The Astonishing Clarity at Four Months Sober (day 117)

The sheer unadulterated clarity I possess now that I am four months sober is nothing shy of astounding. The crystal clearness of my feelings, speech, thoughts, ambitions, perceptions, insights, presence, mindfulness, and awareness astonishes me even as I am living it each and every day.

For so long I had no idea drinking was taking this brilliance from me sip by sip. A slow dripping away of my clarity of mind over many, many years.

And that right there is the sinister nature of the alcohol drug. It is fucking you up thoroughly, cruelly, menacingly. But not all at once.

You suck it down to soothe you. To “help” you.

And all the while you are being made duller, duller, duller, in mind, body, and spirit. Weaker, more dependent, more confused, more brainwashed.

But as you heal the clarity returns. Like sunlight sharpening, defining, revealing, electrifying. And it is this dazzle that only sobriety can bring. Something in you is sure of that.

Why You Finally Quit the Drinking (day 115)

Even more crucial than identifying your “problem” is identifying yourself. Getting sober is not about deciding “how bad things are” or “if they could be worse.”

Hi: they could always be worse.

Instead, sobriety is about defining who you are in this life. What are the values you will honor in yourself. For what truths will you stand up and be unwavering.

At my side as I journal and write this morning, along with my beloved black coffee and against all discernible odds, is the Big Book. I bought it because even just the title “Alcoholics Anonymous” embossed on the cover in all caps frightened me.

Not that. Please. Anything but that.

But alas here we are. It is that. My addiction is mine. My thing. My beast. My blessing. My angel my demon and everything in between.

I bought the AA Book because I spent a decade terrified to admit that I struggled to control my drinking. I thought my addiction would kill me either way – if I kept going or if I tried to stop. Either way, shame kept me paralyzed and numb.

I know AA is controversial and for good reason. I know it has helped millions to heal their own lives also for good reason. I believe everyone will find their own way, including me. The important thing is I’m open to finding my own way.

Maybe I will read the Big Book word for word. Maybe I will not. Maybe I will take what resonates with my soul, mind, and heart, and leave the rest. Maybe it will help, maybe it will hurt. I know that I will know.

For me right now it’s a triumph I never thought possible just to have this book in my hands.

To trust I will know my path forward whatever it may be. To know it does not include alcohol ever again. To know I’m already 115 days on the other side of a murderous kind of denial.

Because the thing is, it doesn’t matter how much you drink or how often or if you fit a label or a profile or pop positive based on some random online quiz. If you are hiding from yourself you have to explore that in order to find yourself and get free. Without judgement. Without blame or shame or self-cruelty.

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Author’s note: If you believe this post can help others and/or yourself please share it. By “help” I mean simply to start a respectful conversation that otherwise may remain in the shadows of frightened minds. We need to be talking about this in new ways. It’s time.

But Nobody Warns You of That (day 114)

My orgasm grips every muscle inside of my body so completely with decadent, transcendent pleasure that it wrings cutting tears from my eyes. I want them and I curse them. I want all of it to come and come and all of it to please, please stop. I let myself go with the flow of all I’m made up of, the mysterious and cherished, grand and intimate. The feeling is bigger than I am. Too astounding to explain or even experience without the accompanying sensation of a kind of free-fall from reality. From safety.

This feeling of total annihilating bliss. I die and I die and I die against his steady nakedness. Our brazen gleaming nakedness. There is silence and softness of breath. There is the white-flower blossoming tree beside the open bedroom window, moving lazily in the evening breeze.

To someone who believes she is not worthy, the sheer sweet beauty of this life can feel wrenchingly unbearable. Just as pain would. Just as hurt or fear or apprehension would. I have no words yet for this newness in me. Of me. It feels like a beginning although it also feels so familiar I know I have done it before. Be born. Be alive minus the chemicals.

I think about this as I step out onto the patio, goblet of sparkling lemon water in hand. The evening light is a glimmer of golden peach droplets which twinkle like a million stars just fallen from the sky to alight on the new spring leaves of the swaying trees for a while. The air is perfect and smells like rain mixed with sun mixed with dark fertile soil.

And as I take it all in, everything inside of me begins to ache. Because I can bear witness but I cannot hold onto it. I can watch the evening sky change and turn and dazzle but it will only last so long and there is nothing I can say, or write, or snap a photo of, that will convey this overwhelmingly haunted yet alive feeling which swells inside my chest. I see the beauty and I long for it at the same time.

