Pretzel Logic

There is the kind of tired where you need rest and the kind of tired where you need peace. Or so I have just read upon the social media. I am tired for sure. My brain is so very hugely tired. From the mental stretch of getting sober. From the first six months of this year as they skid to a halt over my worn out little head. From the insanity of what this society calls sanity. What to do when you are exhausted of all the things they tell you you need to keep up with. The job to get the money to buy the things they need you to need to keep this whole ball rolling right off whatever cliff we are headed towards.

The sun is still high in the sky at 5:26 in the evening and it is so thoroughly nauseating. Shut up already. Shut up with the light and the daytime that bleeds arrogantly into the dark time. I’m tired of running a household. I’m tired of reporting where I am supposed to report to at any given hour of the day, morning, noon and night. I’m crippled at the thought of this very evening, in fact. The same thing followed by the same thing. And I should be grateful. And I should be thrilled to bits with my adorable privileged problems.

Fuck.

No wonder no one wants to get sober. No wonder I didn’t want to have to see the dust on the houseplants and books, and the fly shushing around the window. Stupid goddamn thing banging its tiny head-body against the foggy glass over and over and over again. Ten million eyes and not a fucking clue. I make myself a double espresso. It is perfectly rich, strong, hot, and delicious. It’s too late and too early and everything that is supposed to have fallen into place already a long time ago is in pieces in my mind and the pieces don’t settle into anything. My mind is a whole new puzzle and this world is full of the same old shit. Same holes, same shapes, same ditches, same grooves. Same tricky traps and same temporary rewards.

The title of this post is also the title of an album by Steely Dan. I told my husband I was gonna use it as the title of a blog post and now I’ve done it. He has just walked by naked on his way to taking a shower and when I inform him of my keeping the promise about the blog post title he smiles but not enthusiastically enough for my liking. I’ve accomplished no other feats so far this week. It’s only Monday, though, so maybe stay tuned. I’ve taken up running and I am not sure if that is considered a sport though I suspect not. I ran 2.33 miles this morning. Perhaps that is an accomplishment worth mentioning, come to think of it. I always swore I would never be two things in this life, one is sober and the other is a runner. And now I am both and I am insufferable.

Think I’ll swear off swearing I’ll do or not do anything for a while. At the very least it’s nice to just do whatever you feel like as long as it isn’t getting drunk. I know there is no definitive answer to the following question and there are as many answers to it as there are fools who swear they know the correct one but my tired ass has to ask it even if futile, even if rhetorical: what in the fuck is any of this for anyway?

The Power In Walking Away

Sometimes there is power in walking away from a fight. We rarely hear about this, of course, in our battle obsessed culture. Because we are taught to be strong and by strong they mean fight back, stand up for yourself. They mean: be stronger than the thing you are fighting with. We are taught never to back down. We believe that in order to be powerful we must fight to the death. If we admit defeat we must be cowards or losers or just not trying hard enough.

Each day for many days during many years, I would hope to have a chill drinking experience. I didn’t want to fight, I just wanted to mess around a little. You know like the kind of good go-around with the drinking they advertise to you with the glass of crisp white wine and the smiling, sexy, sophisticated lady and her lover sharing dessert in an outside garden or the laughter and cheer as she frolics about with her girlfriends as they live their best lives in some Tuscan vineyard and all that shit. What a great time wine always is! How relaxed and cool it makes us all. Except that wasn’t it. It was, in fact, the opposite of that. Because after the fifteen minute happiness, it became more dull than chill. And then after the first two or three glasses, an almost imperceptible agitation would slither in and as the wine kept flowing that subtle irritation just keep blooming and blooming larger and larger like the flower of a nuclear explosion.

I poured wine on my anger and anxiety like gasoline. On a good number of occasions, I was completely out of my mind by the time the bomb went off. Didn’t care. Didn’t even know. I had to come-to the day after and feel the pain of realizing some of the destruction caused. Assessing the scene. Piecing together fragments of what I could remember. How often it was a hell of a fight before I inevitably got knocked out. Wine glass left half full on the coffee table. Me, face down on a mattress and the wine quite literally still standing. As long as I could pry my eyes open and peel myself off the floor, the wine was ready to go another round.

