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“You are delicious,” Anxiety whispers in my ear, as it eats me for lunch

It’s funny, but when I feel an anxiety attack coming on, I almost always have the same consistent word pop into my head: Shitburgers.

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It’s sort of an adults-only derivative of my favorite South Park character, Butters, and his frazzled battle cry, “Hamburgers!” And yet, for all of my word-love and English major nerd eloquence (“Since when are you eloquent?” – you all), “shitburgers” seems to nicely sum up my mental state going into a full-on anxiety attack. And I like to imagine that it will stick around, acting as a kind of bat signal for my future partner. What did you say? Did you just say shitburgers? and all of a sudden, he’ll start clearing a pathway for me like he’s a goddamned aircraft marshaller.

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These wands have a dual purpose… know what I mean?

I don’t mean to sound obtuse (Note: I am about to totally sound obtuse), but some stuff has been going on lately that has deep fried my nerves so much I half expect them to be the feature staple at the 2014 Texas State Fair.

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In future posts, I might ease into what exactly that is, but I can go ahead and say it’s nothing deathly or horrible. Just something complex and difficult, but with potentially happy end results. (And no, it’s not electro-shock therapy, though that might not be a bad idea, considering.)

But ironing out the painstaking details (and I am not a details person) is for someone with a lot more patience and sobriety than I currently possess. Unfortunately, it’s in my constitution to get completely cocked up over the details/waiting-game stage and just go completely off the rails. Which I have done gloriously in the last week. I go around with an expression on my face that probably looks like I drink human souls for breakfast.

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Kunty Karl is displeased at being placed in such close proximity to a picture of fried food. (His inner fatty is secretly delighted, however.)

Perhaps offering my services to a timid co-worker today was a bit much. “Send that motherfucker my way,” I told her about an unruly office mate of ours. “I’m in the mood to shank someone.” Even an AA friend, after casually asking me tonight how I was, pulled away and said, “You look like you either want to eat my face or cry. Or both.”

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Because I feel like I am about to break. It’s probably NO BUENO when you’re driving home from an AA meeting and fantasizing about how good a vodka cranberry would be right about then. I mean, I could almost taste it. And I drove extra-slowly past one of my old liquor stores. I stared at it with as much longing as I would a totally naked Alex Skarsgard helicoptering right in front of me.  I could have been in and out in two minutes with a handle of vodka and no one would have been the wiser.

Still, while that crosses my mind, that’s all it’s doing right now. Because at the end of the day, I kept driving past that liquor store, and my idea of a fucking treat tonight was two extra fiber gummies, not a vodka cranberry. Today, I did my part: I went to a meeting, I talked to other alcoholics, and I didn’t take a drink. I don’t have to worry about or make promises regarding tomorrow. I just had to take care of today.

So, this Unnamed Future Event that’s coming up — it’s going to be rough. A lot like getting sober again, as far as the emotional investment. But then, I’m one of those pussies who thinks *everything* about life is hard. Things that normal, well-adjusted people do every day and have done for years just takes a monumental amount out of me.

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I’m just muy incómodo when it comes to crying on the daily. In fact, that’s very much why I drank. And before I could drink, it was why I snarfed fattening delicious shit, and why I eventually would have done all the drugs: I detested the anxiety.

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I live to be soothed. I hate chaos and conflict. I want my life to be a big ball of comfort. Even watching all those apocalyptic zombie shows and shit, I’m always all, “Who in the fuck would want to live in a world where you have no air conditioning, have to walk everywhere, and your occasional reward for not getting devoured by the undead is a commercial sized bucket of expired pudding?” (Unless I was nailing Daryl. Then I would hang tight and my will to live might possibly stay intact.)

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Knowing all this mess was coming, I set up an appointment with my shrink and told her ass in no uncertain terms that I needed some medicinal help for this. That I had God, and AA, and a sponsor, and friends, and a talky therapist. But that there ain’t no shame in a good benzo to calm a bitch’s tits every now and then. She switched up a few things and is trying some new (non-addictive) add-ons that I hope will help.

Screen shot 2014-03-12 at 11.14.52 PMThe thing is, I will be okay. There are going to be a buttload of times when I’m going to feel like things are very NOT okay. But that’s the trick: to outthink this thing. If you can convince yourself that it’s not as real as it feels, and that it will pass, then you stand a much better chance of getting through it. Am I  still going to sob silently in bathrooms? Yes. Will I hyperventilate while taking Mr. Teefs to the vet to get his anal glands expressed? Yes. (Safe to say: he was also unhappy.) Do some anxiety attacks hit me like a metric ton of bricks, while others slowly, sinisterly creep up over the course of a day? Yes. So — I will cry. I will be out of breath. I will feel like my chest is in an ever-tightening vice. I will get tunnel vision. I will want to hide. I will hide when I can. But I will get through it.

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This is my dance space, that is your dance space

While white-girl shoulder shimmying to Keith Sweat (on my “I’m So Embarrassed” Spotify playlist), I started thinking about boundaries. (Because musical boundaries? I have none. That and Keith Sweat puts me in a philosophical mood.) 

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I think it goes without saying that I might have some boundary issues. But then most of us do, right? In fact, I’m less baffled by those with glaringly poor boundaries and more by those assholes walking around who draw wonderful boundaries in their lives. They’re like a living, breathing unicorn. I’m all, “How in the fuck can you be that well-adjusted? Why aren’t you as screwed up as the rest of us?”

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Because boundaries can exist everywhere. With family (durrrr), co-workers, employers, friends, strangers. I mean, any situation in which you interact with someone is potentially ripe for a boundary breach. Like when the little cafeteria lady downstairs managed to wedge her ideas about abortion into the 49 second window of my time where I’m paying for my lunch. It was beyond inappropriate and weird, and I left thinking, “Jesus. Overstep much?!” And also: “I hope you gave me extra cheese on my pasta.”

