Addiction · Autobiography · Mental Health · Relationships

Two Years Sober

"Windows Molde Norway abstract" © Les Haines, 2012. CC BY 2.0.
Windows Molde Norway abstract” © Les Haines, 2012. CC BY 2.0.

Tomorrow will be my second sober anniversary and I am terrified. So terrified I’ve found myself lying on the floor, still in my coat and scarf, kicking the wall, and sobbing. So terrified I drove to my parents’ house after dinner to cry onto my mother’s shoulder. So terrified I’m struggling to find the words to write about it. Terrified.

Because the second year is when I learned that not drinking isn’t the end of the battle. That I’m still sick. I still have bipolar disorder and it’s still something that needs to be managed. The second year is when I learned that there’s a difference between giving your all and giving enough.

The second year is the year I learned that yes, I have PTSD. Yes, some horrible things have happened to me. Yes, I’ve been hurt by people, but they didn’t do this to me. The second year is when I learned that no matter how much other people have done, the fact that I’m sick is nobody’s fault and I have to stop blaming them. That blaming them is just letting them do it again and again.

This year I finally learned that if I’m ever going to get better I have to mourn the loss of normality. I have to let go of the idea that if I can just stay sober everything will be okay. I learned I have to manage my medication, go to therapy, exercise everyday, avoid caffeine, get regular sleep, and write daily. Just like not drinking, these aren’t options for me. They’re not perks. It’s just what I have to do if I want to be okay. And I want to be okay.

If I’m going to do that, some things have to change. I have to admit that I’ve been wallowing in my marriage in order to avoid discovering who I really am without booze. That I’ve let a relationship become my defining attribute, so that I don’t have to figure out what my defining attribute is. What I want it to be. I’m going to have to admit that I’ve been using love and food and video games and sleep to prop me up the way bourbon used to.

I feel like I just barely made it to the finish line this year. I feel like a dry drunk. But I also know that–just like when I quit drinking–realizing what I need to do is half the battle. So in the next year I’m going to give myself the space to figure out who I am as a person. Give myself the space to manage my illness effectively. The space to stop blaming my character flaws on what happened to me in the past. The space to stop confusing character flaws and symptoms.

Because when I hit my third year, I want to know I earned it. I want to know I’m stronger. I want to know I did it different.




It’s close to a year since my first post on this blog. I can’t believe how fortunate I am to have met so many wonderful people through this endeavor. Thank you so much for taking time out of your lives to read about my life, my struggles, my accomplishments. Your messages, comments, and sharing of my work have had such an impact on my life. Every day I lean on that connection, on your support, love, and validation to continue moving forward. I promise I will work hard to continue to provide the same support and compassion to you over the next year.

To celebrate our anniversary I’m publishing my first book. Unrailed is a collection of fifteen short creative nonficton pieces and six poems. You may recognize many of the pieces from this blog, but they have all been revised and thoroughly edited, each one more haunting and beautiful than before. It’s a powerful collection, a stunning representation of the kind of writing I do and the kind of hard work we all do.

Unrailed will launch on November 3rd and is available for pre-order now. I hope that you take the time to read it and reflect on how far we’ve come together. It’s been a rough year, I know. But we made it through intact. We now have a better understanding of who we are and what we’re capable of.

I couldn’t have done this without your love and support. Both the release of Unrailed and the year in general. You have all taught me so much about vulnerability, about strength, about belief. I hope that this book serves as a valuable reminder that you have the same power I do. That you’re worth the fight.

Thank you for one hell of a year. Onward.

Autobiography · Mental Health · Relationships


"Empty House" © Jeff Garris, 2011. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Empty House” © Jeff Garris, 2011. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
I rock back and forth. The ever-present, “I can’t do this,” dripping from my lips.

Mason whispers into the nape of my neck, “Yes. You can. I believe in you.”

I inhale sharp and nod my head. Hemingway running through my mind, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

In therapy Leif won’t even let me entertain the idea. “You are not uniquely broken. It sounds like you want to create different habits and responses. There’s no reason you can’t do that.”

I stare at him and bite my lip and start to cry and nod again. “Okay,” I say. Though it feels like it’s more for his benefit than anything.

Strangers leave blog comments as votes of confidence. I get pumped up for a moment, but I inevitably remember that I don’t believe any of it. That I think it’s all bullshit. Like I know some great secret no one else does. Truth is, no matter how much everyone else believes I am capable of making it out of this, I’m not.

I’ve always asked if bridges were high enough when crossing them. Always known where the hotels with balconies are. Always been aware of how long it takes to get a gun in the city I’m living in. I’ve always had a running list of options. Always known I am just biding my time until I break down well enough to go.

I talked openly about how I wouldn’t make it to twenty-five. But rarely mention how I continue to assume I won’t make it another year. Every birthday comes as a complete shock to me. Every anniversary.

But they’ve been right all along. I’m the one who has been foolish.

Inhale sharp. Nod my head. Mean it. This year I’ll learn to believe it.

I love you, Mase. Happy anniversary.

September 2015.
September 2015.