The Hunker Bunker

wyeth-day-dream-1980

There is nothing worse than being stuck.

I’ve heard it said, the definition of hell is standing in one place while wishing you were standing in another.

Unfortunately for us, it would appear that the human experience itself is an ongoing parade from one plane of our stuck-ness to the next. We stop. We assess. We look for new places to stand. And, me, I know — I’ve been in this spot before. I’ve felt it. — Change is imminent. I’m on the brink, but, I still find myself looking too far down the path ahead. I get caught up in distances that are too mysterious to gauge.

And, when I become overwhelmed by my own sense of place — or lack thereof — I do it. — I hunker.

My best friend can predict my hunkering — episodes of withdrawal and isolation — with laser-like precision. It’s no secret when I am tired of fighting the good fight. I become exhausted searching for the next, best place. So, I resign myself to my bed where I binge-watch television shows on Hulu and Netflix and tell myself that nothing will ever change. Ever. Ever. Ever.

It sounds terrible. But, in truth, it’s pretty fantastic. Not only is hunkering incredibly relaxing, non-invasive, and cheap — it’s the pre-cursor to breakthrough.

I wrote recently about the advantages of identifying patterns. — How labeling my predictable routines has helped me to see where I was wrong, or where I needed to change, or where I kept putting myself in harm’s way. And, yet another advantage of this self-awareness is — you know when things are about to shift.

Hunkering is a sign. And while I’ll admit that it’s a behavior that sends up some red flags, — mainly a house-ridden, quiet, and antisocial alcoholic — it’s not all bad, I assure you. I’ve camped out in the hunker bunker many times before. I know the drill. And, I know that what follows is the sincere desire, drive, and momentum — to evacuate.

An experienced hunker-er knows that change is inevitable. There are only so many hours we can stay in the good graces of our beds. There are only so many days we can devote to celebrating our own misery. And — there are only so many episodes of The Mindy Project available on Hulu Plus.

The truth is, if we stand in one place long enough, wishing we were standing somewhere else — we will eventually move toward that other place. We move because it is unbearable if we don’t. Sometimes, we don’t even know that we’ve taken the step.

To hunker is to catalyze.

So, I tell my best friend, lovingly — I’m going. Don’t call. Don’t write. Don’t text. I’m headed into the bunker. I know the drill. I celebrate my stuck-ness. I know where I’m disappearing to, and I know what’s coming. And, soon — I’ll emerge.

Because, after standing in the same place for far too long there is nothing else to do — but move.

 

Artwork: Andrew Wyeth; Daydream, Tempera on panel.

Hand Signals

Shadow-puppets-with-hands

I’m laying in Shavasana on the living room floor.

My head is uncomfortably quiet. In the gold plated fixture on the ceiling where a lamp used to be, I see my own reflection. I’m wearing black, and, I stare at my corpse. Palms open. Hands signalling to myself — the crow above.

Since returning to New York, I’ve revisited many things. Most of which, are very different than the way I left them. People. Places. Feelings. While I was gone, I wasn’t the only one reinventing myself. Losing myself. Rebuilding myself. It was all happening here, without me.

The world spins madly on. But, this evening, after returning home from a 12-Step meeting, the only thing spinning inside me is an immense gratitude. — A gratitude so big that it quiets everything else.

In Portland, I’d all but lost my 12-Step program. I crumbled after meeting an unstable and dangerous person, and, it almost took me out of the game that made me. I forgot who I was and how I had arrived at my own sobriety. I connected confused feelings to 12-Step that were better left isolated, and, as a result, I returned to the angry and bitter woman I had worked so hard to leave behind. But, here, back home, I’m peeking through the crack in the door. I am revisiting the program that once saved me — with a childlike caution. There is comfort returning to this thing that never truly left me, though, I tried to tell myself it was gone. Things I once let frighten me, return and become my beacons. My reminders. — We are here. — And, none of us is safe, but, unified, we are all alive and trying.

