In less than two weeks I turn 37, THIRTY SEVEN! This is so awesome & snuck up on me pretty quick. To celebrate I would love for you to treat yourself to some copies of my zine, Lady Teeth. It's being sold on a sliding scale, pay what you can basis (via this website but if you're super not into that you can always just order through my (recently updated) etsy shop). Basically, send payment via paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org & let me now which issues you want (I have two through seven available) & I'll send them to you, no questions asked. So send $5 or send $50! Any & all money made will go towards birthday celebrations! That's a total lie actually. These last few weeks have been financially draining while I attempted to create this magical healing wonderland for my partner after he crashed his motorcycle (it didn't work). So really, I guess I'll probably end up spending any money on bills. But if you wanna get real wild you can check out my amazon or etsy wishlists & send me a present (looking at you Dad). THIRTY SEVEN!
September 1st. I was at work. It was just like any other day but for whatever reason I decided to call my boyfriend to say hello, as I walked to get lunch. I was having a good day & he let me go on & on about it. Finally, I asked "How are you? How's Posh? Are you riding?" & he said he hadn't made it there, he had a small accident. A small accident. Once, when I was about twenty, my dad had a "small fender bender". Turns out, he had totaled his brand new car & was trying to protect me by not telling me the full details. This small accident involved a deer that jumped in front of him, he tipped his motorcycle, he was under it. There were witnesses, someone called an ambulance. I couldn't stop crying. I had to leave work. I had to see him. It took me two hours to get from my work to the hospital. I don't even remember driving there.
His tibia was broken, a plateau fracture & he had minor road rash. His helmet was missing chunks. I couldn't look at it. I made his dad take it home. I slept by his side at the hospital for as many nights as I could. It's amazing just how uncomfortable it is to sleep in a chair when you're my age. I joked about my younger years as a punk who could sleep anywhere. Things change so quickly. We spent a week in the hospital. He had surgery to put a plate & six screws into his leg. Finally, we were sent home. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to make him better. I spent all the money I had on pillows & ice packs, snacks & whatever else I thought might make him more comfortable. Finally, I could lay down next to him. I could climb (very gently, cautiously) into his arms & when I did I cried again. I've spent so much time just crying.
We're six weeks into recovery & it's been so intense & scary & exhausting to have a partner going through an injury like this. Not only is he unable to ride his bike, the one thing that brings him the most joy, he isn't able to walk without a walker or crutches, or go too long without icing his leg, or climb steps unassisted. There's so many things we take for granted when we have two strong, healthy legs (or an able body at all). There's so many things we take for granted when we don't think about just how fragile we really are. I lose my patience, I get annoyed, my temper is so short. I feel like I've taken on the responsibilities of two people & it's hard & I'm no good at this. I find myself having to stop & remind me, he's alive. This could have ended so much worse & I need to keep that perspective because this gorgeous, brilliant, loving man that I am head over heels for is alive. For that, I am forever grateful.
It's been five years since I had a drink but that doesn't mean that my first thought after a shitty day isn't "I could really use a glass of whiskey". But see, that's the problem. Who drinks a GLASS of whiskey & anyway, it wouldn't be just one. I would drink until I blacked out & then I would keep drinking. I'm a drunk so I don't drink. But then what? How do I get over this ridiculously terrible day? Maybe go to a meeting? Maybe come home & write a blog entry to process these intense feelings of sadness & a longing to obliterate those feelings? Yes, that one.
So here I am, writing this post (for a second time because somehow I managed to delete the entire thing). This photo from Niagara Falls is my favorite photo of me. There's a railing separating me & the falls but there's nothing stopping me from climbing over that railing & diving in. This photo is basically my addiction & recovery. Total oblivion is so close but it's up to me to stay where I am, to appreciate the beauty of life from this side of the railing.
I sit in my car & I cry because the sadness, the loneliness, it's all so palpable. It's an ugly cry, the kind of cry that happens when you watch My Girl or Steel Magnolias. I settle down long enough to make the drive home to a quiet house. I don't have a spouse or children, just a laundry list of bad decisions & a dog. I recently took in a foster cat who gave birth to seven kittens under my bathroom sink. I tend to all the animals, do the dishes I've been ignoring for days & then sit down to process all of these feelings. I'm not ever ashamed of being in recovery. I don't hide the fact that I have a dangerous & unhealthy relationship with alcohol, if anything it's the opposite. I am consumed by this existence & let my sobriety dictate how I live my life because the view from up here is so much more beautiful than on the other side of that railing & writing this helps me remember that. Writing helps me maintain a healthy perspective on life because bad days happen, even when you're sober. People will be shitty to you & things won't always go your way but none of that means you need to compromise your decision to live a good life. But part of that good life is being honest to yourself & recognizing when you are struggling & being ok with letting people around you know you need some help. This is my way of doing that. This is my postcard from Niagara Falls to you, reminding you just how beautiful the view is.
