Another February. Another car repair. Another sober day.
This business of shedding identities is no small task. I would have liked getting sober to be like a heavy itchy wool curtain lifting off of my life and exposing a vibrant blossoming enchanting world full of possibility and promise. In a way that is very true, but this scenario skips over a few steps. When the itchy suffocating wool blanket was lifted, I found myself exactly where I had been sitting – in the mud, surrounded by unopened bills, beer bottles and cigarette butts, broken down cars and half finished songs, and a lot of useless junk that had some nostalgic story behind it that escapes me now.. my voice mail maxed out, my inbox a mile long, and my credit card racked up with purchases I don’t entirely remember making. In my stinky clothes and dizzy head, I contemplate picking up the little pieces of trash that are scattered everywhere and taking stock of the bigger things that need to be righted when I am able. I take a big breath, and start by tying my shoe.
At 45 days I have made the space around me a little more presentable, and have identified and prioritized the more major rehab jobs that need to be done. And there they stand, monolithic in my path, obscuring the view out to that fruitful promising land of open doors. They say it gets better, they say that their lives have changed beyond recognition and they are no longer the people the used to be. I have no idea what that will look like for me. Six years ago when I took my first shot of testosterone, I wasn’t even close to fathoming what my life would be like now, how I would feel, what I would care about, how I would look and sound – no clue. And it remains a leap of faith that was integral to my journey, cherished in every way possible (back hair and all), and still evokes the feeling that I dodged a bullet or washed up on the shore. I know I will feel that way about sobriety at some point, but I don’t think I truly have a grasp of how closely that bullet grazed my face. I cant quite see past the rubble yet, and I just need to do one tiny thing at a time.
When one is drunk and high all the time, you exist for a while in a world where ideas seem fantastic and groundbreaking, everything seems available to you, a million doors seem to fling themselves open, and you seem so close to where you want to be all you have to do is round the next corner, and it’ll all start no problem in the morning. It is much less scary to live here instead of the world where people might not like you and that festival you wanted to play at turned you down. But you’ve got it licked, you’re golden from here on out. When the groundhog day mornings pile up however, no mater how high you get you can’t escape the reality that is puncturing your balloon, like an irritating noise that invades your dream and drags you from your sleep. Life starts to suck, the truth of how your choices are actually affecting your life grates on you, and you think you need to get to that seemingly enlightened state to figure out how to fly above this mess. You are ensnared.
For the last few years I drank to ease the pain of knowing I drank too much, there was barely a payoff anymore. I just couldn’t make myself stop, no matter what was at stake. Why it is that people cut their losses at a certain point is hard to say. I am only 29 years old. The raw creative potential energy I possessed had been dumbed down a while back, and I was coasting on the body of work I had amassed thus far. Without creating art, my soul was dying. I had managed to keep the hard drugs that strung out my late teens and early 20’s at bay for what turns out was a relatively brief time, and that leaky dam broke too. That, for me, is too fast a fall to chance, an unforgiving roulette. The buck stops here.
I went to a conference for sober young people last weekend, it was off the chain. Now that is the way to party! I’ve never seen so many Redbull cans and glow sticks. The recognition of the true numbers of one’s kind is irreplaceable. Sure I was possibly the only transguy, but there my teenage story of rehabs and mental hospitals was just par for the course. Everyone had gone through the same dark harrowing near-death experiences and managed to crawl out alive. Sure, no biggie. Whatev. (?!!) To see so many young people so grateful to be sober and to have so much pride in their hometowns was quite a sight to behold. I’m being pretty modest. There were definitely tears. I sense the last major defining thing about me has been embraced. Now I get to deal with the gritty realities of life, like love and death and wrinkles and taxes, just like everyone else.
I used to feel that I would lose an identity when I got sober. Truth is, like it or not, nothing can take away my addictive nature or my war stories. Nothing will take away the insight I will gain from getting and staying sober. I would never trade my past in a female body, not for a million dollars, not for the best penis in the world, and I did not feel that way six years ago. Things change. I suppose the trick is to get out of the way and let them.