Change, so incredibly painful, — ushers us forward.

In a church basement, things I had forgotten return to me. My ears, once again, are opened and humbled by someone else’s pain. And, in a strange moment where I feel loss and gain simultaneously, I remember how it feels to have a profound understanding of someone else without knowing them at all — the power just one voice can wield.

In quiet stillness, our hands reach out for each other. I am truly home again.

Nothing is the same. No one is the same.

Visibly shaken, our hands make quick work of signaling our stories. Dark shadows on a bright wall. And, in our shared state of despondent confusion, we are united in possibility.

And gratitude. — Immense and compelling gratitude. — The kind that quiets you for days. — Until you hear your own words leave another man’s mouth.

And, without making a sound, you have returned. To this beautiful, and changed, universe. — Brooklyn.

 

 

Unedited Me

image

I keep asking myself — What am I really looking for in New York City?

I’ve never really sat down and thought about all the things I need in an analytical way. I usually just go with the flow, and, as things change — I make the necessary edits.

I was raised by two lawyers. So, I was editing myself before I even knew writing was a thing. And, when I did learn to write, because my folks had been coaching me, both consciously and unconsciously, to eliminate every unnecessary word, I never did beat around the bush. I always got right to the heart of the matter. Brevity. Was. King.

And, it’s true, frankness is all well and good — in expository writing. Brief writing. Law making. Compliance. Lawyer-y stuff. But, the trouble is — and always has been — I turned out to be more of a hippy-dippy spirit than my parents bargained for. I don’t mind if a sentence ends in a preposition. I won’t obsess about how my sentences begin — so long as I still have your attention when they end.

I see this pattern reflected everywhere. Especially in my sobriety. — I began the process of getting clean and sober, almost 3 years ago, in a completely analytical way. I made a checklist of all the things I could and could not do. I followed strict and specific rules. After all, brevity, I believed, would save me, so — I kept it short and sweet. And now, it’s all become second nature. As it happened, my own strict rules did not end up serving me in the way I had initially envisioned. So, I made edits. — My own, beautiful edits.

In the course of my life, I have edited everything. My love. My words. My body. My thoughts. I’ve tried so hard to squeeze all my things into a very precise framework. And, I truly believed, if I could just make everything fit, this plan of mine would produce some unblemished, polished, finished product. The perfect outcome.

On one of my epic walkabouts around Reed College campus, it hit me. — THE LESSON. — The thing that trumps all things I have learned here, and maybe, that I’ve learned in my entire life.

Scrap the edits.

It’s funny, because when I texted my father, the editor extraordinaire, in a panic about my big move, he texted me back with the great words of Julius Caesar before crossing the River Rubicon: Alea Iacta Est. — The Die Is Cast.

And, I see it now, when I look in the mirror. My face. My frame. My heart.

I see myself. Unedited. — And, my father was right. It is written. I am written.

I have put myself back together. All the things I have built — I have built from nothing. It took the better part of 6 years, but now, I am here. And, it’s too late for edits. — The trouble I could have saved myself. The heartache I could have been spared. The run-on sentences. The extra adverbs. The sentences that end in fucking prepositions. The EVERYTHING. — It’s all right here. She’s right herestaring back at me.

I tell my reflection: We won’t edit our love anymore. We get to own the heart we stitched back together. We won’t settle for less than we deserve. Our words, fair or foul — are ours. And, we speak for ourselves. We are our words — and sometimes — we’re dirty. Our body, it’s imperfect. We acknowledge our flaws. — Sometimes they’re all we have. We listen to our own quiet noise. You and I, we’re a team. The team.

*          *          *          *          *

Editing is for lawyers. And, I, I am a woo-woo-hippy-dippy-rule-breaker — with a semi-structured, somewhat-fool-proof plan. — An imperfect and beautiful representative of an unstable and curious humanity.

Alea Iacta Est. So, I scrap my practical edits and I ask myself again — What am I really looking for in New York City?

