Saturday, August 29

You aren't a comic unless you think about quitting every day.

Olympia, you ephemeral bitch.

Last weekend I took a quick jaunt down to Olympia to hang out with old college roommates and see a comedy show. The 70 minute journey was lengthened to 90 minutes due to an increase of state patrol activity along the I-5 corridor. I've noticed that since I've moved back to Washington, I love spending time in the car, which is weird because we have the second worst traffic in the fucking nation. The music, the endless chain-smoking, the steering wheel tapping, the boot stomping, and the constant checking of the rear view mirror are all symptoms of concrete jungle fever. The oversized lanes, originally meant to cater to military vehicles coming and going from Fort Lewis, have an uncanny ability to make the driver feel comfortable within the constraints of traveling long distances through the Pacific Northwest.

The Scurlock Treehouse, built by a bankrobber in the woods near the Evergreen State College. 

I made it to Olympia and was quickly launched into autopilot. I didn't need to rely on street signs or a GPS; I simply went the ways of the one-way streets and roundabouts until I discovered the gentrified Westside of town. Olympia now has a Five Guys, a DSW, and an ULTA. I cruised around Harrison and Cooper Point and Evergreen Drive. I went around Capitol Lake and watched people run after their rescued dachshunds and gluten-free children. I finally made it downtown and stopped by the Gyro Spot, a restaurant that is crushing the local Mediterranean cuisine with the help of my friend Kenny. Four years ago, Kenny's gyro stand was simply a tent with a mobile grill on the corner of 4th and Adams. The business did extremely well due to the fact it was open late and pleased the bar crowd since most businesses were shut and dark by 9pm. Kenny, Trevor, Joe, and Thomas all worked the gyro stand at one point or another, and today, it's a brightly lit establishment with late hours and a satellite business near the Capitol Building. Kenny comped my soul food while I talked with Thomas and Joe about the new developments of the area. My favorite roommate Meghan stopped by with her equally awesome boyfriend and chatted me up about what brought me back.

"What brought you back to Seattle" has been a tough answer for me to give up because there are a lot of answers. I don't really want to give people the lengthy answer of, "Well, my boyfriend and I broke up and I was feeling the need to drink again and that my sobriety was slowly becoming threatened and I don't have any family in Minnesota and I think I could grow as an individual elsewhere and these winters fucking suck and I just really miss my mom and comedy has become more painful than pleasant and I just want to get fucking OUT." Instead, I simply leave it as "I had enough" or "it was time for a change."

Olympia is still full of transient kids who like to bounce around between California and Washington State. To this day, I still can't walk two blocks in Olympia without a kid with an oversized flannel shirt and untied boots asking me for a cigarette. I suppose it's cleaned up in that it's become more family friendly, but holy shit. If I ever hit rock bottom again, I wouldn't be surprised if I woke up near a dumpster outside of McCoy's Tavern. The changes downtown were noticeable. Jezebel's is no longer a business, meaning there's a lack of drunk jabronis who came down from Fort Lewis to start fights and rip their Affliction shirts. Friends ranging from bouncers to dealers to former classmates to drinking buddies were still freewheeling around while rolling spliffs with Bali Shag and an Alaskan Thunderfuck hybrid.

After attending a comedy showcase at Le Voyeur, I pounded back up the 5 to go home. After completing the drive from Seattle to Olympia and back hundreds of times, I still slow down at the U-turns in the median specifically designed for law enforcement. I still audibly react to Tacoma's weird smell. I still note the directions to Mount Rainier from Highway 18. It's good to be home. It's like being rereleased into the wild.