I slide my sunglasses from the top of my head down to rest in front of my eyes and I light up a cigarette. All the gorgeousness is paralyzing and yet tears again flood my eyes on their own. I can’t bear it, this quietly ecstatic life. But I don’t check out. I’m in it now. I’m here for all of it – the pain and the grief and the melancholy. Perhaps the wildest twist of all is that it’s the goodness you’re not prepared to feel. The magnitude of the regular magic. The promise of the pulse of potential in every goddamn living thing.

It’s the absolutely mesmerizing wonder of being here, being any part at all of the enchantment of this pure evening, that grips my veins and tugs at me to please have mercy and down a shot of something to take the edge off. To soften the glare of it. The pierce of this glory that shatters my soul. Something inside screams for escape from the way the beauty hurts. And nobody warns you of that.

I’m Looking for a Literary Agent

Not sure if it’s cool to do what I am about to do but something in me won’t let up until I do it so here’s the thing. I am actively looking for a literary agent to help me scout around and get my early sobriety memoir published. I need help finding my agent person.

I can write. I’ve got that part down. It doesn’t stop or let up because it is who I am so I have to follow where it seems to be leading me. I don’t really have a choice other than to ignore it but I have a very sneaky suspicion that suffocating my own lifeblood is exactly the kind of shady shit that makes my addiction act up. My sobriety won’t stand for it.

When it comes to finding an agent, a partner in crime to navigate the overwhelming publishing industry, I feel paralyzed. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that. Maybe I should pretend I am far more savvy and confident and I should fuck around behind the scenes until I can make it look effortless and magical. But I am not and it is not. I am just so not right now.

So I am starting right here from exactly where I am. In a kind of soft, safe, glowing virtual room with all of you, my fellow literary writer artist creative beauties. We are not like the rest of the humans. We are writers and writers know about the lit agent world. Well, all the writers except me, that is, or so it feels. I’m scared but I’m also determined. I have received so many messages from incredibly brave souls who have told me my words are helping them stay on track to keep themselves healthy and alive. I need this to happen for them as much as I need it to happen for me. Maybe more. For us.

My only ask is this: If you have any connections in this regard to email addresses or contact information to agents who publish memoirs, or connections to connections, please drop a comment below or send me an email to allisonmarieconway@gmail.com or tell a friend who might know or anything you can think of that I am not thinking of. I am open to however this shit might go down.

I know my creative stellar partner person is out there. This is one of many ways I am sending up a flare, I hope, into the vast and mangled wilderness to say: Hi it is me and I am searching and here I am.

Thank you for reading and sharing and listening to my words here on my blog. It means more than you can possibly imagine. I mean that from my soul. Thank you.

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Photo: self portrait April 2022

What I Learned At 111 Days Sober (111 days!)

I feel like this post in particular is like a total throw back to blogs when blogs were a brand new thing. Like you just hopped onto the internet and said shit as though it were in your journal only it’s online ‘for the world to see.’ Which is hilariously dramatic I mean the whole world is not looking at your blog, you see what I’m saying. In reality very few people are looking at your blog specifically and even those who are are reading your stuff and then taking the bits they prefer and walking right on out the door into the rest of their lives where they will read and watch and share and think about and talk about literally billions of other things.

But I digress. All this just to say that this post, like mostly all of my others, I write stream of consciousness and then hit publish because I’ve got a bunch of time constraints but also because I just need to say shit sometimes. A lot of times, it seems. And this is my favorite place to do that. And if I think too hard or censor myself too much I’ll never say a goddamn thing.

By 111 days sober I can tell you these three things, even though I fucking hate list posts, even though I also love them tbh. But remember way back when blogs were newly forming things that no one really understood and they were not meant to ‘help’ or give advice or any of that bullshit which grates on my nerves even as I take it in with one eye open and the other firmly scrunched in what I believe to be finely tuned, well earned, perfectly executed skepticism? When you just wanted someone to listen. Anyone. Maybe even or especially a stranger. Or you just wanted you to listen. As if you were a stranger to yourself. And for some reason the only place you could really truly find yourself was in the words you typed onto the white glow of the empty screen. That milky white portal into the depths of your own soul. What on this earth could be more romantic than that?

