Something Has Gone Wrong Inside (day 124)

It’s weird, all the literature about addiction and recovery. Alcoholism is psychological, they say. No, physiological. No, biological. Alcoholism is genetic. No, it isn’t. Yes, it is. Well, that’s partly true but it’s all very misunderstood and the doctors fight with the psychiatrists and the researchers don’t believe the evidence and some people have this kind of personality, or that character trait, or kink, or bend, or curve. Or whatever.

I was trying so hard to understand. I really was. But even after reading mountains of books and doing hours and hours of online research and taking in the AA stuff, it feels very much like it felt at the beginning. Nobody knows but they all think they do. Some believe in God and some are offended by God (I’m leaning toward the latter if I’m being honest). I think I liked things better when I just decided alcohol was definitely somehow strangely and mysteriously killing me and I was done with playing along so I quit.

If I stopped counting days, would it matter? If the days and nights became weeks and months which fell forward into years, who would care about numbers in the end? I think it was Allen Carr who asked the very poignant question: what are recovering alcoholics counting towards? Towards nothing happening?

I get that. I mean if I had an allergy to penicillin I just wouldn’t take penicillin anymore. I wouldn’t sit around counting days between turning down a random drug I know I cannot have. It all gets a bit head-trippy is the thing, I guess.

Now truth be told, I am a person who likes a morning ritual so I almost don’t mind that I have this new AA app on my phone that offers me a daily “spiritual reading.” But the repetition of ‘God’ and then God as ‘He’ is fucking exhausting. And the readings are so aloof and vague and condescending. It feels like a lecture or going to ‘confession’ like I did when I was a kid. It’s all sweaty and freaky and you feel like you are squirming with worms inside because you did something bad but you don’t know exactly what it is. And the longer you bow your head and listen you start to feel like the reason you are there at all is not just because you did bad things but you are bad things. Very, very bad, abnormal, wrong things.

I’m not here for it. Half the reason I fucked around with alcohol in the first place was to escape the bullshit patriarchy of organized religion and all the ways it destroyed my sense of worth as a woman. By ‘organized’ and ‘religion’ I mean simply anything or anyone who refers to God as He. Do not start with that shit it is so glaringly disgusting. You think ingesting alcohol is toxic? Try ingesting hate disguised as redemption. I do not need that mess coming back to me now. Not when I am just finally getting free of all the old baggage and trauma that held me hostage all my life.

I realize that if you are not a person who ever became addicted to drinking that all of this may sound pretty bonkers. But I really couldn’t stop unless I made stopping my first priority. My number one focus. The foundational endeavor that would rebuild my entire life.

In a book called Under the Influence, the authors James R. Milam, Ph.D. and Katherine Ketcham talk about how alcoholics process alcohol differently in their bodies than nonalcoholics. That alcoholics do not want to stop drinking once they start, whereas a regular person will not want to keep drinking once the sedative effects of the alcohol start setting in. Nonalcoholics only want the early-on effects, the stimulant, the happy energetic euphoric feeling you get from one or two. After that they feel sick or disoriented or whatever and this turns them off to having any more to drink. The stopping happens all very naturally, so to speak.

There are all kinds of scientific reasons for this cited in the book. And if you believe it that’s fine. And then of course maybe we believe what we want to believe about ourselves, our chemistry, our makeup, our genetics, because then we are not to blame for any of it. And then it can at last be explained and your frustration about what the fuck is wrong with you can be laid to rest. But we do not know what we do not know. And even if you’re like me and you read everything you can get your hands on to try to understand, you still don’t know.

I know I’m not drinking today. Or any day. For the rest of my time here on this planet I am not fucking with alcohol anymore. What I don’t know is if I am supposed to count days. Or continue researching. I don’t know if I am supposed to build my life and sense of purpose around a disease that may or may not be a ‘disease.’ A ‘flaw’ that may or may not be ‘real.’ There are people out there who just stop. They just fucking stop and that’s the end of it. They move on and live and never go back.