Today I am 196 days sober. I have not consumed 881 drinks. I have saved $1,325. I have not consumed 119,517 calories. I have two 6 month medallions, one for my nightstand and one for my pocket. I haven't had a drink in almost 200 days. 200 days is a long time. Spielberg shot Schindler's List in less than 200 days. As football season is rearing its ugly and overpaid head in my face, I will not be drinking during this year's season. Right now I'm watching the Seahawks' third preseason game with the Chargers, and for some reason, I still feel like I should be throwing back Coors Light and Caribbean Jerk wings at Buffalo Wild Wings. Well, it's not for some reason. It's because I developed profound mental muscle memory every Sunday. I'm not wearing my jersey, just my usual "I haven't left the house today" outfit of a wife beater and basketball shorts. Every day, I'm encountering things that make me want to drink, even though I know I'm not going to slip back into that alluring habit of self destruction. Coors is manufacturing a lager. And it's expensive. While I'd like to try it because I was a former slave of the Golden, Colorado company, I can't. Happy hour remains a siren, much like dive bars, Old Crow, and binge watching Netflix. There were a slew of activities I partook in that were distinctively accompanied by drinking, and now it feels strange to be watching preseason football while drinking a La Croix, my new vice.

I don't care how sober I am. I will never order a fucking mocktail.

Switching from a state that had tougher liquor laws to a state that has a looser set of restraints has been a larger adjustment than I originally anticipated. In Minnesota, you had to go to a liquor store to buy anything. If the liquor stores were closed, your choices were either to go to a bar or drive to Wisconsin. In Washington, you can pick up a fifth of Seagram's at Walgreens along with a birthday card and one of those shirts that claims to fit everyone. It's uncomfortable, but not threatening. When I buy cigarettes, I try not to look at my enemies. I smile and proclaim once again that I don't have a Rewards Card and that my phone number is not something I share with people who tell me "Be Well" before I anxiously head out the door.

Occasionally I buckle down and realize that I can never drink ever again. But that's why the old sages of AA tell newcomers to take it "one day at a time" and "easy does it" and "keep it simple." As long as I stay sober today, that's all that matters. If I can get through today, I can do it. Part of me is just too lazy and unmotivated to drink, which is ironic because I used to go to most lengths to get shithoused. Today, it's raining. I'm not dressed. I'm not wearing make up. I'm pretty comfortable on this couch. Drinking just isn't appealing right now. However, when I enter crisis mode, this scenario changes drastically. I want to drink. Despite hating the taste of alcohol, I yearned for just one drink to tie me over, which will undoubtedly turn into tens of hundreds of more in a span of a few months. It isn't worth it. I want to drink, but I can't. I won't. And to be honest, I'm scared to death of relapsing. Things were already bad, and I don't want to give my actions the momentum to be potentially WORSE. Drinking is stupid. Real, but stupid.

Comedy is progressing at an unexpected rate. For the month of September, I have seven shows, which is more than I did in Minneapolis in a span of six months. It's been nice to actually transition into the scene here instead of just the new kid that adds everyone on Facebook. "Oh! You're the comic who moved here from Minnesota." Yep, that's me. "You're Liz, yeah?" I'm Liz, yeah. Everyone here has been extremely welcoming. Initially, I'm treated as someone who started comedy last week. But after telling people I've been active in the Minneapolis scene for the last four years, people become extremely interested in how the Minneapolis scene is compared to the Seattle scene. People have asked me if I know Minneapolis comics or if I've ever worked with so-and-so. It's like switching schools.

Everyone in Seattle is thrilled it's raining. Yeah, you read that right. The entire state has been under a burn ban for the last few months, and today we received some significant rain and storms. It's been incredibly warm and dry since spring and today it really feels like a sweet summer rain with the temperature hovering around 68. Kitty is napping and occasionally watching the big drops fall down from a few ominous clouds. Mom and I are both on our computers while feigning interest in this sad excuse of a preseason game. It's the preseasoniest of preseason games. I wonder what Pete Carroll eats for breakfast. Probably Pete-ies. You know, like Wheaties.

I also would have thrown a challenge flag on that shitty pun. 

Thursday, August 6

I do drugs so I don't get high.

I hate being diabetic.

In 2010, my pancreas stopped metabolizing glucose like that of a normal human being. At the ripe old age of 22, I went on two different types of insulin to keep me from going into DKA, or diabetic ketoacidosis. If you think back to the critically acclaimed 20th century film Con Air, Mykelti Williams' character Mike "Baby-O" O'Dell is sweating, tired, even feverish because his blood sugar is rising due to the lack of insulin/needles. What he's experiencing is DKA, where your body starts to shut down because of the excess glucose in your body. How would I have survived the Oregon Trail? I wouldn't have. I probably wouldn't have even finished packing the wagon.

