The other night I was out with one of my best friends, Layla, who is currently in the midst of a deeply painful, earth-shattering, universe-collapsing, world-altering breakup.
Nothing on the planet can toss a person onto the cold pavement quite like good ol' fashioned heartbreak.
Having been through the harrowing trials and tribulations of heartbreak myself, I dragged Layla for a wild night out on the town in an attempt to distract her from the pressing pain.
We were sitting pretty at a cozy little pub on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the kind of comforting hole-in-the-wall that was teeming with tiny candles and rosy-cheeked boys in preppy button-down shirts and distracted waitresses trying to be actresses.
It was her first night out on the town since her heart had been smashed into a million shards of glass. Although she was clad in tough black leather and a fierce shade of no-nonsense red lipstick, she looked sorely sad and vulnerable.
Even though her lids were adorned with a gleeful shimmery shadow, her eyes were like lasers shooting beams of darkness. Something deep within her doe-like eyes radiated an energy so broken that it was palpable.
We both ordered champagne, our staple drink when we know it's going to be a long, salacious night out in Manhattan. Three sips into her champs, Layla was buzzing like a fly around a naked fluorescent bulb.
A girl can always tell when her best friend catches a buzz, so she sobers up and comes to terms with the fact that she might have to kick off her stilettos and play babysitter for the evening.
After we got our check, I stepped out into the cold urban air and hailed a taxi. And as our bodies rested against the ripped leather interior of the taxi, I could tell Layla wasn't just buzzed. Layla was hammered.
I noticed lipstick on her teeth as she slurred the wrong address of the party we were attending to our driver. She became irrationally pissed off and called me a "self-righteous b*tch" when I dared to correct her. Her perfectly polished fingers sent a dirty, misspelled text to message to a toxic rebound hookup.
All of this drunken behavior occurred within the span of the 14-minute taxi ride from the Upper East Side to the West Village.
You can only imagine how the rest of the evening unfolded: Layla cried black mascara tears into my lap. She tripped on her platform boots, scuffing her leather leggings. She made out with a chick in a body-con dress (she's stone cold straight).
In short, Layla was a scalding hot mess. She sobbed the entire taxi drive back to my apartment. She yelled at the driver, inexplicably accusing him of taking the long way to rack up the bill. She passed out horizontally, strewn across my slate gray sheets in her leather leggings while clutching a Pop-Tart.
Look, we've all had those kinds of nights, kittens. Nights when we inexplicably black out after just a few drinks. Nights when, for some reason, we chose to ignore the wise voice in our heads, the one that tells us to slow the f*ck down and drink some water. Nights when we balled our exhausted eyes out to a bouncer about a deep-rooted problem we didn't even know we had.
I've definitely had my fair share of "those" nights. The nights when I've woken up with burning eyeballs at seven in the morning, heart palpitating, hungover, deeply depressed, wondering what kind of f*cked up sh*t I was suppressing that surfaced once my lips touched a liquor-fueled glass?
Those nights don't happen so much when I'm in a positive place. In fact, those nights seem pretty exclusive to when I'm unhappy or anxious.
Alcohol just hits us differently when we're down and out, you know?
On the contrary, when I'm in a good place, I'm wonderfully merry and positively delightful with a drink or two swishing through my system. I take my time and savor the complex flavors of my fine cocktail. The worst thing I do is get overly affectionate with a friend or demand too many kisses from my lover at the bar.
It's not just a pattern I've noticed within myself, but with my friends too:
It seems to me that the more f*cked up you are, the more f*cked up you get.
When we're feeling vulnerable, everything hits us on a deeper level.
I remember being in a direly vulnerable place in my life at the tender age of 19. My best friend John had just tragically passed away in a car accident. He had been my lifeline in high school, my soulmate, my rock, my other half.
Knowing he was no longer of this world made me feel like I had nothing rooting me back into the firm soil of the earth. I felt like I was merely an empty vessel sifting through a vast empty space.
I took an airplane ride back to Florida from Los Angeles for the funeral. I felt so frail that I didn't know how I would even survive going through airport security. So when the cranky air hostess snapped at me, I busted into an inexplicable bout of tears.
I'm from New York. I'm pretty immune to the shouting of strangers. But because I was wildly vulnerable, everything and anything penetrated my open wounds.
When we're feeling heartbroken, sad or lost, it's almost like we're a raw, open cut walking around that anything can seep into and infect. A rude glance from a stranger can send you the f*ck down the rabbit hole.
Therefore, when we drink under these circumstances, the booze and the drugs seem to set in a sh*t ton faster than when we are solid.
One stiff drink and all the pain you've been attempting to suppress pours out of you like honey onto a pancake.
When we're feeling down, we down our drinks.
Feelings, sad ones in particular, are hard as f*ck to grapple with. The pain becomes all-consuming. It feels like we’re never going to see our way out, like we are going to be feeling these dire feelings for the rest of our lives.
Which is why we're so inclined to get f*cked up when we're feeling emotionally f*cked up.
We want to escape from the bad feelings. We take another shot of that whiskey, even though we know we've had enough. We get as drunk as a lark the night before an early workday.
We party until the sun comes up, right up until we hear the sorrowful sounds of birds chirping.
Rather than booze the feelings away, we should feel the feelings out.
As I watched my Layla drunkenly snore on my bed, a wave of deep sadness blanketed me. I have been there way too many times. I've gotten f*cked up chemically because I was feeling f*cked up emotionally.
The trouble is getting f*cked up only prolongs the pain. You might feel a wave of temporary relief as your snorting that line of cocaine, but all you're doing is letting the infection fester until it becomes a dangerous disease that needs medical attention.
Dare to feel the pain without the bandage of drugs or booze. Let yourself feel the sting, so the wounds can breathe and heal naturally. So the wounds can heal for real.
No Band-Aid is designed to last forever. No high or buzz will ever last forever. There are no shortcuts to feeling better.
However, once you allow yourself to feel, you will find the feelings aren't as scary as you so feared (and that understanding will give you the strength to always keep going).