But, I think, the better question may be: What’s there, in New York City, looking for me? — The flawed, wounded, empowered and amazing — Unedited Me.

 

 

Bitter(s).

AngosturaBittersAd

I sit at a bar shaped like a horseshoe and I order soda with Angostura bitters.

My 12-Step friends will hold the bitters against me — the same way they do when I lick the side of the vanilla extract bottle while I’m baking. I decide I don’t care.

I’ve been waiting for this.

I sit across from a hipster-geek in a wool, skull cap. The weather’s too warm for that, but, in Portland, no one cares. The bartender showcases a tequila bottle I don’t recognize for two drunk women at the end of the bar. They snack on fried food and chew with their mouths open and they don’t realize how old they look, bat-bat-batting their eyelashes and laugh-laugh-laughing at something the bartender says, but, everyone knows without hearing — it isn’t funny. Their husbands are outside smirking and smoking cigarettes. They turn to gawk at a group of three, tall twenty-somethings who walk by in patterned leggings that hug their perky, little asses.

I hammer my straw down into the ice, like I’m breaking something up. I stir — like there’s whiskey at the bottom of my glass. There isn’t. But, I continue eyeballing the good shit on the shelf.

I pass this bar every day. I look in its big, rectangular windows. Behind my own reflection, I see smiling lips that leave blots of red lipstick on the edges of tumblers and the tips of little, black straws. I wanted this — to sit here. To feel it. Soft leather. My purse dangling from a hook at my knees. I wanted to breathe out. — A release. A homecoming. My heels drawn up against the sides of a bar stool. — I’ve waited.

The perfect conditions. The right amount of cloud cover. The slice of evening right before the Saturday crowds filter in through the angled, double doors. A hum, a quiet energy — like something might happen. But it doesn’t.

I can’t explain it. — It’s not what I wanted.

The hipster-geek doesn’t look up from his smart phone, even when his hand searches along the bar for his drink, which, I am certain, is an old fashioned. The older women, who think they’re young, wave their hands back and forth. Pinot gris sloshing at the sides of their glasses, just barely contained. The bartender reaches for his bar rag, but, in the end — doesn’t need it.

I ask for my bill.

“All you had was soda. Right? We don’t charge for soda.” The bartender walks away from me. So, I thank his back. This is what being castrated feels like — I imagine. Suddenly, I’m worth even less than the dollar it cost for me to keep the seat warm.

Whatever it was I was hoping I’d feel — I know now — I can’t anymore.

The chewing, cackling hags. The lechers with cigarettes that dangle from their lips. The bartender’s display of insincerity and faded tattoos. The smell of spilled beer and dirty mop water. It’s hardly a return to the days I used to live for. — His hand grabbing for mine, while we poured over menus, the sun sinking into another river. Here, I’m lonely. And, the wood of this bar is scratched.

At home, I crawl into bed and I lay very still. I bury a feeling I didn’t know I still had.

I just wanted a moment in the bar. But, the moment’s gone.

Rain taps the window and the cat swats the venetian blind and I miss things I haven’t missed in a long time. Adam. And New York. And our railroad apartment. And they way the sun spilled over Nassau Avenue in the summer when I was twenty-five.

Feeling In A New Era

Photo Apr 27, 3 47 56 PM

I wait for the blow. — But I’m older now. — It takes its time.

I keep thinking about my old roommate. We’d blast Tori Amos and fucking emote. We’d lay all our shit out there. 20-Somethings with nothing to prove. Back in NYC, we’d suck down fat joints and take swigs out of cheap bottles of red wine in our Alphabet City apartment. We fucking felt it. I’d play my guitar and she’d play her keyboard and we sang in a language we both understood. We’d look at each other and we just knew: It was all out there. — We made something.

My emotion hasn’t made anything in years. I’ve poured all my pain into cleaning kitchens — scrubbing out sinks. In my apartment of 3 1/2  years, I have nothing on the walls, save for the dried roses that hang from a smoke alarm, given to me by an ex on Valentine’s Day, years ago. — And, yes, I know. — Bad Feng Shui.

