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Eternal Sunshine of the Sober Mind

By Dana G



Art by Autumn Rain




At some point in our lives, many of us experience a sudden, gut-wrenching realization that we’ve spent months or even years in a bad habit, feeling wholly and miserably stuck. Sometimes we’ll have that realization over and over before feeling compelled to do anything about it. That can make us feel blind, like failures—like we’re actively and willingly self-destructing.


My habit was alcohol. From high school experimentation through the hard partying of college and my roaring mid-20s, alcohol was my reward and my release. At one point, I even fooled myself into thinking I had slowed down, "just" having a "well-deserved" bottle of wine after work. But alcohol relentlessly laid its heavy blanket over my existence, stifling my creativity, my ability to follow my desired life path and to honor and care for myself. 


I was functional, but not happy. Getting by, but screwing up just often enough to remind myself that I wasn’t really in control. My drunken blunders and damaging behavior amassed a giant, swirling pit of shame under my skin, making me wish I could jump out of it and start fresh. After years spent aware of,  but doing nothing to manage my compulsive personality and use problems, I finally made the decision to give up alcohol.

 

Though it sounds cliché, that decision completely changed my life. I felt happier and had boundless energy. I woke up to the fact that I’m not a terrible person, and that I have a lot of qualities worth spending my time and energy to cultivate. With sobriety, I’ve been exploring new interests and nurturing close friendships. I’ve joined D.C. writing communities and channeled my new energy into poetry—something I hadn’t done since graduating college, where it was a passion. 


Sobriety has felt like rebirth in the best of ways. It has opened me to total vulnerability in the stark reality of my anxieties. It’s taught me the value of exposure—breathing through discomfort to develop resilience. It’s stunned me in many powerful moments, when I’m met with a wash of mindful clarity, self-acceptance, or warm contentment. I often feel like a child again, with a fresh palette. Something I never thought I deserved or could attain. 


And though my demons still rise up at times to remind me of my past and my imperfections, I feel better able to recognize them as intrusive thoughts preying on my emotions. They are not inherent problems within me. I can write them out. I can fight them with the insights I have gleaned and continue to glean. Every day I am getting stronger. 


I am not religious and have never considered myself spiritual. But I’m sometimes overtaken by the awareness of how little we are amid the great unknown—the galaxies, the universe, the whatever-happens-in-death. In the grand scheme of things, our struggle is small, but it is certainly real. Thankfully, we are not alone. We can manage and overcome on the path tread by others who have done so. This poem is an attempt to share with you that feeling of boundless growth within the cradle of the universe, which holds us in her arms for comfort and renewal in our greatest time of need.


Aperture

I breathe in, in,

slow, 

deep, 

until my eyes glaze over 

and I am so full

of me,

catching the last of the 

thinning

atmosphere

and it feels like forever is 

on my doorstep 

and I

am stretching,

edging

like the sickle of the moon

and I have made it

I am here 

and I am ready now

to crumble

and collapse

with a deep,

shuddering

yawn

into the wide

open arms

of the galaxy,

staring into her 

shining eyes

that blink once

as I fade out

with nothing

but a crackle

and a snap.










Dana is starting a new blog on how to thrive while sober in an alcohol-fueled society. Going live in the next few weeks, it will be hosted on somelikeitsober.com. You can watch her live performance with Health's Angels here.

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