Killer On the Road

Jim Morrison had the sexiest voice of anyone ever and now he’s gone but still he sings gravelly voiced from the speaker down the hall as my husband takes a bath after his morning run. This country is fucked and we are stuck right down in it for better or worse (worse, mostly, it turns out). I’ve no idea what to do about that but I feel it a lot deeper than he does, this I know for sure.

Not much I can do about that either. Can’t yell or scream or cry or seethe enough to make it as real for him as it is for me because he is a man and he is from another generation. One that may actually be taken care of til it dies off. But I am a woman and I am of a generation which will likely not be taken care of even though I have earned it, doesn’t matter. Faith? Hope? Drugs? Lies? Truth? Life? Addiction? Death? Who is in charge and who is not. Do we fight or do we flee. Should I post on the blog today? I think this over as I sip my coffee. What to say? Why am I doing this and who is it for? I have recently considered becoming addicted to cigarettes on purpose just for something shit to do.

I text with a friend about moving to Costa Rica. I know nothing at all about Costa Rica but turns out I know pretty much fuck all about America, too, so whatever will be will be. Independence Day is hilarious. Peace and love, hot dogs, water ice, and bullshit all down your naive throat. I don’t blame myself for getting drunk all the times I did. Or trying to blunt the pain of this extremely painful life. Outside my window there are green trees and soft breezes blowing through them like whispers of a time when I was too young to understand how my life was being disassembled right out from under me.

Fireflies. Fireworks. The smell of a charcoal grill and the feel of a cherry popsicle dangling from my tiny little mouth. There was an innocence to summer grass beneath my feet and the red and blue twinkle of July 4th party lights reflecting on the surface of the pool in the yard at night. I remember it and smile for a second, smile briefly but sincere none the less. I hate it here. Jim Morrison is drowned out by hedgetrimmers. Poetry is a wheel of cotton candy pink birth control pills that some bible thumper prude Christian refuses to distribute to a hot young thing at the local Walgreens because #religiousfreedom. I never want to have sex again because everything is politics and smells like stale beer on abusive breath and tastes like the butts of cigarettes drowning in the stagnant water left for the mosquitos in the bird bath which sits peeling and rusting in the 12 noon suburban sun.

Sunday, Late Afternoon (audio)

I saw this beautiful boy on the internet, a poet. His words were captivating, heavy with melancholy. He could enter into the silent parts of you and whisper against the walls inside. His imagery is haunting. A beautiful, beautiful boy. And he’s not posted anything for almost seven months now, at least not to Instagram. Lotta poets on there, or there used to be. I was one of them. Years ago, years gone by.

Times change. So do people. So does poetry and trendiness. So do platforms and the space they hold in our minds, which have changed a lot in the past few years, too. I think we are afraid. And we are searching for the things that make us feel less so but underneath every stone we turn over we still find that we have the same fear. It hasn’t changed that much since we were little. It is still there. This fear of silence. This fear of death. This fear of living. I see these poets who fall in love, fall our of love, and as they fall they are desperate to bring all of us down with them. Listen to me. Listen to my ache. Hear how this infatuation haunts me, grips my throat and fills my lungs with noise. It is so bad. So very very cruel and bad this sweetness which crushes me.

There was a time when I wrote poetry and sold it. My little clips and collections were received with such warmth and light. Even my darkest words, my deepest wells of desire and fear, longing and eroticism. It all consumed me then. Not so much now. Now my immersion in life is of a different kind, of a different texture and spin. What I used to hold so tightly I have all but let go of and forgotten. Almost so easily it makes me smile, as I am doing now. What I had thought was a given in a schedule or a day or an activity or a relationship, I see now is not. It’s all up to me. It’s all up to us to decide what belongs and what does not. Where we want to be and where we don’t. It’s all a made up thing.