The power in the face of that scenario is not obvious. Or should I say, what seems like the one with the obvious power is the wine. The alcohol, when I crawled into the ring with it, “won” so to speak. I get that now. It shreds my heart to pieces to think about, but I get it.

But to say I was powerless to alcohol, while true and while very necessary to admit, I agree, is not a full enough statement for me to leave at face value. Women are relentlessly reminded of their powerlessness in this society. This culture reminds us incessantly that we should stand down, watch our mouths, bite our tongues. Our human rights are under constant threat. It is exhausting, being bludgeoned over the head again and again with our “powerlessness.”

But in a much broader sense, there are many kinds of power. The power to destroy is alcohol’s kind of power and the only one it inherently possesses. But there is power in walking away from a battle you have no business engaging in. This is true if the opponent is far stronger than you, but it is also true if the opponent is beneath you. If the opponent doesn’t deserve to engage with you in the first place. In my case, the power exists in my ability to lay down the fight entirely. I do not fuck with alcohol. I do not answer its calls to get in the ring just one more time to see if I can finally get the upper hand.

We are done here. This ends here and now. No more fighting.

There is power in the peace of that. To lay down that fight is to stand in a kind of power that is entirely my own. No shame. No guilt. No fuckery. There are many kinds of power: the power to destroy and the power to rebuild, recreate, resurrect, reorganize, reevaluate, regenerate. Alcohol only has one. But I have them all.

Upswing (audio)

When you stop drinking alcohol entirely, the world looks very different than it did before. And I used to think that was because I am just so clear headed now but I think it’s more than that. I think now I’m looking at the world with entirely new eyes. That’s why it looks different, because I am. And I know that probably sounds one of two things: melodramatic or completely made up. Either I am making too big a deal of sobriety or I am faking a feeling I think I’m supposed to feel and trying to convince myself as I try to convince other people how glorious it is to turn down the wine I once coveted with everything I had. There is a lot to pull apart here. But the thing is, and I mean this sincerely, my experience of absolutely everything is new because my perception of it and where it belongs in my new lifestyle is new. Sobriety is like rearranging all the rooms in your house. Once you get the living room sorted out just the way you like it, you’ve gotta do the dining room because it’s right there, and then the kitchen and then since the downstairs is looking really good you move on upstairs and start sorting all that out, too. Or not. Or you exhaust yourself just thinking about moving through all that change and decide you are very sincerely tired and don’t feel like lifting a finger. And as long as you aren’t lifting a glass full of wine to your lips you figure you’ve done enough for now.

Steal Away (audio)

I sit sipping fresh cappuccino by my open writing room window. The rain is coming down in tiny sprinkled bursts as the light wind glides through the gigantic green trees. There’s no thunder but small flashes of lightning pulse every once in a while. The gray of the cool sky feels like a merciful hand over a closed tired eye. I just want to be away. Away from here. Away far enough to actually see what I’m looking at. So much change has happened for me in these last five months it feels overwhelming at the moment. And maybe that will pass, I am sure it will – this feeling like there’s nothing left to hold on to because everything has been swept away by the giant wave of sobriety as it crashed over me. I see things now for what they really are, or should I say instead: I feel the real things now. I feel the things that aren’t right and haven’t been for a very long time. My whole life has been upended and trying to minimize the effects of that is scratching at the insides of my bones. Something inside still needs to be let out. When you see what needs to change you have to go about changing it. I guess. Or not. Maybe not. Maybe the thing is to just stop blaming myself for any of it.

