Today marks my third soberversary! WOAH.

(Note: you can read last years soberversary post here, and my first one here)

It has been 1,095 days since I stopped conveniently excusing my thoughts, my words, and my actions. It has been three years of conscious self-reflection. Three years of rewriting my story to make the part where I was an lost little drunken fool fit in.

Today is my third sober birthday, and I am damn proud of me.  Conversely, I feel a need to self-deprecate a bit, since our culture finds shame in self-celebration, so I ground my little party balloon by pondering improvements.

Every year on new years, I (like a few million other Americans) set a resolution for myself. Something completely achievable, but not necessarily simple. I suppose 8 months out, on this particular day of personal celebration, is a fair time to analyze my success; if any.

My 2012 resolution was: Question your true motives.

This has actually been a bit of a theme since I quit drinking. After years of drowning all negative skeptical emotions in whiskey, hiding behind a partygirl persona; getting to know yourself is actually really fucking hard. All the standard existential questions apply, times a thousand: WHO AM I??? WHAT DO I WANT?? WHAT AM I EVEN DOING AND WHY???

I’ve said before that I spent the first 6 months without booze in a cocoon, which helped me get my bearings. I sorted through a lot of that maudlin loathing, and learning to love myself (ick. Cliche alert). This year I decided to take it to the next level by getting into my own head.

oh, thats a face.

Truth be told, the most challenging part of sobriety has been interpersonal relationships– learning to socialize without imbibing, and learning to communicate without emotionally dumping, then apologizing the next day “for whatever I said.”  The challenge has lain in finding self-control, patience, and perspective when dealing with others. And to do all this, I have had to take a long, hard look at the things that motivate me.

As a drinker, anyone who knew me will agree, I was rash, impulsive, and unwilling to negotiate. In sobriety, I have found that those qualities cannot be attributed to alcohol alone. It’s hard not to fall back into a depressive mindset when you realize you can be a total asshole sometimes without even knowing it. In 2012, I resolved to be more honest with myself about why I behave the way I do, and I’ve so far concluded only that we humans are petty, silly creatures.

Or maybe it’s just me! I don’t know…

A lot of the time, I find that my root motivators are selfish. My mind wants to act out of desire for personal gain, and react to envy. Which is the worst kind of emotion. I don’t understand WHY. It would be easy to blame corporate capitalist culture, to point fingers at consumerism and society’s emphasis on status. To say I was indoctrinated with the mindset of self-interest from birth, led by a carrot-on-a-stick toward the idea that I always deserve more. But I think that misses the point; and anyhow, becomes irrelevant because, the more you think about things, the more cyclical they become. At the end of the day, it’s not just me, but 7 billion+ humans acting in their own best interests.

So then I hit this catch-22. Where does self-preservation end, and self-interest begin? In the first world, it’s not realistic to say that food and shelter are our only survival requirements. Maslow’s hierarchy confirms, feeling whole in this society means one is physically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially content. On any given day, I would say I’m between 60 and 90 percent there.

Now I am splitting my deeper desires into “wants” and “needs,” it becomes confusing which is which. It’s everyone in competition, so why not get your slice (or 5) of the pie? And then you look around you, and there are all these people with what you perceive as more than what you have. Before you can stop yourself, you’re wondering which of you is really more deserving.

This is when I start to feel like a guilty jerk again. Jealousy is so hard to free your mind from, it grabs hold and gnaws at the frontal cortex. It becomes a motivator, much like one of those parasites that makes snails into suicidal zombies. All of a sudden, you’re in the middle of plotting a bank robbery, and you’re like “wait, why?” Because I need a private jet and my own island nation?

No!

So, I’m working on it. I’m getting better at checking my true motives, and curbing myself when I recognize that I am acting out of envy, rather than self-preservation. I think that’s the best one can do, apart from becoming a cave-dwelling buddhist monk. I’m realizing that life is a constant state of negotiating my “needs” with the “needs” of others, and learning to not get so offended when my toes get stepped on. Sometimes, your lines in the sand need to be just that– arbitrary and moveable. Sometimes you need to compromise on your principles, and pick your battles. Sometimes you just need to stop being such an asshole.

Our lives are not as limited as we think they are; the world is a wonderfully weird place; consensual reality is significantly flawed; no institution can be trusted, but love does work; all things are possible; and we all could be happy and fulfilled if we only had the guts to be truly free and the wisdom to shrink our egos and quit taking ourselves so damn seriously.

[[TomRobbins.StillLifeWithWoodpecker]]

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More Than My Wine

August 17, 2011

(Sidenote: You can read last year’s “Soberversary” post Here)

Two years without booze. That’s two years of designated driving, two years of remembering every night, and two years of occasionally stopping and wondering: “WHO THE HELL IS THIS PERSON, anyway??”

When I quit drinking, exactly 730 days ago, I told myself and those around me “I definitely need a break.” Back then, I guess I would have labeled the decision as “long-overdue.” Now? Not sure there is such a thing.