While I’m sure no one wants to hear it from a spry, 31-year-old — I feel fucking old. And, even though I’ve been diffusing citrus oils in my apartment to keep myself from having a psychotic break, I still expect the living room to stink like moth balls and old soup. If I didn’t work until 6PM, I’m certain I’d be eating dinner at 4:45PM every night.

Monday, I sat on my stoop crying. I dyed my hair red and, in the sun, it looks like my head is on fire. It feels that way too. I planted some seeds. I don’t care if they live through the summer or not. I just need something to set down roots. I need something that’s alive to break the surface. I’m tired of waiting for things to grow. And now, I have all this dirt on my hands.

I got an unexpected call from someone struggling with their sobriety. For a minute, I felt like a fraud. Hours before, I was thinking about picking up a bottle of bourbon, and, suddenly, I found myself describing all the things I do to keep myself sober — to someone else — like it’s nothing. Like it’s easy. I’m convincing. I told him — it’s worth it. That, I’m better for it. And, for a minute, I am. Better.

When I hang up the phone, the evening sun’s crept in through the window like my stalker. I’m still sitting in the same place. I haven’t run from the hurt yet. But, my mascara has, and I look like the poster for American Horror Story: Asylum. Sure enough, it’s 4:45PM, but, I won’t be hungry for dinner tonight. — The break-up diet is the world’s best kept secret. — You heard it here first.

I decide to snuggle up to the cat and play Tori Amos through the speaker. I channel a younger version of myself. I mourn her and all the feelings that, once, came to her so easily. I emote — sans my friend and the fat joint and the wine. I try to feel. And, this time, I don’t do it over a sink. But, I end up just talking myself in circles, trying to convince myself of something that isn’t true. I have never been a good liar.

So, to keep myself straight, I re-read my checklist:

  1. Drop off the key to his place.
  2. Drive directly home.
  3. Get on your knees.
  4. Pray for Jackie’s Strength.

 

 

 

 

The Suit Comes Off

draper_3

I dreamt about John Hamm last night. And, it’s not because I’m hot for Don Draper.

Well, not entirely.

I may be sober, but I’m still addicted to Netflix. Hardcore. And, no matter what program I watch, I am constantly being reminded of the things I can’t have.

But, despite being toyed with, I continue watching. I couldn’t possibly blame the media for giving me everything I want. I love it. I need it. I crave it. I watch the smoke rise off the tip of every cigarette. I wait for the camera to pan across each patterned, crystal tumbler, elegantly displaying its smooth, golden whiskey. I watch it, spellbound. And, why shouldn’t I enjoy it? — It’s all the fun that I’m not having.

It’s sexy. It’s social. It’s provocative. And, at the same time, it’s demure and totally natural. It’s masculine and feminine, simultaneously. It’s ageless. It’s casual. And, the pleasure — it’s implied. Addiction — It’s everything we want it to be and it’s everywhere. It’s part of our cultural discussion without ever having to open our mouths.

And, even when it isn’t what we want it to be, addiction is it’s own form of entertainment. There’s Mad Men‘s Don Draper, the whiskey-sipping man of mystery, and, then, there’s the real man, John Hamm — completing his first 30-day stint in a Connecticut rehab facility. TMZ harps on about it. PEOPLE Magazine picks up the story too, and not because they’re interested in addiction itself — they’re interested in marrying it to Don Draper. We want one addiction to look like all the others. It’s easier to manage that way.

The media talks about John Hamm’s substance abuse problem in the same sentence that recaps the latest Mad Men episode. I wonder: Do we really make the connection?

Media and celebrity create this culture. It’s inviting. I mean, fuck, I salivate for the duration of every Mad Men episode. I breathe the smoke. I taste the whiskey. I feel the relief and the ritual. The substance abuse is its own sexual tension.