Sharp Teeth (audio) (day 60)

The bright sunlight is deceiving, as it often is at the beginning of March. Every deadened winter thing is gleaming in the afternoon light but the bite of the bitter cold when I step out the front door is immediately real. Hat, coat, sunglasses. The sound of my boots on the pavement as I walk the neighborhood on a Monday with not a single cloud in the sky.

They say writing is like painting a tiny universe to inhabit for a while. They tell me something happens at sixty days sober. Something in the brain. Like the intensity of the desire to drink gets dialed back quite a bit. I welcome this development but secretly concern myself that if I anticipate it too eagerly it will not come about. I shove my hands in my pockets and take a deep breath of winter air like a straight chilled shot to my lungs. No one is around. All the little sedans are at their various offices waiting patiently in big parking lots for their people.

Cravings are not about liking something. That’s the fucked up part. You need it so bad you are climbing the walls inside of your body and it’s nothing pleasant. It’s loud and distracting. You just want the noise to stop. Like when a kid is nagging you for something and you just want to give in to shut them up. Temporary relief – that’s the siren call. That’s the seduction. It isn’t even that you want the pleasure it’s that you want to end the pain.

There’s a lot of chatter about words like addiction, addict, alcoholic, recovery, etc. These are all words I refused for a very long time to even say to myself in my head. I was too afraid they had not to do with somebody else out there but everything to do with me in here. Inside where all my body parts were trying to keep me alive. People think it’s about how much you drink but it is not necessarily that. It’s about the mental prison alcohol erects around your mind. I was terrified to stop. And now that I am stopped I have moments of sheer terror that I could start up again and lose myself. Lose all the progress I have made, all the ground I have covered. You get into trouble when you are afraid of stopping and afraid of starting at the same time.

I am likely repeating myself. A lot of this recovery jazz is about repetition. Carving new pathways in the brain, entrenching new habits. It takes a lot of time, I’m sure, and I am getting there. What I think is cool is that there are words I was afraid to use but now I use them so often they do not frighten me the way they used to. I am starting to see the addiction not as part of me but as some kind of bizarrely twisted gift.

If it weren’t so hard to quit, quitting could not transform you so entirely. Because you cannot get clean without paying a hell of a lot of attention. I fidget with the keys in my pocket as I cross the street. I feel the skin of my fingers dragging along their sharp jagged teeth.

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My book Luminae can be purchased on Amazon

You can find me on Instagram @allisonmarieconway

Fairly Certain I’ll Regret This (audio)

So this is not my “usual” content whatever the fuck that means. I am a storyteller and so far all my stories were written by someone who was struggling mightily to control alcohol and was not doing great in that regard let us just say. I wasn’t the worst. I wasn’t the least worst. And I don’t want to be a motivational-self-help-self-care whatever the case. Because I don’t want to preach or sound preachy, the very thought of that makes my skin crawl and my stomach turn.

I don’t want that. I just want to write. Just fucking write about the little bits of life that elude or escape most of us on a daily basis. But now I am sober. I am fucking sober and I want – no, I need – I need to sit with this reality for a minute. Let it really sink in. I have gone through so much to get to twenty-six days which probably sounds quite extremely melodramatic, right, and the hilarious thing is that I get that. I get how if I were reading some shit like this from a blogger I trusted to never be . . . I don’t even know.

I do not know yet why this feels so jarring, so ‘off’ and yet also so beautiful and true and healing and mind expanding, soul expanding. It is all-consuming these days I guess is the thing. When you have an addiction, when you are in it, you can’t see it from the outside the way you think you can. Your perspective is warped and you tell yourself things that are lies and even though part of you knows they are lies there is another part of you fully convinced they are the truth. You will rail against reality tooth and nail.

You don’t have a problem. Ok you have a little problem but it’s not as bad as so and so other person’s problem. Ok so maybe it’s a big problem but not every day, like not all the damn time, so don’t be overly dramatic. Keep it together, you know what I mean, you can hang you just have to be stronger, stay more vigilant, etc. etc.

