Well, well, well if it isn’t the Ides of March, and time for a new We’re Here, We’re Queer!
This month, I’m doing something a little different. Back in 2016, when I was six months sober, I started writing my short-lived blog, On The Wagon. Since it doesn’t exist anymore, I thought it would be fun to re-publish three of those blog posts as this month’s We’re Here, We’re Queer!
These three posts are a good snapshot of where I was and how I was doing in those first months of sobriety. Everything in that first year was a new experience: holidays, weekends, vacations, feelings – all of it. A lot has changed about my life in the more than two years since I wrote these posts but who I am at my core is the same, and I’m so fucking glad I can see that.
Six months ago I woke up in Hawaii and said “I can’t do this anymore.” I didn’t get drunk the night before. I had maybe 3 of 4 beers and for me that was nothing. It was just enough to feel a little warm and happy, to feel light on my feet and to make me look around in wonder. It was also enough for me to feel that dullness. For as shiny as I had been the night before I felt at least 100 times more tarnished the next morning. That’s how it always went. Every day. This day though? This day was the day I knew I was done. January 28th 2016 was the first day of the hardest and most worthwhile path I would ever set foot on.
First things first, I do not consider myself an alcoholic. I figured I’d get that out of the way. I know what you’re thinking, “why would you ever want to stop drinking, then?” Well, just because I am not an alcoholic doesn’t mean I never would be. Alcohol use and abuse is progressive. At some point, the amount you drink to get the shiny feeling will have to increase. And increase. And increase. Eventually, the shiny feeling fades all together but the drinking doesn’t. You’re always chasing the shine. I could see myself on that slope. I knew that I was still a relatively small snowball but, if left unchecked, I would quickly turn into an avalanche. I don’t want to be an avalanche.
In the past six months I have not only been free of alcohol, I’ve been free of all things alcohol brought me. I no longer have to think (obsess, really) about whether or not I’m going to drink, where I’m going to drink, what I’m going to drink or how much I’m going to drink. I don’t have to tell myself I’m NOT going to drink and then feel guilty and let down the next morning in the shower when I wonder why I couldn’t just not have those beers the night before. I am free from wondering which of my feelings are my REAL feelings and which of them are booze induced. I am free from hangovers and from the possibility that I’ll drive after I’ve been drinking.
This hasn’t all been about shedding bad behaviors and consequences though. I’ve also gained SO MUCH. I’ve gained the ability to really feel everything. It’s not always sunshine and roses but it is real life. I know now that people really like me for me and not my “party mode” self. I can have interesting and funny conversations with people I don’t know and with friends. I have gained an awareness of myself and others that I never knew existed. I’m interested in learning new things about myself and the world. I draw more pleasure from smells, sights and sounds. I know more about what I want and am not so afraid to articulate it. I could go on and on and on but, I’ll spare you the boring details.
In the six months since alcohol has passed my lips many things have changed. I’ve made new friends while other relationships have become more precarious. I found out that the company I worked so hard to help build is shutting its doors and I’ll be without a job soon. The future of my life is almost completely unknown but for the first time in ages, I’m really excited about what is in store for me. I know that I’m learning new things every day and that the unknown is not something to fear, it is something to embrace! Everything we know was unknown at one point, nothing is permanent.
This blog is me feeling things out, navigating my sobriety, my creativity, my search for meaning. It is me learning what I want and getting it. Why, you ask? Because I’ve got six motherfucking months sober, I’m learning a new way to shine and damn it, I need witnesses.
Adventure! It was all set, I was going to road trip my way down to Truckee, CA, camping along the way. Once in Truckee the plan was to meet up with some friends and go on a backpacking trek. A lake and meteor shower were the prizes, along with two nights with friends in the wilderness. My gear was ready, my bags were packed, the van was loaded up! As I was headed to the 405 to start this adventure I felt Bertha lurch. Bertha is the 2000 Dodge Caravan I share with my ex. We bought her together in March of 2013 for $3000. Bertha got us out to Portland, back to New England to pick up our cats a year later and back to Portland again so, when I felt her lurch I thought I was imagining things. She’s a steady steed and couldn’t seriously have an issue going downhill with no gas or brakes applied. As I was accelerating to merge onto the freeway she lurched again. This time it was more drastic and there was no denying what happened. In addition to the lurch I now had a decorative dashboard illumination: The dreaded check engine light.