But, as I hunker down to catch up on old episodes, I find myself asking — why am I doing this? What am I putting myself through and what is the payoff? I mull it over for a few days. And then, while curled up in blankets on the couch, watching a marathon of Intervention, it hits me: It’s not the media. It’s just me — still wanting something I can never have.

It’s what all us addicts do. We get lost in the romance. The look of it, the feel of it, the ease of it. We become so entrenched in the peripheral relief of the substance, we lose the meaning — the storyline.

I love the idea of Don Draper. But, eventually, the suit comes off. The glamor loses its appeal, and the story is just the same as it ever was — a marathon of broken people — all seeking to fill the empty spaces.

So, as my cat and I ready ourselves to binge-watch the Mad Men episodes we’ve fallen behind on, I take a moment to be grateful for the all new ways I have learned to lose myself. I remind myself that binge-watching how things aren’t — on the screen, will sometimes remind me of how things are — in my real life.

So, I turn on the TV. I make the connection.

And, for every drink Don Draper pours, I make a secret wish that John Hamm has poured his last.

 

The Woman Behind The Curtain

Photo Mar 17, 9 58 37 PM

I make it to Oz.

I pull back the curtain. And, there she is — the Wizard.

It’s fucking weird. — Finding the truth. Getting back home. Realizing you’ve survived. Knowing you’ve found something worthwhile.

Behind my curtain? — An unexpected love. A great, new job. Stability. — Benchmarks of a life that, a few, short years ago, I never thought I’d be living. But, here I am. And instead of sitting back and drinking it all in like a nice, Jameson 18 year — I find myself peering down the yellow brick road again.

Because, if 3 clicks of my heels brought me here — where will 10 clicks take me? What’s left that still needs fixing? How can I be better? I need it. More happiness. More success. Brains. Heart. Courage! Just, more.

I make calculations. When will the next tornado hit? And, I wonder, is this how I’ll keep my life in Technicolor? By chasing storms?

It’s an obsession. The relentless quest to repair all my broken bits. — There’s no rest for the weary. The moment I reach a milestone — it’s back to the drawing board. Don’t you know?! If you’re happy, you’ve missed something. There are flying monkeys everywhere!

It’s tiring: Finding new flaws, failings, and apologies that need making. I’m all for self-discovery, but, I can’t have my life be an unending Mea Culpa. I don’t want to walk around with an oil can for the rest of my days.

Sometimes, you have to let go. Of everything. Even the things that, at one point, held you together. I’ve learned to be wary of the places where I’ve bled.

The cardinal rule of 12-Step: If you want to keep it, you’ve got to give it away. It’s part of the deal — returning the favor. And, I’ve learned that everyone gives back differently. We all come out from behind our own, different curtains. We all reveal something unique. Some of us talk. Some of us listen. Some of us write. Some of us usher our friends and family into safe places when things go south. Every path you can choose is a worthy one. So, you don’t need a map. You just have to see what’s right there in front of you. It’s not going to be perfect. But, it gets us home.

How many clicks of our heels will it take?

Depends on who’s behind the curtain.

 

 

Start Here.

Photo Mar 03, 9 21 58 PM

Don’t think. Just start.

While scrolling down my Facebook feed recently, I saw a post from an old pub acquaintance. He announced that he’s been sober for a year now. Back when I first got clean, he’d sent me a message asking me how I did it. I replied: “I have no fuckin’ idea — Just start. That’s all I did. I just started.” I never heard from him again.

It’s a tall order. — Just waking up one day and deciding to do something that’s hard. It takes guile and gumption. And, it takes a certain level of positivity — which is perhaps the most difficult thing for any addict/alkie to cultivate.

Greeting the day warmly has taken lots of practice. I’ve never once woken up and thought to myself: “The world is my oyster!” I was an awkward, chubby kid and I remain an awkward, not-so-chubby adult. Despite my best efforts, those feelings of childhood inadequacy still follow me around like a stray cat. For much of my adult life, I’ve written things off. I learned, a long time ago, I might as well give up before starting, because, really — what’s the point?