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Boundaries seem to go both ways. First, there are those you have that dictate what you will and won’t do in the world; and second, there are those you fasten into place to defend yourself from others. For myriad reasons, I’ve had a deficiency of both for most of my life. Pretty much anything that enters my mind is subject to leaving my talk hole at break-neck speed, which usually has interesting consequences. Conversely (and totally unsurprisingly), I was also always quite horrible at setting up boundaries for others. Anything you wanted to do or say to me wasn’t necessarily welcome, but regardless of my meager protestations, plenty of inappropriate shit has been lobbed my way and I ended up taking it like a low-tier porn star. I had a hard time telling people no.

So. Having not had boundaries up until this point doesn’t make me a victim; it just makes me late to the game. Because now? This bitch has started to set some boundaries.

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And it’s not like I *set out* to create some. But this whole “getting sober” —–> “giving a shit” —–> “taking care of myself” progression has just sort of naturally fallen into place. In fact, it reminds me of one of my favorite lines in the Big Book: We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. And having boundaries? Confounded the fuck out of me for 36 years. Truly. Perhaps I’m simple, but it simply never occurred to me that I could just be all, “No, this [insert particular unwelcome thing] isn’t going to happen.”

You Tina Fey/SNL aficionados will appreciate.

You Tina Fey/SNL aficionados will appreciate.

Of course, the kink in all of that is that you’re going to have people whose seeming LIFE GODDAMN GOAL is to cross any and all boundaries you have in place. Naturally, this can happen with strangers. Like the crazy who accosted me at PetSmart the other day while I was flirting with the adoptable cats. “Don’t get one of them things,” he said. “They got dirty mouths.”

“Well then, the cats and I have that in common,” I quipped back.

You know, strangers are fun. You get those who stand entirely too close to you when talking (“Thanks for eating a tuna sandwich today!”), or who ask inappropriate questions (unless you see the fucking head crowning, don’t ask a woman if she is pregnant — there are societal rules that dictate this). There are the cashiers who comment on what you’re buying (“Suppositories and the latest Men’s Fitness, huh? Looks like you’re about to have a great weekend.”) and the foot-in-mouth randoms who manage to say things that are simply inappropriate (“You look like someone who’s going to be alone this Valentine’s Day, too.”)

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To me, crossed boundaries get worse the closer to home they hit. Perhaps it’s a little-known co-worker who says or asks something inappropriate (“You’re what, a 38, 40 DD? I’m just going based on what my wife kind of looks like.”) or the brand new acquaintance who asks if you exercise often. (“Oh, all the time,” you want to fucking say. “That’s why I’m still shopping at Lane Bryant.”)

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But the most egregious boundaries crossed are undoubtedly by those who know you best and claim to do things, like love you. You know, a lot of really horrible shit can be said in the name of love, as it turns out. If someone knows you well enough, hearing them question your good intentions, your sincerity, your integrity or your guiding morals can be a crushing blow. Some people, if and when you let them, have absolutely no problem invading your very tender core and ripping you to shreds. Families are probably the worst about this, since they’ve known you since you were toothless and shitting yourself. There are usually dozens and dozens of years’ worth of material, and if you’re the enterprising type, you can ruffle through the undying file known as your mind and pull out a sensitive little kernel of information with which to gouge your target.

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For example, my foray into finally declaring, “Fuck it, Imma lay this boundary down whether you like it or not” came after I learned that my mother had my most recent ex, The Lawyer, investigated. Why? Because my parents didn’t approve of the 23 year age difference and supposedly were concerned with how fast things were moving. In that, he’d expressed his interest in traveling with me, and fell in love with me pretty quickly. (I don’t need to tell you that this was all information I had stupidly fed to her.)

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My mother’s boundary oversteps often sting. “Just too much moving fast,” she told me. “He was telling you he loved you and wanted you to go to Oregon with him, and you had already discussed children? Uh-uh. Something wasn’t right with him.”

My response: “I am 37 goddamned years old. For all of your claims about how quickly and often I fall in love, I’ve never taken that to the next level. I’ve never eloped, or gotten engaged, or moved in with someone, or gotten knocked up, or had a quickie divorce. So I don’t move too fucking quick.”

*Note: No, they found nothing criminal about The Lawyer. He was and is a nice guy.

Then, without even thinking much, I said, “Because you chose to have The Lawyer investigated after less than two months of me dating him, and because you were able to do that because I trusted you enough to tell you things, you will no longer hear about my love life. If or when I go on a date, you will not know about it. If I am seeing someone, you will not know about it until *I* deem it necessary. And that will be if and when I feel compelled to introduce you to him. So I hope you enjoyed yourself.”

Lots of catty shit followed, but I immediately felt vindicated. A little light had come on and sizzled in my head. “I can say no!” I can, to use a phrase, put the fucking smack down. When you freely give yourself away to people, you have to understand that not everyone will honor you enough to be trusted with the information they receive. Some people will use that information to take advantage of you, humiliate you, hurt you or one-up you. Putting down a boundary is a way to keep yourself safer. It’s a way to keep your dance space clear so you can…dance.

Of course, if you’re not vigilant, boundaries can quickly become walls. Perhaps if you keep those walls of a scalable size, then a few here and there probably aren’t bad ideas. Because there will be a panoply of people who won’t give a hot fuck whether or not you’re hurt, or feel bad about yourself, or feel violated. As you know, some people who are given an inch will take a mile. Those are the people boundaries seem built for.

