Tuesday, June 16

Give me your tired, your poor, your drunk masses yearning to breathe free.

Today I graduated from outpatient treatment. In typical Liz fashion, I woke up at 5:20pm, ten minutes before my session was starting. Traffic was in my favor as I pounded it from Northeast Minneapolis to Cedar Riverside in 12 minutes. Seattle traffic will not be as forgiving.

The friend I have known longest throughout my journey was my first roommate in inpatient. My first day on the inside, she found me using my winter coat as a blanket because I didn't have any of my belongings with me. After quiet introductions, we were able to become comfortable with each other and relate to so many things between our addictions. Today we graduated the program together, and I am extremely grateful for her kindness and strength.

How did it get to this point? I used up all my "drinking responsibly" privileges. Wedding? Free booze! Plane gets delayed? Pour me another, racially ambiguous bartender. Tuesday? Let's get shitfaced. Drinking never helped me: it only hurt me and those around me who endlessly care about me. A lot of folks I've met discovered that their drinking got out of control during college, and they aren't alone. My college was more like camp: we took first in ultimate frisbee and ate hallucinogens in the woods.

I have another chip to signify my recovery. Two praying hands with the words "ONE DAY AT A TIME." There is truth to the one day at a time aspect - I can no longer think to myself Oh god I have to be sober for the rest of my LIFE. If I'm sober today, I am succeeding. Progress, not perfection.

Tomorrow I have my first psychiatry appointment in four months. When I was in inpatient, my medication was blindly increased. I've been on Cymbalta for seven years, and it has probably never worked effectively because I was drinking the entire time. Celexa, Lexapro, Zoloft, Trazadone, Adderall, Concerta, Strattera, and the like never really helped me. Each one made me feel extremely foggy, lethargic, and disinterested in most things. I remember one time I couldn't do my homework for school because I simply couldn't reach my bag on the opposite end of the couch. I'm concerned that my new/temporary doctor will try something similar when I won't be around for him to monitor the affects of my medication. Now that I'm sober and more aware of what I'm putting into my body, I'll be able to address my concerns instead of just taking a medication solely based on the fact that I want to feel better.

Medication has been an on/off issue for me in the past few years. I've always taken it because the withdrawal from anti-depressants and stimulants was no picnic. The last time I went through significant withdrawal symptoms was when I was in New Mexico. At 6,000 feet in elevation, I was nauseous, dehydrated, and emotionally belligerent. I'm scared to go through that again. Withdrawal is almost worse than a hangover, and I've had bad hangovers. The "I'm never drinking again" hangover. The "I can only drink soup" hangover. The "maybe a beer(s) will help" hangover. I'm eager to take care of myself mentally and emotionally. If Cymbalta isn't right for me, I'll most likely take another pharmacological path. And where that path may lead, I'm not quite sure. But hopefully it won't limit me to my bed, to where I'm already limited due to the entangling of insomnia and hypersomnia.

There are a surprising amount of restrictions regarding taking a cat on an airplane. At some point this summer, Patty Fat Stacks and I will be flying home to Seattle. Old home for me, new home for him. After some extensive Googling, I discovered that Alaska Airlines has the most relaxed yet inexpensive policy to fly a feline. I can stick Chubby Buddy in the cargo hold for $100 as long as I'm on the same flight. I also have the option of taking him in the cabin with me, but that service/privilege is reserved for "quiet animals."

At some point I'll need to purchase a new carrier because the one I have was chewed up by a cantankerous chinchilla who was being rehomed from Seattle to Minneapolis four years ago. Somewhere in Wyoming, he was completely distraught and decided he must be free of his temporary plastic home. With the use of his teeth, he chewed a hole in the carrier that was roughly the size of an index card. That's a lot of work considering he was only 800 miles into his journey and only had his mouth to free himself. After some duct tape and little lullabies, he survived the remainder of the trip to the L'Etoile du Nord.

I still haven't gotten boxes. I've been meaning to, but because I have 10 weeks to move myself and my belongings I can't part with, I've been a little more relaxed about it. When I moved to Minneapolis, I think I decided six weeks out that I was going to uproot myself. The ten weeks I'm giving myself to move home was marked by the fact that I'd like my health insurance for as long as possible, and my departure will coincide with the end of my lease. It seems like the perfect time to move.

Throughout the month of July, I'll be making appointments for August and giving away things I don't need. I have highly replaceable particle board furniture as a result of one too many trips to IKEA, some bedding, power strips, and other home essentials. I think that's the Target brand of the power strips, "Home Essentials." I really don't have that many things, but I'll be taking the important things with me: maps, WWII books, avant garde memoirs, little knick knacks I've illegally amassed from Kinder Eggs, and my pudgy cat.

I'm looking forward to getting some Pacific Northwest exercise after my move: kayaking, paddleboarding, and hiking. For whatever reason, I've always been petrified of having a bike and sharing the roads with people choosing to travel via 2,000 pound vehicle. I'm looking for nature to give me the opportunity to be my road, my path, my topographical opportunity. I'm also looking forward to new AA meetings, new sober friends, and a support network that will travel with me, such as r/stopdrinking. r/stopdrinking has been huge for me. Reddit used to be a source of entertainment, but each morning and night, I look to the site to connect me with those who have the same issues I do. I don't completely dismiss the rest of the site, because r/photoshopbattles and r/avocadosgonewild are still fucking hilarious.

There IS something out there for me. Endless drinking just never allowed me to find it. When I graduated from inpatient rehab, we all had to blindly pick a candle from a small box, each candle with a word that should represent ourselves and life going forward. Mine read "success." I need to go find that success, even though every day is a positive accomplishment of not drinking and staying sober. Some of my drunkest friends have commented that "what I'm doing is really cool." And it is really cool: flossing every day, always knowing where my car is (except for tomorrow when I'm going to forget that I had to park two blocks away from my house because of a fucking parade in Northeast Minneapolis), carefully carb counting, and taking care of Chubster McGee. I have him, but I'm all he has. I've already apologized for the imminent trip below deck he'll have to take to Seattle. But I'm sure he'll forgive me.

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