But I digress again. I was wanting to share with you that at 111 days sober I censor myself a lot less, I am highly aware of and in sync with my very wide range of feelings, vibes, emotions, ideas, creations, desires, skills, interests, and – dare I say it – prowess. I’m getting all the way up tight and close with what I would call the shape of my inner landscape. I am learning the terrain and learning that you cannot ‘learn it’ so fuck that. You can only explore it. Feel around inside and be over taken by beautiful wretched storms. Be soothed by the oceans in your being which rage but only once in a while. Which, honestly for a good lot of the time, swell and curl and glisten in the impossible tranquility of being just what they are. Collections of the tiny droplets of the infinity of all the prismatic facets of who you are.

Was that three things, though? I’m not sure. It’s probably a lot more than that if you think about it. I mean if you connect what I know with what you know we could count things all day long and they would add up to a hell of a lot more than just three things, but you’ll never really capture all of them so what does it matter? Perhaps we are not ‘whats’ you know what I mean. Like how they say search for what you are, do you know what you are. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’ and all that business of cutting off your creativity before it can even begin to bud like the spring trees I’m gazing out across now. What am I? I’m a forty-three year old former addict now one hundred and eleven days clean and sober. But really that’s not even the half of it.

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Photo: self-portrait April 2022

Just Stop (audio) (day 110)

I drank to not feel the panic I didn’t know what to do with. I drank to numb the fears I could not name. Laying down the bottle. Smashing it against the pavement. Ending it. Ending the battle not by winning or losing but by sitting down and stopping. Just stop. I just wanted everything, for one fucking heavenly second, to stop. Stop moving on as though nothing inside was screaming. Stop walking past me as if my life doesn’t matter. Stop slugging down the wine to try to silence what only came back louder, more menacing, more debilitating the next time. I felt like a fool. Do you know that? I thought I was handling my shit. I thought it was just what we do, how we do. The mind numbing days and evenings that would slice the edges right the fuck off so it all felt smooth as silk but fuzzy.

Fuzzy and dull until somehow that dumbness grew fangs and claws which I’d swipe at everything in the kind of sad rage that misses and misses and misses every single time. I could never get at the thing. I could never name it. That thing that made me drink. That thing that hated and loved me for not having feelings of my own. I lived by it, stood by it, hid alongside of it for so long. And I was ready to let it go on, fucking around with that nameless, faceless, useless, endless, relentless thing. Go on and on forever. I did not see it ever stopping, not ever.

And that still haunts me because that thing knows I’m still very new at this. I am still learning the ropes of recovery which is to say I am still learning myself, how I am made, how I am built. Sometimes I wonder, and forgive me for saying this but it chokes me with tears to be honest, I wonder what ever happened to that girl I used to be or would have been if I didn’t keep choosing to snuff her out over and over and over every single night. Did she just disappear. Like I kept telling her to.

There is a pressure in me, a pulsing underneath my skin, and it wants me to run.

I think about the lot of us – addicts and the ones who love addicts the best they know how. The ones who judge and the ones who try to help. The ones at the beginning of their addictions, the ones still denying them. The ones at the end of all the brutality, trauma, and abuse a substance inevitably causes. And I think how we are all victims of the same culture which silences the discussion of any of it. But the ones who have helped save me are the ones who shared their stories. The honest and the grimy and the extreme. And the seemingly harmless. They helped set me straight, too.

There is a spectrum. There is a continuum. We are present or we are disconnected to various degrees. A sliding scale of truth tellers and thieves. As I type this, the sun sinks down low enough to pierce my right eye through the blinds. I kind of hate how high the sun still hangs up there in the sky at 5:32pm. If it were still winter, I wouldn’t have all this goddamn light to have to contend with for too many hours before I can just go to sleep. I had this thought earlier today while sitting at my computer sipping stale coffee in a gray office on a gray swivel chair with gray on gray streaks: Addiction is the crippling and desperate desire to replace what is with what can never be.

A Flare In the Dead Space of My Mind (day 109)

One of the most fucked-up things about addiction is that you cannot logic your way out of it. It isn’t that you aren’t aware of all the damage you are doing to yourself it’s just that nothing about knowing any of that is going to stop you. You need the drug because you need the high because you just need it. By the time you are addicted to it you have dug out your brain to the point where you hate that you are drinking even as you are pouring the drink. But the story is always the goddamn same. The drink wins because it was always winning long before you knew the rules of the game.