It seems to me boundaries and self-respect go hand-in-hand. It’s about protecting yourself because no one else will do it for you. It’s about having a voice, sometimes without even using a word. It’s about a personal privacy. It’s about treasuring certain aspects of your life enough to hold them close.

Because even as I type this, I can tell you that I am coming up on something big. Like, life-changingly big. A friend told me I should write about it, and I very well might. But not right now. Right now I need to keep that boundary, because it just feels right. I might feel differently when things get further down the road, but for right now, you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that this is a good boundary to keep.

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This Bitch: One Year Later

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so eager to tell one year to bite me in the vagina as 2013…. For roughly the same reasons, this year was both the best and worst of my life. It was my worst because I had to get sober; it was my best because I did get sober. It was my best and worst because I fell in love…and had a shitty breakup…and fell in love again…and had a shitty breakup…again.

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I can’t think of a year that contained as many tears, as much joy…or as much wanton sugar consumption. Being the alcoholic that I am, it’s in my very nature to wonder aloud if my life now is what  life feels like for normal people, and I was simply missing that all this time. Alcoholics have such a warped fucking view of everything. “Normal” left our vernacular a long time ago. In fact, one thing I’ve heard on repeat in AA meetings is that we alcoholics always felt different, even as children, even before our drinking career began. There was a sense of dis-ease — an impending sense of doom, if you will — deep in our bones, perhaps there since birth. And the bigger it grew, the more we began to fracture. Drinking seemed a natural — and at times effective — solution.

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My life as a whole makes more sense to me as of today than it ever has. Because my alcoholism? Explains everything. Fucking everything. And, as the old saying goes, “There are a lot of alcoholics out there; just not all of them drink.” I was an alcoholic even when I wasn’t an “alcoholic.” For decades, I’ve wanted an ah-ha moment. So many assholes had talked about experiencing theirs, and how life-changing they’d been (THANKS OPRAH)

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and how those moments had propelled said asshole to new heights of greatness and wonder. Just where in the fuck was mine, I wondered. I became so desperate I even tried to conjure up a few, which, I don’t need to tell you — didn’t work. I was left feeling uninspired, at best. At worst, I felt like a freak who was incapable of making good things happen for herself. I grew despondent and progress-wise, my life grew static. To ease the panic that had begun to set in (to say nothing of taming the anxiety I had experienced since childhood), I found drinking to be a brilliant and socially-acceptable comfort. Nearly everyone embraced my drinking:  friends thought I was the Fun Bobby of the group (yes, that was a Friends reference), and my parents thought I’d finally grown a pair and graduated from drinking a diet cherry Coke come 5 o’clock. All was well. Until, of course, it wasn’t.

One of my favorite scenes from the cinematic masterpiece known as "Airplane"

One of my favorite scenes from the cinematic masterpiece known as “Airplane”

There are some things I’ve done *well* this year. My bounce-back’s certainly gotten better…but maybe that comes from not only being sober, but simply running out of fucks to give the older I get. I also got better about letting shit go. Don’t get me wrong: I still get mad enough to spit nails in the beginning of a bad situation (breakups come to mind). I can still rip someone a new asshole of gargantuan proportions. The difference between a year ago and now is that I think twice (or three times) before I actually do it. I have tried to be more judicious. I have tried to consider the shoes others stand in, and remember that as far as screw-ups go, I am one of the worst offenders, so perhaps compassion behooves me.

As previous blog posts clearly demonstrate, I used to be confounded by life. Ragey. Bitter. Indignant. Everything was, “Why me?!” I never focused on how many things I’d been given. How lucky I was. Even at my lowest, there was still goodness in my life, but I couldn’t see it. Today, I go out of my way to look for things to be grateful for. I have to — because it helps keep me sober. The truth is, even if you’re in a fucking Turkish prison, you can probably still find a silver lining if you look hard enough.

My second-favorite scene from "Airplane"

My second-favorite scene from “Airplane”

Because while I thought I had been bobbing around in a maelstrom of shit, I actually have what’s regarded as a pretty high bottom. (And this is the only time the term “high bottom” will ever apply to me, since my ass is as wide and large as a fucking tundra.) I am one of the very few people I’ve heard of in my AA tenure who didn’t go to rehab or some treatment facility. No one staged an intervention. I was never pulled over. I never got arrested. I never accidentally killed someone. I didn’t lose my job. My drinking never cost me a relationship. I know people who had all of those things and then some happen to them. And that’s what you learn — you all have war stories. You all have sob stories. You all have stories you think are so horrific and unique, until you share them, and then you quickly realize that that’s what you have in common with every other person in that meeting — you’re all sad. You’re all anxious. You’re all ashamed. You’re all manic. You’re all self-obsessed. You’re all insecure. You all have embarrassing moments you’d rather never discuss. The good news now, though, is that you don’t have to sit mired in your own rut, without any hope in sight. There is always light if you look for it…you just have to look for it.

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Now, just to keep shit real, this is all some touchy-feely horseshit that I would have scoffed and shit on a year ago. I was not into the idea of group therapy with a bunch of under-the-bridge drunks and society lushes. I didn’t want to hold any strange motherfucker’s hand and chant anything to anyone in particular. I didn’t want to dissect myself, dredging up all the things I did wrong, because hey, I’d already spent a lifetime raking myself over the coals. Wasn’t this shit supposed to be about healing? I didn’t want any part of their happy-go-lucky, fakey, intangible, talk-y shit. I just wanted to stop hating myself so goddamned much.