This life, like poetry, we come to it in silent reverence, we leave it, we come back. I sit now by the open window in my writing room. I remember my place inside myself, this home that I wrecked and left. I’m eating these little candies I used to eat when I was a kid, these fruity gummy things. The sunlight is the softest I have ever seen as it suffuses through the late afternoon. We meant to do so much more than we did today but it’s Sunday. So what. I don’t want my poetry back. I don’t believe in going back because there was a lot of pain there that I couldn’t see but I could feel. If I let myself, I could have felt it so completely. But I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t half the woman I am now. So healed after having been so broken. So in love with the silence that even the fear falls asleep and I can finally dream.

The Monster That We Are

The amount of tired that I am today has nothing to do with lack of sleep. I am well rested. It has nothing to do with lack of caffeine either, lord knows. I’m on my third mug of coffee and feeling quite alert. Sitting here in my little writing room gazing out the window as the neighbors get into their cars and head to work. Wherever they work. I should be working, too. But fuck I am so tired. In my bones and my mind and my soul, heart, being. The children are dead. This country is a waste. A whole mother fucking waste. And I used to cry. And I used to march. And I just voted the other day, like a whole ass joke. Like a fucking fool. For whatever the fuck any of this bullshit is worth. I feel helpless, useless, hopeless. Worthless. I do not even feel anger. I can’t feel anything anymore. All the empty words. Words won’t fix this. Voices won’t fix it. All the sickening politics. Bloodthirsty. That’s what we are right here in the richest most fucking bankrupt country in all the world. It’s all murderous nonsense from every side. We have become a wasteland where no life is valued. It’s all traded for money or guns or power. Where kids don’t even want to exist. No one who can actually prevent this slaughter of children will do it. There’s no conscience. There’s just emptiness. I wonder what on earth matters anymore. Perhaps this is what despair feels like. Right here in the palms of my soul on a regular Thursday as the news reels roll on and on and fucking on. Perhaps this is what it’s like at the end of the emotional line. It’s just the same as any other day. Only where there used to be anything else, now there’s just hollow. And I’m too tired to write because there’s nothing to say. People are monsters. I saw a bit of a poem somewhere online yesterday as the poets took their swings and misses at effecting any kind of shock or awe or response to little or no avail. It said We are a monster. Yeah. That’s it.

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.

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.

Perhaps Nothing More Dangerous (day 103)

When you get sober you get a lot of time back. Like straight unfucked-up time. You are clear and chill and aware. You sleep beautifully. You don’t have a bunch of toxic chemicals rusting and gutting out the chewed up ruts in your intestines or your brain or your thoughts.

I remember one morning shaking so badly I had trouble applying mascara and lipstick was entirely out of the question. That scared me, actually. But not enough. I remember countless times waking up in bed with my phone smashed against the floor and my AirPods each having fallen their separate ways. One buried under the covers and one in the corner across the room.

And I guess a part of you could find that funny. That I had passed out with no recollection of how I fell asleep, what I was watching on my phone. The glass on the night stand with the sticky crust of old white wine congealed on the bottom like the salt clumps of dried up tears. My aching head. It is possible to feel embarrassed even with no one around, just in front of yourself. Only it isn’t embarrassment it’s shame and it burns and it hurts and it clutches at the entire breadth of your chest. And I didn’t know what to do with that. I didn’t want to feel it, I knew that. And there was really only one way I dealt with feelings I didn’t want to feel.

And only I didn’t pass out like a person who had just lived a hectic full day and was tired for all the normal reasons one can be tired at the end of a day. I didn’t pass out, I blacked out. And there is a very vast and deadly difference between those two phenomenons. You can do all kinds of shit while blacked out. You can carry on a conversation. You can flirt and fuck and eat and order more drinks. And smoke a pack of cigarettes while discussing politics or porn or whatever else falls into your mind and tumbles out of your slowed-down mouth. And drive a car. And laugh. And argue and scream and run and fall. And somehow get into and out of hotel rooms. And all of these things that you are doing, you are doing them while your brain imprints absolutely no memory of any of it whatsoever.

