In the dream I am in a wedding and right before I am to walk down the aisle someone gives me face wash which I apply liberally and then cannot remove. At first I look like a pasty whitish-gray ghost but then the face wash absorbs into my skin completely and I am a radiant, glowing, much younger looking version of myself. I still feel sticky but I smile like a lunatic anyway because for some reason I am a.) deeply unshakably happy, and b.) all out of fucks to give. I wake from my dream and I am truly actually smiling and I am not hungover and the full February Snow Moon is hovering like a wide pale buttercup disk outside my window. Sobriety is cratered with rough terrain, highs and lows, valleys and peaks, warm dark and cold light. But when you turn around and look over your past forty-six days of it from a far enough distance away you find it to be interestingly miraculously luminous. It is very brutal at times and it is very beautiful at others. But love is in all of it, that’s the trick. And maybe love – stripped of all the bullshit and hype they tried to sell it to you as – just means keep going.
I wake very early and feel fine about it – good even. I want to write. I don’t want to have sex. I am very clear about both of these things although neither feels natural at all to me, they both feel shitty in fact because right off the jump things are irritating. I want to figure some shit out that has been rattling around in my brain since last night.
Last night which was also fine, good even. really good. Fortifying in a weird way, if a bit nerve biting, trying. I kept faithful to my sobriety which is to say to myself which is to say I kept the promise I had made forty four days ago today which was to not drink no matter what. I know very little but what little I do know seems to be enough. Enough for what? Enough to keep me safe. Safe from what? From the voice of the addict living in my head and my body and my blood. The one that reaches for me. The one that clutches way too close.
I want to say it’s been a breeze. I want to say that I made the decision to remain sober and since that decision makes perfectly logical sense given the trajectory I was on (down, would be the ‘trajectory’ down and then down and then down some more until the unspeakable, really, because the nature of substance abuse is to increase) but last night was harder than I saw coming. If you think you don’t have a drinking problem, quit drinking. It’s a great way to prove yourself wrong.
I stopped because I was terrified to stop. Now it turns out I am terrified of both being stopped and of starting up again. I’m feeling a bit fucked either way is what I am trying to say, I guess. I don’t know why I didn’t see this coming but perhaps it’s for the best I didn’t. Would have made giving in to the voice which scoffs at me on relentless repeat ‘Just wait -you won’t last – you’ll give in – you’re not serious – actually wait no, you’re too serious – lighten up – get over yourself – what a silly little sad girl making herself miserable for no good reason – it’s just a matter of time‘ and so on and so forth trying to drown me in my own terror so that grabbing a bottle seems like the only cure to the thing which put the bottle in my hand in the first place, would have made giving in to all that a lot easier.
I smoke a cigarette by the fireplace. We watch a movie about falling in love. The guy and the girl are cute but he’s uptight and she’s got self-esteem issues, the solution to both of these adorable afflictions being, of course, downing a bottle of tequila as they toss off their shoes and dance like two fools before making cinematic love to each other in her perfectly manicured apartment only to wake in each other’s arms looking glowy and flawless, which would never be actually possible in real life given the stupefying amounts of alcohol they’ve just sucked down while discovering each other’s wide-eyed, life-awakening, gravity-defying, soul-transforming inner ‘magic.’
As the fire in the fireplace dies out to a low smoldering simmer, I am struck by a question I never before considered quite so mindfully: is it worse that they are selling us booze as a solution to our busted-up selves or love? The cascading questions this question stirs up in me are too many thousand to count or to get a handle on in one sitting. I swallow the last of my chamomile tea and the fire burns out entirely, without as much as a sizzle.
Sunday comes and it is the first sober one in a string of seven (seven!) that doesn’t exactly feel sparkling. I have the coffee and read the sober blogs and the quit lit and all the motivational speak sounds like top shelf bullshit to me. I question how I got myself into this mess. I rage quietly at Big Alcohol and teenage angst and all the people who ever wronged me since the day I was born. I water my plants which crowd the glass doors that open up to the deep back yard. I make tea and pour it in a mug which is painted with beautiful springtime flowers and am grateful for its warm lavender heat. I watch as the snow continues to fall and blanket the grass and the trees. I never wanted to be one of those sober bloggers telling her story for all to read. I want to write about anything else but nothing else fits inside of me anymore so nothing else can spill over and out. No matter what I write about anyway, I will be sober and I will be blogging, so the point is rather mute it would seem.