But then enough scary shit takes place at your own trembling unsure hands and then somehow stars align and this and that fall into place and you start to wake up a little bit. And you don’t think you could ever possibly make it through one single day without your precious fix. You are one hundred percent certain one day will kill you dead. But somehow it doesn’t. And then neither does the second day or the day after that and then you turn around a month later and realize you have effectively blown up your entire life and everything in your little world you thought you understood or had a handle on. Nothing feels the same. And it is frightening and astonishing and very, very surreal. But the trouble is – you like it. You very much like yourself in ways you never thought you could or ever would.

It is fucking insane how we can make decisions that literally bring us back into closer communion with our deepest selves (Jesus Christ, I just said communion someone please send help) and at the same time we worry that making such monumental decisions will cause people to judge us or worst case, to abandon us altogether. The worst of it, tho, thinking about it now out loud, is the fear that somehow my edge was in – not the bottle – but in whatever it is about me that caused my addiction. Who am I if I am not so anxious. So cynical. So adorably broken. So fixated. So obsessed. What if what fucked me up also made me magic. How fucked up is that.

I’m fairly certain I will regret having said all of this out loud and posting it in the wilderness of a public domain. The trouble is I can’t seem to not say it. It’s like I am in this new wobbly place where I can’t keep things inside that are bursting because if I do they will eat me alive. But maybe, quite possibly, holding back is not the way to go. Maybe if you just go on ahead and pour the poison down the drain that is your former life, you lift your tiny head up to the wide, wide sky.

This Is Our Rules

For the first time in I don’t remember how long, I trace rum raisin lipstick onto my bare lips. Liner to match. I sketch in around the scar on my bottom lip which I despise but friends tell me they wouldn’t even notice if I weren’t so distracted with complaining about it. I had missed lipstick, it turns out. I marvel at its blood-like color, how the stain of crimson makes my blue eyes flicker, and toss my mask in the trash.

It was my third birthday. I was so excited for my party that before the festivities began I was jumping on my little frilly bed in my little frilly dress even after my mother told me not to about a hundred times. Up and down I joyfully bounced until suddenly my tiny little foot slid right off the edge of the mattress and I slammed my sweet little face into the bedside night stand. My teeny tiny lip hit the corner of the damn table straight on, blood everywhere. Screaming and tears and no party save for the cluster of giant Cookie Monster balloons somebody brought to the hospital.

Because I was so young and my lip still had lots of growing to do, the place where they sowed me up isn’t quite aligned correctly now that I’m grown. And there’s a thin white line where the lip came clean off and they pieced it back together. They did a fine job considering, of course, but it bugs me that there’s an imperfection.

Lipstick makes me look like I never jumped on that bed like a rowdy little cookie monster fool.

I read an article someplace the other day about how now that people have had a year of isolation in sweatpants and their boyfriend’s tee shirts some of them don’t want to go back to wearing bras or shapewear or any such constricting bullshit. Not jeans or belts or anything that digs or resists a hearty meal. More power to them, I say.

There’s another guy though, I forget who he writes for, but he can’t wait to tuck himself back into the skin-tight dresses, stacked high heels, and two-hour makeup and wig routine that is the fabulous artistry of drag. More power to him, too, I say. Do what the fuck you want.

We now know perhaps more tangibly than ever that life is frighteningly short and, to a good and terrifying extent, entirely out of our control. Wear the thing. Don’t wear the thing. Enjoy your own body while you have it.

I’m slimmer now than I have ever been since I was in my twenties. I like the way clothes fit when I’m thin. I like the way I feel like a svelte feline animal slinking around. I guess it’s just fun to me. You can’t win with people though, man, they side-eye you when you’re overweight or underweight or you lost it or gained it or lifted it or whatever. I’m over it.

I have friends who have gained a bunch of weight over quarantine and they absolutely love it. Want nothing to do with fretting over shedding pounds and everything to do with reveling in their beautiful new curves. It is so powerful to watch and hear about. Women owning and celebrating their own bodies. What a radical idea.

I would much prefer a post-quarantine life where we all choose for ourselves what makes us feel good. I’m sick to death of the judgments people make at a glance. Give it a rest. We’ve just been through absolute hell. We all have hangups and insecurities and scars. Whether you can see them or not, they’re there. Let it go.