Because you have ingested so much ethanol that you forced your body to have to make a choice: remember things or keep you alive. At a certain level of intoxication, you can’t have both. Too much energy has to be spent trying to clear your system of poison. And so I would collect my little ear buds from wherever they had landed when I crashed and wonder if anyone in the house heard my phone slam against the ground at some random hour of the night I do not recall because I could not feel or hear or sense anything at all. And I do not laugh because it isn’t funny it is lonely and tragic and helpless. And no body knows except me.

I weep inside so hard for that old version of me. She was so lost and so sad and so busted up. So confused. So wasted. Functional, though. “High functioning.”

All this to say that I have a lot of time now. Time to sort through shit. To face the hurt and the pain and the fear. But one thing I know I can do with this time not spent either drowning or resuscitating myself, is pay attention. To what I need. To what I deserve. To what I want. And I am starting to see why our culture would rather a woman remain fucked-up. Why the jokes about ‘rose all day’ and ‘mommy juice’ and ‘this is probably wine’ mugs. All that bullshit I used to buy into. When you are sedated you can’t say what you mean or claim what’s yours. When you are drunk-combative they can call you deranged and you can’t argue with that.

But if you can manage to wake up from the illusion, you get your life back. You get every minute of every day, evening, night, morning, and dawn. To make happen what you want to happen. To do and say and experience and claim and change and elevate what you desire with your entire unconventional, capable, strong, electric being. And perhaps those who are at the helm, the ones who benefit most from the pushing of the booze, the creators of this culture and this kind of warped, predatory society that glorifies trashing innocent bodies and minds at every turn, perhaps somewhere deep down, they know there is nothing in this world more dangerous than that.

Telling Your Story Will Cost You (day 102)

I write because the thought of not writing fills me with so much dread it is literally unbearable. The pressure builds up in my body and my psyche and it can be so deafening that it actually works against itself. It’s like trying to sing one song in your head while another one is blaring from the speakers all around. Writing is a must is what I am saying. But there is a dark side to sharing the “light” as some people call it (which is infuriating for a whole slew of reasons I’ll not get into right now) and that is that as soon as you open your mouth to tell a thing people hear you and open their mouth to respond. Even when they shouldn’t. Even when what they have to say has nothing to do with you.

I don’t know what it is about saying you are sober. To some people it sounds like you have your shit together and they offer nothing but mad respect. To some other people – for reasons entirely baffling to me – it sounds like you are in need of their guidance. Or advice. Or direction. Or enlightenment. These people say things unsolicited and with such blind and ridiculous certainty it almost makes me laugh and sometimes when the stars align and I’m in just the right mood, I do.

But I will tell you the truth about what it is really like to be me at one hundred and two days sober. I am pretty pissed about a lot these days. Because sobriety is clarity and when you get clear about what offers you true peace you also get crystal fucking clear about what is robbing it from you. What has been robbing it from you for years and years. And when the flood waters recede, and you see what weeds were beneath the surface strangling you, keeping you tied to the bottom of that wretched raging river of mania and fury, illusions shatter. Lies that were once masked in the muck and the chaos before are now naked and shivering in the cold shriveling light of day.

There’s a lot that is very, very not pretty.

Sharing my story over the past one hundred and two days has been a deeply weird experience. It has felt surreal and at the same time as it has felt the realest and rawest I have ever felt about anything ever before in my entire life. I am deeply, profoundly grateful for the ability to do it. I cling to it. I need it. I believe I was designed to do it. Meant to do it.

And.

And at the same time, there are costs to doing it. There are consequences; the most obvious of which is dealing with people’s reactions. Some listen and some do not. Some respond in ways that are absolutely heart-meltingly kind and supportive and gentle and reverent. And some people respond in ways that are blatantly self-conscious and self-centered. Some, down right arrogant. Some, down right callous and cruel. As a newly fully sober person in a world drenched in booze and triggers and fucked up personalities which can launch words (and silence) like bullets straight to the heart, opening up can be as isolating as it is liberating. I do it in spite of – and because of – that.

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Author’s note: Comments on this post are closed. If any of my posts move you, please show your kind support by sharing them with others the words may help.

