93 Days

Laying in the enveloping bed in the little studio shed out in the back yard of my close friend’s house in sunny temperate Long Beach, I am awakened by the sweet sounds of — dogs barking madly at thundering garbage trucks pummeling every trash can on the block and the incessant whirring of yard work tools…. I guess it’s the price paid to live in a place where everything grows year round, fruit and flowers alike, and where each adorable little bungalow is so well manicured as to be post card-worthy. It also may be a hint that there isn’t a very good reason for me to be in bed past 11:30.

I am down here in the world of So Cal making amends and taking little baby steps back into life as I know it. I began to notice at least a few years back that my communication with my most long standing friends and family, the ones that could elicit the truth from whatever complicated scenario I presented them with, was beginning to wane and become strangely cumbersome when it never had before. These are the folks that after a while, if you looked into their faces, all you would see reflected back at you is the stark reality of your situation, how far you have strayed from your center. Also reflected is the sad truth that you are dealing with it by hiding from it and running yourself around in circles with the same old “figuring it out” game, which is only really allowing you to stay where you are. There is nothing new to report, so the reports stop coming. This is one of the major heartbreaks of addiction; one so strong, it actually has the power to keep you drinking. Although it is scary and hurts a little to break this ice, I feel like blood is rushing back into parts of my being that were dying.

Also in this baby step process are these solo shows that I’m doing. Now, I would think it wise to crouch behind a front of stoic professionalism, to give off an air of a seasoned showman who is perfectly at home on stage, but the truth is laughingly far from that. Just writing that makes me chuckle. I grew up on a stage, so to speak, but I was but one chorister in a flock of tiny tuxedos, led by our mama penguin out into the lights, and then back into the safety of the wings. And of course until now, I have had my trusty beautiful and charming redheaded upright bass-playing country femme at my side. The art of stage presence did not come easy to me, even though the music did. An early “Greenwood” show (pre-Coyote Grace) would consist of two promising but timid musicians squeaking out songs that were terribly too fast, staring only at each other or with eyes closed, and barely saying two words in a row. We have come a long way. I mention this because I recently had been finding my mood darkened and defenses up, days spoiled by unexpected sourness, and a wondering of what the hell was wrong with me – only to realize that I was just nervous about the shows, that was all. Identifying unpleasant emotions and dealing with them proactively is a new skill I am honing. I fancied myself fairly adept at it before, but I don’t know how I expected to identify anything through the chemical storm that was my psyche, or to be proactive in any way when life seemed to be hurling itself at me like a barrage of rotten vegetables, my reaction time sorely lacking. There are two ways to see this new sensitivity – the first is to feel victimized by the loud speaker of one’s emotions that now lack a buffer, and the second is to rest easy knowing that the sensations are no longer the confusing byproducts of the many hangovers in play that have to be teased out. What is felt is now accurate, sensible signage; much more easily discernible without all the unpredictable variables to sift through. I choose the latter.

I don’t have a valiant sense of where I am going or a solid faith in what happens next; I don’t feel incredibly sharp or sure footed. I am still avoiding things I am afraid of, having to reroute myself like a toddler back to deal with the issue at hand. I am lonely and I want a lady in my life, but there is good reason why there isn’t one right now. I am restructuring my life from the foundation up, reconnecting and strengthening broken lines of communication, figuring out where I am in the world and what life is like sober. Being blithering drunk and high all the time is a reality unto itself, and one I have investigated thoroughly enough. I will start this day by going outside and picking my lunch from the trees in the neighborhood.