Even after getting sober, I still wasted time and effort, highlighting my own failings. It’s hard to find the good in things when you’ve become accustomed to looking for the crap. And, after years of defeat, I considered throwing in the towel, but, even though it took me until the 11th hour to lace up my bootstraps — I did.

Fast forward a few years and I’m finishing up my last week of work at my current job before transitioning to an exciting, new one. I still have to remind myself that starting over is a good thing. But, sober or not — experience or none — change is hard.

The longer I’m off the sauce, the more I see how preparing for the worst all those years has informed my world view. It’s halted my progress and it’s put the kibosh on some of my dreams. While I was looking for all the potential missteps and failures I might encounter, I missed all the things at which I absolutely kick-ass. And, as it happens, there are quite a few of those. Back then, as an active addict, I was sure that all that could go wrong — would go wrong. So, I never started anything. I held tight and waited for change.

Not this time around.

I printed out the manual for my new job and I sat on my couch, geeking out, as I poured over forms and procedures. I caught myself thinking — “Oh shit. This is gonna be good.” I forgot — getting genuinely excited is a crazy high. So, I allow myself these positive thoughts like an evening nightcap, even if my mind is still at work, pulling me toward the rabbit-hole of self-doubt. I have to remember: We can earn our place in the sun, but, to stay there, we have to stop searching for the dark places.

Sometimes, a retrospective is in order. I try to remember that I arrived at my current work position, just shy of nine months sober, fresh out of rehab. A darkness was draped over my shoulders for months. I felt like a failure. But, I kept telling myself: This is it. You have to start over. This is what it takes. Just start here.

Yes. Start here. Even if the odds are stacked against you. If nothing else — do it for the buzz. There is something incredibly intoxicating about it — starting over. There is something wild and reckless about feeling your fear and choosing to move forward anyway.

After all, things do change. One day sober can turn into a year. And, a lousy job can turn into a bitchin’ career.

So, just start. That’s all I did. I just started. But, really, I have no fuckin’ idea.

 

Row, Row, Row Your Boat.

Photo Feb 24, 11 25 18 PM

Good shit is happening.

I’m here, standing at the helm of my happy-boat, but, I’m starting to realize — I have no idea how to steer this thing.

I’m fighting my instinct to return to it: Survival mode. It’s not my fault. It’s built into my most intricate hardware. My skills have been honed and they’re ready and waiting to save me from imminent disaster. For years, I’ve just kept rowing. I never thought I’d know the day when I’d be able to slow down and sit tight. But, I’ve never really seen calm water.

I’ve heard about this place, but, I didn’t think I would actually end up here. And, for the first time in recorded history, it appears that my boat is not taking on water. Could this be the moment when I get to ease up and let the current pull me where it pleases? Because, if it is, I’ve gotta say, it’s strange not having any kind of game plan. And, what’s even more bizarre, is to think that — for me to get here — a game plan of mine actually worked.

It feels like a miracle. What is this place? Is it real? Do they have dark chocolate? They must.

I shift my weight and find my balance. I start to trust the water that keeps me afloat. Suddenly destination-less, I learn that there isn’t a finish line to race toward — and there never was. I breathe out a sigh I’ve been holding onto for ten years and I’ve never felt so still. I notice my own, small movements in ways I never have before.

In 12-Step meetings they’ll tell you to slow down. — Just stop. — Stop drinking. Stop drugging. Stop talking. Stop squirming. Stop planning. Stop apologizing. Just be. And, when you do — it’ll all fall into place. Maybe it’s true, and maybe it isn’t. I don’t know if everything fell into place because I got sober. But, I see now how rowing against the wind has made my arms strong. In sobriety, one thing’s certain — I’ve taken responsibility. — For my life. For the things I’ve done. For who I’ve been. For what I’m becoming. And, most importantly, for who I am.