The rules being: heads booze wins, tails you lose.

I woke up in a cute little boutique hotel room downtown one morning about ten years ago and realized fairly quickly that I had absolutely zero memory of how I returned to it the night before. We had been on a bar crawl and I made the ‘mistake’ of starting heavy and not letting up because that’s what I always did except that now I was old enough to know better. Apparently, I was talking too loud in a sex shop about stupid things which I found hilarious and then I passed out sitting up on the stairs to the bathroom of some swank restaurant bar. My friends were told to collect me and get the hell out, which we all did. My husband put me to bed. When I asked what happened he told me and I remember feeling a sudden slash of fear cut right from the back of my throat to the center of my stomach.

I had done a lot of stupid reckless shit in my twenties. But when I was still doing it in my thirties it started to panic me. Not for long, but still. I am sure I resumed drinking that Sunday afternoon. I mean, why ruin a sweet get-away weekend by ending the party early. I was still in control, I just needed some help sometimes. Better that than pull some dramatic shit like quit dumping poison into my precious veils. And my man said it wasn’t so bad. It was fine. I was fine. It’s all a good laugh. Just some good clean fun. Something to talk about over drinks with friends.

Now I know what bullshit that was. Not only the event but the response. The writing shit like that off as just an inevitable part of the experience of weekends hanging out on the city bar scene. Except it wasn’t inevitable for anyone but me. Ten plus years later I can still feel how sick I felt the next morning and how when he told me what I did I felt only numbness, only the deadness of blackout space. Like being blindfolded and reaching out into empty air, feeling for something to hold on to but finding absolutely nothing. Nothing at all.

Looking back on it now, I would say that was the beginning of the spark of my recognition of my drinking problem. It burst like a shock out of nowhere, like plugging your finger into an electric outlet yet being stunned by the jolt. I didn’t expect it even though, logically, I know how electricity works. It flashed like a bulb that flares bright as the sun one last time before it burns completely out. But in that split second, the unwelcome glare illuminated every crack in every wall in the dimming halls of my freshly frightened mind.

Dirty and True (first sober Easter) (day 107)

So much of the overwhelm of a sober “first” comes from the freaky anticipatory jitters. At least for me. I can’t explain it I can just say it is a real thing that happens. This is my first sober Easter and it already feels strange at 7:50 in the morning.

The clashing collection of new feelings. The way I’m already strategizing about where the alcoholic versus non-alcoholic drinks will be displayed. All I can say is that sometimes moving through early sobriety is wave after wave of realizing how deep the addiction really ran. Because now I am pulling that sickness out by the roots. 

It’s dirty.

Here you are dressed in your Sunday best and inside you feel like you are smearing mud all over what is supposed to be pristine, perfect, joyous. Celebratory.

And also. Also, digging your fingers into this new soil feels like you are learning to anchor yourself in the kind of truth that will finally sustain you. It is rich with cool relief and nutrients you didn’t expect you needed.

It’s a secret but the good kind. The kind that is just between the universe and you and no one else.

It is the kind of intimacy you have been desperate for all your life. The kind you almost destroyed yourself to get to. The kind which reveals you to yourself. The ugliest and most gorgeous.

It is messy and true and I’m here for all of it.

What We Turn Into (audio) (day 105)

You want everyone to know and you want no one to know and somewhere inbetween lies not the truth necessarily but the reality. It all gets a bit jumbled inside that mind of yours which is where the trouble starts and ends and starts again on repeat for your whole life. After two decades of cutting yourself short before you could ever deal with hard stuff it can be confusing and overwhelming when all the previously pent up emotions come crashing forward in waves of tears or fury or exhaustion.

I guess I’d say that’s where I am now it seems. I am very tired. I mean I sleep beautifully and I am ‘well-rested’ in that sense but emotionally, feelingly, I am very, very tired. I am not used to holding up the weight of feeling everything without abandoning it. It can feel quite glaring. It can feel like your skin is being burned off your bones. Exposure. The bareness of shedding years and years of protection, armor, calloused skin. Life is an exposed nerve.

