Autobiography · Relationships


"Sprouting!" © mekabra, 2009. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Sprouting!” © mekabra, 2009. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
I tell Andrew hearts always break in the same places. The weak points are sought out and shattered over and over again. We do not grow back stronger. It is the same hurt every time.

We know these feelings. We recognize them. We remember just how to scream into pillows and sob on staircases. We’ve been here often. We’ll return before we’re ready.

At dinner Mark stops me when I say, “I think I’ll be fine.” He holds steady until I meet his eyes.

“No. There is no ‘think’,” he says gruffly, “I know you’ll be fine. Better than fine. I know it.”

I feel almost guilty for believing him. For acknowledging the fact this is just another one of those moments we go through, that go through us. That we always walk away from. Every time.

Over and over I repeat the story. Each time becoming further removed from it. Until it’s nothing but a monologue I recite when prompted. Something I can put down and walk away from. Like the dress I threw in the trash because I was wearing it when Mason told me he wanted a divorce. Pretending I could separate myself from the statement by separating myself from the clothing.

No, it may not be that easy, but it is similar, isn’t it? We hand the words off to anyone who will listen, keeping only a tiny piece of them in a coat pocket to be discovered next season. And bit by bit time softens the edges of everything. Staircases worn down after thousands of years of footsteps. We do not remember what they looked like when they were new. That is not what makes them precious.

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 · Personal Development · Poetry · Writing

New Book!

Holy smokes, today’s the day, y’all. The digital and paper copies of my brand new book, Unrailed, are now available for purchase on Amazon.
Recently, I told you all about this collection and how proud I am of it. Today, I thought I’d share a selection from it. An earlier version of this piece first appeared on one of my favorite blogs, Running on Sober. It was also my first piece to be featured on Freshly Pressed.
I hope you enjoy this sneak peek into Unrailed. If so, please consider picking up a copy.
Ruby ❤

Summertime Sobriety
At least once during the course of any given day I’m going to think, “This is it. This is when I relapse.”
Maybe it’s when I’m walking home from work. The sun kissing my shoulders and I’m not sure if I have anyone to come home to yet. Maybe it’s when we’ve closed up the office and my colleagues have gone out to bars or met up for dinner dates. Maybe it’s when I’m taking my lunch at the park and everyone has their toes in the grass, a beer in their hand. Those quiet little moments that make me feel like I don’t belong anywhere sneak up on me.
A pint of lager in her hand, she asks me, “Does it bother you when I drink around you? I mean, you’ve never said anything, so I assume not, but I figured I should ask or something…” Her voice trails off as I press my lips to one side and nod in appreciation.
“Nah. I mean, I made the choice to be here and I knew y’all would be drinking. It doesn’t bother me.” And it’s not a lie. At least, I need it not to be. It’s true that I can always just turn down the invitation to these outings. But while we’re talking about it, I’m playing out what my relapse is going to look like.
It’s going to be a summer day, just like this one. Just warm enough for a dress and cowboy boots. A little bit of cloud cover, so sunglasses are an option, not a necessity. The sidewalk cafés are going to be full of smiling people just off work. Everyone eating two-for-one tacos and taking shots of tequila. I’ll have had a moderate day. Not particularly awful or stressful or even interesting.
I’ll lock up and start walking home. Wonder what Mason is working on, if he’s home, how his day was. Flip through my phone to see if anyone sent an invitation that didn’t start with, “I know you don’t drink, but…” Brush my fingertips along the mortar between the bricks of buildings.
It will occur to me how exhausted I am. How tired I am of saying, “No, thanks. I don’t drink.” Or maybe lacking the motivation to even say that, and instead just shaking my head, hoping they don’t press. Tired of feeling like I’m living on a completely different plane of existence than everyone I work with or befriend.
So sick of how during summertime the living is supposed to be easy, but only because everyone has a frosty, boozy beverage in hand. Everything will start to feel so unfathomably big again. The unbearable heaviness of sobriety. A lifetime of excluding myself from the things other people have no problem with. I’ll take a deep breath, I’ll peek over my shoulder, and I’ll whisper, “I can’t do this.”
Then I’ll duck into a corner store and buy a bottle of bourbon and a pack of cigarettes. Walk down to the lake or the park under the freeway and find a bench. Put my headphones in and blast an album that tugs at my heart and makes me feel like punching through walls. And I’ll sit there and I’ll drink and I’ll smoke and repeat to myself over and over again, “You knew you couldn’t do this. You knew you couldn’t do this. You knew…” It will take me hours to work up the courage to go home again.
But that day wasn’t today. Today I ordered club soda with muddled lime instead. Today I sat on the patio of the dive bar next to the office and I listened to my colleagues laugh. Today I got through it. Tomorrow I’ll get through it again.