I have learned to keep myself afloat under fire.

Addiction has always been my escape plan. A justification. An excuse. A short-term gain. A way of bending time that wasn’t mine to bend. For a long time, I was rowing in someone else’s boat. And, truthfully, I couldn’t tell you whose it was. But, it always had leaks I could not repair. Because, when you’re in someone else’s boat, you’ll never have the tools to fix all the damage. A good sailor knows her own boat best. Sobriety built my boat’s skeleton. But it was me who spent years sanding plywood and plugging holes. And, while I floundered off shore — I learned to steer.

Clear skies and smooth waters — it still feels wrong. From my happy-boat, I cast my eyes to the horizon, looking for the next storm. It’s not pessimism — it’s boat-smarts. Just the remnants of a survival mode that was once my default. But, with every new ship we build, we dismantle another.

So, I steady myself. I let the current pull me where it would have me go. Because, one way or another, it all falls into place.

Like the weathered paint on my happy-boat’s bow, my fear dissolves into the lapping water. And, I pull up my oars.

 

 

 

 

On The Ignorance Of Shmoes

Photo Feb 03, 10 28 49 PM

If you get sober — it’s bound to happen. A shmoe will weigh-in on your recovery.

And, I hope, by then you’ll have grown a thick skin. I hope that you’ll have learned that the only opinion that truly matters — is your own. And, I hope that you’ll have all the tools you need to get past the fact that someone who doesn’t know you or your story — thinks it’s OK to make passive-aggressive judgments about you, your life, and the people who choose to love you.

It’s all part of playing ball.

Though, if you’re wise, being judged will get you thinking. It will beg important questions of you. Like — What is my recovery? Who, beyond myself, has the power to make it legitimate? Anyone? And, how will I thwart attacks from people who just don’t understand?

People who aren’t sober — don’t understand what it means to get sober. They don’t know what it takes. And, they certainly don’t know what it took you. Usually, if they’re still drinking or using, even if they are normal drinkers or recreational drug users, they’re hyper-aware of the fact that you’ve done something they haven’t. Our dark intuition fears what it recognizes. — A highly advanced and amazingly brilliant feature that’s built into our personal self-defense systems. We weigh-in on what threatens us, because it gives us the illusion of dominance and control. — But, don’t be fooled. Erroneous thoughts hide the keys to our power. Which is to say: We can not be harmed by our same-ness — only healed.

One thing that getting sober has afforded me — is the understanding that at no time am I ever completely in control. I fight that assertion, because I am, and always will be — stubborn. But, in many ways, I have become wise. And, in sobriety, I am able to surrender to the judgment of my own mind. I accept that the judgment of others is only a reflection of themselves. I no longer endeavor to define myself for you — it wastes my time. And, I’ve wasted too much time already.

It’s about what I believe. What I know.

And, those of you who sit in judgment will eventually find that, it’s you who are the hot-messes. You’ll put up your armor and insist that the world has been done-to-you, but, I’m here to tell you: That’s just a lie you’re telling yourself. I know better than anyone — we’ve done it to ourselves.

We stay. We have another drink. We do another line. We write pretty lies so that we can read them back to ourselves and pretend they’re true. We wallow in a past that’s done and gone. We relive moments that have lost all their meaning. We create meaning where there is none. And we say it’s unfair when, all along, it’s us who have been standing in the same. exact. place. — I know. I’ve done it.

I’d be a liar if I told you that I don’t judge you too, Shmoe. But, what I say about you between my ears — stays there. I’m a friend of Bill W. — I know about restraint of pen and tongue. But, there will always be an appropriate time for speaking out. For owning our guts. For wearing our skin.

So, throw your words at me. I’ve heard them all before. — I’ve said them all before. My skin is thick. My mind is clear. My heart is sure.

My recovery — it’s mine.

And, Shmoe, there aren’t words you can write, say, or sing that will ever take that away from me.