My symptoms appeared over the course of about six months: constant, unquenchable thirst, frequent urination, dry mouth, sweet smelling breath, rapid weight loss, and extreme fatigue. Before I was diagnosed, I lost about 15 pounds, I was drinking about two gallons of water a day (because it was healthy!), and I was getting up more than once during the night to pee, which was from the massive amount of water I was drinking. I chalked it up to being healthy and that it was summer. My weight loss simply occurred because I was no longer working at Domino's, plain and simple. This was until my annual physical where my doctor questioned my drinking habits (the water, but I can see why that's confusing) and asked if I had ever been tested for diabetes. I hadn't, so she went ahead scheduled me for lab work.

The average blood sugar reading is somewhere between 80 and 120. When I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, my blood sugar was 600. The meter they were testing me with actually maxed out at 500 so they needed to get another one. My doctor suspected that contracting mono at age 17 was the cause of my diabetic diagnoses five years later: the virus compromised my pancreas, and while it slowly died, I had unknowingly had my last hurrahs of drunkenly eating a sheet cake while drinking the darkest, Guinessiest of beers.

Getting diagnosed with diabetes was baffling. I literally knew nothing about the disease except that Wilford Brimley pronounces it wrong. It doesn't run in my family and I didn't know anyone that was diabetic (as far as I know). A c-peptide test confirmed that my pancreas was no longer producing insulin, qualifying me as Type 1, or insulin dependent and what used to be known as juvenile diabetes, as it was commonly seen in kids but not adults.

A lot of people are shocked when they find out I'm diabetic. But you're so thin! You're so tiny! But you ate an entire pizza the other night and didn't bat an eye! Didja eat too much candy as a kid? It's true. I am relatively thin, tiny, and during my drinking career, I could put away an entire pizza if it was on thin crust. And fuck yeah, I love candy. But the reason I'm asked these questions or shrugging off these statements is because the media has a bad habit of only reporting on Type 2, the other half of the disease which is caused by genetics and a predisposition to an unhealthy lifestyle.

Fact: Roughly 95% of people with diabetes are Type 2. That remaining 5ish percent is Type 1.

This fact alone explains why people are so shocked when they find out about my diagnoses; I do not look like the stock footage the local news used in regards to a new study about "diabetes." I am simply the minority. What people are even more surprised about is that I found out that I had what used to be "juvenile diabetes" at a non-juvenile age. But again, it's simply because I depend on insulin to stay alive. Many Type 2s have a pancreas that still produces at least some insulin, which is why they can regulate their disease with diet and exercise. Because I'm insulin dependent, I can't control my diabetes with diet and exercise. Here's some bullshit I've encountered from the uninformed:
  • Oh, you should start doing yoga, and cut out all white foods. Then you won't have to take insulin! Practicing an Eastern-based exercise and not eating white foods will not cure me of my disease. It can be treated, but not cured. Type 2s have claimed time and again that they've "cured" their diabetes. I'd like to know if they would still consider themselves cured after drinking a Sour Patch Slurpee. And why the fuck wouldn't I want to eat white food? White foods are the best foods, and not because they're white.
  • My aunt lost a foot due to diabetes. Fuck your aunt. I do not care about your relatives and their failures with the disease. Would you tell a new cancer patient that your grandmother died of the same kind of cancer? No. So quit being a dick and keep your footless family comments to yourself.
  • Bobby has 35 candy bars. He eats 17 of them. What does Bobby have? Diabetes. No, he doesn't. Your shitty joke about food with high amounts of carbohydrates isn't accurate. A person with a perfect functioning pancreas can eat 17 Clark Bars if they're still a thing and be completely fine. Eating 17 candy bars won't give you diabetes. What will give you diabetes is if you're overweight, lead a low activity lifestyle, it runs in your family, AND you have the dental strength to eat 17 candy bars. 
  • Are you sure you can eat that? YES. Yes, I can fucking eat that. I can technically eat anything, but there are some things I choose not to eat. That giant piece of wedding cake? That's an extra 12 units of insulin in addition to the 12 I've already taken for the rest of today's food, so no, I'm not going to have a giant mountain of your bulbous romantic cake. I can also drink soda and juice. But I can drink diet soda at any time, whereas I have to take an absurd amount of insulin to ingest soda or juice. There are items I choose not to eat or drink, but it's not because I "can't" have them.
Back to your regular scheduled programming.  

