- Alexander Fleming
Editor's note: This week's Eureka contributor is Season 1 guest, Jen John. To learn more about Jen, head over to her Anthologies of Hope Guest Page after reading her post below.
When I quit drinking in 2017, I wasn’t sure what I was hoping to find that the bottom of a Three Wishes bottle couldn’t give me the answers to. Because when the sirens made my skin crawl, a zinfandel numbed me. When I was so angry that another school shooting happened that I couldn’t see straight, Fireball freed me. When the loneliness crept in, the fuzzy memories of his fingertips tracing my tattoo, tequila erased it. And when the nightmares came (because they always did), a stout locked them away. When trauma lit my life on fire, alcohol was the only way I knew how to survive. By the time I quit drinking, not only had I been using alcohol to cope for so long that I didn’t know how to exist in my pain without ethanol in my blood, but I also felt incomplete. Every day was filled with a combination of shame, FOMO and terror that wine made me a more appealing person. I thought I was lost without alcohol. Days were hazy and I was a ghost running on fumes, frantically trying to make it through each hour without my “safety net”. And when wine on the tongues of friends chatting brought the cravings so deep I’d go cross-eyed in desire or a car accident that almost took my life or his hands I didn’t want on me left me on the floor crying for tequila to erase it from my brain, I was only reminded of how terrified I was to feel the pain that had nested a home in my bones for 26 years. I wanted to rebuild my life, but all I felt was ungrateful, angry and isolated.
I can’t tell you when it all changed. One day I’m questioning whether or not sobriety is worth it because yet another guy has ghosted me after finding out I don’t drink and the next, I’m saying “goodbye” to caffeine because I have the clarity now to realize it’s causing more harm than good. Sobriety didn’t “fix” me overnight - it took me more than a year to understand the living that alcohol stole from me. How many times had I cheated myself out of the simple joy of being present? I’m not saying that sobriety is easy or even always enjoyable. Life is so raw and tender that it can be absolutely unbearable to be present for it all. Like when I found myself looking for the bar at the Denver airport at 5am after a relationship that I wanted with every fiber in my being suddenly ended. But I knew that drinking would not glue back the pieces of my broken heart, would not remove the memories of tracing the freckle constellations of his back, would not erase how my body melted under his eyes. And with every school shooting that happens that places me back in that choir room in Crawford on June 5th, 2014 with the air conditioning on high and the clock alerting us every 15 minutes that we were still in lockdown, my whole body shuts down. But instead of letting a bottle of wine sing me to sleep to fight the nightmares that will greet me when I close my eyes, I find myself in my bathtub, removing social media from my phone and letting the water envelope me and wash away the ashes of my trauma.
I was having dinner with a friend recently and we were laughing at how our lives have turned out so drastically different than we had hoped for. We joked about not bothering to plan for the future since life never turns out the way we think it will. But I think, maybe, that’s the point. That life doesn’t have to go the way we want it for us to live it. We still show up even when reality falls short of our desires. The mountains we climb, the valleys we walk through and the plateaus we grow stagnant in are what break us, build us and change us into who we really are. Am I thankful that alcohol held my worth in its hands? Absolutely not. But had I not had to face it I’m not sure who I’d be today. Getting sober was so much harder than I ever could have imagined, but the pain it took to get to where I am today is nothing in comparison to what I’ve found in sobriety that I wasn’t expecting- freedom, clarity, my voice, my life. And for that, I’m forever grateful.
Head on over to Monkey Minion Press now to pick up a copy of the Eureka art book or the print used as the inspiration for today's blog post!