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.

Roe

It’s not about babies or life. We aren’t stupid, we aren’t blind, we all know it. The overturning of Roe is about oppressing, dehumanizing, ruining, raping, and killing women. With heavy emphasis on the girls and women and all people who can become pregnant who are already the most disenfranchised. When I got sober it was in many ways a great big Fuck You to the patriarchy we live under that can only exist if it keeps women numb, weak, and terrified. Well. I am not numb or weak or terrified anymore.

Pissed? Yeah I’m quite entirely pissed.

But I’m not surprised. Yesterday’s ruling hit like a gut punch to my every internal organ. Knocked the wind out of me. I cried I screamed I lost my shit. But I didn’t drink. I stayed. I stayed here in the goddamn middle of this hellhole shit storm of what doesn’t even pretend to be a democracy anymore. I felt every rage-filled thing. What “conservative” radical white supremacist extremists are doing to the people of this country is calculated and disgusting. It is the most pathetic, easy, cheap, vile thing to go after the women who are already broken, abused, and left for dead by the richest society in the mutherfucking world.

And I felt all of that hatred course through my veins yesterday. I felt all of it in this body that I now know fully and certainly and completely is my own.

Fuck your laws. Fuck your annihilation of my protection, my safety, and my sanity. I own myself and I answer only to me.

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?

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 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.

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.

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.

Calling the Shots (audio) (day 140)

I submitted the second draft of my book manuscript yesterday. I believe in this book so very much and it’s so hard to wait to hear back about whether or not it is good enough. Maybe it is especially hard when the contents are all about how you tried to destroy yourself for a long, long time before you somehow started to save yourself instead. And you are still new at the saving part.

Something has changed about me in the last almost five months (140 days today). I fit inside myself now. I am not sure I could have ever said that and meant it so entirely as I say it and mean it right this minute. Perhaps that sounds rather crazy considering I am a grown ass forty three year old woman (mother, wife, etc.). I get that. I feel a little bit crazy, to be honest. If anyone had told me a year ago – even six months ago – that I would have written a whole damn book about my early sobriety journey, I would have sworn they were out of their fucking mind.

And yet. Here we are. It’s a kind of wilderness, getting sober and staying that way in a culture literally obsessed with sucking down alcohol all the time. I wish I didn’t mean all the time but I do. There’s every opportunity every which way to get buzzed or trashed or whatever you wish any time you like. Of course, most people are not alcoholics. I guess most people aren’t addicted to the drinking. It can be so hard to understand it all. After a while everything just gets fuzzy. Reaching for help if you think you need it can feel like reaching a hand out into a dark abyss of nothingness. It’s hard to figure out what to hold on to. How to break your own fall.

The editor was frustrated by the first draft of my manuscript. She told me I had two voices, one clear and compelling, the other dark and thickly confusing. She said the second voice went off on tangents that were impossible to follow. When she highlighted this to me it suddenly felt obvious to me where before I sort of knew it but wasn’t sure what to do about it. I cannot help but think that the dark confusion was the voice of what my addiction did to me. Seduced and lured and promised me a richly extravagant adventure but then just as smoothly trailed off into nowhere and left me there with all the nothingness.

I extracted that voice from the manuscript as best I could. I tried to identify each instance where the voice of vague incoherence, that almost desperately searching voice of longing and emptiness, was entangled with the voice of clarity, conviction, and knowing. And little by little I pulled them apart. I did what had to be done to rid my story of what was trying to strangle it. The confusion that was trying to keep the truth from finding its own way out.

It was hard to throw away some of those dark poetic passages. I still worry that I managed to preserve the substance, both the dark and the light, and only trashed the extraneous drivel. We are so often taught that dark is bad and light is good. I think that’s misleading. I think both dark and light are vital and necessary to our stories, as long as that darkness and that light are true.

There is the darkness of my shame, my trauma, my hurt, my fear and my pain, and that darkness is honest. I know because when I curl up to it to shower it with compassion and comfort instead of run away from it, it enlightens and frees me. It opens me up to the light of revelation and renewal. Good shit.

But then there is the darkness of my addiction. The secret vicious voice of a thing that wants to ruin me from the inside out. A voice which, when I got so close I fell into it, trapped me. It pinned me down and deadened me. It promised me everything and led me to nowhere. It left me with only emptiness, fear, panic and confusion.

