45 Days

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.


24 thoughts on “45 Days

  1. Hi Joe,

    Congratulations on 45 days. I know others who have traveled that road and you have my good thoughts. I have a lot of faith in you. Your music is too important to the world for not to be straight and sober.


  2. Joe, thank you for opening your heart and letting us see the demons before you expunge them. Just a wonderful reminder of our humanness. In your sharing, you are also teaching. Hang in there bro.

  3. An astonishingly lucid piece of writing about the subjective reality of addiction and the first stages of recovery…I hope many many people read it. Glad you decided to get off the elevator now instead of later!

  4. You hear a lot about the artist temperament, Joe. I think what creates that perception is that great art comes from the heart and soul, the best and the worst of what makes us human. To “go there” is a path few really have the nerve to tread. And then there are those who seem to be thrust there.

    Whatever you have to offer, it is beautiful, it is enough. These are not just words all these people are posting. We feel you. We pray for you. We appreciate you.

    I hope your journey allows you to feel all of that about yourself too in a real way. You are Joe– amazingly talented and sensitive, funny and caring Joe. I’m happy to know you even a little.

    Thank you for sharing your journey in song and in words.

  5. Thank you for the great read! I’m very happy that you have chosen life! There’s living, and then there’s quality of life. It warms my heart to witness you preserving the gift that you are. I know that you are not aware of this, but a few days ago, I introduced you and your music to 1,283 women Veterans, to assist with their awareness, knowledge and understandng of trans folks. You are important, your purpose matters much.
    If you ever need someone to talk to or a place to run away from home to, we’re on FB, message me, Brother.

  6. Joe, Congrats on 45 days and sending you good thoughts for each day to come. I lost track of your blog when I switched e-mail providers and had a computer crash about the same time. Glad to be in touch again. Just wanted to let you know too, that I put one of your groups pictures up as my computer background. Everytime I log on and off I see you guys and send the good vibes your way. Keep putting the positive things out there in the universe and grow with that! All the best my friend!

  7. I’m at 90 days tomorrow and was feeling sad and sorry for myself tonight. Things don’t really feel like they’ve gotten better…in so many ways now booze feels like it was the least of my problems. Trouble…sure…but it made getting by each day somehow easier. Now that it isn’t an option (not even one I’m really interested in)…I’m adrift. What a gift to find you again Joe tonight…having lost track of where on these tubes your writing was falling a few years back when the newness of my trans life had finally worn off. Thanks for being where you are and reminding me its ok to be where I’m at too. Raising a Red Bull to you…and better days for us both

  8. Funny I should read your blog tonight….just back from a meeting. I have practically worn out my “Take Flight” cd, which has not left my car cd player since I got it! (Saw you at Barns of Wolftrap and fell in love with your music in November!) I am coming up on 2 years sober next month! I know you are probably tired of hearing it….but it does get better! The first 3 months were the toughest by far for me. I called it the “tsunami of emotions”….one minute I was seeing only sunny skies and the next moment I was drowning in a sea of tears, tumbling in waves of fear, anxiety and doubt. My drinking led to what I call, “the BLACK”….the murky, tar-like recesses of shame, guilt, fear and self-loathing deep within me that I drank to forget and avoid feeling, never understanding that the drink fed the BLACK. After those first few months of sobriety, the BLACK began to fade. By 6 months sober, I could only feel the slightest traces. Today, it is completely gone.

    I am still left with me…. twice divorced, lesbian, alcoholic in recovery! (My acceptance curve for my sexuality was about as slow as my acceptance curve for my addiction!). But life is so much better sober! Stripped of my addiction, finally comfortable with acceptance and living life on life’s terms! Life doesn’t necessarily get easier with sobriety, but dealing with life does!

    Anyone who has listened to your amazing music and powerful lyrics can testify to your beauty, strength and perseverance! Stay strong, breathe deep, share, work your program and keep on….one day at a time. I (and so many others) am cheering you on!