Isolation, Oppression, Terror, and Why This Election is Like None Other in American History

“Just as terror, even in its pre-total, merely tyrannical form ruins all relationships between men, so the self-compulsion of ideological thinking ruins all relationships with reality. The preparation has succeeded when people have lost contact with their fellow men* as well as the reality around them; for together with these contacts, men lose the capacity of both experience and thought. The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.”
Hannah Arendt on Loneliness as the Common Ground for Terror and How Tyrannical Regimes Use Isolation as a Weapon of Oppression

For the record, I would like to be writing about anything else but I am compelled to write about the only thing that matters on an existential level for the next 33 days which is making sure that everyone who is considering voting Biden-Harris on November 3rd actually gets their ass to the polls and does so.

Because this is not a game. You do not get to opt out or turn it off or leave or put the responsibility on anyone else. Just by living here, you’re in it.

And beyond that, it may just be our last shot at maintaining the Republic we claim to stand for and love. All well and cute, but what are we willing to do to protect and preserve it? Gonna get in the fray, figure it out, and raise our voices?

There is no time for sitting on the sidelines when this election is so consequential. There are people in my life whom I love dearly who I know glaze over when I say things like it absolutely matters a great deal that Trump is owned by Putin. That our “leader” is part of an international crime ring and to him America is just another commodity to be broken up and sold.

That his being $450MILLION in personal debt makes him, and therefore us in the US, extremely and exceptionally vulnerable to foreign influence.

He will sell out America to save himself.

He is already doing it. Authoritarianism is not creative, it’s all by the book, and it follows a predictable pattern you can see unfolding if you know what to look for, if you listen to those who know because they have studied it all before.

The sad thing is, those who are cheering this President on will be just as abused and neglected as those who aren’t, maybe even more so.

I was on a few days vacation with my husband when, low and behold, the first Presidential debate took place. If you could call it “Presidential” or, for that matter, a “debate.” I tuned in a few random times and became so disgusted I turned it off.

I know full well Trump appeals to certain types of people. I get that. But what I am concerned with now are we the people who can see and hear and watch and understand the racist dog whistles, the wholesale disregard for human life, dignity, honor, truth, the brutish obnoxious ignorance that is the current President and how dangerous a combination are his ties to Russia and other foreign oligarchs, dictators, and authoritarians, his massive amount of (hidden and in plain sight) debt, his pitting of us against them on every level until everyone of us is paranoid about each other.

There is a reason someone in that much debt (even in much less) is not given security clearance to know top secret information. But here we are. He’s got it and he is tremendously vulnerable. Keep watching the money story. Keep following the money.

What I am asking us to pay attention to – pay full and hyper attention to – is how we are being sold line after line of this bullshit made up binary which stunts our thinking, crushes our vision, and leaves us little room for envisioning a better stronger more inclusive and resilient Republic: Left vs. Right, Republican vs. Democrat, Black vs. White, Rich vs. Poor, Privileged vs. Oppressed, Right vs. Wrong, Traitor vs. Patriot, Winner vs. Loser.

And how this is tearing us away from each other, dividing us against each other, in the service a regime hell bent on destroying the world around us before they ever have to pry their hands off their own wealth, power, or greed.

Maybe your choice wasn’t Biden, he wasn’t mine. But this is not about Biden, it is so much bigger than that. If you want to continue to live in an America where there is freedom of speech and the ideals of dignity and justice for all are upheld, Biden is the only one who gets us remotely close. We clinch this election and then we fight tooth and nail to get us where we want to be.

Democracy is work. It cannot stand up for itself we have to do it ourselves, together.

People isolated are easier to control. When you cannot tell fact from fiction you have no more grip on reality so an entirely new reality is written for you. A reality which serves dark money and dark purpose.

This election matters because if we do not vote on the side of Democracy, we may never get the chance to vote at all again for a very, very long time.

