They say withdrawal is almost as hard as addiction. Well I would know. Because, as ashamed as I am to admit it, I’m off the wagon again:
I’m dating another Joel.
I started dating Joels when I was 18. No one would have expected it: I was my high school’s valedictorian, president of the National Honor Society, and had plenty of friends… So what was I doing with an introspective guitarist named Joel Morgan? Well, try growing up in a town full of boring Sams and unrefined Tims, and then maybe you’ll see where I was coming from. I thought this would be a fun, new adventure. Something exciting. I mean, after all, his family was religious, but he was not. I mean, wow. What a visionary. The relationship was like crack, in that it felt very good; the way crack might feel if you did some.
But things didn’t go well with Joel. He was a few years older, studying Poetry (??) at a liberal arts college. I only realized how toxic things were when on our one-year anniversary he showed up at my doorstep playing “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed. Had I really wasted a year of my life with this wild, unpredictable, brooding rebel of a man? Worried for my safety and tired of “that boy’s music”, my parents forced me to move home.
At this moment, I thought I could quit cold turkey. That without any Joels in sight, I would be cured. I even remember one morning when my parents went to work that I thought about texting barista/folk singer Joel Rogers, just once I swear, but I managed to fight the urge. But then I’d get cold sweats, sharp pains, and headaches, wondering how I’d feel if I were to just jump in my car and find someone to talk with about the Magnetic Fields. I gained 12 pounds. That’s right, 12. And then, after just one month, at one birthday party on one rooftop, I met Joel Simmons, who worked at a Borders but wanted to become a jazz drummer and was “thinking about running for Senate or something”. This was my heroin—I liked it so, so much, as much as people who use heroin like heroin. It was that kind of like. The Joel kind. Wow.
And so I was back on the wagon: Every night I was out, fucked up on jazz, talking about what really happened on 9/11, and increasingly emotionally dependent on Joel’s 40% employee discount on non-fiction-only. When my friends asked where I was, I said, “party,” so they wouldn’t suspect anything; but really, I was trying out warming lube with Joel, who “can’t come without it and wouldn’t want to even try”. Who was I, even?
A year later, when I (barely) graduated, I started seeing a self-proclaimed addiction specialist—my new roommate, Gail. She had spent 11 years of her life on Joels: going to their poetry slams, helping them carry broken chairs home from garage sales, listening to their thoughts about UFOs. She asked me, “What do Joels do for you?” I thought about it: Joels dulled the pain.
For my own health, I quit Joel Simmons and began my detox program. I had to slowly wean off of Joels.
I started out slowly by dating some family-oriented Keiths and Ethans. Then I worked pretty hard and even got to some sensible Michaels and Jims. I was doing pretty well until I met Thomas Lawson. He seemed sweet, nice, and actually interesting—he was a sports statistician! He’d traveled the world! He was planning on becoming a sports doctor! We got to talking over some appetizers, and then he ordered a bottle of Chianti (what all Joels used to call “wine”). It was going perfectly. But when the bartender asked for his ID, though, I saw it: “Thomas” was actually Joel Thomas Lawson. And before I knew it, I was in a back alley, pinned up against the wall, thrusting my maverick opinions about Bob Dylan onto his hot, sweaty Joel-brain.
Joel Thomas and I have been on and off for several weeks. I have my bad days where I’ll hole up with him and a few Ramones vinyls-that-he-can’t-play-because-he-doesn’t-own-a-record-player. But then I’ll have my days where I completely reject his Facebook invites to underground concerts, and won’t go to a single independent bookstore he invites me to. And while I know I’m not perfect, the healing process isn’t about perfection. It’s about growth. And slowly, but surely, I’m learning that I don’t need a Joel to fix it.