(500) Days of Sober

Five Oh OH!

Double O face today, my friends.

Because my math is shaky at best, I assume yours is, too. Five hundred days = 1.36 years, 11,985 hours, 16.38 months of sobriety. None of these numbers matter more than 24–my span of ruin, rapture or radiant joy in a convenient day-shaped package. Now that I have insomnia, I live 20 out of those 24 hours with a motherfucking smile, tears or a confused look on my face. Sometimes all three.

Here is how I’ve changed in 500 Days of Sober:

1. I connect to something more powerful than me. Love, acceptance of self/others, the sex powers and musical stylings of Bowie.

2. I hone my decision-making skills. I don’t cajole, manipulate or conquer choices. I ask for guidance then make my decision. I ignore self-doubt because that’s boring. Consequences happen, either way.

3. Honesty. What gets under my skin, why and what part I have in that. The truth is kinder to me these days. I don’t apologize unless I mean it.

4. I honor my intuition. These guts turn for me and me alone. I don’t obfuscate my view of the truth within me by drinking. I listen. And I cry now.

5. Authenticity or bust. I am strong in my vulnerability. I relay where I am with no filter, aside from a deep wellspring of joy. It’s my nature.

That said, I am the proud owner of multiple new (or newly discovered) character defects. What the fuck ever, I’m human. I can’t answer several million of the questions I have for my life, so I’ll stop trying. There is a greater force working on my behalf. Because my mother has cable, I caught this Oprah show about attitude. A woman she interviewed described how her life changed when she began thinking, “The world is rigged in my favor.”  Or as my sponsor likes to say, “You can have it.”

In the movie, (500) Days of Summer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt convinces himself he can’t live without Summer, Zooey Deschanel’s character. He gets bent out of shape that she won’t love him like he thinks she should. He sees what he wants to see. Granted, she feeds his fantasy. He throws himself headlong into a murky romantic entanglement. He controls, he cries, he crashes. Summer, like my cruel lover, booze, does not reciprocate the feelings. This is not a love story. There are no winners. Thank God booze is not a person, or I’d have wasted many hours waiting for texts and calls that would never come. Booze hits it and quits it.

Who wants angst when you can just be? I woke up this morning, happy. I get to create beauty. I write, I speak, I listen, I laugh–I laugh harder when someone knows the exact right way to make fun of me. I spend time with my mother. I work. I eat. I yoga. I listen to Joy Division and Rhye. I do not cower before my emotions.

When I untethered myself from alcohol, I created the space to change, to be. The most pressing question I will answer today is, “What do I want to create?” instead of “Will the liquor store clerk give me a discount on Bullet whiskey if I flirt hard enough?”

I am not afraid to be who I am. I am not afraid of much these days, come to think of it. Except maybe intimacy. I cop to that. But that’s where faith comes in. My relationships to friends and family teach me to be less afraid. Fear has little use for me. Action steps, doing the right thing–those replace ambivalence. Or in my case, fear of failure. Also something that bores me.

In short, it is physically impossible to follow fear when my Higher Power is David Bowie.

Bowie is Paris

xx

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting Too Much

I chaired my first meeting in Richmond tonight. My heart was pounding so hard that I was sure it made the top of my red sundress move involuntarily. I scrambled to find the right words. Then I remembered there is no such thing. I turned my recovery inside out for a group of randoms whom I loved before I met. I cursed, I apologized for cursing, then I dropped a few more fuck bombs for continuity. I made my point, is the point.

I scoured my brain to find a topic which fell out of my mouth before I could approve: expectations. I accidentally chose this topic because I’ve had it up to –>here with my own set of them. I felt a heat wave of irrational anger just minutes before the meeting started because I hate when I don’t understand my own heart. I cried to my mother in the car on the drive to Richmond about all the ways I couldn’t make sense of the arc of my life. Why have I not had a long-term relationship? Why don’t I own a home? When will I ever afford a car again? FEELINGS.