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And do you know what? For the most part, those things have happened: the pain is still pain, but it’s quickly put into perspective, and it’s manageable. I don’t know that I’m completely in love with myself just yet, but I don’t hate myself anymore. I am trying to treat myself better, to undo years of damage and hurt and suffering from not-giving-a-fuckitis. I set boundaries now, where I hadn’t before. I demand a little better for myself. My threshold for tolerating unacceptable behavior (usually from dick-owning humans) is shorter. There’s no perfection, anywhere. And I still hurt over things. But I am so much more likely to sigh when something doesn’t go my way and figure God has something better for me, or that He saved me from some fantastic sort of utter fuckery.

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I cannot say this enough: I never expected to make it here. A year ago, I couldn’t see this person, because maybe she didn’t even exist. A year ago, I fully expected to be dead by 50. A year ago, whatever personal reservoir I was supposed to draw from was empty. I had no idea how to do this. I was angry I had to give up something I loved. I knew my friends and family would never understand, and would admonish me.

Up until January 14, 2013, I had never done anything like this for myself. In every attempt I’d ever made at bettering myself, it was because other factors were involved. Get my degree? Society and family dictated that. Lose weight? Again, family and society. Work out? My doctor badgered me into it. But I got sober without a soul telling me I needed to. I got sober because I was tired of being in unbearable pain. I got sober because I wanted to see if I could maybe feel what it felt like to want to live.

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Full Circle

Over Thanksgiving, in between jonesing for a down-low cigarette and cursing my mother’s weak-ass wifi connection,

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(I feel you, bro. ‘Specially around the holidays, amirite? When Michelle’s mom’s in town?)

I got a message on Facebook. It was a mea culpa – a seemingly sincere overture from an ex-boyfriend of mine. Pushing me away, and letting me go, he said, was his biggest mistake. He’s thought a lot about me since we’ve been apart, and how I was (and I quote) the most giving, compassionate, loving woman he’d ever been with. And that he wouldn’t blame me if I didn’t respond, because he’d acted like a bastard who never deserved a second thought. But that he really did love me, for what it’s worth, and he doesn’t want to be on non-speaking terms anymore. He’d like to be back in my life again.

I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve dreamt about shit like this. Probably because it doesn’t happen, at least for me. Doesn’t everyone want this at least once in their life, to have someone pop back up, and get all The Notebook on you, and say, “I was emotionally immature. You were great. I regret letting you go.”

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Specifically him. We want him to pop back up. Anytime. Any where. In fact, my vagina would be a good place to start.

Because I? Will forever be the girl who hugged the wall at every school dance in 1989 while the boys I loved vertically dry-humped to Martika’s Toy Soldiers with the thin girls (WHO TOTALLY DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TITS, Y’ALL)…the girls with the perfect bangs and cute tiny butts popped perfectly into their Z-Cavaruccis.

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I mean, c’mon. I’m never the girl who gets the guy. No one comes back to me. I’m the one they get with right before the find someone else. Or get married. I have never been the girl anyone pined for. I’m always the one they get over.

Until now, apparently.

And while I won’t hold my breath ever waiting for it, this confession and daring reach-out wasn’t from Steven.

It was from Parker.

I’ll let that settle with you long-time readers for a minute.

For you newbs, Parker (and my breakup with him) was the impetus for this blog. Yes, when I was in the throes of guzzling the sweet nectar and raging against anything I could think of (concrete pylons, shitty drivers, empty paper towel rolls, people I loved),

Alec Baldwin gets aggressive with a Photographer in New York

Nothing personifies rage like an image of Alec Baldwin assaulting a photographer

my passive-aggressive act of revenge was to start this blog about what a shithead he was. It eventually evolved into what it is now: 5 years of reasons that I am forever alone, apparently.

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Not coincidentally, my birthday just happens to be this week.

When I got his message on Facebook, I hardly recognized his avi. And the name he used to contact me was different – because I had blocked him on FB as soon as I joined back in 2008. I had to do a double take. And my guts almost bounced right out of my ass.

Now before you all start chiming in, BITCH BE CAREFUL!, let me say that from what I can tell, he’s actually sincere. Perhaps fatherhood, and going through a divorce, changed him. He just sounds different. Like he had some come to Jesus, or reckoning. Who am I to judge?

The truth is, if he’d contacted me a year ago – or even 6 months ago – there’s a real good chance I would have gone crazier than a group of middle-aged women spotting Norman Reedus at ComicCon (trust me on that one).

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I mean, I was a mess, and my reaction probably would have corresponded accordingly. I was damn near incapable of handling any surprising situation with grace or aplomb.

Plus, since my split with Steven, I’ve been drinking as much of that Zen kool-aid (non-alcoholic, natch) as possible, because  the only way I can deal with life is to get all Yoda and shit. I found myself what-iffing about shit 30 years down the road the other day and I had to just Shut. It. Down. That kind of thinking doesn’t serve me; it gets me into trouble.

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So as is evidenced by God’s ever-exquisite timing, I was able to receive this news and not go DEFCON 3 over it. And you know what else?

I forgive him.

I’ve even tried to hide most of the nasty posts I wrote about him because it just doesn’t serve me anymore. (And because, let’s be honest, my funnier shit came after that.) I told Parker – and I meant it – that he unknowingly gave me a peace with his apology that I didn’t even know I needed. Because believe me, I may be going through the Steps and trying not be a white-knuckle dry drunk

but it wouldn’t have occurred to me to try to come to emotional grips with anything having to do with him. I was willing to just let sleeping dogs lie.

And yet, in the space of a single, heartfelt FB message, I was able to really & truly let go of some unhealthy horseshit that I’d been harboring for 5 long years. By putting his ass on the line, he helped me let go of something that I might otherwise not have.

As for now, we’re communicating. A bit of back and forth, to see where we’ve been over the past few years. All I can do is shake my head and laugh a little, because goddamn life’s surprising.

