old (2008), Uncategorized

happy, joyous, and free

I celebrated six months of sobriety on Wednesday, and since I’ll be getting my coin tonight at the Y, I thought I’d give a shout out to all of the folks who have helped me get this far (and, boy, has it been a journey). In no particular order, then:

Without Top Chef Fan spending a couple of hours chatting with me at The Grind about the program and recovery — and being extremely supportive when I realized I wouldn’t ever get anywhere with The Narcissist — I never would have met…

The Attorney, who initially was just someone to chat with about being the adult child of an alcoholic, but after she encouraged me to consider recovery myself, it was off to the races. She supported me through those first early weeks of sobriety, when I felt as though I were going crazy and wouldn’t last another five minutes, much less 24 hours.

The first couple of months would have been even more intolerable without Anima Sola‘s support. The most memorable time was when Renegade was caught shoplifting at Target (when I had, I think, 37 or 38 days), and I called her up saying, “I am going to get drunk in about five minutes,” and she said, “No, you’re not. Come hang out with me and Pilates Mama.” And the three of us sat in Pilates Mama’s house from around 8pm until 1am, talking about our frustrations and fears and, at least for that night, I didn’t drink because I had friends who loved me, and I drove home with the afterglow of being touched by grace.

Writing about the past six months would be incomplete without mentioning Slavegirl — to whom I’ve become extremely close since June, when she stood by me through one of the most difficult points in my entire life, without being asked, and with so much compassion and love. And she’s been there through my sobriety, too, pointing out along the way when I’m making good choices that never would have occurred to me before, while also keeping her mouth shut while I make the mistakes I need to, the sort that teach me a lesson without devastating me. Indirectly, also, The Master (Slavegirl’s beau) has been there, too… because without his love for Slavegirl, I don’t think she would be in such an awesome place to have helped me so much.

Museum Maven has been my sponsor for the past four months, and it’s been, well, interesting. She’s pretty hands-off, as far as sponsors go, but she’s also pretty tough when I need her to be. And she definitely calls me on my shit, which I totally need.

Way over on the west coast, San Francisco Man has helped me numerous times over the past year, not only with my early sobriety but also with reminding me of my worth as a human being when I realized it least.

Back here at home, Sax Man has been — and continues to be — a positive force in my life, and I imagine we’ll be friends for a long time to come, as I am officially between 78% and 87% funnier when I’m around him. My best memory of him is when I called him when I had 89 days and he was in Denver and I was in my apartment (on Christmas Day, which was quite emotional, after seeing my family for the first time in years), and he recited “How it Works” to me pretty much by memory.

Online, there are a few bloggers who have been helpful in my sobriety, either by supporting me and what I write or offering me space to get out of my own mind: Smussyolay, Nilsa, Candi, and the Anonymous Alcoholic have been the most helpful.

And then there are all the people I see regularly at meetings: Sailor Girl (who’s a close third to The Attorney and Top Chef Fan in being a constant source of support), The Bouncer, The Handsome Architect, The Ad Guru, Crazy Hair Lady, Kindly K, Beard Boy, Surfer Guy, Sober Mama, Montana Man, The Gay Theologian, and dozens of other people whom I don’t know well enough to assign them names.

I’m also indirectly grateful to my brother, Texas Boy, who hasn’t so much done anything as he has just been proud of me for making these changes in my own life — and he’s probably the one person outside of the program (given that he grew up in the same environment) who can truly appreciate how difficult it’s been for me to break free of a lifetime’s worth of bad habits.

***

It’s amazing to me how much larger everything in my life has become over the past six months. A year ago, when I was going through a rough time around the anniversary of my grandmother’s death, I was hard-pressed to find anyone who was very supportive — everyone had their own things going on, or just weren’t emotionally available for me — and when disaster struck last May/June, I was surprised that Slavegirl would actually help me; who had ever done that for me before? My life itself was small, as small as it had to be for me to feel as though I could control everything, without ever possessing the ability to do anything remotely approaching control. I defined “freedom” as a lack of responsibility, connection, and trust. I didn’t know what happiness was; the best I could say was that it was a lack of anxiety, or an absence of fear, or relief from sadness — and it always came from external sources, never from within.

Worse than all of that: I didn’t think I deserved any better. I felt damaged, defective, and insane — and on my worst days in early sobriety, I would constantly ask myself why I was crazy enough to think things would ever change. But every single one of those people listed above — and dozens of others — would tell me to keep moving on, that it would all make sense and come together eventually, and that they would hold my hand along the way. And it was through their support and love — and working really damn hard on myself, in ways that have been both challenging and liberating — that I have been able to redefine “freedom” and “happiness” and come to have a deep faith in grace as well as develop an enduring sense of hope.

I realize this all sounds probably a bit hippie-dippy and way too, well, happy-sappy for me. In a sense, it is, because I’m still bitter and sarcastic and ironic and a tad bit devilish — I don’t think that will ever change. But here’s what has changed: I’m not afraid to be happy now. I’m not afraid to frolick or dance in public (without being drunk) or skip down the sidewalk or stop to watch squirrels play in the trees or just stand in the middle of the sidewalk to feel the air and take in the smells of my neighborhood. I’ve stopped being so self-conscious, so hyper-aware of what other people think about me, because I know (a) I’m going to be okay, no matter what external things happen and (b) I’m a pretty darn awesome person. It’s the past six months — and working a program, and accepting the help of all those people, and allowing grace into my life — that have allowed me to become the person I always wanted to be but just didn’t know how. It is nothing short of amazing, and I suppose the more I encounter people who knew me “before” the more I will be amazed.

***

I’m going to New York City in a week, the first time since I’ve gotten sober. I had been going every two or three months since 2006, but stopped once I came into the program, telling myself that I had to wait until I had six months. I used the city before as a place to escape to when life in Chicago became too intolerable, a place where I could go to pretend I was the person I wanted to be when I was back home — but “back home” was filled memories of heartbreak and failed opportunities and dashed hopes and horrible relationships and, well, a LOT of problems. As it turns out, I didn’t need to travel anywhere to become that person — I am that person now, and I will be that person whether I’m in Chicago or New York or Montana or Canada or three thousand miles away from wherever I started. And even though I quite pointedly avoid talking about “boys” here, there’s someone I’ll be hanging out with while I’m in the city, and the idea that I could even be doing that in a self-affirming and productive way (as opposed to running rough-shod through someone’s life, more akin to a cyclone than anything else), without any pretense or assumptions or expectations beyond living in the moment, is exciting.

***

This is way longer than I wanted it to be, so I’ll leave with this: I’m certain that my life, from this point on, will be fairly amazing. The only regret I have is that it took me thirty-four years to figure out that the only thing I needed to feel happy and joyous and free wasn’t anything someone or something else could offer, and it was something I’ve been carrying around my entire life: me. Namaste.

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