I am 5 years sober. Like, literally as of today, I am 5 years sober & when I tell people I'm sober the first question I get from them is the dreaded "Are you in the program?" It's on par for me with "What do you do for a living?" or "So, you're divorced" except that most days I like my job & my divorce was the best thing to ever happen to me. But when I get that question, the one about THE PROGRAM, it's layered in thick sugary coats of judgement & concern (which is me projecting, I'm sure the nice person asking me that doesn't mean any ill will). But when I tell them that no, I'm not in the program, they always are & want you to know, without 12 steps you're probably doing it wrong. If you're not in THE PROGRAM surely you will fall victim to your addiction. It may not have happened yet but it will, oh it will. Except, with or without a 12 step program, that addiction will always be there lurking in the darkest crevices of your sick brain. Again, this is me projecting. It's a drunk using drunk logic. But if you've ever experienced this logic I just want you to know, you're not alone.
I get asked that question a lot because I talk about my sobriety a lot. I make it very well-known that I am an alcoholic who does not drink. I find myself justifying to these people why I don't go to meetings, why I'm not working the steps, why I am not in THE PROGRAM. I have to explain how I've created my own support system amongst my friends & random folks who I feel a connection to because we are the same yet we are so different, how that is basically a meeting. How when I'm with these people we talk about addiction, recovery & sobriety. We share our experiences. We are a meeting. I explain that when I got sober I started writing about it in my zine (then I explain what zines are*) & I started going on zine tours & reading those zines to rooms full of people, how that is my meeting. I tell them how I wrote a book about my experiences growing up & how I started drinking at a young age & how booze shaped my life. I tell them how I do book signings & share those experiences & how that is my meeting.
But I don't want to have to do all that because I don't think there is one way to get sober & be sober. I don't think there is one way to stay sober. Don't get me wrong, I love 12 step programs. 12 step programs have kept people alive & living well for many, many years that I love so much. Plus, not every single person in the program feels this way or makes me feel this way. I won't make a blanket statement like that. But for those people who do, I just think it's unfair to shame those of us who chose a different path of sobriety. It's unfair to make those of us who are sober & living sober without working the steps to think we are doing it "wrong" & therefor it will eventually, end. Because it's not those 12 steps keeping me sober, it's me. It's the fact that after 5 years I still can remember what it was like to live a life that revolved around drinking. After 5 years I can still remember how it felt to wake up hungover yet still in pain from whatever bullshit I was trying to drink away. After 5 years I still remember that drinking never solved anything.
The steps, THE PROGRAM, the meetings, all those things are tools to help you be strong & secure in your sobriety & they are wonderful & they work. But the bottom line is, it's you & me not picking up a bottle & however we chose to do that is the right way, 12 steps or not. Whatever it is that we're doing that is bringing us another day of sobriety is exactly what we should be doing & if a day comes where a 12 step program is what you or I need, then so be it. But don't ever let anyone tell you that your sobriety isn't absolutely incredible because you aren't doing it the way they are. 5 years after my last drink I am living a life that isn't easy or charmed but rather fulfilling because of the work I put into it. I look my demons in the eye everyday & I beat them. I set goals & I achieve them & it's all because of my sobriety. I am forever humbled & thankful for my strength & perseverance. I am grateful for the people in my life who believe in me & support me, who have stood with me for 5 years & celebrated my achievements. Every day I am alive & sober is a blessing & a gift.
* a self-published "magazine" of sorts
If you're interested in reading more about my recovery & sobriety you can order my zine, Lady Teeth here. Or use the donate button below to support independent writers (ie: this old gal).
Sometimes you just want to get away, you want to leave this mundane existence & go some place else, some place more exciting. Sometimes you just want to join The Greatest Most Traveling Circus! The first book by author Jonas is a collection of stories that will take you to places of great joy & excitement but also to sad corners of his imagination that will leave you questioning everything. Each tale in this book is crafted in a way that I wish I could construct. The Greatest Most Traveling Circus has spent many nights sleeping next to me as I slowly work my way through it, through what it makes me feel, through the worlds where men steal feathers from angels, children write letters to superheros & marriages fall victim to magic or simply, to themselves. I've taken my time reading The Greatest Most Traveling Circus because I don't want it to end, I don't want to go back to that mundane existence without Amazing Man & the other folks who live inside the pages of this book. You won't either.
Order The Greatest Most Traveling Circus here.
Also, be sure to pick up Jonas' zine, Cheer the Eff Up over at Portland Button Works.