What led you to get sober?
A lot of my first experiences drinking, and then a lot of the drinking I did in California [in recent years], were alone. Some were social, but then I’d realize, “It’s 4 or 5 in the morning and everybody else is going home and I’m here to keep drinking.” One day I woke up and was like, “Oh my god, what am I doing?”
I wasn’t waking up at 11 o’clock in the morning and getting drunk; it was more just after work I’d go to the liquor store and buy a 24-oz beer or drink a bottle of wine. Like a lot of other things, it creeps up on you. At first it seems rather harmless. There’s a metaphor where you put a frog into a pot on the stove and slowly turn up the heat; first everything seems fine and it’s just lukewarm, but before you know it the frog is cooked.
My drinking took me to points that were far from ideal, and they could have been prevented. I recognized that my life wasn’t where I wanted it to be. It was time to see the world for what it is and become more self-aware of my place in it—to stop brushing things under the rug and face my demons head-on.
Yeah, I’ve found that a lot of recovery has been learning to deal with difficult feelings and pain. It’s not necessarily just about the alcohol or drugs; it’s also about using as a way to hide from pain or difficult feelings.
Exactly. It’s very important to be able to face them, and of course that’s hard if you haven’t spent a lot of time doing it in the past. Then there’s a pandemic on top of it that forces you to be in isolation and face your demons.
I’ve asked other people I’ve interviewed whether the pandemic has affected their sobriety, but in your case sobriety kind of coincided with the pandemic. Can you talk a little about that?
Oh absolutely, it did coincide with the pandemic. I had been sober about two and a half months before COVID really hit and we went into lockdown. Once we did, there was a lot of anxiety of thinking, “Oh my gosh, what have I done with my life? What am I doing?”
It was all very sobering, in more ways than one. There were times I asked myself if drinking would help me not freak out so much—be able to do things I was struggling to do because of feeling so paralyzed by the isolation and uncertainty.
Again, I had to confront things and not run away from them. It’s certainly been a very eye-opening time in a lot of ways.
What does your recovery program look like—AA, meditation, therapy?
Yes, meditation, therapy. Also, thinking about what my life would have been like had I not drank—and using that as a reason to not drink now.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed within yourself since you got sober?
Over the years, I’ve had a lot of trouble facing my emotions. I’ve broken down a lot and been psychiatrically hospitalized. I basically lost control. I wasn’t able to keep it together anymore by numbing myself with alcohol—or I guess I made the choice that I didn’t want to do that.
There was a lot going on with my transgender identity: coming out, and trying to find a safe place for that, and a lot of the PTSD that came with that alone. It was just a lot. There was a part of me that thought, “I don’t want to have to feel this; I don’t want to have to face these things; I shouldn’t have to face these things.” So there was an element of self-pity too. I felt like I had nowhere to turn—or really, I didn’t turn anywhere. I didn’t reach out.
It’s now a matter of moving forward and forgiving myself—giving myself credit, understanding, and grace. Reminding myself that even if I was getting wasted at times, those years weren’t entirely a waste. Saying to myself, “You were going through some stuff, and that was how you handled things. You weren’t intentionally saying you wanted to ruin your life. You know better now.”