And the Beat Goes On

Properly exhausted and humbled down to a tiny little nub, I can at least revel in the fact that the writing of my book and the writing of my book proposal are both now complete. What will become of any of this is anyone’s guess but I do promise this (to myself and anyone who may be listening): the book is gonna get published. It will exist in this big wide world somehow. It’s too important to me to let it disintegrate in a drawer somewhere. Which I am sure is what every author feels about her work once it is complete. The funny thing is, as I was walking with my husband around the neighborhood last night he asked me, So… what are you gonna do now? To which I responded the only way one can respond when her whole life is devoted to words: Start writing the next one, I guess.

Just like everything else, one thing leads to the next. You begin a thing and you end it and then you begin something else lest you go mad. You do your little projects and hope with all your mighty might that maybe someone else will like them. Notice them. Give a damn. And maybe they do and that’s really special. And maybe they don’t and that hurts a bunch. But either way, you have to get up and do the day the best you know how. And when you are sober you know right at the top of it that you are about to feel every single thing without hope of escape. And even though the addiction part of you is still fixated on the drink (it really is, it’s fucking insane) the rest of you is hyper aware of all the other various forms of possible escape that people around you are engaging in all the time. Escaping into substances or people or vacations or whatever else. Work. Success. Money. Botox.

All around us hangs the haunt of any other life but the one we’ve got to live in the skin we’re in. We reach for the easy way out and it all goes up in liquid smoke. Every damn time. That’s how you know that what a destructive thing is promising you is an illusion and not a reality. When you get up close to the part that’s supposed to be easy, it isn’t there. It doesn’t actually exist.

Sitting at the Beach Side Bar Like an Asshole

I watch this woman sitting at the beach side bar, sipping her yellowy wine. Must be chardonnay because it’s too dark in color to be a Sauv Blanc. Looks buttery, too. The way it slides a tiny bit slower down the sides and back into place when she sets it back down on the counter. A Sauv is crisper, lighter, more refreshing. Perfect for summer. Perfect for now (no, it really isn’t), as I sit on the other side of the gigantic ocean-facing restaurant with my husband who is sipping respectably on his Cape May IPA. I never liked beer. Beer was not my thing. Well, maybe it was back in college when it was really the only alcohol available at parties besides hard liquor mixed with some kind of Hawaiian Punch type deal. Christ, the shit we used to drink was sickening but at least we drank gallons of it.

Wine wasn’t part of my everyday until I became a far more sophisticated female alcoholic than I had previously been. Classier. More grown-up. That’s the bit, you see what I mean. It isn’t just the wine it’s the whole persona of the drinking of the wine and what that instantly makes you. Or should we say, how it makes you appear to the outside world, and since we believe ourselves to be who we make the world believe we are, we are pleased as that trashy college punch with ourselves and the whole fucked up, fun-house mirror of distortions we have managed to fabricate but believe happens naturally just by holding a glass of this shit. It’s impressive in a way. Amusing, even. Our little psycho-delectations.

Watching the waves slam heavy into the shoreline just a few yards away, we point to the seventeen or so surfers who rise and fall and coast along at varying levels of water-slicked prowess. It’s a very rough and strange day. One minute the sun is shining bright and you have to come out of your hoodie because it’s so damn hot, and the next minute the giant dark storm clouds roll in, the wind kicks up in the opposite direction and drops everything twenty degrees. No sooner do you apply your sunscreeen than the cold drizzle pricks against your sunglasses, making you wonder why in the fuck you made the hour drive to begin with.

But multiple outfit changes aside, the ocean is wild, thunderous and beautiful. The smell of salt, sand, and sea is so good for the soul. My soul, our souls. It’s weird how you can be sitting next to other humans and feel a million miles away from them at the same time. I don’t know what is going through the chardonnay lady’s head as she scrolls her phone and adjusts her oversized sun hat. I imagine her blood warming, her mind slowing, and everything around her getting fuzzy. I think about how it’s only 12:30 in the afternoon and when I started drinking that early in the day it was a non-stop frustration for the rest of the day to balance quenching my craving for more and more with wanting to not pass out on the beach and feel hungover by dinner.

