A Funny Thing About Time...
I've had a daily writing practice since 2009. I think there was one period of three months where I thought I was "over it," and then I realized how much I missed it, by which I mean, my brain is barely manageable if I don't churn out words on the regular. A lot of people keep a journal; my practice began as the result of doing The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron after returning home from shoe-stringing around Southeast Asia for ten months, broke, jobless, and, in true Dani fashion, with no idea what the fuck I was doing with my life.
So now I'm nine solid years into this practice, and I've amassed a pretty hefty journal collection. Last count I think I was at twenty six. I look up into the dusty corner of my closet where I stash them every now and then, and think to myself, damn, how many books are in there? Not that writing a book would be as easy as just pulling from my journal (the opposite is much truer: 99% of the pages would bore anyone to absolute tears), but now that I'm writing my first book I think wow, all those words. What if I'd been directing that time and energy slightly differently?
This isn't exactly true. I don't keep a journal to help me write a book; I keep it to help me stay sane. But one thing I know for sure: if I collected all the pages from all those journals that I spent obsessing about my drinking, I'd have a book by now. Several, perhaps.
Recently I've adopted the label, "Gray Area Drinker," (shout out to Jolene Park - I'm not sure if she coined the term but the first I've heard it was through her). You see, I never had a sloppy bottom. I never had a DUI, ruined a relationship (though in my early 20's I came close many times). I never fucked my best friend's husband or, you know, killed anyone. From the outside, nobody would have looked at my habits with booze and thought I had an issue. I would have a few binges each year, where I'd get a little too drunk, and wake up with a hangover, but for the most part my drinking was maybe two drinks max, a few times per week. A few hangovers per year is normal, anyone would have told me.
Thing is: it didn't feel normal. I could never simply let myself off the hook. Even the slightest headache the day after a night where I drank was more than enough to send me into a deep pit of self loathing. And after a string of shitty life things in 2017 (I got hit by a car the day before my birthday, and fired from a job for the first time ever), including one of the worst hangovers in memory, I decided to take what I thought would be a break. About four weeks in I knew it was forever, and now I've got eight months of sobriety in the books.
Sobriety has been full of surprises. Do you know what the biggest one is? How fucking easy it's been. I'd thought about sobriety a zillion times over the years, but never honestly considered it because I thought it was going to be so hard. I was going to miss out on so much. How would I have fun, without at least a few drinks?
Do you know what is actually hard? Hating yourself. Staying numb instead of dealing with your shit. Repeating the same unhealthy patterns over and over again and wondering why your life doesn't ever seem to change. Why life always feels difficult. Watching everyone around you hitting milestone after milestone and you sitting over here like, welp, I changed my socks today, I folded my clean laundry instead of leaving it in a pile on the dresser for four days, so I guess that's a win?
But back to time. One of the biggest challenges has been letting myself off the hook for what often feels like lost time. I'm still learning how to reframe this in my head, to not beat myself up about it like I always do, and instead start to trust that for whatever reason, it was supposed to take as long as it did for me to wake up, for real. I'm over here walking around like a recently hatched chick: wide-eyed, new, clear, but also, I don't know, delicate.
The best way to describe my experience of getting sober: it’s like that bud from that over-shared Anais Nin quote has finally opened in my heart. This experience is tender, and beautiful, and precious, and I am learning to stand back and enjoy life’s unfolding, to breathe and stay present with its gifts. That sentence kind of makes me want to puke, but fuck it, I’m leaving it in. Because it’s fucking true, and for someone with my brain, a bit of tenderness is like drinking cool water after a long walk in a hot desert, a million times better than the relief of an ice-cold Mexican Coke in a bottle the day after a night of drinking.
I’m not sure my intentions for getting this out there. Every time I think about writing this piece I hear this song in my head. All I know is that this undertaking feels momentous. And I do want the world to know. There’s something for me in making a declaration. Because it’s not just me not drinking. I feel like a new person. But that’s another post for another time.
I don’t want to waste another minute of this life. I don’t want to be numb for any of it. I want to be alive, and awake. And I’m starting here.