It seems to be a good time for me to get back to living again. Let me explain…
While in the throes of my undergraduate program at a university that prides itself on liberal arts education, in the spirit of academic exploration – or misadventure – and at a most convincing plea from my best friend, Morgan, I took a course on postmodern literature. The professor was remarkably attractive despite his terribly cliche college professor appearance, and I went to class equally to stare at him and to listen to him so eloquently tear apart a novel (from behind his sexy-as-hell horn-rimmed glasses). To this day my friend and I speak of him frequently, debating which of his starched button up shirts best accentuated his salt and pepper hair or which of his square-toed dress shoes were our favorite. When I wasn’t playing out elaborate student-teacher porno scenarios in my mind, I somehow managed to absorb a Cliff’s Notes amount of information about Postmodernism. I could hold my own at a dinner party in a conversation on the subject. And I also found in a course text, in two sentences, an idea that fits me better than any other I’ve come across to date: “The world is full of abandoned meanings. In the commonplace I find unexpected themes and intensities.”
Fair warning: shit’s about to get deep.
I’ve done a lot of scar-gazing. At the thin horizontal slices of history that span the length of my inner left forearm. They number, depending on the lighting, from twenty – under the buzz of cold, hard fluorescence – to maybe two – under the warm, dim glow of a summer night sky. And it’s under that same night sky that I’ve sat on my third-floor balcony with the buzz of alcohol and mosquitos in my ears, doing a far share of stargazing as well.
I’ve driven myself crazy and back, into a tree – flipped my world upside-down – trying to make things connect. Trying to make meaning from something – or maybe from nothing. And that’s what we do. We’re meaning-makers. We see Jesus on our toast and stories in our stars. But the stars that make up the shapes of our constellations appear completely different when viewed from above or below or behind. The world isn’t flat and neither is the sky. It is – we are – multidimensional. Things have meaning from the angle, the perspective, from which we see them. My scars appear and disappear depending on the light that is shed on them.
Alcohol, for me, was the mechanism that allowed me to arrange my thoughts into something meaningful – to pluck just one thought out of the incoherent tangle in my brain. It made me feel cozy and comfortable and safe. But the fact is that once I start drinking I can’t predict with much accuracy when and where that will stop – and that’s why I’m alcoholic. When I drink, I lie and cause arguments and crash cars. And until recently the thought of being a real, in the flesh, living breathing alcoholic has been so shameful and so terribly terrifying.
So let’s go back to November of 2014. The 8th to be exact. The day I stopped dying. The day I got sober. I had spent the better part of the previous three or so years in an accelerating downward swirl of alcoholic haze, and the trajectory I saw my path taking was down, down, and downer. As the lovely writer Anne Lamott says, “Like most drunks who’ve gotten sober, I got to the point where I was deteriorating faster than I could lower my standards.” I finally skid to a place where I had no other choice: the idea of continuing to drink finally became more terrifying than the idea of getting sober.
Coming to terms with alcoholism for myself has been a coming out in every sense of the phrase. But what has followed in the past year or so has been a slowly growing sense of pride, bravery, maturity, and hope. Sobriety had been a such a scary thought for me. I scratched and clawed away from it like a trapped, frenzied wild animal. Now, I’m smitten by the possibilities it brings. I know I will never regret not drinking. I’m so comforted by that. And it makes me feel so strong.
So maybe the world is full of abandoned meanings. And I’ve spent my life collecting them, organizing them, color coding them, and chasing them down with a shot of whiskey. But now I’m happy to abandon the meanings I’ve attached to words like “scars” and “alcoholic” – like unclaimed baggage – in favor of new meanings.
I am a messy smattering of glimmers of woman, daughter, girlfriend, friend. I have scars – stories, maybe – on my arms and in my memories. I’m a meaning-maker. And I finally understand the beauty that is this: I can find meaning in each of these things, and be defined by none.
The last year-or-so of sobriety has consisted mostly of learning and waiting. Learning to pay my bills and clean my apartment and walk my dog and drive my car without an alcoholic buzz to motivate me. Learning to fall asleep without the lullaby of a bottle of wine. Waiting for the minutes and hours and days to pass. Waiting for the cravings to go away. Waiting for the next episode of Law & Order: SVU to start on Netflix. Waiting for the distance between the present moment and my last drink to grow longer. Waiting, waiting waiting. And then I realized I needed to stop waiting on other people and circumstances in order for me to do what I wanted to do. So I stopped waiting. I bought tickets and I booked an adventure.
And so it seems to be a good time for me to get back to living again. And I plan on doing so from as many places and perspectives as I can. I invite you to follow me as I learn to navigate the world of travel.
“To live will be an awfully big adventure…”