My husband, gorgeous sweet man that he is, asks the young bartender if he has any zero proof liquor. The gentleman smirks and stares stupified at both of us. It’s very possible he thinks this question is a joke and a truly hilarious one at that. I know it sounds outrageous and insane. That anyone would actually want a gin martini made with alcohol-free botanicals, juniper, and possibly seaweed extract. I know how pointless that sounds. You don’t drink to get healthier, you nimrod, this guy is probably thinking. What in the actual fuck are you even talking about. Why the fuck are you sitting at my gloriously glossy bar ordering tonic and lime, talking some shit about booze without the booze in it, ordering your pretentious antipasto salad at lunch when it’s only on the dinner menu.

Because I’m sober, asshole. And sometimes I feel like a motherfucking boss about it and other times, in the blink of an eye, I suddenly feel like throwing back every bottle of liquor you have so skillfully displayed in that cleverly stacked pyramid formation without so much as coming up for air to make up for the pathetic one hundred and forty nine days I’ve spent clean. And, just like you, I do not understand what life is supposed to be anymore without my precious drink of choice in my hand. Let alone on the holiday weekend that jump starts everybody’s summer. Let alone how the weather changes from brilliant to menacing every five goddamn minutes.

Into the Long Weekend (audio)

Hello to new followers, you have all made me so happy. I don’t know why you decided to come along, if it’s the writing or the audio or the sobriety or all of it or whatever other reason, but I’m just grateful to know something here resonated with you. It’s weird these days with authors it’s like we are supposed to have a ‘thing’ like an ‘image’ or an aesthetic or a bunch of fucking clever reels on Instagram or whatever. I am not sure I”m up for all that to be honest. I just want to write ffs. That’s all. Anyway, I thank you for checking out my stuff if you are new here and if you have been hanging out with me for a long while, hello and thank you so much, too.

Heading into the long holiday weekend, I’m thinking about the fact that I will be sailing through it entirely sober. Entirely hangover-free. God, that feels so fucking good to say. To know. To trust.

I have more work to do on the book. I’m told parts of it are ‘stunning’ and ‘brilliant’ and other parts make no sense or need clarification. Some parts need to be shifted around and some other parts need to be nixed altogether. And I am going to do all of that, too. I most totally am. But later. This weekend I’m doing as close to ‘nothing’ as possible. Which really if I think about it, I will be doing a lot of things, just nothing ‘productive.’ I plan to relax. I have a whole line up of beautifully clean, fresh, interesting booze-free drinks to mix up. As my second pot of coffee was brewing this morning, I sliced up a bunch of lemons, limes, and cucumbers to throw into my Pellegrinos throughout the next days How lovely, right?

There will be boating, swimming, eating. Lounging. Beaching. I am desperate to see the ocean glittering underneath the warm sun. Sea gulls. These days, with all of the bullshit that adults call adulting out of my way, I find myself very interested in what the kiddos are interested in. Ice cream. Cotton candy. Goofing off. Running, dancing, laughing. Whispering secrets. Picking flowers. Snapping nature photos. I just want to be enveloped in the sort of misty haze that rolls in along the shoreline in that rose gold hour between afternoon and evening. To be present inside of that… it’s really like a dream.

It has been one hell of a week. And I know our culture is an absolute shit show. I know it’s hell and we are all on fire. And all I did was get sober. And all I am doing is unplugging. But as I slice up a juicy pink grapefruit and place a taste of its sweet-tart pulp onto my tongue, I assure myself that I have come damn far in the name of not trashing myself along with everything else that’s been destroyed and abused in this world. And honestly, that’s not nothing.

Call It What You Want

What a fucking head trip getting sober is, man. It’s hard but you almost want it to stay that way if only because the challenge of it makes you focus. And there is something very soothing in having a focus that is so healthy, so benevolent and kind and strong, aimed right square at yourself and nobody else. I’m not sure there is any other experience like it. You have to claim it for yourself and that makes it entirely personal. You get into yourself like never before. I have written across the top of my journal the words: If I left it up to anyone else I would not be sober. Because no one was going to intervene. Only I had the problem and only I knew it. Only I could fix it.