We’ll Have a Gay Old Time

I know, I know — I’ve been MIA. Although some of you may have just assumed that I ran away to start my own homeless cat farm, clad only in clogs and flowy Eileen Fisher clothing, let me put your mind at ease: I’m still here, as neurotic and biting as ever.

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I am still sober (9+ months) and still losing some chunk (-40+ lbs). So in that arena, things are smashing.

It’s funny, but I thought being sober would instantly make me a better person. I mean, spiritually, I feel like I grow every day, though it’s a process for sure, since I passed someone going 84 mph on the way to work yesterday and hollered, “Move it, horse fucker!!” at him.

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Still, I suppose almost immediately recognizing that growling at someone on the freeway isn’t the most positive start to my day beats the alternative, where I not only was unaware of the assholishness of those moments, but I actually looked forward to spewing such vitriol.

Actually, things have been busy and social for me lately. I try to get to 4-5 meetings a week, which is a lot, but I feel pretty centered when I’m there. It’s how I come back to earth. And just when you think your problems are shitty, you hear about someone else’s problems (the guy who was gay bashed, or the guy whose fiance disappeared 2 days after he proposed) and then you get that healthy dose of perspective that we all invariably need so that we can curb our inner Alec Baldwin.

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My hands-down favorite meeting is the Lambda meeting, which is predominantly gay men. (I assume a few lesbians trickle in, but my area of town really isn’t their territory; I’m not sure where their spot it, actually, but if I find out, I should totally go, because lesbians fucking love me.)

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I go to three meetings: one I call the Pepaw meeting, which has a disproportionate number of elderly, walking-wielding gentlemen; one is a ladies-only meeting, filled mostly with women old enough to be my mother; and then the Lambda meeting, which I try to attend 3 times a week.

Tell you what: get a bunch of gay alcoholic men in a room and you might get a lot of drama, yes, but you’re not going to get much bullshit. My group, at least, is unapologetically raunchy and think nothing of throwing a “Preach it, girl!” when someone’s sharing. These guys keep shit incredibly real. And the recidivism rate is high among their demographic, so you always have a sobering (to use a word) mix of old-timers with 30 years and guys who are still trembling and have like 26 hours or something.

For as much as I love gay men, this is really my first experience with being around a large group of them. I find their interactions with each other fascinating (I’m like their Jane Goodall), because it is so dramatically different than, say, a football stadium of straight guys. (BO-RING.)

My first Lambda meeting, I walked in timidly, wondering if they were going to be massively pissed that a breeder was in their midst. In situations like that, I’m unusually shy, and that night was no different. I took a seat and kept my eyes down. Two men across from me were having a conversation.

M1: I just can’t fathom these wine-tasting people! What, you go, and take a drink,and spit it in a bucket, and take another sip, and spit it out too? Pfft – I’d take the whole bucket and put it in my mouth.

M2: Queen, please. You put everything in your mouth anyway.

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It was like the Lord had called me home. I knew I was in the right place.

And boy howdy, at these Lambda meetings, my head is on a constant swivel. I have just never seen so much beauty in all of my days. I mean, men so beautiful you want to smack your mother (…perhaps not the best example).That level of hotness is to be expected in my neighborhood – after all, I almost crashed my car last year craning my neck to look at a flock of hot gay guys crossing the street. And since I love to look, these meetings certainly don’t leave me disappointed.

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(Good GOD Tom Ford)

My current sponsor has floated the idea that she and her husband could move back to Mexico City in the future, and if that happens then I’d have to try to find a new sponsor, and it would make sense to me to find a guy from Lambda. Normally, opposite-sex sponsoring is shunned in AA, but that’s only when there could be an attraction there. Rather – a two way attraction. For I will be mesmerized by any gay sponsor I’ll get, but he most definitely will not be mesmerized by me. If you ever want to feel gorgeous (“Oh sugar, that skin! It’s divine! You just can’t be 36!”) and yet repulsive simply because you have a vagina (“God. Ick. I wouldn’t even know what to do with one of those things. Can you imagine the smell?”) then you’re in the right place.

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Most of you will remember that one of my greatest desires in life is to be bossed around by Bob Harper, and having a Lambda sponsor would be about as close as I’m going to get to that. A Southern gay man without a single fuck to give is exactly what the doctor ordered. I’ll bow up to a female, but a gay man? I will take a humiliating schooling and then ask for more. (I have no idea what this says about me. Something complex I’m sure.)

Initially, I felt like the dorky limp-along straight chick who was thoroughly lousing up a perfectly good sausage party, but those guys have really taken me under their glittery wings and made me feel most welcome. There’s a comfort I feel with them. I’m telling you, God switched around some chromosomes at the last minute and made me a straight(ish) chick. Otherwise, I’m almost positive I was slated to be a gay man.

During my horrible summer o’heartbreak, these guys really came through for me in ways only they could. There’s this thing after AA meetings called “fellowship” or as non-neurotic, socially-normal people know it, corresponding in meaningful ways with other humans. Alcoholics tend to be an isolating bunch, so nicely forcing us to fraternize with one another is usually met with some resistance.

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After the initial smoke ‘n bitch session they have out in front of our building (yes, tricks, I occasionally smoke with them. I know, I know….) someone usually decides where to meet for dinner, and they all go en masse. Although politely invited, I deferred the first dozen or so times I was asked. (And they are polite to a fault. Just last week, there was an obviously high/drunk/schizo guy at our meeting who kept talking to himself and pointing at invisible shit, and I’ll be damned if one of the regulars didn’t go up and talk to him like he was talking to Brooke Astor or someone. CLASS.)

