Before and happily ever after

Oh hi, here’s me!

There’s this non-profit I like, Big Vision NYC, and they’re doing great stuff in the substance abuse space. They asked me to share a bit of my own story, and a “before and after picture”, for their social media pages. My first thought was “Aw, shucks, y’all!” and my next thought was “I don’t want people to see drunk pictures of me” and then my chest started to feel a little smooshed under the weight of feels, so I took a minute to think. When my chest feels crushed, there’s usually some truth hiding beneath the surface, asking for a way out. So I started digging.

I started looking through old photos. I lost my phone a million times in my 20s, so the photos I still have are the ones I chose to share on Instagram. I took a trip back in time, seeing a photo and remembering the story. There’s me, drinking white wine at a wedding, but there is no photo of the cut on my nose that I got when I tripped, blackout drunk, onto my face later in the night. There’s the photo of me looking skinny and blonde in NYC, sipping a cocktail on my birthday. There aren’t photos of me fighting and crying with my ex, again in a state of drunken confusion to the point where I was scared of how confused I was. There were also a lot of happy photos, because I was happy. As my drinking got worse, I still felt happy sometimes. I just felt anxious and scared more of the time. I realized a few things looking at these old photos:

You can’t tell from someone’s social media posts whether or not they have a substance abuse problem. Not that it’s your business, but it does create a false reality in your mind. If you’re struggling, and don’t see anyone around you struggling, that loneliness can make the idea of quitting even harder. But believe me: they’re out there. We’re out there. Our pictures might not tell the whole story though.

2. I didn’t realize how happy I could be. Back then, I would have told you that I was fine. I wished that I didn’t get so drunk, but otherwise, fine. Then the drinking was not fine, and it had to go. And then things were hard, and I doubted that this quitting was even a good idea. Until it was more than fine. Until I was able to do so much more, and feel so much healthier, and wake up feeling like I was 100 percent high on some clean drug that turned out to just be how you can feel when you stop drinking. Who knew? Not me.

3. Sobriety looks different for everyone. Honestly. You get to take your true self, and find out what it needs to be happy and at peace and then you just get to do it. It’s nuts. So if my pictures look different than yours, that’s good! That means you’re doing things in a way that feels genuine for you. I’m always working towards that, and away from that desire to compare myself to others. It’s such constant work for me.

I found a picture from my 30th birthday. I’m sitting on the floor, with my dog, drinking champagne from the bottle. It wasn’t a tragic night, and nothing awful happened. But looking back on it, I see a girl who is letting life happen to her. She doesn’t even know how good it could be. She doesn’t know that she can say no to the bullshit that she’s letting in. Then I saw an “after” picture is me, 4 years later, and I can see the peace in my eyes. Other people may not be able to, which is why this feels important to write about, chest-crushing feeling or not.

One final thought: If sobriety is a new idea that you’re throwing around, I suggest jumping in and finding out what speaks to you. It might be before and after pictures, it might be stories, or memoirs. Or scientific studies, or AA, or something cool like emailing me and asking me a zillion questions. No shame, just you letting yourself get what you need to start a new chapter. For me, it’s the best part of my story yet.

Boo! A story about ghosts.

ghost

ɡōst/

noun

  1. an apparition of a dead person that is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image.

There’s been a ghost in my house, y’all. A “nebulous image” that’s been chasing me like a shadow. Let me tell you a story.

In the last year and a half, I have tried to deal with a bunch of change and grief in so many fun ways, most of which I’ve mentioned here already: running from it (figuratively and literally), drinking too much, dieting too much, dating too much and generally pretending that everything was ok when it wasn’t. Like, here is a hole…I will fill it with all of the things except more me. 

I reached a point of exhaustion with it all the other day, and something amazing happened. All of the too much-ness washed over me like a wave, and I felt like I had been knocked down. When I got up, I was alone on a shore of sorts (ok, it was my sister’s bed in Chicago), feeling dehydrated and sore, and could clearly see that I was holding onto a ghost in my mind. The ghost wasn’t just the past relationship. It was my old house and my old job. It was old habits. It was good things and bad things that had made up a home. I had spent the last 18 months trying to pretend that the ghost didn’t matter, until it all mattered too much to move. It was time to let the ghost go. It was dead. I couldn’t breathe anymore life into it. I suddenly felt like I had been sad enough.  I had cried and screamed enough. I had wondered “what if I had…” exactly enough. After wringing all that sadness out, I was left with a choice, as I saw it: I could let go and move, or cling and stay.

In the last 18 months, I’ve learned so much as I’ve stripped away the things that I no longer needed and added on new layers that were completely my own. In the end, it was me and the ghost on the shore. I forgave it enough, but I didn’t fall down at it’s feet. I looked it in the eyes and said goodbye. Now I’m walking away. It’s the most grateful I’ve been for a revelation in almost exactly 18 months.

Sometimes walking away is coming home.

xo

 

Alexis, 32, 0 Miles Away

Something I hear from my married or coupled friends is “I really miss dating” or “I miss feeling like I should put a bra on when I leave the house in case future boo is running to Walgreens too” or (I get this all the time) “I am so jealous that you get to do online dating. That seems really life affirming”.  You guys? This one’s for you. Because you miss it, and I feel like it’s my job to help you feel like you’re right there with me.

If you have been in a relationship for a long time, you may have missed the online dating boat all together. I’m so sorry. You know that feeling of leafing through wet garbage to look for something you lost, but are not really sure you even want it anymore? Like, an earring you kinda like or maybe a 15 dollar check from Consumer’s Energy but you’re thinking, “Is it worth it? This garbage smells really bad”. There you go. That’s what it’s like. Please, don’t be jealous of my positive attitude.Trashdate

Here are some fun things that have happened for me on Tinder this year:

I went on a date.  My take away from that is you should tell me that you live with your parents and hate everything before I spend the time to put on mascara and pants. I bought Wendy’s on the way home from that date. My chicken nuggets made me feel like the evening wasn’t a complete wash.  I love Wendy’s and I’m not ashamed of that. I don’t like people who hate everything and I’m not ashamed of that either.

After something like this, I usually go through the following steps:

  1. Delete dating app
  2. Excitedly do all of the fun alone things that make me happy, like reading and napping and drawing
  3. Wonder if people in the future will refer to this as my prolific period because I make more art when I’m not looking for someone to make out with. Wonders if people in the future will remember me.
  4. Remembers that making out is fun.
  5. Downloads dating app

So then I gave it another go.

I recently had an internet conversation with someone who didn’t look gross and wasn’t holding a dead deer or fish up to the camera. Promising, right? Unfortunately, he made a joke about sex positions, twice, and then told me to relax. Barf. Repeat steps 1 through 5 above.

It’s not all bad, of course. Going dancing is something I do more of when I’m single. Last weekend I went dancing and practiced this slick move where I basically dance away from anyone who approaches me.  My legs were sore for 2 days from doing this.  When I got home, I made my dog “shake” my hand in celebration of the fact that I went out and danced and stayed up late.  She’s really proud of me.

Recently, my therapist asked me if I was dating. I laughed hysterically and finished with a “whhhewww…..yeahh”. Then she wrote something down. I imagine she wrote “Seems to be really good at dating”.