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.

Autobiography · Mental Health


"Umbrella + Light - 16/365" © [Flávio], 2012. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Umbrella + Light – 16/365” © Flávio, 2012. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Two cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I think that’s how I knew Jon was cheating on me. I’d had my suspicions before, but when I came home that night from my second job and there were two empty cans of PBR on the counter, I knew. He was already in bed. Sound asleep. His twists and turns of slumber disguising anything that had happened there earlier in the evening.

Later Sheldon would send me a text about Jon being out with Stephanie. Would tell me about confronting him at the bar. A lot of people would tell me that. And I asked Jon what he was doing out with her. Asked him if there was anything he needed to tell me. He wouldn’t confirm or deny, just say, “Consider your sources.” As if everyone but him was full of shit. That’s probably why I was so angry with him. Because I asked and he acted like I was the one who needed questioning.

I was giving him an out. He didn’t have to sit me down and tell me that he was sleeping with his coworker. He just had to say, “Yes.” Nod his head. He just had to tell me that all those suspicions were valid. That the smell of perfume in his truck was exactly what I thought it was. That when he said he was working late he wasn’t. It would have been easier, wouldn’t it have? To not have to make anything up. But he didn’t. He just said, “Consider your sources,” and kissed me on the forehead. Like I was the crazy one. Gaslighted before I even knew what the phrase meant.

After finding the beer cans I crawled into bed next to him. Cried quietly into my pillow like I usually did in those months. The next morning I got up, went to school, and signed the papers to drop all my classes. Called my mom. And, with my parents help, packed up all my belongings. Sent a text to Jon that just said, “Moving out.” I didn’t bother telling him that he couldn’t deny it anymore. I figured he’d figured it out by then. And I wanted to kill myself. Not him. That’s the interesting part. I wasn’t angry with him. I was angry with myself. Angry for being the type of person that would be cheated on. As if it had anything to do with me at all. As if it wasn’t just about him.

Months later we’d meet at a bar and he’d ask me to move to Arizona with him. He’d tell me that he wanted me to be his girlfriend again. “Don’t you know I know you were cheating on me the whole time, dude? Why do you think I would run away with you?”

He flinched. Like maybe he thought I hadn’t put it together yet. And then he looked me right in the eyes and asked, “What was I supposed to do? You were crying all the time and cutting yourself and… I need a companion.”

I should have slapped him, but instead I apologized. Apologized like I was something broken that had failed him. And I really thought I did. Thought I did to the point that, to this day, when I catch myself on the floor crying I think my husband should be leaving. That’s depression for you. That’s mental health. That’s low self-esteem. That’s… It.

But I can unlearn it. And he can go to hell.

Autobiography · Mental Health · Relationships


"Puddle Play" © Mary Jo Boughton, 2015. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Puddle Play” © Mary Jo Boughton, 2015. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
I held my breath all the way home. Led Mason back into our apartment, walked to the bedroom, and collapsed on the floor. Hurt went through me like waves and I tried to ride them. Tried to steady my breathing. Say something nice or think of one good thing about myself.

Slouched over to one side, I curled my knees into my chest and sobbed. “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.” Just one of those nights. One of those days. I started running through my list of emergency contacts. Practiced saying, “I need you to take me to the hospital,” under my breath.

Mason came into the bedroom when I started to hyperventilate and throw fists. Coaxed me onto the bed and pulled me into his chest tight. Immobilized, I softened.

“I’m trying. I’m trying. I’m trying so fucking hard and I don’t feel like anything is changing. And I can’t exist like this.”

My own words crashed over me. Each one a sharp epiphany. They pointed to my exhaustion, my self-doubt. They told me the truth about how I’ve been seeing myself lately. Torn between how I’ve been feeling and how I want to feel. Logically, I know I’m a good person who is working hard. Emotionally, I feel like a waste of space who deserves nothing lovely.

“I just… I fucking hate myself.”

And I don’t think I’d ever admitted it to someone else before. I wanted to slap my own words out of my mouth. I knew how hurtful they were, to him and to me. But I didn’t know how to say anything else. It was the only thing that seemed to hold any significance. Any weight of its own.

I didn’t backpedal, though I wanted to. Wanted to make excuses about getting caught in the moment or being overly-dramatic. But that wouldn’t be true. I said it. I meant it.

But not all the time.

Sometimes I think I’m worth the work. Most of the time I know I do good things. And that’s what’s important to remember. When my fingernails are digging into the palms of my hands. When I’m listing the things in the house I need Mase to hide from me. I have to learn to remember it is not always like this.

It usually isn’t. Even though lately it is.