After five years of learning to prick my finger while driving and injecting insulin discreetly under the table at fine dining establishments, managing the disease is second nature, most of the time. Most of the time. After my diagnoses came the onslaught of prescriptions, devices, and delivery systems. At any given time, I have glucose tablets, two types of insulin, spare needles, lancet canister, lancet delivery device, test strips, glucose meter, and the pretty carrying case all this bullshit goes in. It's more than a handful, really. It's an entire human organ split among plastic paraphernalia that only a pharmacist has the privilege of distributing. I can't go anywhere without my kit of life saving plastic.

But Liz! What is it really like having diabetes? 

It sucks. It's the first thing I think of when I wake up. I have to take a mental inventory of my kitchen, make sure I have enough insulin, and check my blood sugar before I eat anything. Ever. I can only take insulin once every four or five hours, so if I'm offered a cookie or any other complimentary snack, chances are I'll have to turn it down, and then I start to worry if I'm coming across as rude by refusing the complimentary snack because I don't want to have to explain why I can't have it to a person who probably won't care or possibly have a ton of questions. I need to constantly do math. I actually know the servings of carbohydrates in most prepackaged food. If I'm eating two pieces of pizza and my blood sugar is at 161, that means I'll need to take 15 units of insulin and not eat for the next four to five hours. And it's the last thing I think of before bed, consciously feeling for symptoms of hypoglycemia before I nod off and have awful dreams related to the disease.

It's complicated. I initially intended this post to be a crash course for anyone unfamiliar with the disease. I'm still incredibly angry about my diagnoses, something I was never able to completely get over. I felt like diabetes took my freedom, my spontaneity.  My end goal when I graduated college was to become an expat and never return to this country. Instead, I stayed put and learned about how one of my organs was no longer functioning as intended. I would love to have four less prescriptions and to just be able to EAT whenever I'd like to, but I can't. Diabetes has robbed me of simply enjoying a meal. I'm constantly wondering where my blood sugar is at or if a few Craisins won't completely suicide bomb my average blood sugar reading for the day.

In other words, I'm constantly thinking about it. I have to in order to stay alive. Even right now, I'm drinking a can of zero calorie soda that has four carbs in it, but I can't take insulin for it because one unit covers more than the total carbs in the can. Everything I ingest needs to be accounted for. When I was drinking, I actually considered myself a good diabetic, as in I would pay very close attention to the nutritional facts of what I was drinking. Whisky and vodka have no carbs. A Coors Light tall boy has 5 carbs per can. As long as I was eating while drinking to make sure my blood sugar wasn't going low, I was in something's good hands. Even when I was blacked out to the max, I still managed to keep my blood sugar at normal levels. Diabetics in bars can be a strange situation: the symptoms of low blood sugar can mimic the signs of being drunk. I was extremely fortunate to have nothing bad happen to me while I was destroying my body while somehow thinking I was saving it. Ah, the wonderful world of alcoholism.

There are some days where I think I'm completely burned out on the disease, which is an actual thing: diabetic burn out. The urge to take care of oneself becomes less and less, your carb counting gets sloppy, you test your blood sugar less and less. Many people with diabetes also experience depression because of the limitations, lack of freedom, and diligence required to treat the disease. I've been there myself; not testing before bed, eating a snack knowing it will give me a blood sugar spike almost immediately.

I treat diabetes like I do most of the other things in my life: I'm doing the best I can. It's the best attitude I can have about the disease, even though it sucks and it's constantly hanging in the forefront of my conscience. I'm now managing two diseases instead of the usual one, and I'm going to do my darndest to stay afloat.

Also Zevia soda sucks. Don't drink it or buy it. It tastes like cotton candy made in the Chernobyl sarcophagus.

Tuesday, August 4

I'm only here so I don't get fined.

I originally joined Tinder because I thought it would get me over a break up more quickly. Instead, I only used it when I was drunk, made some regrettable mistakes, and deleted the app up until a few days ago because I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of possibly igniting a relationship based on the fact that someone accidentally swiped right.

