Tomorrow is my seven-year anniversary of sobriety. Well by the time it’s posted it’ll be ‘today’ or ‘yesterday’. But y’know what I mean. It’s weird. Seven years. It’s a long time, and then it’s also not. It also goes very fast when life passes by and one is not mindful or living in the present. I can honestly say that most of my recovery has been one big, long panic. Will I get loaded? Will I find a job? How am I going to pay the rent? I can’t stop eating. I can’t stop making myself sick. I can’t stop spending money on inappropriate things. I’m a failure. I hate my job. I have to do something meaningful. Is the rest of my life going to be like this? Why did I quit in the first place? Mental health issues NOW? But I sobered up to get away from all this shit!! What is the fucking POINT?? WHAT the HELL am I going to DO with my life??!? What about global warming? Climate change? The disappearing of forests? The acidification of oceans? The garbage EVERYWHERE???
It never ends. It never, ever ends. And the ironic thing is, I’m getting nowhere. With any of it. Life keeps going on by, just as it always does. It doesn’t stop for me. Some magical entity does not pop out of the sky and say, Over here! Here I am! I’ve got all the answers for you!, and then I find out it’s true. Nope. That does not happen.
And so I forget that I’m grateful to be sober. Yep, it’s true. It’s the number one thing one is not supposed to do if one wants to stay clean, the story goes. Gratitude is number one. If you don’t have gratitude, you have nothing. I call bullshit. Don’t get me wrong. It’s pretty impossible to get or stay clean if a person doesn’t actually want to. No contest, right? But let’s face it. Life can really suck sometimes. What pisses me off about some recovery programs is the mentality of, You have to have an ‘attitude of gratitude’ or you’re gonna get loaded.
Lately I have been in a complete frenzy trying to pick a direction in my life. I’m 34. I’m not saying I’m old and crusty or anything like that. I know better. But I want a change. I want to do something that means something in my life. I want to create a life for myself, a career (though I’m not exactly sure that’s the word I’m looking for). I want to build something really good for myself. I want to help people. I want to be able to cut through the crap and reach out to someone and say, Yep, this is me, right here; I see you, I hear you, and I’m not going anywhere. And really, I’d like to get paid for it, because let’s face it, I’m tired of being broke all the time.
And then there’s where the similarities between my values, my passions and my actual direction and decisions part ways. I can’t decide whether to pursue a social support/service worker or child and youth care worker diploma/degree, or just say ‘Fuck it!’ and pursue something artistic, something that will challenge me and inspire me and allow me to grow and develop as an artist. I’m thinking creative writing. And then minoring (or double majoring) in something along the lines of social justice studies, or First Nations studies, or environmental studies, or hell, maybe even astronomy or something. At the same time, I have been off work for two years now due to mental illness, and while I feel like it’s time for a challenge, there is a limit as to how much challenge I can take. It has to be sustainable. And the only way I can see that happening is if I am doing something in the helping profession because the only time I feel like I have any worth or strength anymore is if I’m sharing my experience with others who are where I am or have been.
So. I have been working on an application for an amazing training program through a local battered women’s shelter. I really want it. I have two possible volunteer opportunities coming up, one with street-involved youth and one with low-income youth and families in a neighborhood house. I figure, worst case scenario, I do these things and find out I don’t like working in a helping capacity. Then I know. Then I can pursue my writing whole-heartedly. I can do whatever I want. In the meantime…well, honestly, I’ll probably keep flopping back and forth about it. Going over and over lists of program options at all the local colleges, hoping and praying that one of them will just finally say ‘Pick me! Pick me!’ and I will see a beautiful apparition and it will be done.
I need a car. Need to finish getting my license. My partner and I are trying to save up for our wedding, which we can’t have until we have the money for it. And we both want to attend BC Witchcamp next year. So money seems like an issue for me right now. I’ve got it on the brain all the time. Never mind that I can’t buy the clothes I need, or afford my dental appointments that I have been told I need to help manage a new condition I’ve developed, or just have some kind of a sense of independence again.
And yet I just want to say, Fuck it all. Fuck school, fuck money, fuck it all. Live off the grid. Move in with a house full of people who also are past the ‘Fuck it’ point and figure out how to live on our own, outside of society, culture, The Man, whatever you want to call it. Outside of the twisted capitalist bullshit that defines Modern Living.
Yet I digress.
Seven years. I remember when I couldn’t put seven hours together. I remember the sickness, the bloating, rashes, can’t breathe, can’t function, barely making it to work and even then only doing so so I could get loaded all over again, moving all over the country, fucking anything that walked, hating hating HATING myself, couldn’t write a sentence to save my life. Wanted to die all the time. Panic attacks, fevers, trips to the emergency room to get shot up so I could stop puking. Blackouts, shakes, migraines, embarrassing flashbacks.
So really, not being able to pick a major? Not such a big deal in comparison.
It really does put things in perspective. And yeah, it gives me a sense of gratitude.
So I’m writing this for my son, who’s ten right now and living with a great family because I didn’t keep him with me in the last three years of my addiction and had the good sense to give him over to someone who could love him. I’m writing this for all the people who died trying to put those seven hours together, who died on their ‘last time, I promise’, who died thinking they didn’t have a problem in the first place. I’m writing this for all the folks making it in recovery today, however the fuck works for you, and especially for the folks with mental illness who are staying clean and sober. I’m writing this for all the people in recovery who relapse and then stay out there because they’re too fucking ashamed and broken to come back. Like a friend of mine who, ironically, I found out tonight, relapsed on meth and moved back in with her abusive ex who is now beating the shit out of her all over again.
Lastly, I’m writing this for all the people in my life, past and present, good and bad and indifferent, the lampposts on my journey through this strange, dark, twisted journey of life. My rays of sunshine, my clouds of pollution, my brambles and rainbows and stepping stones. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Up next: sexual revolution. I’m gettin’ down with my big, bad, kinky, drrrty, sexy self, because I’m tired of feeling like I have to put my sexuality in a shoebox in order for others to feel comfortable, in order to be ‘appropriate’ or whatever the hell it even is that I think I’m accomplishing. Yes, sober people have sex. And when we get past the awkwardness of not having to be completely fucked out of our minds and bodies to engage in sexual activity, it’s actually really fun.
All my best wishes to everyone, wherever you are on your paths, whether you’re in recovery from drugs, alcohol, mental illness, whatever. Here’s to being our Selves, and never making excuses for it. Here’s to living life to our fullest, because hey, no one else is going to do it for us, and it’s too short to do anything else.