I played verbal hopscotch all over that group of unsuspecting AAers. And out of the blue I referenced a page number from the literature like the fucking Rain Man. I don’t really remember what I said, but I know that I shared the page number accurately because I double-checked when I got home. I felt a bit better after the meeting, but the miasma of my thoughts lingered. (Note: I have now Rain Manned twice–I read the word “miasma” in a book like two months ago and it stuck. For fuck’s sake.)

It feels like [all of the feelings of ever] to go through life sober. I told my sponsor tonight that I feel like Katherine Heigel in Knocked Up when her blowhard of a doctor won’t give her anesthesia before she gives birth. She Satan-screams “I FEEL EVERYTHING!” and I’m all, “I FEEL YOU GIRL, ME TOO.” Except she fake-births a child and I real-birthed a new life. I don’t know what I expected would happen. One removes the numbing agent, one feels all of the things. If, then. Cause, effect. Me plus you equals us. Math. And, oh, physics.

My sponsor walked me through step work a few nights ago, pointing to a page out of the book on FaceTime. She says, “You are here.” What a profound bird, she is. I am a speck in the Milky Way, even when it feels like milk was a bad choice. The significance of my ego’s insignificance shocks and awes me to no end. Who am I to say that I should have things or that anything could be different? Here, now, present.

I expect joy. I know that I won’t have PTSD brain forever. I feel like I got a do-over in life. I witnessed in myself a profound sense of gratitude tonight. There was this endearing moment when I looked down during another person’s share to see that a row of men were all wearing top-siders or some alternative form of boat shoe. What an adorable local quirk. And oh! A friend from my Hopewell group traveled to come support me while I led. This guy is an amazing preacher-man who says shit that hits me like an A-bomb all the time. Then he laughs at my stunned face. What’s more, I might have said something remotely compelling to make someone feel less like drinking tonight. Or more like laughing.

Expectations, they say, are future resentments. The future doesn’t exist, though. Ipso facto, neither do my resentments. It’s a choice. Our human minds construct time and ideas to make sense of the present in all of its forms. Human alcoholic minds fixate on resentments to make us drink over the past and/or the future. At present, I don’t have to drink tonight. Neither do those preppy dudes at the meeting. I can’t filter the present through the past or the future when I am here. Sober.

R.I.P. Expectations. You did me dirty, you tetchy bastards. But tonight I say, au revoir.

xx

Photo courtesy of www.motherandbaby.co.uk

The Lion, The Witch and the Warhol

I relish the nights when songs get stuck in my head. One of the reasons for this quirk is my desire to quiet a rambunctious mind. I find that songs replace thoughts I would otherwise discard. I don’t particularly mind the repetition, as I am a creature of habit if ever there was one. A familiar song is like lullaby for me, anyway. I experience insomnia every couple of nights, though it doesn’t bother me one bit because I learn more about music when I’m waiting to fall asleep. For the past few weeks, I’ve had Donovan and Louis Armstrong keeping me company. The latest addition to the nighttime collection I’ve amassed is Bowie’s Andy Warhol from his 1971 album Hunky Dory. I love me some Bowie, but this song is most def in my top three. It’s just so…weird.

As I lay down to sleep one night last week, I attempted a meditation practice. Approximately three million nonsensical thoughts crowded my consciousness until it got very quiet. I heard the murmurings of Bowie as Warhol on the track and I became instantly calm. I remembered what I had read about this song–that Bowie was all proud of himself for creating a tune that he was sure Warhol would love. Turns out, Andy was annoyed and super bitchy toward Bowie for writing it in the first place. Bowie revered Warhol, but the feelings were not exactly mutual. (Not to worry though–Bowie ended up playing Warhol in the movie Basquiat, which gave him some closure, I suppose). Ahhhh, the webs we weave.

My brain did a rather curious thing as I played the song in real time. I began to free associate during my meditation. Free association, to me, is like interpretive dance for the word-happy ones among us. On the third play through, I thought of my favorite book as a girl, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I used to love this book, especially because one of the characters shared my name (I love self-referencing, because I can). My brain then jumped to a possible title for this blog: The Lion, The Witch and the Warhol. I googled the title to make sure no one had used it yet. To my delight, I did not catch it anywhere. What I did find, however, was a collection of Warhol pieces known as The Witch Myths Series. Thanks, Universe! The Myths collection includes works of American villains and/or mythical figures of the collective consciousness, redone in a most distinctive Warhol way. I’ve seen this collection before, but I never knew its name. He believed many of the characters, like the Wicked Witch of the West and Uncle Sam, represented parts of his own personality. I think he loved self-referential things even more than I do. Just a theory.