Many Tinder users initially go by sight, which creates pressure to choose the right pictures to represent their personality. You can't have too many selfies or the viewer might think you don't have any friends to take pictures of you. You also need to think of a witty description of yourself in order to get that elusive right swipe from the prowling Chad, Brad, or James.

After my return to Tinder after a two year hiatus, I had some remodeling to do. My interior design capabilities with the app are somewhat limited based on the amount of filtered pictures I can upload and the few yet honest ways I can describe myself.

I carefully chose a collection of pictures what I think accurately represent me on most days. The picture where I was blacked out during the Super Bowl used to be precisely on target with who I was, but I figured I'd leave it in to show my continuing support for the Seahawks. The rest of the images are me with and without glasses, me with and without a cat, and a selfie on a good day or when I was bored in the evening when I was wanting to drink but couldn't. Is narcissism better than alcohol?

And then comes the description. I only have 500 characters! Surely I can't talk about how I'm extremely uncomfortable being alone and newly sober and getting reacquainted with Seattle after only six days and how I do stand up but I don't really want to talk about it ever and how I can never take a break up easily and how I always have to have a boyfriend how I'm constantly questioning whether or not I've made the right decision I mean who wants that haha!


Instead of addressing all of the difficult facets of my life, I went with a small list of things I enjoy, ranging from movies to food to activities to authors. I included my Instagram handle in case interested parties want to see what I'm actually up to on a day to day basis, which as of recent, has been moving across the country, reuniting with kitty, and staying sober.

So far, the results have been mixed. "You're gorgeous, let's get a cheeseburger" is really all someone needs to say before I start imaging their last name with my first name and researching what the projected housing market will look like in 5 to 10 years. I potentially have something set up for tomorrow evening, and we've been able to conjure an "lol" out of one another. So we'll see.

Tinder has also made me realize how incredibly shallow I am. Other Tinder users have spoken of this phenomenon called "Running Out of Likes" and I still have no idea what this means. I'm very, very picky in regards to picking a potential mate out of an arena filled with backpackers/hikers/wanderlusters, confused Asian dudes, guys who rode an elephant that one time, men who are under the impression that catching a big fish will be a real panty dropper. I've swiped right on maybe a total of 10 guys in the last two days, guys who have something in common with me and who aren't just in it for the story. They have a good smile, a good relationship with their mother, a happy dog who looks well cared for, and a penchant for Netflix and Hemingway.

When I redownloaded the app, I thought to myself now this is just for fun. Don't get caught up with anything too soon. You haven't even been here a week. And then another part of me was like GOD I'VE ALREADY BEEN HERE A WEEK LETS GOOOOOO. So here I am, swiping with an open mind about where things will lead and where they won't lead. In my profile description, I didn't disclose that I'm sober or in recovery. I figured that conversation was best left to two people getting to know each other in person and not an app that reads alcohol makes me a nasty person and has complete control over my life. I didn't include it because I didn't want to be judged after a simple viewing, and I want someone to respect my life choices.

Why am I even using Tinder? Am I bored? Am I lonely? Did I think moving to Seattle would solve my loneliness problem and I'm subconsciously disappointed? Do I like asking myself questions in text? Initially, I rejoined Tinder for completely different reasons: to ignore another break up, sabotoge my emotions through the possibility of sex, and use it to my advantage in other areas of promiscuity. But now that I've regained emotional consciousness, I have my wisdom about me and maybe some flirtatious dialogue that seems incredibly foreign. I see it as mostly a social experiment. If it goes well, it goes well. As for now, I'm straightening my lab goggles and sharpening my pencil. Notes will be taken, tests will be conducted.

I'm the Primrose Everdeen of Tinder.

Sunday, August 2

The Six Month Itch

"Your nails have gotten longer."
"Huh, yeah I guess they have."

When I returned home, my mom commented on how my nails had gotten longer. They're manicured, smooth, red. My claws are no longer bitten to the quick, hurting and pulsating from masticating anxiety from the night before.