As I realize in no uncertain terms that I have now entered a cringingly real part of recovery for which I am going to have to learn mad amounts of new coping skills in order to survive, crystal clear tears stream hot and wet down my cheeks. Which I say not to invoke pity but to demonstrate that if you are gonna tell the truth for once you might as well tell it to the bitter fucking end. And therein lies the one simple, arrogant, incredible, ecstatic, impossibly, annoyingly hope-filled truth about sobriety and, if we are being totally honest, about life itself: as long as you are still here to tell the story – whether you want to or not – it isn’t the end.
I think more than anything sobriety is about choosing yourself over everything else. Over illusion. Over all the cheap shots at a disembodied existence. Deciding every morning that no matter what you are not going to abandon yourself. I am just one person so I can’t speak for anybody else and wouldn’t dare. Each person’s path is their own. But for me choosing to stay by my own side is the most humbling and most exotic decision I have ever made in my whole life. This world does not believe I should do it because this world tells me constantly that I cannot be trusted. But these are false messages. Manipulations which have been heaped on me since I was born. How tragic it has taken so much destruction, sickness, pain, and delusion to deliver myself to this place. But also how brilliant. You know? To finally feel something in you say, like – Yeah, yes, this. You. You I wanna be with all the time, all my life. Sobriety is a motherfucker. It is the closest I have ever come to actually living my own goddamn life.
. . .
Just a few quick voice notes on sobriety as I live through the early days in real time. Something else which I am now acutely aware of since I trashed the booze: time will roll right on by you as fast as it pleases. You better notice it before it’s all gone. One shot at this, you know what I mean. If you are on the path, I send you every bit of love and strength and respect. It’s the best kind of work, the work of being human.
It’s all I can do at the moment to sip the tea and hold it against my chest. Warmth as resuscitation. Candles and silence. Trees creaking in the wind in a far off wood. A white sky spreads itself open wide between my palms. Both the time gone by and the time to come are too far apart to hear each other’s intentions, so they whisper at me from opposite corners. Rooftops and smoke escaping from chimneys into what can only become the cold of another winter night. Fear outstretched. Desire worn thin. If you can remove the claws from your skin your skin will mend itself while you sleep. It’s too early to crawl into bed. It’s too late to take back the promises you made to yourself, the ones you repeat all day in your head. As my fingers turn the page my mind is an ocean and not a single word is cherished or retained. The evening light is a pale daffodil wilting in the empty street below. I close my eyes and imagine you breathing. Inside of the motion of the distance there is a footstep and it is forward facing in the dark.
They talk about temptation. Tell you only sinners can’t resist. Doesn’t matter what the temptation is. Could be sex or money or roulette or something far, far worse (I have news for you it could always be worse, it could always be better). Could be darker than you dare imagine but you’d never let it get that far. Would you? I wasn’t ever gonna dangle my young body out over the black, black water at midnight but when it happened it didn’t seem so bad. I was completely numb but I remember the way the reflection of the white globe street light hovered on top of the ripples on the river like the full moon split into blurry blobs. Luckily I wasn’t alone. Luckily he didn’t leave me. That time.
Forty days and forty nights. How biblically significant. The devil lives inside though that’s what they don’t tell you. All my life they warned me, pointing out there on the storm streaked horizon. Beware, little one, it comes for you from everywhere and you are ill equipped. You have to see what they did there, you have to see that they were pointing at the heavy menacing clouds but reminding me the tragedy was me. The disappointment is inherent in the way your bones were snapped together, you can’t help it but you should be sorry. You will be sorry, if . . .