13 thoughts on “93 Days

  1. Joe- I am humbled that you are willing to share your journey with us. You do not know many of us yet you share your journey openly. Whether we have been addicted, had family that was/is addicted, or don’t have any addiction issues in our lives you teach us lessons in honesty, humility, and humor.
    I found Coyote Grace by accident (and was embarrassed that I raved more about CG than I did about the Indigo Girls–who I originally went to see), and I hope that I will be able to stumble upon your solo act as well.
    Without knowing me I want you to know that you are helping to shift my journey just ever so slightly as well.
    Thank you,

  2. Thank you for courageously sharing this journey and proving, once again, what is most intimate is also what is most universal.
    I spent time in Long Beach the first year I moved to the West Coast. My best friends lived there. I lived inland in Fullerton. I have nice memories of that place.
    I am back in Seattle after 10 years in Tucson. I am sort-of getting used to the extremely different environment and milieu. I lived in the NW most of my adult life – most of that was pre-transition. So it is all familiar and very different. I know you will wander up this way sometime. Let me know – I now have a couch for guests.
    Keep writing (as if you could stop). Stay courageous.

  3. Thank you Joe.

    No one really knows where they are going. Only the illusion that they know. And the accompanying anxiety we all share…the anxiety that comes along for the inevitable ride with the unknown. Anyway, life is what happens when we have other things planned. You’re in great company. Most of the human race. Keep on keepin on brother.

  4. This post makes me think of “Song of the Soul” by Cris Williamson. Such a splendid sing-along kind of ballad. I can’t send you a hug from where I am (and I dunno – if I were you, I’d be careful about hugging groupies), but I can stand out in a field and shine my soul towards the stars, to join the light of all the others who are looking for … well, just looking. And when you need it, you look right up and catch some of the shine. Thanks for writing, mister.

  5. Joe:

    I’m a transguy who was formerly married to an alcoholic. I’ve been in AlAnon off and on for a decade, and I’ve made enough amends of my own, and healed and strengthened enough, to welcome the (somewhat) reformed alcoholic back into the lives of me, my wife and our kids. I’ve been through the ringer and learned a lot — transforming from abused het wife and mother to confident transqueer husband and father in six short years. “Upheaval” doesn’t do it justice.

    Still, your writing speaks to me about transformation in a way that’s been yet untouched.

    What you wrote about seeing your alcoholism (and all that comes with it) reflected back to you in the eyes of those closest to you — and how it hurts enough to make you use — is something I knew logically, but something I hadn’t followed through on with my heart. I’m sure he sees it in my face, even when we’re able to share a holiday “family” meal together now.

    I’ll do better. And I hope you see less and less of those reflections in the faces of your loved ones.

    Thank you,


  6. To quote Jeremiah above:

    “While this is your outlet, anothers words often help guide someone home.
    Thanks for sharing.”

    You can’t possibly know how much impact your insight can have on people who read your words, but if it starts to feel like a burden, don’t let that stop you from doing your own work of getting better and better, day after day. I’m going to do a “mom” thing here, and tell you that the most important thing for you to remember is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, doing the healing work you are doing for yourself. Congratulations on how far you’ve come, and safe travels as your journey continues.

    Warm regards,

  7. We’ve never met, and I (unfortunately) missed your last visit to Richmond VA, but I, too, feel compelled to thank you for sharing this. I left my first inpatient program in November last year. I made a mistake not to pursue the program with my full attention thereafter, but these words remind me of why it is important and must remain that way. While I’ve come to understand notions of principles vs personalities, it does benefit me to know someone whose music I enjoy, and who I relate to as a TG person, shares the same struggle that is so often misunderstood. Mad respect.

    Keep on keeping on,

  8. thank u so much for sharing every painful & beautiful word of this post. there is a poem by singer/songwriter erykah badu in which she says, “warriors walk alone”. u as warrior continue to inspire & uplift me with your voice, words, & courage even in the midst of your fear. somedays, i know that i am a warrior too. perhaps we’re walking “alone”, together. blessings to u joe. & thanks for once again, sharing your heart.

    peace, love, & fire-light.

  9. Hey Joe,

    We have only met once several years ago but your music has gotten me through a few rough spots. I am wondering how you are doing. I truly enjoy you blog post and have a great deal of respect for you allowing us all to follow you journey.

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