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P.S. If this post resonates with you please share it on WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Email, and/or any other platforms where you think it will reach like minded people who need to feel more empowered and less alone as we approach November 3rd. Words that resonate should be shared so communities can be made stronger, held more precious, and made less afraid. Get Out The Vote for Biden/Harris 2020.

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Photo by Mitchell Hartley

Dissonance

Everything is nerves. The coffee tastes sick, or maybe that’s the bile churning in my stomach. In my throat. My mind is chewed up inside the newsfeed as it makes of me, my neuroses, my tendencies, my addictions, a feast.

I am studied. I am a study.

I do not know how I feel because I feel so much I have had to go numb to survive. A little bit, I just breathe a little bit. Everything in small bites, tiny sound bites like a digital water torture I sign myself up for. Sign myself into. Login. Pay for. Pay handsomely for.

Somewhere across town a panicked woman watches a panicked man flashing on the screen and validates her own fears against his. Fear is manufactured, you know? They promised manufacturing jobs would return.

The coffee is cold as I shiver beneath my nest of blankets, window open to the chilled autumn air coming off the street. Inside the room inside my mind I feel the tension rise and fall with the spinning in my belly. The cognitive dissonance of these days is jarring. The threat is overwhelming because it is us.  The line between existing and not has always been us.

We are an experiment. We are the cure and the disease. We are the lab and the secretions. The junkie and the drug.

It’s finally fall which means we are finally done with the wretched scorch of the sun. I’ll take the razor sharp blue sky, the orange blaze of another season burning by. I adore the changing leaves, crimson cinnamon air, and the frigid ocean waves glittering in dazzling white morning light.

And all the while, the terror. A family torn apart. Entire lives and their dreamers, up in smoke. Comedians. Fundraisers. Artists. Soldiers. Models. Click bait. Murder. Botox. Kitchen supplies.

The pornography of a life distorted. Voided out. Blocked.

And I know I have to try. And I know they tell me it’s ‘now more than ever.’

I know it’s how they want us. Colliding with ourselves inside.

 

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Photo by Omid Armin

 

Worth Your Life

This confirms my sense that I have been allowed to use my life well, in work that was worth the time spent on it. 

This is a quote by Ursula K. Le Guin from the foreword of her essay collection Words Are My Matter. When I read this collection in 2016, I was moved by many of the pieces but I cannot say that any in particular stuck out to me in such a way that I could recall them now in vivid detail. Though, I am sure that in revisiting some, they would sound familiar in ways unexpected and welcome.

Reading most books is this way, each becomes part of me but more like they run through my blood together as a collective liquid life, one idea flowing right into the next and melting into new blended form, thus enriching, nourishing one another. That is to say, each book does not become its own single part of me, a bone or a tooth or a limb, but rather pours into who and what I already am, and then stays with me like an undercurrent of ever renewed and renewing life force.

In the dark hours of this morning, as I sipped my coffee and listened to the sifting of the crickets buzzing outside my window, I picked up Le Guin’s collection once again and re-read the foreword, coming upon this sentence which cut right to my center.

Perhaps the timing is uncanny and that is why these words in particular held my little sleepyhead face in their hands. I have spent my whole life writing, and have changed, evolved, and grown as a writer and consumer of the word (I believe, I hope).

But right now, in my life this minute, at the very top of today, a day on top of so many which have been rocked by fear and catastrophe, wonder and hope and uncertainty, I find myself wondering, why? What has it all been for, and have my values changed over all this time in a way that means going forward I will take a new path in my writing.

Could I have more intimate, intricate things to say?

How can I be sure I know that late in life, when I look back, I too can say I have used my life well, in work that was worth the time.

 

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Photo by Elia Pellegrini

Fixation

The world is awake. It is Tweeting and bleating and screaming and angry and jilted and fucked, abused, furious, offended, opinionated, angry, nervous, outraged. Stupid. Conflicted. Livid, pretty, petty, cruel, obstinate.

Already.

It is Sunday morning. 9:09am. I have my coffee and my notebook and the air coming in is a glorious sixty seven degrees and blustery, pushing the trees all around like leafy green rag dolls. The sky is pale blue, washed with thin wisps of white cloud.