The way he pretends to love me is too insistent but I don’t know this in a way that doesn’t make me the bad guy so I let him do bad things to me. I think I think I am protecting him but from who or what I cannot really say. I’m someone who does and does not believe. I’ve been fucked over in the name of holy so many times you’d think I’d have let it go by now but rage can draw an outline around you and keep you propped up like a doll on a stage as the curtain comes up and never comes down again. I do believe in numbers, though, they have their place and their significance. I write the number forty in my journal and circle it seven times in red.
Her fake fingernails are so long and sharp that I fear for the safety of her pussy when she masturbates. They are black at the base and gradually end up a slime green by the time the color drains off at the tips, which are not only sliced into a razor point but are also curved inward like talons. I’m repulsed and transfixed. I think it is absurd but I also think it is wildly entertaining. I never do shit like that. My nails are as short as possible so I can write either in a notebook or on a keyboard without any obstruction.
I hate salons and I hate spas. I don’t want anyone touching me it is beyond unsettling. I take my own baths and massage my own feet and all the rest. The whole self-care thing gets on my last nerve but maybe that’s because what it really means in terms of social currency is shelling out a bunch of time and money I don’t have and even if I did I wouldn’t waste in on that stuff. I like the diamond rhinestone gems that one chick has embedded into the nail on her left ring finger. I watch it flash and do not hear a word she is saying. I wonder if that is her real skin or she’s got some sort of filter. I have never seen a human face without a single pore or blemish in real life but that’s really neither here nor there.
Did you know the Metaverse isn’t even a platform it’s a concept? The concept being the point in time when we all are finally so entrenched in our cyber lives that they take precedence to our physical lives where we actually exist in real time. We will care more about what our digital lives are than any other reality. Begs the question, right? What’s reality? Anyway, her nails are daggers and they make no logical sense. I begin to wonder about her life off screen and how she can possibly get on with those things. But she looks so glossy and happy and that’s really quite lovely I guess is what I should be thinking if I were a nice and good person. I like her nail crystals and I wonder how she will eventually get that shit off when the time comes because the time will inevitably come but why think about that when you have bigger fish to fry like not slicing your own clitty off when you take your body downtown.
A woman on a podcast is talking into my earbuds about sex addiction. To hear her describe the life of an addict is tragic and intriguing. She talks about ‘intriguing’ actually, which I think is when you try to seduce someone because you crave affection, attention, it’s a high and a rush and quitting using people like that is hard af. Especially in this kind of world where we are so isolated. But it isn’t just the isolation, is it. It’s the isolation compounded by the illusion of closeness. The illusion of relationship where there is nothing tangible to actually build upon.
She talks about porn and how it has ruined boys and men and girls and women, too. Addiction has become a fascination for me. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, shopping, they run through all the names of the things which we abuse to abuse ourselves. I am full of ten thousand questions and not a single answer worth sharing. But I’m not going to drink today. And I know nothing at all as clearly and beautifully as I know that. Because I can tell you that metaverse apocalypse or not, destruction is real and it’s just a flick of the wrist away from each and every one of us whether we can see it or not.
Saturday night. Earlier in the evening than you might expect. We enter the bar and it’s a fucking madhouse. People are jam packed wall to wall everywhere, laughing, eating, drinking, shouting over the electric hum of voices and cold clink of glasses and silverware. They say in sobriety it’s the little epiphanies that strike you out of nowhere that can be so beautiful, fortifying, fascinating. I would have to agree.
When I take the first sip of my crisp tonic and lime, I have this wild joy tear through me. The kind you might get if you were meeting a blind date for the first time and he turns out to be ferociously handsome and super sweet, too. Surprising and yet you kinda had been hoping for it, too, just with very low expectations. My sudden joy is mostly pure but it’s a smirk actually, also. It feels like the warm simmer of a delicious emerging power and also kind of smug. Forgive me, I’m new at this.
But anyway, I have this brand new very enchanting thought: I get to stay with myself all night. I feel no sense whatsoever of deprivation, loss, denial, or sadness. When I would get wrecked in times gone by, it was to not just escape myself but run full speed away from everything. Like I couldn’t bear the feel of my own skin against the vicious world. But on this bitter cold February night, while downing my boozeless drink, I realized I actually liked being with myself. I didn’t want to disengage from this version of me. I didn’t want to lose her ever again, in fact.
