Day 1,165: Now, where were we?

Well, hi there! It’s been a month since I published this essay, which was also the subject of my last post here. In case you haven’t been following along–because why would you?–it went viral. Really really viral. A blow-by-blow would  be both dull and likely inaccurate, but suffice to say that after literally thousands of emails from readers, writers, agents, editors, men who live in basements, and people I knew in kindergarten, when Neko Case tweeted praise I thought ‘okay, this has reached maximum awesomeness and maximum weirdness in one tweet.’

Famous last words. The next day brought a takedown from Slate, which I learned about when a friend texted me saying “When Slate hates you, you know you’re doing something right.” (For the record, not the greatest way to let someone totally new to celebrity know that a major media outlet is complaining about her. You’ve gotta ease into it, people!) Time and the New York Post took vaguely off-topic swipes too, and I’m currently showing up in people’s Google news feeds right on top of Donald Trump’s head, which frankly is closer than I really ever wanted to get.

So it’s been a wild ride, and maybe someday I’ll have more to say about the totality of it. But since this is a blog about being sober, what I want to share today are some ways the experience impacted me as a sober person. Because I’ve been paying attention and there are parallels all over the place, and maybe some of them will be useful to you in your own wacky life:

  1. Doing the next right thing works. When I got a Facebook message saying “Have you seen Time magazine?” I was already overwhelmed and in the middle of a stressful workday. Sure, there’s no such thing as bad press, but there are bad moments for hearing about your bad press, particularly when you have been a public figure for all of five seconds. I scanned the Time article (not really all that bad, more clueless than anything else), then sat at my desk frozen, wondering how I was supposed to function in a meeting in 12 minutes with my entire world continuing to turn itself inside-out.

    Then, thank God, a voice inside said you have 12 minutes. Use them. And I lammed it out of my office building and spent those 12 minutes walking around the block. Not thinking, not trying to be any certain way, just walking alone in the sun. And just that simple act of moving my body calmed me down enough that I made it to my 2:30 meeting merely wildly distracted, not wildly distracted, panicked, and goggle-eyed. (Baby steps, okay?) That’s just one instance of how zeroing in on just one small, immediate action has helped to keep me as grounded as I can reasonably expect to be while things swirl around me.

  2. What other people think of me is none of my business. Here’s a partial catalog of words I’ve been called since “Enjoli” published: hero, genius, star, dry drunk, liar, bitter, truth-teller, bitch, rich bitch, whiner, sage, smug, stunning, slut, judgmental, blind, man-hater, woman-hater, jealous, friendless, wonderful, astonishing, mean, brilliant, brave, goddess, victim, warrior, cunt.

    Yep. At every turn, someone is describing me–not just the 10-page artifact I published, but ME–and it’s rarely in middle-of-the-road terms like competent writer or thoughtful person or a little bit bitchy. It’s all drama and superlatives, because my essay inspired strong feelings, and those strong feelings want a person to attach themselves to. But it’s hard to be the host for all those qualities, especially the ones that confirm things I secretly already fear about myself. So you know which ones I’m accepting as truth?

    None of them. I’m rejecting all of them as applied to me, the person. If they apply to anyone, it’s to the consciously wrought version of me who narrates my equally consciously wrought essay (just because it’s true doesn’t mean it’s a diary). And people can call that chick whatever they want, because the writer doesn’t control what happens between reader and text. (Much as she might like to.) Just like when I quit drinking, I have to define myself for myself, or the center’s not going to hold. (Not to mention that for a writer, praise can be as deadly as criticism.) So much as I would love to walk around thinking what a brave, talented, truth-telling goddess I must be…gonna let all those kind words drift gently back to my work where they belong.