People say they are ‘alcoholics’ or not but I feel like on some level that’s all just semantics. It’s all getting yourself snagged on the side of the drain when all you want to do is flush right on out into the glorious ocean. All you want is freedom. The labels either help you get there or they don’t, but freedom is the ultimate goal. Freedom to see everything clearly. To make life choices from a place of complete awareness and strength. Now, truth be told, at 144 days I am kind of looking around at some shit in my life and thinking why in the hell have I not changed this or that. What on earth have I let fester all these years.

But one thing you certainly get back in sobriety is time. Time to spend focused on getting what you want instead of dumping booze into your face and then recovering from the nasty side effects of that. What a stupid fucking gamble drinking is. Was. What a goddamn lot of time I wasted being wasted. I don’t even miss it.

All these years I thought I’d die without the drinks and now I realize they were killing me. I feel like being in recovery is wave after wave of sick twisted irony. All the shit I thought was happening wasn’t. All the shit I thought wasn’t happening was happening right in front of my eyes but I couldn’t see it. All the faith I put in glass after bottomless glass of wine was total utter trash. And even though I chose sobriety, even though it is now solidly, decidedly, mercifully mine through and through and it’s at the very center of everything that matters most to me in this life, I still can hardly believe I’ve done it.

Who You Are Without Your Self

Everything I write falls short of what I want to say. Fuck, it’s frustrating. I don’t want to have to but I can tell I’m going to have to renegotiate whatever unspoken agreement I previously had with my writing. Reconstruct a new kind of relationship with the thing inside me which desires to speak. Because wherever my words came from before does not exist anymore. Something dislodges when you first get sober, some big chunk of a thing that you thought was an essential part of you just suddenly breaks free like a giant iceberg and begins to sail right on off into the mist-covered ocean. You can almost hear it crack. That catastrophic sound slicing through the pristine arctic air, all alone where nobody in the whole world can see it or hear it or bear witness. Only you and the echo of whatever part of you that is ancient, timeless, and eternal. As that massive ice formation melts, it ebbs farther and farther away from you, leaving a gash in its place, a colossal empty space. Now that the addiction is quiet, there is a cut-out space in the side of my perception of myself. I used to have something to springboard from but now that home base is gone. If I try to start anything from that old version of me, I fall over the edge into nothingness. I need a new base camp. I need to reorganize some foundational internal shit or I’ll drown.

In Command of the Darkness

Any kind of addiction or abuse is an attempt to outrun the darkness inside of you. That may sound counterintuitive but it’s the truth. Nobody’s life is devoid of trauma, separation anxiety, fear of the unknown, maladaptive measures of self-destruction where there ought to be serenity.

Fuck ‘self-love’ and ‘self-care’ and all that fuzzy blanket bullshit. You have to go into the darkness you have been running from. The thing you were told was obscene. The thing that you were never allowed to speak about or express or acknowledge. The part of you you were told could not exist. But you knew it did. You knew it. That part of you that writhed inside, that they kept hacking away at but that always grew back louder with more heads and more teeth. The place inside of you you were told was grotesque, hideous, unclean. You were forbidden to look.

You know why they forbid it?

Because you will find yourself there. They didn’t want you to look because they were afraid you might find yourself there. And because they couldn’t bear the thought that parts of you were dark because if that were true about you, what did it say about them? Their keeping you from the shadow was their keeping you from yourself. But that’s the only way you will ever make peace with it. Not by getting out of it, by getting into it. You’ve got to crawl into your darkness. You have to get into where the sickness first began. Your sick inheritance.

Not so you can kill it off. You will never kill it off. What you want is to be able to peer into the eyes of it, the wound of it, understand it. Once it’s integrated into your own reconstruction of yourself, you own it. Dominate it. Become its master. Until you do, you can never comprehend the profound benevolence of that. The unfathomable power of being in command of yourself.

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