Granted, my months at Lambda have brought me a higher volume of ass-sex and dick-centric conversations of which to be part. (“Whore please — sucking dick is just my way of saying goodnight! I might not remember your name, but I’ll give you a proper send-off.”)

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My guys and I have all the same conversations you’d have with your friendly co-worker (weekend/holiday plans, crazy family, TPS reports) but littered with far more in-depth topics. (Not even kidding: the best way to prepare salmon, how we would all hump anyone with the surname Skarsgard, internet cat sensations, the best diets, what we interpret “corn fed” to mean, and how we all seem to have an ex who is a worthless dickhole.)

What I’m saying is, the grace and candor of these sober men saved me. I cannot imagine ever being too far from this group — and wouldn’t want to be. They have loved me in a way I couldn’t have imagined even a year ago. And so it means even more that tonight, I’ll be in their presence when I go up to get my 9 month chip.

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And by my side will be someone I met completely by chance, when my heart was in pieces. Someone who sweetly but doggedly pursued me, who’s old enough to be my father, has his shit together, connects with me on an emotional and spiritual level, and is entirely different from anyone I’ve ever been with. A friend suggested I *not* write about him (as a change of tactic), and so I won’t…much. I sometimes just refer to him as The Lawyer.

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Ta ta for now!

So, two assholes walk into a relationship….

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Being sober is hard, yo. As I’ve lamented at more than one AA meeting, putting down the sweet nectar is the easy part (for now). The hard part is cleaning up the rest of your life and doing your damndest not to act like a raging asshole anymore.

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(ahh, Alec Baldwin. forever my go-to asshole.)

The thought is that not only are alcoholics awful because they’re the word-slurring fun-killers (or fun-makers, depending on your perspective) who don’t know when to quit drinking, they’re also all mostly-unapologetic, out-of-control assholes who are fresh out of fucks to give about anyone else.

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So. For those of you who are uninitiated into how all this works (and my ass barely knows at this point, so I should hardly be conducting classes) being sober means being accountable for how you act; it means not running roughshod over people; it means not being a dick, basically.

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But here’s what I thought, 5 short months ago: I thought that the second I went 24 hours without a drink, I would magically (oddly, yes, a unicorn was involved) morph into a better, more reasonable human being.

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That didn’t happen. Which is why 12 Step programs are an absolute necessity.

My party had ended, so to speak. But then I flipped on the lights, and saw all the damage and detritus that it had left behind. And suddenly, cleaning up all that shit seemed infinitely harder than just not sucking back 2 handles of vodka a week.

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Now, throw on to this delicious little pile of difficulty a brand-new relationship. (My sponsor, after our most recent phone call, has admitted that relationships in the first year of sobriety really are ill-advised. But I think she knew I was going to do it come hell or high water, so she acquiesced.)

So Steven’s last weekend up here was…interesting. It’s looking like most of his trips are going to fall at the end of the month, which, unfortunately for absolutely everyone involved, is when I am in the throes of PMS. Let me just put it this way: my PMS is so bad that it serves as a perfectly fine example of why no woman should have her hands on the nuclear football. There’s no sexism there – just truth. Because God knows, if men suffered from PMS, the world would have self-destructed into a cloud of nuclear dust a long time ago.

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I’m back on The Pill, which should help ease some of those PMS symptoms, but so far has not. And I have them all. I am a full-fledged paranoid, crying jag having, weight-gaining, water-retaining, Hershey-bar fucking, split second anger spewing, testicle punching ninja. Shit is the worst. And it triply sucks because I’m aware of how bad I get. It’s like I float above myself and hear the awful shit that comes out of my mouth. And thank baby Jesus there’s no visual diagram available for where my poor, beleaguered, PMS-addled mind goes; I would probably be arrested if there were.

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Now, if I had a boyfriend who was the picture of patience, soft-spoken kindness and understanding, and had grown up in a family of nothing but females where he had by-God learned the hard way not to provoke women, then perhaps we’d be dealing with a different animal. But that’s not who I’m dating.

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The bad news: we’re a lot alike…at least when it comes to “less than desirable traits.” I am insanely defensive (and will totally cop to it); he’s also incredibly defensive (and seemingly unaware). He says I see everything in black and white (*author’s note: as a writer and artsy-fartsy type, I balk at that notion, but let’s just go with it for now); I would accuse him of having to have things his way or no way. I’m stubborn; he’s stubborn. I’m passive-aggressive (and less likely to admit it); he’s also passive-aggressive (and more likely to admit it). I’m rebellious and will cut off my nose just to spite my face; his rebellion makes mine look like amateur hour.

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What I’m saying is, we’re going to really have to watch it, because this has all the ingredients for getting really nasty really quickly (and no, not in the way he’s hoping).

So, without getting into the particulars, on Steven’s last trip to The Big City to see me, we went from being happily naked to him throwing shit in his backpack and threatening to leave within the span of 45 minutes.

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Now. It wasn’t all just PMS. That was a big part of it, but it was also a clashing of personalities. For one thing, we don’t have similar quarreling styles: I can go rounds and still be fine when it’s over. For me, it’s just a discussion. For him, the first sign of discord and he’s all, “NO BUENO.”

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(sorry, I just found this really funny for some reason. carry on.)

He starts talking in lawyer-esque circles, accusing, and when that doesn’t work, he retreats: emotionally and physically. When I’m “discussing” I have a laser-like focus. It’s a marathon for me. I have one direction: forward. I want to destroy you. I want to win.

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But back that ass up a bit. Earlier that day, my hackles had been raised. He’d told me that he doesn’t care what I did before I got sober — that it’s not important for him to know or understand it.

