Last night I had a dream that I was at the airport, ready to take a multi-leg international trip. Where doesn't matter. What does is the sense of panic that I had forgotten two things: tickets and my suitcase. I realized this in the parking deck, going through all of the other things I had. Rifling through my bags, throwing them onto the hood of the car, I was in a panic. The flight was in a few hours and there wouldn't be enough time to go back to get what I needed. I scrambled to figure out a solution.
Let's suspend the thought that in this world of e-tickets, one might not need an actual physical ticket. It's a dream, OK? And my dreams are super transparent (panic about forgotten tickets and baggage ... not too tough to figure that one out.) And the timing is clear too.
Today marks one year since that last drink. Words I never thought I would or could write. I've thought a lot about what to write today. I may never find the right words to explain what's may happened since the day of that decision. And though I swore I was never going to be one of those people, filled with slogans and motivational snippets. Well here I am.
"All you do is write about recovery." This is what I think to myself sometimes. And, judging by what I've published the past year, I guess it's true. It's a lot. Does it get monotonous?
Well, I don't care.
See, I've done a lot of caring in my life about what people think -- you, him, her, the reader. Part that comes from being an editor, and making pretty words and lovely photos for a living.
But part of it is the way that I'm wired. Do you like what I made? Do you like this story? Am I enough? For the imaginary audience and the critics in my mind, there's never enough. And that is exhausting.
All that contorting, all that striving, and external validation seeking -- in my writing and my life --well it got me drunk. But beyond the drinking, I pinned my hopes too much on what came from you. But then I woke up in a hotel room and decided: enough. All of it. Enough.
That morning I went down my phone list and called a lot of numbers, looking for the answer. I was filled with fear, shame, and dread. Again. That day, a stranger in a private Facebook group associated with the Home Podcast responded to a my call for help and met me at my hotel. We walked and talked and shared our stories. Someone else pointed me to a 12-step meeting in that town, the fellowship I'd started attending months before. These strangers welcomed me in with open arms.
"But I've failed," I said at that 12-step meeting. "You can begin again," they said. And I did.
Will I spend the rest of my life writing about it? Maybe. I will write about other things. But, as an acquaintance says, this is my mountain and I will plant a flag on it.
We need to tell people where they can go when they fall down. We need to stop acting like addiction isn't something that destroys millions of lives. And aside from addiction, I believe we need to do a deeper dive into our individual and cultural relationship with alcohol. The way we Instagram it. The way we put it at the center of seemingly every event. The way we tell ourselves that everything is better with it.
I am an editor and I am a person in recovery, so I care about the words and images around this conversation.
And I'll do my damnedest to share my story if it makes a dent in the conversation.
How did it "stick" this time, so far? I got out of my own way, followed a program, built one of my own. I prayed and went to meetings and got an amazing sponsor who called me on my stuff and slept a lot. I took a long hard look at the woman in the mirror and began the process of facing every single fear and insecurity, every story from my ego, every lie.
I got what I've been talking about my entire life: telling my own story, honestly. And now, I will do it again. For the next 24 hours, and God willing, for the next year as I continue to go deeper in this work.
I tell it for myself because I have to, but I also tell it for the woman who is in that hotel room, or on her couch, or in any dark place this morning. I want to say: I don't have bags, and I don't have a ticket. But I'm awake, and I have a cup of coffee for you, and we can travel together.