  9. Hey Joe, a friend posted this and it really touched me. i’ll be 10 years sober this coming august, and yeah it did get better for me, so much better, it’s definitely not easy; but y’know, i’m still the same person i was, just with a little more money for cat food and repairs to my mobility scooter. Well, more than that really, so much more. Wouldn’t change this for the world in fact. Things change, whether we want them to or not, and it’s really amazing to hear from folks trying to find a way, like you said, to get out of the way and let them. Sounds like you’re honouring that best you can.
    All the very best to you.

  10. Hi Joe,
    Thank you for sharing those very honest thoughts with us. I saw you all once in Sebastopol and was blown away by the band. I didn’t know your back-story and journey though. What a ride!
    The path you’re on now seems like the right one, albeit, a tough one. Already, the rewards seem clear.
    Thanks again for opening up.
    Be well
    Chipley Trombley

  11. Oh Joe. You are so eloquent. Please, please, please keep writing – this blog, your songs, maybe someday a book, I hope. (Doesn’t have to be about anything you’ve already written about – just keep putting words together. You do it so very well.)

    Thank you so much for this entry – it has been an inspiration for me. I did not realize that have been afraid of losing an identity if I get sober. Keeping my parents’ rituals since their deaths has kept me thinking I have to drink or else I’m not truly my parents’ child. They’re not around anymore to tell me I’m wrong. My story is different than yours, and yet, we’re all the same in some ways. We have the identity we have built on purpose – i.e. the story we WANT to tell the world, then there’s the one we wish we hadn’t built in the throes of addiction, and deep down, the one we hold close to our hearts and fear to let go of, despite the fact that it is a huge part of the reason we keep using.

    Your blog entries are so insightful, so beautifully textured and rich. Maybe you set out not to be anybody’s inspiration, but if that is the case, sorry – you have failed completely! 🙂 Just keep working at getting well and telling the rest of us that it is indeed, possible to heal and come out better than ever. More important, just keep working at getting better and being the amazing human being that you are – the rest of us will muddle through if you decide that the only person you have to take care of is you. Which is, of course, the whole point.

  12. Joe, I hope you will continue to write. I love to read your perspective on things that lots of people go through. Frankly, you have made me consider that I need to be a little easier on my x-husband the alcoholic. I didn’t realize the darkness he was living in until I read the first few paragraphs here. I thought i might even share this with him so he knows he is not alone. Please keep writing…it is such a joy hear what you have to say, even if it doesn’t seem earth shattering or enlightening, it is to someone.

    Blondie in PA

  13. tying one’s shoes, one at a time, is a fine start. you should be proud of yourself: we are all certainly very proud of you. do what you can, when you can, and ask for help when you need it. we love you for everything you are, were, and ever will be. peace and strength to you, dear friend.

  14. You have a great attitude and the right way to look at things. Tiny steps will get you where you need to go. You will know when you are ready to take a bigger step. And then you may have to go back to tiny steps. Either way you get where you need to be.

    Big Congrats on 45 days !!!!

    May your recovery bring you eventual peace.


  15. When you get to 45 days the ONLY important thing, the ONLY important thing, Joe, is to work on 46. I have been sober for over 24 years and I get to three-four meetings a week. It takes a long time to wade through the static and debris in the recovery community but we must wade through it. The truth is there and the support that we need is there.
    I just finished a weekend where I attended two Girlyman concerts and enjoyed seeing Ingrid Elizabeth. I recently joined a Girlyman cover band and I’m excited to sing your part when we do Hallelujah accapella.
    Use your recover resources and you will grow to deal with every issue in your life as long as you take care of the most important one: sobriety!

  16. Your comments above touched my heart and your last line, “Things change. I suppose the trick is to get out of the way and let them.” was so insightful for all of us. Having walked (and still walking) this path with Jill, I can only send you love and light and blessings on this journey. You are one courageous human being and I love you.

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