Did you know when you sit down to write a Medium post it says “Tell your story…”
Oh, Medium, I have so many stories. Today I feel like writing about sobriety though. I just passed the six month mark from the last time I drank. I’m almost a year from when I decided to quit, but I didn’t quite make it for the first six months.
I started as “sober curious”. Scratch that. I wasn’t just curious. I was picking up pieces of myself off the floor, blowing up my relationships, brushing my teeth after vomiting and laughing it off with my face on the cold tile floor. Waking up the mornings after and spiraling with shame and apologies for things I said and did. I wasn’t just curious I was desperate. But let’s call it… “sober curious”.
I said, “I just want to reevaluate my relationship with alcohol; see what it’s like without it”. I said this as if I was trying out a new hobby — let me take a crack at juggling, might be neat, right? Looking back now, the nonchalance is unbelievable. This wasn’t juggling, or baking, or trying out a new shampoo. This was a life altering decision that was about to rapidly, and painfully, change my entire trajectory of being.
Maybe the nonchalance is what made me relapse within a few months of deciding to quit. I have zero judgment towards myself for that — most people relapse within the first few months. But part of why I relapsed was the thought of “I’ve gone this long without drinking, I must not have a problem.” This is the logic of a disease I’ve carried in my blood for over a decade. “It’s not that bad.” “It’s not that big a deal.” I think I saw so many people around me who drank casually that I figured I could be ‘normal’ like them. Get my mental health in check and maybe I could have one or two drinks like a casual drinker. But my body doesn’t work like that. My body is particularly adept at convincing me to drink more. And more. Chasing that weightless, carefree feeling of disappearing from my own mind.
Sir, you’re an alcoholic. I’m laughing to myself right now at the absurdity. It’s me, I’m sir. I’m the alcoholic.
So come October, six months after initially deciding to stop drinking, I fully embraced that I was an alcoholic and needed to quit. Maybe this is that part of AA where you admit you’re entirely powerless over alcohol I guess. I’m still too wary of religion to fully get involved in the 12 step program, though I know there’s some pretty non-religious ones. But every so often I have my own moments of “Jesus take the wheel” in a satisfying and spiritual admittance of my own powerlessness. I don’t know who I’m praying to or what kind of destiny I believe in, but I can promise you that starting around October, things really took a turn for the worse. When things get that bad, prayer seems to come to the forefront of my mind even if it’s to no one or nothing. Please, God, or whoever, I don’t wanna offend anyone, sorry, please protect me. Please, whoever is watching over me, is someone watching over me? Please protect me. Please send me a sign if I’m on the right track. I don’t know, I think TikTok told me to look for a white feather or something. Can TikTok God send me a white feather to cure my alcoholism? Fuck, I’m sad.
I remember that day after I saw that stupid TikTok and I scoured the sidewalk for a sign of a white feather. Hoping it meant something, maybe I could be cured. I didn’t see one. I guess I’ll be an alcoholic forever and God doesn’t love me.
Turns out, I didn’t need a white feather. I needed to heal the parts of me that drowned themselves in alcohol. I’m only six months in, and I am certain there are still more parts of me I haven’t met yet. But I also truly feel like I’m coming out the other side.
TW: non explicit mentions of sexual violence, suicidal ideation
I started drinking when I was 14 years old. I have PTSD from childhood sexual violence, so I don’t blame 14 year old me for finding something to make the pain stop. I don’t blame 15 year old me, or 16 year old me… or 18… or 21… or 24… But when does it stop? I’m 28 now, and getting sober has been one of the best decisions of my life.
Everything they say is true — I did lose some friends. Some of it was because all we did was drink together. Others were because I blew up my relationships doing something stupid and drunk. Others were because I walked away from things that weren’t good for me. I did suddenly cry all the time. Cried in my car, cried in my room, cried on the bus, cried walking down the street. I did crave drinking, especially when I was sad. Why go through all this pain when I could just drink it away? I didn’t know who I was anymore. What is my purpose? What makes me, me? My depression got worse. I wasn’t eating. I had a psychotic episode. I thought I was too ugly to go outside. I felt constant grief. I felt a lot of trans grief at this time. I wanted to end my life. I was really sick.
Until I wasn’t.
They say people experience “the pink cloud” when they first get sober, and to be careful because this euphoric feeling doesn’t last forever, and the hard work needs to kick in. I think I experienced it in reverse order. I wasn’t happy about being sober at first. I felt like it was something I had to do, because I kept making embarrassing and messy mistakes in my friendships and relationships. I kept abusing my own body and never feeling well. But I wasn’t happy about giving up something I loved. Yes, loved. I shake my head now thinking about it, because what I loved was the taste of safety and calm that I got from being intoxicated. I begrudgingly gave up something that felt like it was keeping me sane. Six months later, I’m not so sick anymore.
I don’t wake up on Sundays at 3pm anymore with a hoarse throat from throwing up the night before. I don’t have to text anyone that I’m sorry for things I said or did. I don’t get as many pain flares, because my immune system is healthier now. I don’t hook up with strangers or buy shots with money I don’t have.
I have people who love me. I take my antidepressants (which I’d gone off of). I go to therapy. I watch birds and I write and I heal pieces of myself, one at a time. I get to know who I am without the escape. Some parts I love, some parts I don’t need anymore, some parts are still too hard to face. I do 150 floors on the Stairmaster and I listen to podcasts and I pole dance. Man I love pole dancing. I love the people, I love the queerness, I love the movement, I love reconnecting with who I am and who I can be. I make new friends. My new friends support my sobriety, my gender, and my autism. I journal a lot. I try to take care of plants despite not being so good at it. I’m still sad and often questioning myself, but now I face it with love, curiosity, and forgiveness. I’m reconnecting with my inner wisdom. I sit in the sun. I dedicate myself to my PhD work which is all about trauma-informed machine learning education. Making algorithms a little bit safer for people like me and others who deserve a safer world. I fell in love again, this time with the hope that I’m a healthy enough human to make it last.
I’m six months sober and I’m a different person now. A softer, kinder, gentler person. A strong, fierce, powerful, magical, infinite person. I’m getting a chance to live my life on purpose — and I’m lucky to be here. 🍀