Welcome to another month of We’re Here, We’re Queer!
First, I want to acknowledge that this is the 12th story which means there’s been an entire year’s worth of stories told! Thank you so much to all of the queer, trans and otherwise “not straight” folks who have contributed and who’ve been reading! I’m really excited to see the kinds of stories that come in over the next 12 months.
Now, on to this month’s submission – Melissa is a very special and dear friend of mine. Her story is raw, vulnerable and honest. This piece is less like an essay and more like living through someone else’s thought process, which I love. And I hope you love it too.
I’ve been sober for 345 days and 14 hours as I sit to write this. In that time I’ve never really shared my story with anyone. I have one person who I love that I confide in deeply on the matter, but don’t really ever talk about the intimate details of the last decade of my life as it pertains to my demon, alcohol. I don’t really like to talk about it to be honest. I don’t know why I felt compelled to write this now, but as I was driving I was having all kinds of thoughts, and decided I just need to write it out when I get home. So that is what I am doing.
That is one thing I love about being sober, having motivation, motivation to do “the thing” whatever that thing may be. I still procrastinate because I enjoy the rush of waiting until the last minute (don’t pretend you don’t know that feeling if you are a fellow addict), but I have a different fervor about doing things I say I’m going to do now. That was something I promised myself this year when I got sober, I’d do the things I said I was going to do. I’ve broken a lot of promises to myself and to others over the years, and that’s something I’m working on recovering.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my journey during sobriety. I think it’s because the longer I am sober the harder it has become in some ways. All of our stories are different, but one thing that is fairly common I have noticed amongst addicts is that we have a hard time being honest with ourselves and maybe even others. That is why I am being honest right now, and admitting that it has gotten a little harder for me with time. I say that not to discourage any newly sober individuals, but because I am learning we all have a different story, and maybe someone might need to hear that right now because maybe they are feeling it to, and shouldn’t feel alone.
If I were honest with myself and with you reading this I could tell you when drinking became more than just something I did for fun. I could tell you when I realized that drinking made my body feel warm, and gave me a feeling of ease I hadn’t ever felt before. I could tell you when I realized that drinking helped me not give a fuck. I’ve never really talked much about that time with anyone before, and truthfully I don’t think I ever will. Maybe it’s because I’m still learning to accept truths about my life and about myself. Maybe someday I won’t have issues naming when it all began, but for now I do, so I’m going to leave that part of the story out, and that’s ok.
One thing I’ve learned during my journey is that things are ok. I don’t have to share that part of my story if I don’t want to, and that’s ok. It’s really freeing when you realize you don’t have to do something if you don’t want to. It’s really freeing to realize that things actually are ok. I digress; I tend to ramble a bit. Going back to that feeling I felt when I realized I didn’t give a fuck and I liked it. I’ve always been someone who strives for perfection, and alcohol helped numb that insanity and intensity that was born inside of me. When I first started drinking on a daily basis it felt freeing to me to numb that need for perfection. I didn’t care what people thought so much anymore, I felt bolder, I felt confident, and as a perfectionist I suppose I was determined to become the best damn alcoholic that exists. I worked really hard at being a good alcoholic. I was successful in my career, and in my relationships. I hid my 24/7 drinking really well at first.
I bet you read the words “at first” a lot if you like to read other people’s stories who are in recovery like I do. See the truth is that even until the day I decided to stop drinking only a couple of people who I was very close with knew that I drank all day every day. I was still doing great at hiding it from the rest of the world; people just thought I liked to have a good time. I don’t have children, a choice I made long ago, and people just viewed my life as a free life, a girl who works hard and plays hard, and I was proud of that. I said at first it went really well, and with those people, the people who didn’t really know me; it was still going just fine. When I realized I needed to change was when it started becoming a problem with the people who did know me, and more importantly with myself.
Sometimes I think I have an idealization about drinking. I mentioned the longer I am sober the more I seem to struggle. It’s that idealization that I think is getting me. I have idealized alcohol as a way not to feel the things that aren’t ideal, and when I’m having a hard moment, or a hard day I think to myself God, I wish I could just numb this feeling. I go back to when I first started drinking how alcohol felt so warm throughout my entire body, how I felt comfortable and almost invincible. That is the idealization.
