• Alcohol and Sobriety,  Motherhood

    Eight Years

    I have been sober eight years. That is long enough that now I have to count to figure it out. How many years has it been? Well, how old is the cat? She was born between then and my sister’s wedding, so… Sometimes I count on my fingers. I don’t go to meetings anymore. I stopped a few days before the baby was born last year, and just haven’t been back. This wasn’t a conscious decision. My precious little free time doesn’t seem to land when I have the freedom to go, and anyways, drinking sounds like the last thing I want to do. I don’t want to have to…

  • Alcohol and Sobriety

    Anonymous No More

    I damn near forgot it was today when I got the text message from Mike asking if we could celebrate over dinner. Oh yeah. Six years sober today. Each year, I try to reflect on my life before and my life after giving up alcohol. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I didn’t give up alcohol so much as it gave up me. It more closely resembled a painful, abusive breakup, complete with throwing lamps at windows and then me calling at midnight, begging it to take me back. A relationship like that either kills you, or you somehow manage to walk away and piece back together the shards of your life…

  • Alcohol and Sobriety,  This is Me

    Compound Interest

    Everyone was laughing except me. At this point, I had pasted a smile to my face, which now felt stiff and wooden. I probably looked like a monkey, tightened lips spread in a parody of human emotion. I’m usually pretty good at faking things, but it was all bubbling so closely under the surface that day. “I went back and told her, ‘Uh uh. That’s not a raise: that’s a cost of living adjustment,’” Sophia proclaimed, straight-faced. “Don’t get me wrong—I appreciate a cost of living adjustment. It’s great. Really. But, you know, let’s just call it was it is.” This followed a discussion of her husband’s signing bonus, which with an…

  • Alcohol and Sobriety

    Where We Take Our Smoke Breaks

    “That’s where we take smoke breaks,” Anna pointed toward an E-Z Up under the Eucalyptus, several yards from the facility’s cafeteria. The dust was high on the dirt roads, the decrepit blue van billowing trails behind us as we carted around various brooms, mops, buckets, rags and cleansers. That was our job, to clean. Housekeeping, they called us, as if we serviced an upscale hotel instead of rehab. “I don’t smoke,” I said. “Good, that’s good. I should quit. These things will kill you.” After a few hours at the Ranch, I had anticipated her response to my smoke-free existence. Everyone reiterated the same sentiment in their own words, different summaries of the…

  • Alcohol and Sobriety

    The Long Walk Back

    I couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day off work. Sky so crisply blue it seemed tangible, clouds high and fluffy, temperature in the low seventies. A perfect North County day, as all the days seemed during that spring so many years ago. Right after the other girls in the house went to work cleaning cabins and raking leaves, I dressed, filled my water bottle, and set out on the two-mile walk to the train station. On my various walks to the Target or the Stater Brothers or the bank, I would shuffle through the music my boyfriend had loaded on an iPod he gave me for Christmas. Sometimes the playlists grew stale…

  • Alcohol and Sobriety,  Family Dynamics,  This is Me

    I Would Change My Name

    I was starting to realize I always notice smells. This room smelled of bureaucratic dust and the yeasty, lingeringly angry odor of people standing in line all day, exactly how I imagined the county recorder’s office to smell. We stood right up front, because we made sure to get here just as the building opened. Warned of the epic wait times in Los Angeles municipal buildings, a lifetime of lengthy DMV lines and once, a four-hour wait to apply for SNAP benefits, had prepared us. I had taken the morning off work and met my future husband here, this beige hub of government business. Paperwork must be filed, names must be changed, and this…

  • Alcohol and Sobriety,  Damn the Man,  Depression is a Bitch

    Baking on a Friday Night

    I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but when I’m stressed out, I bake. Sometimes cookies or bread, but more often than not, I bake complex items that take on lives of their own. Dishes with several well-timed steps that take hours to bake, chill, whip and beat into submission. It’s like choosing a geometric theorem over simple addition; it takes every ounce of concentration, so there’s no room in my brain to fret and run my worries over and over like a hamster wheel. So, when I’m stressed out, I bake. This is why I have a platter of chocolate mousse in my refrigerator, why I have a tiny mountain of scones…

  • Alcohol and Sobriety,  Depression is a Bitch

    I’m Going to Talk About Suicide

    I woke up on my 27th birthday on a shitty mattress in rehab. The December light speckled in through the gritty window, and I lay there for a few minutes and thought about him. Of course I did. He had been 27 when he died. He had been an addict too, like me. So was Jimi and Janis and Brian and Jim, all dead at 27, but I mostly thought about him. When I was a young teenager, Kurt Cobain was very important to me, like I suspect he was to a lot of teenage kids. He wasn’t just a rock star who killed himself. He was a mythological figure.…

  • Ovid Quote
    Alcohol and Sobriety,  Damn the Man,  This is Me

    How I Talk Myself Down: An Unemployment Checklist

    There comes a time in every job search when you start awakening with a start in the middle of the night, covered in a sheen of sweat and vague recollections of a nightmare about working at Starbucks and maybe at some point you were bottle-feeding a kitten that morphs into a baby piglet. This time usually coincides with the last few weeks of your unemployment checks, right around the time you’re cataloguing every mistake you made looking for freelance work during the past seven months and my God, why didn’t you apply for all the jobs, just to be safe? Gentle hints from loved ones about maybe getting a full-time job…

  • Alcohol and Sobriety,  Damn the Man,  This is Me

    The Art of Holding Back

    Looking back, I’m not sure why I was so nervous. Maybe it’s because it was my first “real” job after rehab and the wounds of alcoholism were still too raw, my self-image tender and peeling. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t worked at an office in three years, since getting laid off right before the recession. Maybe it was being one of two women in a roomful of construction men who bandied about casual insults like they were NERF balls. In any case, I was the low woman on the totem pole and grateful to have work at all after nine months scrambling frantically for any scrap of employment that didn’t…


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