On one hand, I appreciate that stance. I mean, thank you for not holding against me really stupid shit I did – and I did plenty. Thank you for not wanting to know my entire sexual history or reading my blog from the beginning or enduring my sob stories. He’s giving me a clean slate, and I dig that. It’s a kind gift.

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But. There’s stuff I went though – even before I started drinking – that he needs to know about (according to my sponsor). Important stuff. Stuff that triggered me (along with PMS) to have the freak out that led to our first real fight. If he doesn’t know it, then nothing I did in that moment makes any sense to him: I was just being irrationally cunty. So – there’s a difference between, “I don’t need to know what mistakes you made when you weren’t sober,” and “I couldn’t care less about anything that happened to you before January 14, 2013.”

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I ask him lots of questions, many about his past. I’m naturally curious. (Annoying. Nosy.) Sometimes it’s stupid stuff (favorite color); sometimes it’s more important stuff. But, as in any new relationship, even if you’ve been good friends beforehand, there are sometimes a whole plethora of things that you don’t – can’t – know, because you just haven’t been in the weeds with them that way yet. Like I didn’t know his fighting style before all this. Now I know: he doesn’t have a fighting style because he hates fighting. (I should add here that most normal people also hate fighting. And I am not normal.)

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Whereas I tend to be more nuanced about, well, everything, Steven is matter-of-fact. While I can appreciate that in certain situations, matter-of-fact/bluntness doesn’t mix well in the middle of say, sexy time.

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He’s not very romantic and (how to say this tactfully…) thinks cuddling is boring and snuggling is a means to an end.

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I am also not romantic because I hide under the covers, since I am needy as a motherfucker and, for every sexual encounter that I leave my bra on, my shitty self-esteem oozes out of me even further, like hot lava. We’re a wonderful duo.

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There’s a lot of consciousness in sobriety. And staying conscious for any length of time is harder than it sounds. I mean, how long can you breathe consciously, for example? You’re fighting outside distractions, not to mention the lure of old habits. And so it is with me, and how I behave with Steven.

That day, when he started throwing his shit into his backpack, he seemed to have every intention of leaving. And it was at that point that another offshoot of my sobriety kicked in: anxiety.

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Nevermind that being left is one of my biggest, if not my biggest, fear. That everyone I’ve loved has left me in some way: either emotionally, physically, for someone else or a combination of all three. I feel like I’ve been abandoned at critical moments throughout my life, and I hate it. It makes me jumpy. It brings out the worst in me. And on that day, it propelled me into a full-blown panic attack. I backed into a corner, like a scared dog, and proceeded to freak the fuck out. Right before his eyes.

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I’m cowering in this corner, sobbing, wanting to just fucking literally die, and he could have been like, “See ya, bitch!” and left. But he didn’t. His demeanor, his attitude toward me, totally changed. He stopped, gathered me up, and dealt with me. I got tears and snot all over his shirt, but he stood there and soothed me like you’d soothe a…well, a crazy person. A crazy person you love. He knew exactly what to do, and he did it. I mean, I’m not saying he should get a cookie for handling me; I’m just grateful that he did.

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Sobriety doesn’t turn you into a wonderful person. Most alcoholics I’ve come across were rotten damn near to the bone when they got sober, myself included. Sometimes there’s not as much to work with as you’d think. And in many ways, that’s an apt description of me. I just know that I don’t want to make the same mistakes that I’ve made in the past…and yet here I am, making them. I was chagrined to learn that sobriety alone wasn’t going to save me from myself in that regard.

Steven has already shown me (and downright told me, “Baby, you’re gonna have to let go of that shit.”) that my old ways of doing things — and the baggage and ways I’ve dragged around forever — isn’t going to work. He just doesn’t respond well to them…and so I notice that, and am compelled to reevaluate my behaviors and maybe change. Which isn’t necessarily a boon for him…because I can’t be the only one adapting and sloughing off old, shitty mechanisms that don’t work. He has to meet me half way. He may be ahead of me in progress, but he doesn’t have it licked yet, either. This isn’t really about either of us conforming to the other’s standards; but it is about us figuring out what works for US. Which means, maybe there’s a new way to do things — and it can be our way.

I haven’t had a sober relationship in over a decade, and it’s hard. Harder than I thought it would be. But God, is it worth it.

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* I have no idea why this is in italics. I’ve tried fixing it and can’t. So it stays.

My life is rollicking along superbly. In that, it’s better than I’ve ever remembered it being. To use an unoriginal analogy, it’s like a light’s been flipped on and I can see again. It’s like I’ve been looking at life through those glass bricks that everyone had in their shitty 80s shower…and now all of a sudden, I have a clarity.

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So far, a lot of things have come with my sobriety, and they’re mostly wonderful things. A new peace, not losing chunks of time because I’m loaded, making fewer regrettable errors, and this exquisite inner joy that lets me laugh and smile from a place that feels genuine. And that’s lovely. And I’m so thankful for it.

As most of you know, I’ve struggled mightily with anxiety and depression for the majority of my life. Drinking made my depression almost unbearable, which makes sense when you think about it. Throw a depressant on depression and what do you get? Ernest Hemingway, that’s what. (He blew his head off with a shotgun, if you don’t know.) And by the grace of God, my depression has lifted considerably since I got sober.

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But the anxiety. Oh God, the anxiety. I had managed to quiet it for the better part of a decade with alcohol. Vodka does wonders for anxiety. (I don’t recommend it, but it is effective.) So since I’ve been sober, I’ve had one anxiety attack after another. I get positively cagey. I sigh constantly. I’m always practicing breathing in, holding it and exhaling. I do it all the time. To the point where people comment on it. Even my boss has said, “You sigh all the time.” Add to that constantly fidgeting and borderline manic cleaning jags I’ve been on.

