Addiction · Autobiography · Mental Health


23” © Mary Jo Boughton, 2015. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

It was my mom who told me I’d been sober for twenty-one months this Tuesday. Because I don’t celebrate small victories. Anything less than a year doesn’t mean anything. They tell us “one day at a time”, but I have trouble giving praise between the markers. Only get credit for the grand achievements, for the fireworks, for the things that take breath away.

Exhausted. The lack of worthy accomplishment leaves me feeling like a constant disappointment. And failing every day just makes you want to quit. That’s why people like me relapse. That’s why we don’t reach our goals. That’s why we stop trying.

In therapy I told Leif, “I come up to the edge of my natural abilities and I just… I quit. I get terrified of failure and I just walk away. I don’t know how to push.”

He looked at me like he didn’t believe an ounce of it. An explanation drenched in feelings of inadequacy. My words refusing to give me any credit. He said, “You know how. You’ve never had to push this hard before, but you know how to.”

I just shook my head.

In the morning I went running. I left my GPS watch. I left my heart rate monitor. I brought my headphones. Bright red shoes pounded pavement in the dark. Bob Dylan wailed in my ears, “It’s-a hard, it’s-a hard, it’s-a hard rain’s a-gonna fall…”

I ran and I tried to forget that I should be running faster. That I should be able to run further. That this hill shouldn’t be so challenging. And at some point in the second mile I did.

For just a few moments toward the end of my run my brain got quiet. The only time during the day when I didn’t think about how disappointed I am in myself. Didn’t think that I’m completely incapable of any of this.

I’m not even sure how I think I can do this wrong. All this. I just get the idea in my head that there is a way I am supposed to be living. Because I think I’m broken. Because I think I am somehow uniquely fucked up.

Or maybe I want to be. Maybe I need to be because I recognize that person. I know the version of myself that needs fixing. And that’s what this is all about really, isn’t it? The great realization that if I do the things I say I want to do I will become a person I don’t recognize. That if I get healthy and safe I will have no idea who I am.

Not knowing who you are is way more terrifying than being a junkie, a drunk, a basket case, a slut. Not knowing what labels to put on yourself feels aimless, like floating, a sheet blowing in the wind. You start to wonder if maybe you don’t mean anything at all.

23 thoughts on “Capture

  1. what a story you have there Ruby. We are not our stories,tho we love them, especially the ones we tell ourselves to keep us stuck. You may feel safe where you are stuck but you don’t know who you are…the only way to find out is to try new things, push those boundaries. Or you can just continue to exist in the hell you know, because it’s safe.
    Maybe not comfortable, surely not happy, but’re safe.
    You will recognize the person you might become, are capable of becoming, because she is you. I know change, I know pushing through, forcing the limits, the edges. trying new things with varying degrees of success but trying them. For me it became change or die. Is it that time for you?
    21 months of sobriety is an amazing thing.

    I look at the exercise you do, the running, and I wonder if a change might help. Stop running, start sitting. Start moving slowly and fluidly thru life vs barging thru, forcing, pushing.
    Allow change to happen, don’t make it. Let go of control.
    These are yogic principles, buddhist thoughts…quiet down. sit. allow. be present.

    I apologize if I am too forward, too pushy with my thoughts. You write so openly, I cannot help but respond in kind.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like the idea of stillness. Of letting go. It sounds so peaceful in practice, but so terrifying in action. How lovely it would be to not feel like I had to (impossibly) be in control of everything. But how hard to learn to actually do that!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. it is hard, so hard.
        worth it though. For me it started in my body, ovine meditation. That is still my go-to, if i can’t sit with my thoughts. But not running, hardening, …..melting,


  2. My husband once said something to the effect of, “I think you like being depressed.” I don’t remember the context, but that is never the right thing to say, ever. I’ve thought about that a lot since he said it though, and I’ve wondered who I would be if I wasn’t depressed, if I would still write the way I do and such. I have proof that I don’t like being depressed though, I had a few years of “partial remission,” and I actually enjoyed my life for awhile. Then the disease threw back it’s head and laughed at me, it ripped my remission right out from under me and threw me back in the pits of darkness. Now I am more lost than ever. So trust me when I say that you will enjoy discovering yourself outside of the depression. When you get the chance, take it! xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. [My own focus is much as ‘mishedup’ mentions above.]
    We are all uniquely and beautifully fucked up. There is no wrong way to be. There is only being you, in this moment right now, and the next…
    Yes it’s easy to start running away from yourself. It’s also easy to feel comfortable in the uncomfortableness, and the labelled boxes. I’ve been there often as well.
    Just remember those negative thoughts are the products of a disrupted mind. They are NOT true. While your honest path lies beyond all this, the present always has meaning.
    I am learning the benefits of the Stillness and Letting go through Mindfulness practice. Maybe there is something for you in there too.


  4. Ruby, the image of you pounding the streets listening to Bob Dylan resonates with me. Why do we turn to music when we feel like shit; when we feel fucked up; when we feel we want to drink? Why do we get solace from other people’s words? Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Richard Wagner! If you get a chance, please listen to this Dylan cover by Camille O’Sullivan. I play it full volume when I need to immerse myself in something outside of my craziness. Kind regards. John.


    1. I lean heavily on all those people in particular, John. I guess they know what we don’t. Or at least they have the words when we don’t.

      That cover is incredible. Thank you so much for sharing.



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s