This weekend is the Easter stuff. I like to read about and think about and celebrate the way the pagans once did, way back before the organized religions capsized the raw beauty of nature and cycles and seasons. Rebirth. Renewal. All the gorgeous bursts of brand new life sprouting and shaking easily in the cool spring winds. There is warmth in the veins of the trees. They spread their wild fingers out into the frigid morning air. They think not about fear. They do not shrink. They reach and reach because the reaching must be done.

For over a decade I wanted to be a sober person. I was so jealous of sober people. How much sweeter a life it must be to drop the act. Finally put a stop to the torture in the mind which is divided against itself. Drink / don’t drink. Drink / don’t drink. Do I or don’t I have a problem. Can I or can’t I keep this up. Will I or won’t I ever get better.

Life. Death. Resurrection. First the pain then the waiting then the rising. Spirals and tendrils and coincidences and miracles and mistakes and all the time, all the lives, you can never get back. The moon will be a full one this Easter season. We cry and we crawl and we fly and we turn, turn, turn, like that song about seasons which is really about the parts of the soul we try so hard to understand. We run and we fall and we dance again.

Fucking with Sober People on the Internet (day 104)

Watching as the nearly-full April moon sinks lower and lower in the black morning sky, I am still snuggled underneath the blankets as wild springtime bird chatter rises and falls through my open window at 4:35am. It is still pitch dark out but already 71 degrees. My sheets are damp with sweat which smells a little salty and a little sweet. A little like fresh shampoo and a little like the soft nuzzle of warm sleep. The moonscape is like something from a movie or a painting. The perfect yellow-baked glowing disc swathed faintly in thin pewter fingers of cloud, which move slowly away away to reveal the shadowed craters of giant rock surface. It is a moment of pure intimacy between the moon and me and no one else in the entire world. Like peace, handed to me on a silver platter. I take it. I smile and it sinks all the way into me.

It has been a weird fucking week. A day or so ago, someone on Instagram published one of my quotes on her page and she took all the time, care, and effort to erase my name from it before she share it. Right out in the open. Like this was just a thing one does. Just like that. My words were stripped from me, or I from them, and regurgitated by a whole ass stranger. It is hard to describe how that feels. It isn’t the first time it has happened to me but this was the first time my quote and my caption were about my sobriety. Yes, indeed, she stole my caption, too. Without mentioning me at all anywhere. And I thought to myself, how pathetic. How absolutely tragic that this human wanted to say what I had said but instead of searching herself for her own wisdom she just took the lazy way and ripped me off. Plucked my genuine personal thoughts and passed them right along as her own. How brilliant. How classy. How plug-and-play a life she must lead. I asked her why on earth she would do such a thing. She responded by deleting her entire account. Even just typing that makes me laugh aloud.

What a strange fucking thing to waste one’s time with. Her for doing it and me for even bothering to call her out. It’s just the internet. It’s just petty bullshit. But I think what really got under my skin was that I didn’t get to that quote she stole without a lot of fucking hard soul work. And you’d like to think people would respect that about a newly sober human. But the truth is that everything you create can be fucked with and everything you hold sacred can be desecrated in the time it takes to figure out how to erase someone’s name off of their own intellectual property. lol. Like seriously how do you even do that. It’s almost clever if it weren’t so goddamn stupid.

But ridiculous as it may sound, there is a secretly breathtaking truth inside the sting of being violated like that. Slicing someone away from their own sobriety hurts like hell because sobriety is the ultimate intimacy with the self. There is no other feeling or relationship, no other promise or vow or commitment or bloodswear that can be compared to it. When you can say you are sober, you are saying no one and nothing else comes between you and your truest self. Sober is the closing of the gap between what you say you value and what you actually do. What you want and what you make sure against all brutal odds you maintain. Maybe that’s a good mini-thought to share on social media. Sometimes my little bits get shared a fuck lot of times and I guess that’s how I know they are worthy ones. Or if they get stolen. I guess that means a thought was damn fine, too.

I sip my second cup of coffee as the sky lightens from rich navy blue to velvet sapphire. I write my blog post, I design my ‘content’ and I think about the absurdity of all of it. I am grateful to the sprinkled twinkled stars in the heavens above that I get to even talk about any of this beautiful mess at all. It is everything to me. Because they can say what they want and steal what they covet and talk trash on the internet until they get their little tiny rocks off. All I know is that I haven’t had a hangover in one hundred and four days. And only a person who knows what I know and does what I do and has been through the hellfire I have can ever truly say that.

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