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So that’s where I am right now.

And in just a few days, this wonderful new man in my life, who I love so much in so many capacities, will be here this weekend. To stay with me for three days.

(For the sake of simplicity, let’s call him….Steven.)

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not sure I’ve ever been so excited to see someone in all my life. We had this amazing night almost a month ago, the night before Easter. We had a by-God moment. And the moment I dreaded – him seeing me, in person, for the first time in almost 18 years – the moment I thought was going to be a deal-killer, turned out to be, for him, the moment he said he knew he loved me.

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What we have, our love and goodness and friendship, flies in the face of what I was expecting. It’s literally more than I even hoped for.

And yet, my feelings about seeing him are…mixed. God may have taken away my need to drink every day, but that shitty, destructive thinking is still there. And when you couple that with the natural eagerness that comes with being apart from someone you love for a month, it makes for quite the clusterfuck, emotionally speaking.

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All we have to go on is our own experience, right? We go based on what we know. And here’s what I know: the last time someone I loved this much told me how they felt, it was glorious. “There will never be a day in my life that I’m not in love with you.” Except that a few short months after I heard this, my ass got dumped. Royally.

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Now. Steven shouldn’t have to pay for the bullshit someone else threw at me. He’s never done anything to intentionally hurt me, and I don’t think he would. I have no reason not to believe him.

But my inner dialogue’s been this:

He has no idea what he’s getting himself into. Well maybe he thinks I’m cute but he only saw me that one night and it was a month ago. And maybe he’s misremembering me. Or my Spanx were doing really amazing things for me that night.

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Or it was the moonlight. What’s going to happen when he rolls over and sees me in the morning. My hair looks like shit – seriously, it’s like I channel Mel Gibson circa ‘87. It’s fucking terrible.

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Either way, even if he’s okay with that, what about my tummy…my most hated body part? I can’t even suck that bitch in. In fact, my body looks so shitty that Bob Harper and all the fucking plastic surgery in the world wouldn’t swing me into “hot” territory. Steven’s had beautiful girlfriends before, and I’m sure they were fucking incredible in bed. How am I supposed to tell him that I like sex, as long as it’s by osmosis? Or at the very least, with the lights out. Or perhaps I could just club him over the head and knock him unconscious for 15 minutes while I do my thing. And what the fuck after we drift off to sleep? I’m not a pretty sleeper. I drool. And I snore. And not like a cute, sleepy kitten snore. Like a, “Goddamn she’s keeping me awake” snore. I have also been known to sing in my sleep, act out violent dreams, fart, kick, and almost always steal the covers. And when I do get up? My hair’s totally fucked, in a Dudley Moore kind of way.

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Oh, and guess what? He’s a morning person. Like he gets up before 6 am every day. I am going to kill that bitch if he tries to talk to me because no one is grumpier than my ass before 8 am. (Being honest? Before 10 am.)

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Let me tell you what my instincts are. My instincts are to bail. I once ran off to Califuckingfornia to get away from a relationship I was freaking out about. (Yes, with the same person who said, “I’ll always be in love with you” and then suddenly wasn’t.) I go into absolute panic mode…and that’s when I had the wonderful aid that was vodka. I am about to twist the fuck off right about now. I don’t ever want to look up and see that shadow of disappointment cross his face. My ego, my heart, can’t handle it.

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This. This is why they tell you not to get into a relationship in your first year of sobriety. And here I am doing it 90 days in. (Full disclosure: my sponsor, who has almost 33 years of sobriety, is totally, oddly, on board with Steven and me being together. So there’s that.) Not that the anxiety makes me want to drink. Surprisingly, I’ve only really, really wanted to drink once or twice since I got sober. Most days I don’t think about it too much. So there’s that.

Instead, I’m just left with practically zero recourse to deal with the resulting anxiety. I don’t want to drink it away…but I do want it to go away. I haven’t gotten great at channeling it yet. Rarely do I successfully turn it into something I can utilize, like energy. Mostly, I just sit around twisting, burning it off by worrying and hand-wringing.

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So all of this is supposition at this point. I mean, Steven’s surprised me so far. He’s answered every question I’ve had. He’s been honest. He’s been romantic and forthcoming. He says to me that he knows who and what I am…and that’s who he wants. He’s demonstrated that in so many ways. The only thing that makes me not believe him is my own well-nurtured paranoia.

There’s…just so much pressure surrounding this situation. Because we live so far away from each other, we’re afforded small chunks of time to spend together. So everything seems…immediate. And the emotions are running really high. And it’s not like we’re going to play checkers this weekend, either, if you get my drift.

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And it’s not that I’m not ready. I just don’t know how to quiet the voices in my head. I don’t know how to quiet the self-doubt, the positively nasty parts of me that tear me down every time. Because seriously? I’d like to chloroform that bitch. At least for about 72 hours anyway.

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The thing is, I didn’t plant these seeds of not-good-enough, no-one-wants-you-that-way, you’re-damaged, you’re-too-much. They were planted deep in my psyche a long time ago. But the thing is, they’re my creations now. Because at some point, I took over the duties and responsibilities for watering them and feeding them enough bullshit to keep them growing high and strong.

Here’s what I don’t want to do: I don’t want to check out. I don’t want to emotionally (or worse, physically) bail. I don’t want to close my eyes and go somewhere else just to get through the churning anxiety. Because I love him so much – he’s my friend, after all – and that’s the point of sobriety: to not check out. To be present in the moment. Do not, as my sponsor reminded me, keep one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow. “Do that and you’ll piss all over today,” she wryly told me.

Yeah. I know all about that.

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