Updated: May 21
I spent the month of March remaining pretty isolated in Allentown with the ever increasing feeling that the walls were closing in on me. I tried to keep going to the gym a few more times but it was weird not being sure whether I was meant to be wearing a mask in there or not, or taking extra precautions to wipe the machines down, etc... I imagine this is true for most people in that moment but I definitely felt like it was the beginning of the movie Shaun Of The Dead. Creepy. I did see the drummer from a band called "Secret Cutter" at the Wegmans in Bethlehem so that was pretty cool. I was going to yell "SECRET CUTTER!" at him inside the crowded, panic-buying store but I decided it wasn't a Wegmans vibe at the time.
I started working for a company that was completely decentralized online counseling. They only took cash from their clients and the reimbursement was absolute trash. The other in-person counseling gig I had lined up fell through via e-mail the same day I resigned from Caron. That at least would have been twice the pay as this online company but with the dawn of quarantine looming I hunkered down and started for the first time in my life, doing therapy over the internet with 'normal' people who didn't necessarily have substance use disorders.
Despite the fact that I was getting paid squat (it was literally $0.50/min and they metered the fucking minutes) one of the redeeming things about this company was that they marketed internationally and so I was matched with a whole cast of interesting folks from around the world. As we all basically got on board with each other at the same time, it was interesting to hear how other people & cultures were both responding to the pandemic themselves as well as how they viewed the US, it's response (or lack thereof) to Covid, and eventually the response to the murder of George Floyd.
A young German woman who was studying abroad in a former soviet country was probably the most interesting in terms of just circumstances surrounding her at the start of the global crisis. She told to me that the local police were threatening overnight imprisonment for anyone caught out after curfew during the first several months of quarantine. She also told me that they shut off the hot water in that town during a certain month and she wasn't completely able to explain why. I imagine it's probably to attract tourism.
I honestly felt like I had no business doing what I was doing with the first several clients I met with. My career at the treatment center had included a number of individual consults but the part I felt I was best at was doing groups and lectures with small and large audiences. Also, as I've implied I felt out of my element since in my old setting one could assume what the conversation was going to be about; drugs or alcohol. Here, I had no idea what these folks were about to bring up when we met and I felt totally and completely unprepared. That being said, I've winged myself out of or into nearly every major situation I've ever experienced and so I just fuckin went with it.
That being said, I knew that my time and money were going to run out if I either didn't find a higher paying opportunity where I was or if I didn't do something drastic. The other shitty thing about being a counselor is that you're not usually offered benefits, and mine had just ended with the resignation from my last job. On the day this gets published I'll still have been without health insurance for the entirety of the pandemic. I mean, don't get me wrong I love a pity party so yes please feel sorry for me, but just in general, how can I sit back and watch the fucking View with Joy Behar all talk about how their mental health counselors and therapy are so important to them and be thinking to myself well THEN WHY DONT I HAVE FUCKING INSURANCE?! WE ARE NOT IN THE SAME BOAT, MADONNA...
I stayed for a month in that weird, weird smelling apartment in Allentown. I tried to go to an NA Zoom meeting thinking that would help me feel connected and honestly it just pissed me off even more. So here's the thing, I do have a shame wound that has told me from the very beginning that I was different from other people and that I didn't deserve to have long lasting relationships. My shame tells me that people only want to be friends with me in short episodes and that after a certain amount of time is up I should expect them to stop wanting to have me around anymore. And here I was, stuck in the bumblest of fucks with dwindling connection to my support group feeling like the most nauseating, marrow-penetrating fear was all but being shown to be completely true.
Right? Otherwise, I wouldn't have had to quit my job. I wouldn't have been effectively dumped through text message 2 days before Valentines day the month before. I wouldn't be a 33 year old single guy in a studio apartment in a l l e n t o w n p a (I guess it beats Allentown NJ though..) with 2 cats and a Nintendo Switch.
The other thing that was present for me was the growing awareness of just how vulnerable to the pandemic my parents were likely to be. When I had visited them weeks before I managed to spend more time with them than I had cumulatively over several years. There were some concerns about my father's now apparently declining health and so I had gone to spend a couple days with them to get a sense of what was going on. Now with the truth super present and lucid in my mind it was clear that, as their only child and given the nature of the moment, there was really only one thing left for me to do.
I threw 80% of my shit in a dumpster and took myself, my 2 cats, and my couch back to my parents garage. This really did a lot for the shame thing.