The Witch Myths made me think about the facets of my own personality. Lately, the “character defects” motif continues to inspire me to get to know myself. Though I’ve walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Defects in my sixth step work in AA, I have only caught a glimpse of what constitutes a defect of character and what serves a higher purpose. My dad used to tell me that crazy, narcissistic or wayward people were exciting and interesting for a reason. He did not mean to tell me I should revel in these attributes, but my teenaged brain clung to his words as validation. I don’t consider myself crazy, just complicated. I have let go of judgement recently, considering how weird I am. It is way more fun to be free–it leaves room for other weirdos to come be free with you.

I am experiencing a period of self-transformation by being still. I have decided that it’s okay to discard some of my old ideas of what’s supposed to make me happy. I am open to more people, places and things because resisting the experience of being home no longer serves me. I meet new people and I see new things. This strange world in Virginia inspires me to be myself. My old beliefs float away as easily as the the little florets on a dandelion. When I was a little girl, I would pick these flowers that are actually weeds and blow on them like birthday candles to make my wishes. Being home is the flower, not the weed. I made a wish and I said a prayer for my Higher Power to help me heal and be happy. He listened. And just as my defects are open to interpretation, I will interpretive dance in words to free-associate once more: dandelions, Andy Warhol, the Dandy Warhols, Bohemian Like You. Or weird, like me.

Go be free, ya weirdos.

xo

Photo courtesy of modernartcollecting.blogspot.com

July Five, Look Alive

I placed and/or received phone calls from 15 different people yesterday. I did the uncool thing of not going to a meeting on the 4th of July. Instead, I glued my phone to my right ear and talked for a total of 4.5 hours. One of my friends had a birthday yesterday; two of my friends had anxiety; a few of my friends just went through the motions of another 24-hour period of sobriety. I woke up feeling like a million bucks on the 4th. Not a care in the world, even with massive clouds in the sky.

The electricity in the air yesterday most definitely could be attributed to the storm that loomed, threatening to shit all over the annual fireworks show in Colonial Heights. Alas, the storm came and went, just like the fireworks did. I felt an electrical current in the air as early as July 3rd, the day I actually did go to a meeting. July 3rd was the day that set off sparklers in me, not the 4th.

My most dear friend, whom I met at college, saw my last blog post and took that as a sign to come visit me all the way from DC. She high-tailed it in her ’92 Dodge after three plus hours of traffic and didn’t even wait to shut the door of her car before she ran up my front lawn to give me a barrel of a hug. It felt so good to see her, I could have cried. But I’m not really a cryer. That, my friends, will never change. Unless I win the lottery. Or I’m PMSing.

She is one of the most extraordinary humans I have ever met. She is a transgender female. I am pretty sure she is prettier than me. This was my first time seeing my incredible friend after she started transitioning. She and I have talked for hours about how our changes in life are so similar in that we have to constantly discard our fears. She makes me feel brave and beautiful. She is both of those things, and then some. We discovered over dinner at a Mexican restaurant that she is chemically more female than I am. She also flashed me her newish boobs and it was awesome. How did I get so lucky to have such an amazing person in my life? She is gorgeous. I want to be like her when (and if) I grow up.

I thought the coolest thing about her being here would be her being here. I was wrong. She asked if she could join me at an open AA meeting. I was thrilled because I often feel alone out here at meetings. What a gift to go with one of my best friends–a stunning transgender woman next to me, a tattooed Los Angeles beotch–to an AA meeting together. She came with me to Colonial Whites, an affectionate term for a city that doesn’t care too much for black people or for justice. Here I thought that people might somehow judge her and me. I was wrong. To make a long story short, I acted as a lightning rod for controversy, not her. No one misgendered her; she was only met with kindness and respect. Good on ya, Colonial Whites — I did not see that one coming. I also didn’t expect that the dude sitting directly across from me who refused to identify with his first name would have such racist things to say with black people SITTING IN THE ROOM. I thought AA was supposed to be above all of that. He launched into a boring monologue about the racial tension and what a victim he was for being subjected to all of this. He lamented having to take down his Confederate flag. He described the WHITE flag being the only thing he wanted to see. White, for surrender. What a prick.