On the Integration of Self in Early Sobriety (audio) (day 97)

What begins to happen is this wild sort of integration of the self. Because in sobriety you cannot leave yourself – you cannot abandon the good or the bad, the highs or the lows – the self has no choice but to do what comes naturally. That is to say, that which is not chemically induced or artificially manipulated. The self begins to integrate. And you feel stronger because all your bits aren’t scattered randomly all over the place, instead they are collecting and reflecting and building and restructuring the halls of the temple that is you.

There is a palpable sense of cohesion. Like all the chain links inside begin clicking into place. It feels a bit fortress-like. Perhaps it is the feeling of a self-protection you never had before. You are kinder and yet also you are steelier in ways that frighten you a bit but exhilarate you even more. Perhaps it is self-respect, this thicket of vines intertwining inside of the wilderness that is you. You make deliberate decisions about what you let penetrate, what you let into your space. You find that a hell of a lot of things will no longer be allowed.

All of the shards and sharp pieces take mercy on your psyche. Instead of cutting you up, piercing at your mind and your body, they begin to align themselves with one another like making a mosaic out of shattered clay or one of those beautiful stained glass windows you see in cathedrals all around the world. Self-loathing, self-hatred, self-judgment, self-harm, self-abuse, self-degradation, all these jagged edges fit together like puzzle pieces so they can finally stop hurting you and start making themselves known to you as tools, as bits of whispers, of art. Smaller pieces of a breathtakingly worthy creation. Yes, you did yourself dirty for a long long time. Yes, it is still hard to process. But you can face it all now. You can touch it and hold it and heal it and mend it.

No matter how ugly you felt or how cruel it all became. How many times you took your precious hurting body and hurled it against the pavement. It is all coming together now so you can see it and yet remain in control of it. Offer it peace. Offer it clean water and a warm safe bed. You were not subhuman. You were not bad you were hurting. You were not weak you were strength distorted, strength overgrown. A kind of strong which strangled itself.

I don’t know if this is making proper sense. As of late, I am a collection of moth wings fluttering all the time and my mind is drifting more often than not to grander places which I have never before seen. You know what I think? I think we run from our power even faster and harder than we run from our pain. I was running fast and hard in the cold early spring morning air a few days ago and tears were just streaming down my bare face in hot electric tracks. I’m ninety-seven days sober and tears and I are now just friends. I give in, I let them come and do what needs to be done. I think of them as holy water the angels pour through me, a connection to a higher realm. I love that I do not fully understand them. Tears are faith.

The amount of fucking weight we carry all the time. It’s too much. The way we live is not forgiving enough, not benevolent or soft enough to cradle the shards and broken bits. We need cushion. We need tendering. Not so we can fall helpless but because that is where the power lives. In that place where the good dovetails with the bad in such a way that you finally realize there is always both at the same time, and neither. We are so much bigger than that. We are the being which can see all of it. As we pull on our jeans and apply lipstick and fix the hair and drink the coffee and walk the dog and drive the car and hug our precious ones and fight the good, sweet, hard, beautiful, necessary fight. One day at a time. One tear, one breath, one word, one piece at a time we are becoming whole.

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Photo: self portrait 4.6.22

Why Quitting Gray Area Drinking Is Very Hard (day 95)

I wake up not hungover on my ninety-fifth day of sobriety but being not hungover is not the first thing that occurs to me upon opening my eyes. I still smile like a dork first thing, tho, because I can hear the coffee maker grinding fresh French roast beans as I lay warm and toasty still beneath the blankets. It suddenly strikes me as a little bit odd that I am not ecstatic about another sober morning. It wears off, I guess. That ‘pink cloud’ from the very first few weeks when each and every morning you are astounded that you have busted up a pattern you were certain could never be interrupted. Sober mornings are the new normal for me now. As are wine-free evenings. Even the weekends. Even the holidays.

