a flat, dull, dun-colored landscape. Where did all the unicorns and rainbows go?

Don’t worry. You’ve just run into the Princesses.

Let me introduce you to Princess Euphoria and Princess Anhedonia. They’re sisters and they go hand-in-hand and they live in the land of Too Much Too Often. Where one goes, the other soon follows.

First, let’s talk about Princess Euphoria, we’ll call her Phoria for short. Phoria is the one we met that night we took our first drink. Remember? We felt like we had just met our long lost best friend. She was always there for us, anytime we needed her. Phoria was one great gal, even if she was a little flighty, and insincere, even if she was a little dangerous and convinced us to go places where we wouldn’t normally go.

Feel like dancing on the bar?

Sure, why not?

Wanna go home with that cute stranger at the end of the bar?

Hell, yeah!

Phoria made us feel more alive than we ever had. She was like the Pamela Anderson of friends, she was fake as hell, from her false eyelashes to her triple D’s, but-Dang!-she sure was fun and she made us feel so good about ourselves. Hot damn, we loved that gal!  She had lots of friends that she wanted us to meet and they all worshiped her, too.

Just one problem, she had this ugly sister name Princess Anhedonia, we’ll call her Annie. Annie was a loutish, brutish, clod of a gal, she followed Phoria everywhere she went because, heck, she couldn’t get any friends on her own. She was a real sour witch-with-a-capital-B and she got great pleasure from making us feel bad. She made fun of us, and told us that we were worthless pieces of shizzola, then, she’d cover her bristly mouth and giggle, “Just kidding. (he-he)  You know I love you“  She made our skin crawl and our stomachs turn but we tolerated her.  For Phoria. Like I said, they go hand-in-hand.

Some people wised up fast to Annie. As much as they liked Phoria, they couldn’t put up with her malevolent side-kick, so they regretfully bade their farewells. Smart cookies. Others, like me, lingered longer. We loved Phoria so much that we continued to withstand Annie’s abuse just so we could spend as much time as possible with our best friend. She was worth it. After all, she’d been so good to us.

Now, unbeknownst to us, Annie hated Phoria, she wanted all of Phoria’s friends for herself. Even worse, she wanted every part of us, she didn’t want to share even the smallest clump of cells with Phoria. She was secretly plotting to kill her sister, but first she kidnapped her and put her in a dungeon. She would let her out every once in a while just so she could lure us closer, but, then, she’d quickly throw Phoria back in the dungeon, and we would be forced to tolerate Annie’s increasingly sadistic behaviour. We couldn’t get rid of her, she started hanging around longer and longer. Again, some of our friends wised up, and, as much as they loved Phoria, they decided they couldn’t tolerate anymore of Annie and they escaped. Still, others, like me, kept coming back-we’d tolerate anything just for those few moments spent with our beloved Phoria. Those few moments of light with her were all we had left in our darkening world.

Annie began letting Phoria out for shorter and shorter periods, until she had lured all of Phoria’s most steadfast friends and trapped us in the dungeon, too. It was then, that she finally killed Phoria.  Still, we refused to believe Princess Euphoria was dead, we  kept looking for her. Through all the dark hallways and vomit tainted cellars, into the bottom of every dusty bottle we found, we kept calling out her name. Some of us got lost down in the catacombs beneath the dungeon and wandered about aimlessly, looking for Phoria, until we perished.

But some of Annie’s prisoners, and this time I was one of them, decided we had to escape. We couldn’t live with Annie, and we’d finally accepted that Phoria wasn’t coming back. However, Annie is a vigilant and punishing warden and time after time she caught us and pulled us back into her chamber of terrors.  Every attempted escape resulted in a harsher punishment which broke our spirits and made mush of our wills.  That old witch is a sorceress. She excels at brainwashing and she is very adept at making us believe that there is nothing waiting for us outside the dungeon walls. She convinces us we are reviled and worthless human beings. Blights on the face of the earth. Better off where we are. That’s what she would have us believe, and she is very convincing. It would be so easy to give-up, we feel doomed.

We’re not though! I forgot to mention, there is another sister!  Princess Joy!  We actually met her years ago, long before we met either Phoria or Annie. Now, trapped there in the hopeless dark, we recalled her and how she’d slowly started disappearing once we met Phoria and Annie. There’d been no room for her, so she quietly drifted away. But now, we realized how much we missed her. She wasn’t as crazy fun as Phoria, but she was quietly beautiful in her shimmering serenity. Most importantly, she meant us no harm. Quite the opposite.  She made us feel good about ourselves and our world. She wasn’t easy. She made us work for her favors but her rewards were enduring.

She was our only hope.

We went in search of her, struggling past Annie, breaking free from our cells and running through the endless dark halls calling a new name. Joy? Joy? Finally, we rounded a corner and a steady warm glow lit the walls. We’d found her. Joy.  She was standing there with her arms folded and foot tapping. Come to find out, she’d been waiting for us all along, waiting to lead us out of the dungeon that surrounded us. All we had to do was follow her and keep her in  our sight.

Annie didn’t give up that easily though. She gave chase. She was big and lumbersome, but she was persistent and we were weak. Some of us got outside the dungeon walls and saw all the obstacles looming in front of us and ran back in. Some of us looked back long enough to let Annie catch us and throw us back in the dungeon. She even managed to wrap her hands around the ankles of some of us and we had to pull her along until we could finally break free. That horrid creature dogged all of us for a measure, but, the further we got from her lair, the weaker she got and the closer we got to where Joy was leading us.

The moral of this fairy tale is: We may not find the “passion” or joy we need to lead us where we want to go until we escape the clutches of the anhedonia that is cultivated by drinking too much and too often. We may need to find something we once cherished,-something that brought us joy-or something we could cherish in the future to lead us out of the darkness. Then, we need to keep your eye on that object and stay sober until that object starts to shine.

Anhedonia is no fairy tale. Some of us may need professional guidance until this phase of “escaping” our drinking problem passes. Anhedonia is discussed more in depth in this Huffington Post article: The Condition Many Recovering Addicts and Alcoholics Don’t Know About.

Know this, anhedonia is not a permanent state. If you’re gaining distance, if you see the smallest glimmer of joy on the horizon or feel the slightest lift of your heart, don’t look back. Keep going. The fire will get brighter.

P.S.  I know that some of us embrace the anhedonia that alcohol wraps around us, it insulates us from the pain of life. Unfortunately, it also keeps us from the antidote to pain which is joy.

Post Submitted By: Kary May Hickey, Author of:
Neighbor Kary May’s Handbook To Happily Drinking Less, or Not Drinking At All, Quite Happily: With the help of the online recovery community