I’m not one for religiosity, so I wouldn’t go so far as to call my wakeup a divine intervention, but I do firmly believe that my sobriety came in it’s due time. No late fees incurred, no interest accrued. It happened exactly how it needed to. It’s possible there’s even some mathematic explanation, the way theres math for gravity or gambling. Or perhaps there was some astrological tale of new beginnings written just for me by the larger members of the cosmos– planets and stars colliding, converging, aligning perfectly for a moment of profound influence on one tiny spirit within. Regardless, I’m grateful not only for my sobriety, but for every experience that got me here. Lost phones, loud fights, misdemeanors, hospital visits. All of it.

While I was drunk I may have said and done some stupid things; I may have hurt some people, including myself, along the way. But that’s life. With or without alcohol, shit happens, hearts break, the world moves along at a furious pace. I did some things while drinking that I would never have done sober, but just maybe all those things needed to be done. In retrospect, even the “bad” parts of our personal stories seem nostalgically accessible, don’t they?

People have a readiness to dismiss the past as gone, and to denounce who they were. I see this as a critical error in self-understanding. You can’t ever “become a different person.” You are you. You are who you have been. You are the owner of every decision made along the way. 

Like a matryoshka doll, one inside of the next, we become more intricate, complex, and spacious as we grow. But inside, there is always that teeny tiny, roughly painted little you– just as valuable as every other piece. Little matryoshka you might not be as richly detailed as the outer versions, but it doesn’t belong to anyone else, doesn’t complete any other set.

Although these days, the only cocktails I obsess over are fresh juice concoctions, the only going-wild I do is riding my bike without a helmet, and the only hangover I get is from refined sugars; I am still Kat. I didn’t wake up one day, quit drinking, and suddenly become a more socially apt person who fit into a much smaller pair of jeans. Personal evolution is work every single day. Emotional, physical, and spiritual effort. There is no “old Kat,” and the drunk asshole who used to put herself in dangerous and stupid situations: that was me, not some other person who I hardly know. Even if it feels like it.

I am everything I ever have been. My resume includes alcoholic– in big black comic sans font. There is no hiding or denying it. No putting it under a more subtle somber guise. Drunk Kat looked silly, and I need to remember that almost daily. For better or worse. Because I am that person as soon as I let myself be.

Cheers!

O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! That we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause transform ourselves into beasts! [[WilliamShakespeare.Othello]]

Are We There Yet?

November 12, 2010

Recently, feeling down on myself (bummed about the change of seasons and creatively frustrated, among other things), I sat down with a notepad for a bit of self-analysis.  My blank page immediately became–

Things that suck about you:

Good Qualities:

In that order. Just like that. And I started to fill it out.

The last time I made a list like this was when I quit drinking, which was definitely a low point for me. My sobriety list inspired a complete reorganization of my personal agenda. As a language-oriented person, as well as a brutally honest Sagittarius, I find it advantageous to put thoughts into words. Throughout the years, I’ve composed a number of these self-evaluations, and like to consider myself a pretty actualized individual.

All that said, one persistent trend– more important, in some ways, than the actual traits on the lists themselves– is that my negatives list consistently dwarfs the positives. No matter what. In fact, I even ran out of room under my “Things that suck about you” and began annexing the “Good Qualities” space for such traits as “Insistent,” “Brash,” and “Impatient.” I had well over a dozen bad qualities written before I even so much as considered penning a nice thing about myself.

Then it took me a minute. Maybe even two. Before I put down “OK Writer.” Yes, just OK. And another minute, maybe two, before I came up with “Nice rack.”

Honest to Icculus, people, the second “Good” thing I could come up with about myself is my breasts. Shame on me. For real.

So, I made this list. And I cried. But, to be fair, I was pretty depressed when I started the damn thing, I wasn’t really doing it for the uplift. As I re-read my carefully selected adjectives, I added “Harsh Critic” to the end of my “sucks” list. Then wrote it again at the end of my positives.

And then I got stuck.

Suddenly my cleverly divided list wasn’t so black and white anymore.

It dawned on me that the “uncensored opinions” from the “Things that suck about you” analysis were the same opinions that made me “always truthful,” which had seemed a Good Quality. The “over-analytical” negative trait, in another light, becomes “socially observant,” an aspect of myself that I embrace.

Well, shit, I thought to myself. Now what? My intention in compiling an evaluation had been enacting positive change. A year ago, I was incredibly productive using this method. I recognized a number of undesirable qualities and was able to eliminate some degree of self-loathing via personal growth. I can actually pinpoint milestone moments and epiphanies. I consider the last year of my life, in that regard, a smashing success.

Why, then, was I sitting a year later at the same kitchen table crying over an equally lengthy bullet-point analysis? How successful is that? Where did these additional Things that Suck come from?

…Again, I am a “Harsh Critic.”

Of other people, yes, but most of all myself. I tried to remember the last time I felt really awesome about anything I had said, written, or done… and quickly I was left questioning how “awesome” anything I ever did really was…

I am my own worst enemy. I know I am not alone, either. Lots of people in the world are insecure. Lots of people think everything they do is garbage. And, most importantly, lots of people are absolutely sure that they will never be good enough. Good enough for what? It honestly doesn’t matter. It’s an insatiability. The feeling that there is room for improvement. It goes beyond “positive quality” or “detrimental trait.” It’s human. It’s a civil war of the ego, and it’s nothing unique to any of us.