It is hard to quit ‘gray area drinking’ or whatever the fuck they are calling it at the moment. It’s stupid to name it just like it’s stupid to label anything but it’s referred to a lot these days because a good lot of us are doing it and asking ourselves over and over if we are doing it ‘too much.’ You do not qualify for rehab. You haven’t lost anything that would indicate to the outside world, not even your closest family or friends, that you had a very serious problem. But on the inside of your mind it is a shaky chaotic minefield. You cannot trust yourself to stop. You do not stop. You do not see the point in stopping because then what the hell else is there? Wine saturates everything. It belongs everywhere all the time. It belongs at a party just as much as it belongs in bed with you at the end of the night. It belongs to you and you belong to it. It hurts you and controls you and ruins you but it also romances you, soothes you, holds you, takes care of you. You don’t mind drowning. You deserve drowning.

The real mindfuck of trying to quit the kind of drinking no one wants to believe they are doing whilst they flail around inside of very active addiction is that half the time your brain is telling you to stop making such a big deal about a nonsense problem. The other half the time it’s ragging on you to stop denying the glaring, deafening problem. And because there is no clear definition of what constitutes ‘the problem’ exactly, the battle rages on inside of you about whether or not to address the situation even as you can’t stop making it exponentially worse.

This is not a fully fleshed out blog post. Please forgive me. There is so much more to be said and explored and pulled apart and shared and yet I still have a nine-to-five corporate gig I need to keep up with. There is a very huge part of me that wants to give every waking moment over to studying addiction and recovery. Maybe one day I will. Fuck knows I never thought I would get this far. I keep wondering how many of us are out there struggling with the mental torment of being addicted to alcohol. Questioning what is normal and what is deadly. Have no where to begin to understand. Laughing along when on the inside we are scared to bits.

But I’m Over It Now (day 94)

I light up a cigarette and watch as the heavy rain comes down in sheets. It’s the kind of cold you can smell as the wind catches the scent of boardwalk treats, funnel cakes, french fries, cotton candy. My eyes travel up the twisted side of a bright blue roller coaster track as it winds up and up into the empty air. Too early for the kiddos to be crawling and screaming all over everything.

It’s quiet in the little seaside town. Only half the restaurants are open yet, the season timidly begun. Even the waves are almost nonexistent against the beach. Tucked safely underneath a dimly lit overhang adjacent to the grand old hotel, I take another drag of my smoke and notice the sky is a wild deeply carved gray behind the darkest heavy clouds. Storm skies are infinitely more interesting than clear ones. I’ve always loved the rain more than the sun.

My mind drifts over the things he said earlier. The things he didn’t. Neither of us did. He’s out hunting us down some stronger coffee than the shit they provide in sad limp bags in the hotel. Good beds tho, and a very large fridge in which now sits a half drunk bottle of non-alcoholic chardonnay and a small cup of unopened yogurt. I wanted so badly to get away. He never disappoints. He can find the best of the best of everything, especially the stuff I’m too shy to ask for. He’s always thought bolder of himself than I dared think of me.

I crush the cigarette into the rigid side of one of those tall cigarette collector bins they set out for the rest of us. I remember when you could smoke in bars. It was fucking fantastic. That’s where we met. Night after booze wrecked night. The laughter and the sex and all the other plastic highs. We have each other now, still. Minus the bullshit. Minus the big and little falsities. A lot has fallen away from me in ninety-four days, like tender meat tumbling easily off the bone.

I used to let people have access to me in a way that warped my sense of worth. Access to my mind, my love, my body, my attention, my loyalty, my secrets. People who did not deserve it. Back then everyone was better than me in my imagination. Getting sober has ended all that with a swiftness I could not have been prepared for but I’m grateful nonetheless. I’m still learning, of course, but that got real clear real fast.

He appears from around the corner, soaked and carrying two large cups of dark roast black coffee. I smile a little because I feel happy in a content kind of way. I smile because I mean it. And far off in the distance, sunlight claws its slender pink fingers against the horizon. The day will change. It will become very shimmery bright and, for reasons inexplicable, I will not mind in the least.

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Photo taken by me while wandering the very old crooked seaside hotel.

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