Ah, the Land of 10,000 Mistakes.
Returning to Minneapolis was surreal. I immediately went on autopilot while navigating through the streets and highways of the city that simply sent me on my way back in July. I returned with a Washington drivers’ license. Presents for a friend’s new baby. A new hair color. New jokes. An 8 month sobriety chip.
I left because there was too much pain to face. It was crippling, daunting. I wasn’t at the point in my sobriety where I could face my problems head on without resorting to drinking, without fear. Instead, I crawled under the covers and cried, hoping that things would be solved by morning. But I returned. I was stronger with what I have now than when I packed up my car for the familiar yet great beyond.
I am incredibly grateful for a conversation I had over the summer. I let myself reconnect, communicate, feel. Mutual understandings resurfaced and quickly left the restaurant to be continued in an old bedroom. That conversation saved me. I returned to Minneapolis because of that conversation, to continue the spark of intense feelings that remained dormant for so long. The conversation remains open, raw, and real. I ruined it before, when I was a mess and lost control of myself on so many occasions that really ended up being two years. Part of recovery is not only making amends with others, but making amends with yourself. I said incredibly hurtful things to people. I was selfish, self-seeking, destructive, a person I wasn’t proud of. Someday, I'll forgive myself. If I go back to drinking, I become that ugly, malicious person all over again. I don’t want to fuck this up. I can’t. I won’t.
When you are in sobriety, you have two birthdays: the birthday that hopefully gave you a birth certificate and happy parents, and your sobriety birthday. My birth certificate birthday is this coming Monday, November 23. For the last eight years, I’ve been shithoused on every single birthday that marked yet another drunken lap around the now hidden sun. This time last year, I had every reason to celebrate: I was on vacation, it was my birthday, Thanksgiving was around the corner, I had zero responsibilities or accountability, and the Seahawks were successfully keeping teams in the NFC West division to just field goals. I had every reason to drink. I had more reasons to drink than not to drink.
And things slowly started to fall apart. It was after my short vacation to Arizona that my dad called my mom to inquire about my drinking habits in a rare instance of communal conversation. I was struggling at the job where my boss would eventually “have no more work left for me to do.” I was an outcast because of my boyfriend, who became my only friend. Everyone around me cared about me and realized I needed help before I did. It took an average of four or five beers to even get me to a steady buzz. A shot whisky was always ordered with a beer. The whereabouts of my car were often unknown.
Until February 14. Most people see that date and think, “ooh, Valentine’s Day!” But in my situation, I see that date and think, “that’s when I hit my rock bottom, and they don’t sell greeting cards for that.” It’s an interesting phenomenon when you first enter AA. Other members will ask you, “what’s your birthday?” And for a split second, you have to remember. You’ve had the same birthday your entire life, and now there’s another one thrown into the mix. In the month of November, I passed my 9 month mark. I have less than 90 days until my birthday, even though my birthday is on Monday.
On Monday, I’ll be sober. I am going to have dinner with my mom and go to the open mic I regularly attend. Even though I can only account for today, I know that I’ll be sober on Monday. I owe it to myself and the others in my life who I have painfully neglected. There are a lot of principles in AA I need to remember: keep it simple, one day at a time, take it easy, such and such. I think sometimes I get too caught up if I’m working the program the right way, or that I’m accomplishing things in a timely manner. In reality, I have my life back. Recently I’ve had trouble coping with the idea that I’m almost 28, moved back in with my parents, and I don’t keep a regular 9-5 schedule like most cogs in the machine. By society’s standards, I failed. I didn’t get a well-paying job right out of college, pay off my student loans with said lucrative job, marry the first person who put it in me, pop out two kids and share it relentlessly on Facebook, drink like normal people. I am not that person and society shames me for it. My friends shame me for it. Those unaware of my situation shame me for it. "Oh you don't work? Why? You don't have your own place? Why?" Because I'm trying to get my shit together, that's why. Sorry I'm not bending over backwards for a white picket fence, but buying a home or saving for retirement is not in this pack of horribly bent cards right now.
If I've learned anything sobriety, it is the aspect of patience. Doing step work takes time. Writing down all of my fears, resentments, admissions of wrong doing, and my entire sexual history (which is spotty, at best) will take time. Accepting painful circumstances in the past will take time. I can't rush recovery, the same way I can't rush relationships, friendships, job opportunities, etc. I'll get there at some point or another, but right now I need to focus on today and not all of the possible downfalls I'll experience throughout the rest of my life. Time is a flat circle...or something.
I've also learned to be grateful. Often times, I am quick to rush into worst case scenario mode, or crisis mode. This situation is the worst! And because of its negative aspects, I'm going to feel all of the emotions and have a brief mental breakdown in the laundry room. Recently it's been I'm 27 and moved back in with my parents. But today, it's at least I have a college education and parents who will take me in during a time of need. That blanket is scratchy. But fuck it, it's still keeping me warm. I have never been a person who has looked to the bright side of life, ever. Someone close to me once said to me, "Liz, you could have the perfect house, a yard, a great life, and you would still find something to complain about." I need to relax and try to find that little shimmer of...not bullshit within the problems life can present. One of the most important principles in recovery is "progress and not perfection," so this will undoubtedly take time, the time that is supposedly a flat circle.