If none of us ever felt like monumental failures, would we be motivated to progress? If we all walked around, confident in how we look, act, and present ourselves; confident that we were always in the right; confident that everything we did was top-notch– what encouragement would we have to improve?

At the end of the day, it became evident that although my “Things that suck about you” list was nearly double the length of the “Good Qualities,” many of these divergent characteristics were rooted in the same damn personality traits. It’s unfair to myself to count “conversationally dominant” and “doesn’t know when to shut up” as two separate negative qualities, while considering “easily social” as something I like. They represent the exact same characteristic displaying itself in different contexts.

Failure, success, perfection, hard work. All relatively defined terms. In our universe void of inertia, none of these words mean the same thing from one moment to the next. Weighing ourselves against these slippery terms is like attempting to measure love in yards.

Not to say there is no room for self-improvement, but, in the scheme of things, I have taken enormous strides toward becoming the person I want to be. The next evening, feeling a little less depressed, I sat down and, instead of creating contrast, I re-composed the exact same list of characteristics into one list titled “Things I Know about Kat”

[[Nice rack is still on there]]

Thank you all for attending my first rebirthday party! As this is my virtual AA meeting, I must warn you that today I am going to be shamelessly celebrating the life and times of booze-free Kat.

August 16, 2010 marks exactly one calendar year since my last alcoholic beverage. That is 364 days longer than I ever anticipated, and, as cheesy as it sounds, I honestly find myself grateful for each one more than the last.

To be clear– I am in no way against alcohol use. In fact, I love alcohol. Unhealthily. I have no problem with my friends enjoying cocktails, or even getting wasted. I can still go out and have a good time, and completely understand the enjoyment people get from having few of those socially lubricating beverages. I am not here to preach, guilt, or otherwise pass moral judgements.

"Yo Ho Hoe & A Bottle of Rum 2008"

Nor am I going to lament here about the person I was. Dragging her down at this juncture is redundant, and a disservice to who I’ve been. She was just lost up Jack Daniels Creek, and too drunk to paddle home. She was not a monster, but a tragedy steeped in cheap wine. I am not angry or embarrassed by her, I’m just glad she was able to help herself before nobody could.

Today is about how far I have come in the past 52 weeks. For anyone who responsibly enjoys alcohol, it may be difficult to comprehend the hold it can have one’s life; the blindfold it ties on one’s spirit. Alcoholism doesn’t breed weakness, weakness breeds alcoholism. I was looking for something to feel complete, but settled for feeling nothing at all.

Day one was full of tears and regrets. Actually the entire first week, maybe even month, was that way. It was a revelation: a sobering shot of reality after a long stretch of blackout oblivion. I realized at this time that everyone who had stuck around through the years– those I am fortunate enough to call my friends and family– loved me far more than I loved myself. They were watching me fall hard. Over and over again. Trying to reach for my hand, but being denied every time. I was fine. Sure, I could help myself.

What can I say?

I’m a redhead. An Irish girl. A fire sign. Year of the Tiger. [excuse excuse excuse]

We don’t take kindly to anyone’s advice, however well-intentioned. I do things my way. I slip and fall. Every lesson is learned the hardest way possible.

But I’ll be damned if those lessons don’t have some staying-power.

From August to December, I entered hibernation. I was depressed, I really hated who I had been, and wasn’t sure who I was. I had a lot of broken bridges to mend, a lot of mental fog to shake, and a lot of self-worth to replace. Reflecting on it, perhaps hibernation isn’t really a proper term, as I was far from dormant. It was more of a cocoon; the first step in a major metamorphosis.

The winter time usually brings on a bout of depression, but this winter it was different. Although it felt like I kept pushing to the top just to watch life roll back down, I was still able to keep a smile about it. New Years Eve, for once, seemed to mark a real change.

2010 was decidedly about potential. It was about taking care of Kat. I was eating better, getting my reprehensibly-neglected finances in order, and coming to terms my mistakes. In the face of everything that was wrong, I was able to stay focused on what was right. A monument in my sobriety.

Winter turned to spring. I fell in love. I began to write again.

At the onset of summer, I had a second revelation. As I lay in bed one Sunday morning, calculating the proximity of the nearest liquor store, it dawned on me that the booze was never going to fill the hole. There was nothing “wrong” at the time, I simply wanted to drink. To self-destruct. I realized in that moment that all the love given to me was meaningless if I just let it flow through, even more-so if I diluted it. The stopper in my existential black-hole was not just love, but love for myself. This revelation, as important as the last, has since been my guiding light through some dark moments of weakness. It put into perspective my expectations of others, and serves to remind me that this life is mine.

So, today I throw myself a party. Because nobody else will be, or should be, celebrating as much as Kat. I am one year into being the person I want to be; a person whom I love. The insecurities are still there, painfully obvious to me at all times, but I’m no longer afraid of them. The reasons I drank still haunt me, but I see those ghosts becoming old friends. Although it is still a struggle, leaving my crutch at the door (some days especially), I have never before felt so happy, beautiful, or positive about the future.

And today, that is enough reason to stay sober.