Ghosts. Some will stay with you. Some will leave you.
It goes far beyond trick or treat. Many of my ghosts still go “Boo!” in the night, but, most of them haunt me from afar. Actually, some of my ghosts aren’t dead at all — they’re very much alive.
I still find it difficult to believe that this is my third, sober Halloween. The first was euphoric. My first holiday after getting clean, I sat on a chilly porch in a big, grey hoodie. I wore a knit animal hat with my best friend, who had one too. We laughed, passed out candy, and I felt like — for the first time — I had finally discovered what I wanted in life and that I had it — sitting there on that porch — sober. My second Halloween, I was completely lost. This time last year, I was more haunted than ever. I was flanked by ghosts — most of which, weren’t even mine. I wore a blonde wig. I sat, with over a year of sobriety, wishing I were somewhere else — someone else. I wanted to change a situation that wasn’t mine to change. I ignored my own fear. I hid from it. I took a smug selfie, which I posted on Facebook with the caption: “So, blondes really do have more fun.” I thought that if I typed it out, maybe I would believe it were true — It wasn’t. Even my smirk lied.
This year, I don’t know what to expect. I feel a ghost walking next to me. Part of me wants to run. Part of me wants to offer up my skeleton-hand. Sometimes the only way to chase away spooks is to face them. Look them in the eye. And, sometimes, it’s best to realize that ghosts are ghosts, and to leave them, where they belong, in the ground.
Sobriety makes choices like these, easier. I know what’s practical, rational, and even wise. But, knowing has no bearing on my impulse. When I feel, I feel big. My heart opens like a flower, or it seizes up like the breaks on a runaway train. I’ve lived in my own extremes. My first and second Halloween in sobriety were my typical modus operandi — High/Low. Utopia/The Underworld. So, what’s next? What follows up the two, opposite ends of the spectrum? Normalcy? Mediocrity? Boredom? Stability? Do I want those things?
I think of that first year, my friend, smiling, in his blue-cat-hat. How I shoved Reece’s Peanut Butter cups into my face and thought: This is what it’s really about — Joy. Laughter. Freedom. Love. — That porch was cold, but heat radiated from a new place in my heart and I felt a warmth I hadn’t realized I had inside myself. I think how, a year later, that same warmth had burned out. How even warm rooms felt cold. How ghosts filed in and took what wasn’t theirs to take. How I hid inside myself and kept smiling. I didn’t know — A blonde wig wouldn’t fool anyone. Even myself.
I wish I had some crumb of wisdom for you in this post. I wish I could offer something honest and true that would carry some weight. A bit of hope. A story where all the costumes fit. A story where the candy doesn’t rot your teeth. But, all I can think about is how it feels — being haunted. Quiet, secretive, and dark. I suppose it’s only appropriate that as All Hallows’ Eve nears, all the undead and invisible spirits have come to pay me a visit. My own heart-hinges are creaky and they echo here in my haunted-house-head.
I offer up a prayer for the dead. For the ghosts that still haunt me and for those that have gone their own way. It’s the best I can do. I pray that, this year, things fall on even ground. That there is happiness and reverence. That, whether my wig is on or off, I am who I am — without fear.
As for the ghost at my side — there’s no escaping it — I reach out my skeleton-hand.