I know I shouldn’t have, but I jumped in to share directly after him. I thanked my Higher Power out loud for the tradition of Principles Before Personalities. I described my gratitude for being a liberal in the South these days. I also mentioned that I am sober and I have the ovaries to be myself now. It just didn’t feel right to sit idly by while someone spewed racist shit. I’ve bitten my tongue my whole life living out here and that just doesn’t work for me anymore. “Nobody” got up and left during my share. Byyyyyyyyyye.

I know my ego played a role. I know we are there at those meetings to get better. I prayed for that man last night and this morning. I thanked my Higher Power during the fireworks show for such simple beauty. My takeaway from this weekend was that my friend came to me when I needed her. I am fortunate to be so close to a person I love so much. She did not bat an eyelash the entire time she was with me, even as I became more and more agitated. She has learned to let go of the shit that doesn’t serve her. I am just now learning to do that.

I have taken today to reflect on another holiday spent sober. I feel for the people in the July 3rd meeting because we were all on edge right before the holiday. It isn’t easy to sit around a barbeque while people drink their 40 ounces to freedom. It is much easier to say “fuck it” and down a beer you don’t even like, much less a glass (or 10) of Chardonnay. I have compassion for myself and for others who still feel a pull toward alcohol, even when the obsession has been removed. That is why we have a program. That is why there are other people in our lives to help us see clearly when we cannot see for ourselves. I woke up this morning without a hangover or the sting of regret. I know I am not alone in that.

Happy July Five.

xo

Photo courtesy of espressoandcream.com

Can You Ever Just Be Whelmed?

A new friend from Richmond called me today to see how I was doing. She was surprised when I told her I had been feeling anxious for the past week. She remembered me the last time we talked–that I sounded optimistic and excited to be here. I told her it was the new anxiety meds talking. The serotonin levels struck a balance at some point this week, because my outlook has changed, definitely without my permission. My friend seemed puzzled, so I changed the subject. She didn’t give up so easily.

“You know, Lucy, when I left my husband and moved into my own house, I fell into a neutral zone. I wasn’t too excited. I didn’t react quickly. I just…was.” I laughed when she said this. It reminded me of a quote from 10 Things I Hate About You. The girl who played Alex Mack on Nickelodeon (90s, what) stars as Bianca, the vapid betch in high school who everyone wants to sleep with. The scene spans to her and her girlfriend talking. One of them says, “I know you can be overwhelmed and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?” The other one says, “I think you can in Europe.” I think you can in the US, too.

I am in a neutral zone. I write during the day, I watch shitty TV at night. I spend time with my mom and aunt regularly. I go to several meetings a week. I eat blizzards from Dairy Queen. I went to a free yoga class at the library. I got my nails done once. The whole thing whelms me.

My classic alcoholic move is to lean into my ambivalence about people, places and things. It is comfortable for me to weigh the pros and cons of literally everything in my life. The downside is my ability to undermine any natural sparks my intuition initiates. I know my Higher Power cleared the way for me to be here with my family. My mom is allowing me to stay, so I’m staying. I don’t think this warrants DEFCON defenses. I tend to read into my ennui as a sure sign of sanity leaving my body. Maybe everything is just okay. Maybe this is my time to just be whelmed. As if.

My friend told me that after awhile, she learned to accept that she didn’t have to shoot from the hip whenever she felt overwhelmed. Her need for emotional extremes dissipated. I think that is happening.

My isolation out here is a smokescreen for how I really feel inside: I need my people. This blog is a smoke signal to all the LA loves in my life. I miss you terribly and I know we will see each other again soon.

Thanks for keeping me the right amount of whelmed.

xo

Photo courtesy of nowverybad.com