Same River, Different Boats

Same River, Different Boats

Photo Credit: Grace Buckingham // Me talking to God in a Wichita field.

I haven’t seen my therapist in three weeks. I’m worried about seeing my family and not seeing my family and writing and not writing and working in retail or doing something I love. I’m scared that somehow I’m lying, but I’m not right? It’s just hard sometimes because I feel a lot of things and the voices inside my head tell me I’m okay when I’m not and I’m not when I am. And maybe I should go to AA or maybe I shouldn’t. And am I loving my partner enough or right? Or too much? And should I change my sheets? And does a pickle count as dinner? And why on earth won’t my heart stop racing? And why when I think of working out my stress and my stuff, do I think of running, but every time I put on my sneakers, I can’t budge? And ouch. Oh, also, I’m bleeding this week.

Sigh…It’s been almost 4 months since I’ve written on here. I drank again and then I stopped and then I started quickly thereafter and then I stopped just as quickly. I kicked people out of my life and invited them back in. I re-downloaded Tinder for the 5th time. And then OkCupid. And now I’m in a relationship with the most wonderful woman and every day I’m scared I’m going to fuckup. And God feels further today than ever before. And all I want to do is write, but the words keep escaping me faster than I can get them down. I’ve been told more times in three weeks how grounded and emotionally available and magical I seem and that all sounds like bullshit to me because I can’t wakeup without a pounding heart and the only thing that offers me slight relief is online shopping and mindlessly scrolling through Instagram at midnight. And does anyone know what the hell they are doing?

There was a time in my life when I would do absolutely anything not to be me. That time can be measured in years, but it also can be measured in things. I’d buy what you had because I believed money maybe couldn’t guarantee happiness, but it could guarantee a version of comfort, not my version (because I had no idea who I was), but a version. Wasn’t a version better? I spent years and many dollars chasing a high I could only ever catch the tail end of. And then I found drinking a couple of years ago and I felt…more me than I’d felt in a lot of years. A me that wasn’t a reflection of you. A me that could look herself in the eyes and think, ‘not too bad.’ Then I found women and God and sex and my life changed. Dramatically. If there was a moment that I had to pick and pinpoint to show when things changed it would be the moment in a dingy bar when a girl kissed me for the very first time and I felt lust and love and loneliness all in her lips and that was ALL I wanted to chase. And I did. And I almost lost myself entirely along the way.

I talk about being and getting sober. I talk about drinking. What I don’t talk about is everything else. I don’t talk about the nights my knees hit the wood floor in my bedroom or the printed bed’s sheets or the cold tile of the bathroom floor. Again and again and again. I don’t talk about the number of times I teetered from the middle to the edge and out again and again and again. I don’t talk about the things. I talk around them and through them and over them, but never directly at them. Because the things are scary. The things are the things that are the deepest, truest things. The things that hurt big and wide. The things that make me cry and then keep crying. The things that call to me in the middle of the night. The things that push me to sobriety and take me out. My vow is to talk about the holy fucking things. All of them. Each ugly, beautiful, and holy thing. Until I’ve run out. And by then I’ll probably have more. So, my work I’ve decided is to just keep writing about the things today and tomorrow and the day after that, until they start to feel less like bowling balls and more like cotton: small, malleable, light.

Dani Shapiro in Still Writing, says:

“In order to do what we love–whether we are woodworkers, legal-aid attorneys, emergency room physicians, or novelists–we must first know ourselves as deeply as we are able. Know your own bone. This self-knowledge can be messy. But it is at the center of our life’s work, this gnawing, this unearthing. There is never an end to it. our deepest stories–our bones–are our best teachers. Gnaw it still.”

I don’t entirely know what tomorrow holds or what my promise to keep unearthing will look like. I don’t know what the deepest, dirtiest secrets are yet because I haven’t felt like I could look. I haven’t felt the urge to uncover what lives within my bones as much as I’ve felt called to cover it (whatever it is) up. I look to the women who are feet ahead of me. I look to them as the guiding lights I need to do the work, to chance a look at the real, to see what it may mean to tell a different story than the one I’ve leaned back on for so many years. Different? Truer? Older? I won’t know until I do.

It is my belief that my best teachers are those who have spent many days investigating their own shadows, hunting around in the dark, for slivers of a greater truth — a truth they may never have seen, but have grown, overtime, to believe whole-heartedly in. Some are women I’ve sought solace in for years, others have sought me out, offered me comfort, a shoulder, their time. They’ve acted as sounding boards across miles and cities. Sent me GIFs and affirmations. Loved me. Reflected my love back to me, so I could see how love moves — mutually.

I’ve heard many many many anecdotes over the years, but the ones that always stick with me are the ones from the rooms. Last summer, a man, big, burly, tattooed, sat teetering on the end of an old wooden chair and he looked into the eyes of a room of people who all wanted the same thing (all of us trying for freedom) and he looked at us and described how he would sit in his basement and drink. Day after day. His pregnant wife would be in the kitchen and his daughter, his world, was at the top of the house, as he put it, “closest to God.” He said all he wanted was to take part in his life, but he didn’t know how, and so the basement became home. And after some trying, sobriety stuck. A miracle. And he went to a wedding, and at this wedding, he didn’t drink, and he partook in his life, and when his daughter cried, he scooped her up and sat with her. And three weeks later he got a gift in the mail and it was a photograph of him, sitting, holding his daughter, taken from the perspective, so it looked like God was watching him cradle his child. And then he cried. And we all did too.

Today is 56 days sober. It feels big and it feels small. I don’t really know what any of this means, but I do know that it’s somehow important. Massively so. I’ve been here before. But. Tonight, I’m here differently. I’m here in a way that feels known and completely sacred and scarred. I’m here. You’re here. God is also here. Maybe not in this room, but somewhere nearby. Maybe there’s something to be said for thinking about our best, instead of a best. Because there isn’t just one and just maybe if we start thinking in “we’s” and “us’s” and “our’s” we won’t feel so damn alone. Maybe just maybe if we imagine ourselves being here together, all of us in different boats, but on the same damn river, maybe, we can get closer to shore. Together, and apart. Apart and together. Gradually, not all at once, but, in time.


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