989 days, 32.48 months, 2.7 years ago, I woke up and for the thousandth time promised myself I wouldn’t get drunk today. There was nothing special about this particular day. I had no pressing reason to get sober. I didn’t fear losing anything because I had already lost it all. I was crashing on a dirty red sofa in my best friends, boyfriends sunroom. I had about $30 to my name, a car which thankfully ran, and a rolling cleaners rack to hold my clothes, and I didn’t even have enough clothes to fill the “closet”. My relationship had ended, my job was close to ending as well and my friendships were quickly evaporating. Yet honestly none of this motivated me to quit drinking. I wanted to quit because I was certain that I was just a few days or hours from drinking a poison I’d researched and ending my life. And I was sure that if I kept drinking I would have the courage to follow through with my plans. I had not yet begun my transition.
So I headed off that morning to a 12 step recovery program that I didn’t particularly like in hopes that today I could stay sober. And somehow I managed to hang on. The next day I returned to that program and the next day I stayed sober too. Every day I repeated this process slowly accumulating days that turned into weeks and then months and finally years. And I want to say clearly that I don’t have this sobriety thing handled, and I don’t know if I’ll be sober tomorrow, because addiction is a bitch. There’s been a lot of coverage in the media lately about Demi Lovato’s relapse. And there’s been plenty of judgment in sobriety meeting spaces online and in the real world. Everyone has their opinion on my Demi overdosed but my reasoning is simple. Eternal vigilance is the mother effing price of sobriety and no one ever beats addiction. We all just learn how to live despite our weakness.
But now that I’m done and with my pessimism, I don’t want people thinking I’m just wasting my time running from a drink. The lessons I’ve learned staying sober and listening to others who have stayed sober have translated into all aspects of my life. Especially concerning my transition. So here’s a Buzzfeed-esque list on how this lifestyle has helped me.
1. I’m powerless over the rest of life
This step is about acceptance and not giving up. I have to accept where I’m at right now. I can work to make things better, the future doesn’t have to be bleak. But in this moment, I must accept the reality of my situation. And accepting helps me to get a clearer picture of what I need to do to get to my goals.
2. There’s hope
I can’t get caught up in the idea that I’ll be stuck this way forever. In my program, we have a saying, “Just do the next right thing”. When I was overwhelmed with my name-change process I kept repeating that phrase to myself. I couldn’t handle thinking about everything that needed to be done. I just focused on one step at a time. And once I completed that step, I looked for the next.
3. Identify, don’t Compare
Comparing myself to guys 2 years, 5 years, 10 years into a medical transition can kill me. I’m. Not. There. But I’ll get there. I can listen to their struggles and their motivations and use those in my own life. I can aspire to be them, but I’m not them yet. I can’t look at someone else’s journey and think “Well I’m not like this guy” or “I’ll never look like that” or even “He’s doing it all wrong”. That’s not the point of my transition. This is my journey. I take what I need and leave what doesn’t serve me.
4. It’s One Day At A Time, EVERYDAY
Everyday I have to wake up and take today as it is. I don’t find peace living in the past and I don’t find comfort projecting into the future. Every day is a fight. Every day I have to keep doing what I’m supposed to do. Every time I want to give up I remind myself that I just need to get through today. I don’t know about tomorrow, I’m just taking today.
A few more notes….
1. This is simply advice for living. If you struggle with mental illness then please seek professional help and trust your doctor. There is no shame in admitting we need help. There is no shame in mental illness.
2. If you need help battling addiction then please reach out. We can put you in touch with local recovery centers. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through any messaging on our social media @yourqueerstory.
Blog by Evan Jones