Maybe once a week or so, I experience yet another benefit of sobriety. In the beginning, it was mostly about outweighing the consequences of my drinking with positive changes to remind me what I will lose if I relapse. Here's a list of some benefits I've come to realize throughout the course of my recovery:
  • I always know where my car is. 
  • When I check my bank account, there aren't any unexpected surprises like rounds for the band, late night pizza(s), or purchases from Ebay to supplement my denim infatuation. 
  • I wake up in the morning and check my phone to see what other people are doing, not to find out what I might have done the night before. 
  • I wake up bright. I'm not foggy, nauseated, ashamed, or guilty.
  • I shower because I should and not because I need to. 
  • On a related note, I've become more...girly? I'm now taking pride in my appearance and not leaving the house in an old t-shirt and sweatpants. Winter made it incredibly easy to not care about my appearance, but now that I'm sober in the summer, I'm conscious of how I'm visually presenting myself.
  • I'm making appointments and keeping them.
  • I'm emotional because I'm feeling something and not drinking to not feel. 
  • I'm attending celebrations or gatherings with the purpose of participating in the event with others and not using the event as an excuse to get shitfaced on free booze from an open bar.
  • I don't spend my days telling people "it'll never happen again" only to continue my regrettable behavior hours later. I keep my promises. 
  • When I'm bored, I'm able to find an activity to occupy my time instead of immediately running to Central Avenue Liquors to get beer and pass the time. 
  • I'm proud of the person I am. 
These benefits remind me of why I don't drink. Finally, the good in my life is outweighing the negative, the stagnant, the faulty, the abrasive. My aim is to be cognizant of the fact that I'm nearing six months of sobriety, and that I can't get comfortable. I've been told by numerous people that six months is around the time where people start to question their commitment to sobriety and start wondering if they can simply moderate or social drink. But I can't trick myself into going back to where I was tenfold, thus erasing my progress as an adult of whom I can be proud. 

On Friday evening, I went to my second AA meeting in Seattle, err, the second AA meeting in Seattle that I've taken seriously. I got my five month medallion while me and 50 other Seattlites made ourselves at home in a backyard in the Central District. A golden retriever even slept in the background while we shared stories of shame, helplessness, and triumph. The weather was sublime while we shared under the flight path, trying to amplify our voices under slowing engines. After the meeting, I ran into someone who I knew back in middle school. It's been about 13 years since we've seen or even thought of each other, I'm guessing. We caught up a bit and left on good terms with a smile and a fist bump. Seattle is a small world, but AA is even smaller.

My current endeavor is finding costumes for myself and my mom for a Roaring 20s garden party in a few weeks. Flapper outfits are either crazy cheap or authentic and very expensive. I guess the art deco fashion of Hemingway's era is coming back in a fierce way, modern materials with classic shape and swing. The garden party is an annual fundraiser for the 34th District Democrats. Supposedly I'll be volunteering for some of the event and MCing a few of the contests for the evening. I've also been tasked of creating a papier mache Donald Trump pinata. I'm not sure if I should fill it with Monopoly money or contributions to the Bernie Sanders campaign.

The Mariners are in Minneapolis playing the Twins for a four game series. It's felt good to relax and get caught up on my home team, new trades, old positions, familiar names. Most of my childhood was spent obsessing over the former Pilots. 1995 was a magical year for baseball and for those of us entering second grade. I still remember the line up, Joey Cora starting off with Edgar batting clean up, Buhner's stiff batting stance and Randy's custom made cleats. Seattle was finally excited about something. Both the Twins and the Mariners have new managers to break in this season. I'm still unsure which team is the home team. I like this Iwokuma pitcher. My oh my.

I got my new Washington license and my Washington plates. I sat out in the sun trying to pry off my bug splattered Minnesota plates with the tiniest of screw drivers. Rust and salt and snow made the screws strip a bit but I now officially have an instate vehicle. I have such a good little car. I put 1,800 miles on it in three days and it's dirty and gross and muggy and it's still my little friend who can go for miles. Happy car.

The Blue Angels are warming up, so yay for military airshows! From the house, I can see little dark triangles swooping behind the trees followed by a noise that kitty isn't too comfortable with yet. Seafair weekend will be just another weekend for me: sleeping in, trying to carb count correctly, rubbing kitty tummies, and staying safe, happy, and healthy.