I immediately exit the highway and call my mechanic. They can’t get me in until the next day. My trip will have to be cancelled. The trip that I had been planning and looking forward to for months.
I obviously went home and cried. After about 30 minutes of feeling sorry for myself I put on my big girl pants and called upon the mantras taught to be by one of my favorite people, Holly Whitaker: ‘Trust in the evolution of my life’ and ‘I am exactly where I’m supposed to be’ ran through my head on a loop. I called my mechanic, apologized for the erratic behavior on my previous call and confirmed my appointment for the next day. I called and cancelled my hotel reservation. I let the people I was meeting know I wouldn’t be making the trip.
The next step? Go watch some Olympic soccer. While I was at the bar watching the US Women’s National Team — drinking unsweetened iced tea — I decided that I was going to spend the rest of my vacation, now a staycation, enjoying Portland and practicing some self-love. While this might not seem like a big deal to many people, for me, this was an amazing feat! The old Murph would have had a beer while watching the soccer game. Not one or two but she would have drank the rest of the day away because she “deserved it.” The old Murph would not have found time to take pictures with her new camera or to read a book. My whole week would have been a fog of blurry drunkenness. PBR with breakfast, margaritas with lunch, a Pale Ale or Gin and tonic throughout the evening. There was never the motivation to quench my curiosity and learn new things. Not in a real way. Most of my questions and ideas ended with a quick google search and a rabbit hole of Wikipedia.
Sometimes I don’t notice the changes in me since I’ve stopped drinking. As often happens with change, it seems as if the present is the exact way things have always been. The future and the past, a hazy dream that you’re not sure is even real. This past week has been the cold water I needed to wake up to the fact that I am, indeed, GROWING! Change can happen and I not only adapt but embrace it!
This, my friends, is progress. I am making progress in my life and Bertha knew I needed to stay in Portland to see it.
I want to die. Now, let me be very clear here… I do NOT want to take my life. I do not want to be dead. I just want the life I live to be different.
I’m going through a rough patch, hence the amount of time between my last post and this one. I’ve been grumpy and depressed. Not wanting to create anything or be productive in any way. Well, not ANY way. I did watch all 10 seasons of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia that are available on Netflix. PRODUCTIVITY!
I’ve mostly been going through the motions of life. I’ve been having a hard time sleeping, sometimes a hard time eating. Other times no problem eating all the things. I’ve had a heaviness in my heart that can only be described as a magnet pulling me from the core of the Earth with the force of the entire planet’s gravity, but heavier. I’ve been crying at the drop of a hat, anywhere and everywhere. If you’ve seen a crying lesbian walking the streets of Portland, it was probably me.
I’ve been lonely and anxious. I’ve been a lump and energetic. I’ve been angry (so angry) and sad. I don’t want to date but sometimes forget that when I’m feeling lonesome in a city that I know is not right for me.
I’m feeling anxiety and ungrounded. This past year has been full of changes for me and the next year is shaping up to be full of them too.
So, here’s what I’m doing about it:
Remembering that nothing is permanent. This gets me through a lot. When I’m feeling like this, even if it’s for an extended period of time, I can always remember a time when I DIDN’T feel like this. I can always remind myself that this feeling will not last forever.
The other day, a friend who is also sober, had mentioned on Facebook that she was having a hard time lately too but something that helped her was that she had been keeping it simple. That really clicked for me. I haven’t been doing the simple things that keep me feeling good so, I’m recommitting to keep it simple. Sleep. Eat well. Meditate. Move my body. Read. Create. Have fun.
I’m working on finding out what I REALLY want to do with my life. I’m taking time to observe how I feel in different situations. To really NOTICE when I light up and also, notice when I feel heavy. What makes me want to cry tears of joy vs. what just makes me want to cry. Write these things down and figure out how to do them. I think that by taking these steps, I’ll be in a better position to make a decision about my future once my job ends.
Do you want to contribute to We’re Here, We’re Queer!? I am currently taking submissions for the next few months of We’re Here, We’re Queer! Do you want to contribute? If you’re queer, trans or questioning and are in recovery, sober or sober curious get in touch and we’ll chat!