My neighbor has fired up his ridiculous lawn equipment so he can make those perfectly obnoxious straight lines around the edges of his property on which appears a political sign in support of a lunatic whose name I cannot even bear to speak let alone read or write or repeat.

He thinks he is protecting himself. He prays to a god he made up, to be spared a fate he himself controls all on his own.

And the most powerful are the most afraid, how much they stole, how much they have amassed, how much they stand to lose, so they tighten their grip around the throats full of hunger and confusion.

*How are you today?

It will always be the ones who are most cruelly treated who rebel.

This is the way of it. There is no other way, you see.

So get your coffee and read your newsfeeds. Share something, say something, do something. Try a little harder to not think about normal so much, it’s exhausting searching for something that doesn’t exist.

A word, a savior, a cure, a fix.

*How are you feeling?

And the wind turns heavy and brutal, and the bough breaks as the hinges come off of everything that was once held together so neatly. We watch in horror, stationary, we watch, we watch.

The world is awake, wide awake, as it all happens.

They tell you to write it down.

Write it down so you don’t forget.

There was a time before.

And this is how it felt.

*Are you doing okay?

 

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On Aligning with Your Soul’s Desire

This isn’t my usual type of content, but fuck it, it’s my space and I feel deeply compelled to write about some of the things that go on in my daily experience right now as they relate to the current climate of revolution sweeping across my country, and across the world.

I was speaking with a very dear and precious friend a few days ago, about living authentic lives, as in: lives which bring us joy, challenge, and fulfillment as women. And how we feel “crazy” when we follow our calling, our spirits, our soul’s desires. We feel misaligned, out of whack, but we also have never felt so alive, so renewed, so fulfilled, gratified, energized.

So OURSELVES.

And I got to thinking maybe we feel crazy when we are aligned with our spirits because our whole lives we were taught what we “should” align with was the world’s expectations of what we are supposed to do, who we are supposed to be.

This alignment with false promises put us at odds with who we were truly meant to be. Deep down, we knew it, but couldn’t name it. We longed for ourselves but looked outside instead, as all women are taught to do, for validation.

All our lives we were conditioned to believe aligning with the patriarchy, with capitalism, and with commercialism, was the right thing to do, the right way to be. So when we finally begin to align with our soul’s calling instead, we feel disjointed in exactly the way we are meant to on our journey to our Selves.

We are dislodging from our conditioning so that we may get in order with our Truth.

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Photo by Izabelle Acheson

The Beautiful and the Damned

The morning is balmy and close, hot already in the early shining rays of summer sun. As I watch the buildings begin to glisten in the light, a wet fog pulls in, nearly obscuring what I know to be there: angles and lines which have been there for as long as I can remember. Tracing my gaze over his face as he sleeps in perfect breathy silence, I wonder who I am sometimes and how I got here into a place both familiar and unknown. There has always been a part of me which was detached, sifting, both here and away, both touchable and untouchable. We are born into a game which has two sides and no way to win, only ways to keep kicking the can down the road. Only ways to keep flipping the coin until it all stops for good. Today, heads. Tomorrow, a tailspin, perhaps, or the same old thing underneath what you wish you could bring about but haven’t the skills or the energy. Having little tolerance for sleeping in, I pull my ever lengthening strawberry golden waves into a knot, slide out of the warmth of our bed, and tip toe off to the kitchen for coffee. The salons have opened up again and my favorite one calls and leaves me voicemails which I ignore. Come back in, we’re open! A cheerful pleading desperation. As if by making an appointment for a haircut I’d have cured something no one yet knows how to cure; soothed a fear no one can bear to feel shocking through their hearts minute by minute; affirmed a truth we all know is fabrication. We are not okay. We have not been okay. So very little of what is happening is okay. I drove by the other day on the way to the liquor store and saw the tiny salon parking lot overflowing with cars. Ah, yes, the herds are herding, the flocks are flocking, all trimmed and tweezed, waxed and highlighted back into a perverted kind of normal which I increasingly despise.

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Photo by Daniele D’Andreti

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