Here is the reality of what alcohol did to me. It no longer felt warm after over a decade of drinking 24/7. It felt like cold ice flowing through my body, I couldn’t feel warm anymore ever, possibly because I was dead inside. I let alcohol have the better part of my young adult life, and I gave it away freely as if it were my lover, and I had a desire to surrender completely to its power. I let it consume me; I let it dictate my decisions and my choices. I have very distinct memories as I’m sure many of you do of waking up feeling so ill, and going straight to get something to drink to “feel better” gagging and choking down booze straight from a bottle.
My insides felt like I had been punched over and over and over, my skin was pallid, my throat felt like I had been pouring gasoline straight on it, which essentially I had been for years. I felt dead, that is the only way I know how to describe what alcohol had done to me. I won’t even get into how alcohol impacted several relationships in my life. How many times I don’t even remember conversations with people. For a long time I thought that was ok because people always told me I was a great conversationalist. I felt so proud of myself that I could hold these deep meaningful conversations while drunk, it must have meant I was really very good and smart inside right? That is what I told myself. Now that I look back I realize how stupid I was for thinking it was ever ok to have a conversation with anyone completely out of my head, but these are the things you learn when you are sober.
I’m healthy now. It’s a really great feeling. It’s a strange feeling. I work out, and I feel things (I’m still not sure if I love that part of being sober, but I’m learning to). I think for me having great motivators has been so helpful because on those days when you just want to say fuck it, I remember that I have people I love counting on me to be the best version of myself. Mostly what I love from getting sober is that I feel alive again. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s a very true statement. I’m no longer in a fog. I remember the things I tell people. I know that what I say is what I mean. So all of this rambling to say one thing, if you are like me, and staying sober is still a daily struggle for you remember your why. Remember what your why was that made you get sober in the first place. Remind yourself of the reality of what alcohol was, and not the idealization this demon creates in our minds. Remember that you are loved, and that even though I have no idea who you may be I am cheering for you. I am in your corner, and you are most certainly not alone.
As I sit to write an update to this I am proud to say that as of today I am 408 days sober. Since writing this previously I had my one year anniversary being sober, and I am so grateful to have been able to experience that milestone. I mentioned on day 345 that being sober wasn’t always easy, and I needed to remind myself of the whys, and where I had come from, and reject the idealization I had created about alcohol. I wanted to share that today I am feeling great about my choices. Something that has gotten me through day after day without alcohol is the reminder that no feeling is final, and that I need to feel them all.
The fact that less than 100 days after initially writing this I am feeling better and stronger than ever is case in point that no feeling is final, and all we can do is work through our feelings the best way we know how. I want this to serve as hope that if you are struggling it won’t always feel this hard. Today I feel great, but I never know what tomorrow may bring, and it is so important to me to remind myself that it is ok to feel whatever I am feeling.
A lot of us spend our lives trying to avoid feelings, to pretend they don’t exist, to make excuses for why we feel the way we do, to shame ourselves for feeling how we do. I am here to tell you that how you feel is how you feel, and that is ok. I’ve learned so much about myself during sobriety, and I’ve become so much stronger mentally. A lot of this comes from the freeing realization that I don’t have to fight or resist every feeling I have. I just need to go moment by moment remembering that no feeling is final how I react to and work through my feelings is truly all that matters. Sometimes that means just sitting with your feelings, and letting them pass, and that is ok too. We don’t always have to have all the answers.
One thing I’ve learned is that we all have the ability to surprise ourselves so I encourage you not to limit yourself. A word I used to use a lot was “never”. I’ll “never” be able to do this, or I would “never” do that. I’m learning not to limit myself with the word “never”. When we place limits on our self we limit the possibilities of our growth. In sobriety I have decided the only “never” I will ever place on myself again is that I will “never” drink. I’m learning not to impose limits on my feelings, my abilities, my personality. Growing is an essential part of sobriety, and I am learning to be open to all the possibilities. I’ve been able to achieve things this past year I “never” imagined possible. I’ve also felt things I’ve “never” imagined possible. I encourage you no matter what you are feeling in this moment to remember that things can change, that no feeling is final, and that there are no “nevers” in life. Be strong and courageous be unapologetically YOU, the YOU that you were created to be.
Are you queer, trans or otherwise “not straight” and in any kind of recovery? Do you want to share your story for We’re Here, We’re Queer? Send me an email and we can chat!