So I get why only one voice can prevail if I want to tell my story properly. With honesty and decency and integrity and hope. Out in the light where other people will be able to see it. I want to share my story with all my might in the best way I know how. The shadows and the illumination.

Working my way through this process, the lengthy process of recovery and of writing about it, is the best kind of struggle. I much prefer it, in fact, to the other kind. The struggle to keep slamming booze into my veins. The struggle to hide it, manage it, control it, ignore it, deny it. The struggle to express my desires, hopes, beliefs and dreams all while clinging desperately to a voice that wasn’t really mine but belonged to something beyond my control.

There is some debate in the recovery world about whether or not addiction is a life-long struggle for anyone who has had to heal from it. I’m not sure this matters that much in the long run. If you have to put down the booze because it has been treating you like shit I don’t see how that miraculously becomes something you can reverse or move past or ever experience differently in the future. But I will say this: If I am stuck with my addiction then that means that my addiction is stuck with me, too. It means I’m calling the shots for both of us now. And ain’t none of them whiskey.

The Finest of Spirits (day 128)

So much has been going on in my life lately that feels so big for so many reasons that I have actually felt the need to keep tight to myself. There are some things so personal that they feel like once I put them down on the page they leave me, and I am not equipped to bear such a spilling yet. I’m still needing to hold onto these things. There is some kind of alchemy occurring inside that is not yet complete.

I attended my first wedding as a sober person on Friday. But it wasn’t just any wedding it was my brother’s wedding. My only sibling, my brother who is two years younger than me, although once you both hit forty the relative difference in age sort of becomes nothing at all. Two years melts as fast as snow on the sidewalk on a bright sunny winter afternoon. There are some parts of us that were molded together and cannot be separated; molded into each other. I was his Best Woman. To even begin to tell you what that meant for me is simply too monumental to wrap the wings of my soul around. I couldn’t find the words if I tried. And perhaps one day I will try. But just now, I am speechless. I’m muted under the beautiful weight of it.

I cried a lot that day. Tears of supreme happiness and awe and gratitude and awareness and disbelief. So many tears that the next morning when I woke up, I thought for a split second I had a hangover headache before then remembering just as quickly that that was impossible because all I had to drink was sparkling water and lime. I cried because words have failed me. I cried because I can feel every little thing like earthquakes in my veins and so the big things are like bright glaring lights turned on suddenly in a dark room. The eyes of my emerging being need a minute to adjust. I danced a lot, too. It was different than dancing drunk. It was better by far. So much better it seemed insane to imagine having done it any other way.

I also heard back from an incredibly insightful editor who has been supremely generous in helping me to craft my memoir. The challenge to make it the very best it can possibly be is a challenge greater than any I have ever endeavored to undertake in my writing career. The experience is changing me, evolving the way I think and feel about my beloved craft. To have a wickedly talented and accomplished professional editor offer me concrete guidance is an overwhelmingly humbling experience.

The questions this opportunity affords me to ask myself are most profound. How on earth will I tell my story? What is my story? Where does it begin and end and what are the things that happen inbetween that must be told? Why is it worthy of telling? So many voices inside my head and heart. This kind and brilliant editor thinks I have something though. Something that could be the book. And I am going to fall deeply into the comforting, empowering, wise, soft-strong words of Anne Lamott: … just take it bird by bird.

And the rain is sifting down in bursts of light cold mist. The gloom in the weather keeps all the neighbors’ lawn equipment quiet on this Sunday morning, when all of our dear over-night wedding guests have now left our house and the familiar quiet has moved in again behind them. This gray May Mother’s Day. I think about the treasure of my son. My ‘baby’ who is now a twenty-four year old gorgeous, attentive, hard-working, witty, intelligent, kind-hearted man, with his own place to live and sleep and eat and work and be in this wide world. I sip coffee from the mug he gave me years ago, imprinted in gold and navy lettering with his college logo and the word MOM in bold across the middle. My breath catches a little in my throat when I think about all the joy we have shared over the years.

It’s all a lot to take in right now, but maybe for the first time in my life I know so clearly that I want to swallow it all in gulps and not miss a drop. This exquisite life, the only fine spirit I want poured into my precious cup.

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