I’ve also heard it said that “One is too many and a thousand is never enough.” Yeah. I get that. But the wild bit – the thing I find so gorgeous it borders on hilarity – is that none is more than I ever, ever would have believed.
There are stories within stories that we tell ourselves to keep the truth alive but buried deep inside. To keep the light from falling in and ruining the blood sport game. The game is, of course, to hurt ourselves as hard as possible. And then to turn around and do it over and over and over again in the name of calling sickness healing. How much can you take. How much can you handle before you break. We are full to the throat with our own choked needs. What I had forgotten was that the light would not stop coming because the light does not fear the darkness, it needs it, it loves it. It belongs to it. And somehow the story within the story crawls out of its tiny shell. Makes a run for it. Dares to leap. Risks the impossible. A strange new wilderness reveals itself. But you do not yet know how to tell that story. All you know how to say is, Today I am 36 days sober. And you are the only one who knows that a day is a lifetime and a single night is a miraculous escape from the jaws of death and the story is that you are saving yourself. And if the light can come for you, you want to tell anyone who will listen, it can come for anybody else.
A springtime breeze slides in through my open window and it makes perfect sense to me even though it is still the dead of winter. The ground is the kind of mud that is so thick it makes a sucking sound when you trudge through in your rubber-soled boots. The fog was so dense yesterday I couldn’t see two feet in front of my face. The warm currents turning to a haunting white vapor as they met with the snow still cold and clinging, but slipping away, on the gray winter landscape. Wet train tracks. A bridge to nowhere as if suspended in thin air. A time of transition. A time of – what was the word from Eat, Pray, Love? Attraversiamo….. we cross over. An end which is a beginning. A risk which is somehow reckless and not at all reckless.
I pull a tarot card which confirms my wildest hopes for renewal. Artistic. Sensual. Grounded in the earth. The waters of my own emotions, gentle and placid, red and violent, in turns. We find ways to abandon ourselves. But something inside is always calling us back. The battle is as real as the pink streaks of light at dawn, the calamity of night against day. The pain and the danger, too. We were made for it, though. Built and designed for all of it. Distorted as this culture is. Twisted. Fucked up as its norms and pressures and false gods may be, we come from someplace so far beyond this world that there is no place we can point to. No star we can promise or claim is home.
Honestly, I am not about this ethereal shit until all of a sudden I am. My tarot tells me this is just the beginning. Of discovery, adventure. Of learning what I actually love, not what I’m told. Of finally knowing what true pleasure is, not what they sold me. Not what I have been swallowing down in gulps of hysteria, panicked of losing a life I only barely knew in glimpses anyway. It’s funny though, isn’t it? How sometimes a glimpse is enough. How if you are very, very lucky, the sweet fresh air will sweep through unexpectedly. And you will recognize it for what it really is: the first next breath you are finally brave enough to take.
Perhaps you just pour the gasoline, toss the match, watch it all burn up in the tallest most beautiful flames. The old life, the old you, the previousness of so much of what you are still holding close to your timid chest. As the clock ticks on well past a time when time should have been up, I wash my face and brush my teeth. There is blood but only a little. There are scars but just a few. I cover them with cream that smells of lilac and lillies of the valley. My grandmother had lillies of the valley growing all the way down along the chain-linked fence which lined her driveway. She never drove a single day in all her life. Never needed to. She died too old and too young and had every single one of her real teeth when she passed on through.
As the minutes I’ll never get back fall away down the drain like shriveled skin cells, and dew drops which glisten in the foggy heat of a spring morning somehow burst forth against the morning light on the other side of this aching, weepstained earth, there are feelings inside of me I have never felt before. Mmm no that isn’t quite it. I have had these feelings before, of potential, of something secret and ancient just about to begin, but I took my hands and I smothered them so they couldn’t breathe. The difference now is not the feelings but the way I move around them. Toward them. Slow and steady and deliberate. When you stop threatening to kill them off, it turns out, they put down their weapons, too.