  3. People are (mostly) wonderful, and stories save lives. I’ve received thousands of emails and other messages this month. I’ve now mostly weaned myself from reading them, because it’s just too much for an empath like me to carry around. But I’m walking away with more faith in human beings than I’ve had in decades. Because I’ve heard from men and women; the 30-years sober, the 2-days sober, normal drinkers, alcoholic drinkers, non-alcoholics who just don’t drink anymore; Mormons and Muslims and the alcohol-allergic and other lifetime teetotalers; male and female tech workers; women who fled tech in horror; Indians and Scots and Aussies (lots of Aussies) and Italians; fathers of daughters; drunk-driving widows; bartenders, and on and on. (And yes, including a handful of truly loathsome, abusive human beings.) And their stories, in aggregate and alone, are amazing–as is their generosity in sharing them with a total stranger. I feel more a part of the human community having read these stories.

    And it’s cemented my belief that if you can, you should consider recovering out loud. Emphasis on consider. I don’t know your life circumstances, or what you’re up for emotionally, or how people around you will react. What I do know is that there are TONS of us out there, but a lot of us feel alone and/or ashamed. And odds are good that whatever part of your own story you can tell–anonymously, even–will be heard by someone who needed it. Just something to think about. 

  4. Slow things down. I learned pretty early in sobriety that frantic activity and FOMO are routes to misery. Uh, and then apparently at some point I forgot, because I’ve been panicked at times this month with the quantity and quality of professional opportunities that have landed in my lap. I have more interesting, fun options than anyone (certainly anyone with a day job) can take advantage of and stay sane–and that scares me to death, because deep down I’m also convinced that the friendly person behind each of those opportunities is one “no” or “yes, but later” from saying “well, fuck her” and writing me off for life. It took a close friend saying “Look, these aren’t aunts and uncles you have to write your thank-you notes to–they’ll be around when you’re ready” to make me remember it’s okay to think strategically, and choose carefully, and all that other stuff people do when they believe in their own worth and aren’t just, you know, saying yes to the first boy who asked them to prom.
  5. Binary thinking kills. When I was drinking, everything was black/white. Either I had a catastrophic alcohol issue, or no problem at all. Either I could drink to relax, or I’d be tense forever. Either I was the niftiest person alive, or the worst. Sound familiar? I still struggle with binary thought patterns, but at least I often recognize them now. And here’s some stuff I’ve read or heard in response to my essay:
  • She thinks sobriety is the only way to live an authentic life.
  • Anyone who has an issue with this essay is probably an alcoholic in denial.
  • She’s blaming men for all her own problems.
  • She raises some good issues, but fails to provide the solution, so fuck it.
  • She acts like women are the only ones who have a tough time at work.
  • She acts like women are the only ones who struggle with alcohol.
  • She acts like women are the only ones who feel stress.
  • Any man who doesn’t like this essay is probably a misogynist.
  • If she was a real feminist she wouldn’t judge women who drink. Feminists support other women no matter what.
  • Women who say they only drink socially are lying to themselves.
  • She must really hate fun.

    People! All of us! We must stop. Life is in the gray areas. I know this. You know this. Let’s live like we know this. We will all be saner and kinder and happier. Even the assholes.

To be continued. (Maybe. 😉 )

 

52 thoughts on “Day 1,165: Now, where were we?

  1. Hi, Kristi! Fuck Slate, they’re soulless hacks. You are brilliant, you wrote your truth and a lot of people (as in life) have totally missed the point (I had to go read the shitty slate article once you mentioned it). Just because my experience isn’t the same as yours doesn’t make yours any less valuable or honest. Anyhoo! Good luck with whatever you decide to do, always good to have choices:)

  2. thought your article was very good. you’ve come along way in a short time. the first year is so great with all the new revelations and changes. i am quite happy to be on this side of the pool too. at this point i feel i am on this side of the ocean but i still get lamblasted with a big breaker. havent gone under yet. 13 yrs and counting

  3. Your viral article showed up on my fb newsfeed and I loved it. It brought me to your blog which has brought me to my new sobriety-with-food as I am calling it. After spending 54 of my 57 years as a garden variety overeater, I now taste freedom! SO many gems for living sober in your blog — I have read it all bottom to top.
    Most specifically it was your entry “Want Not” that pinpointed the perspective that helped me Kill the Yes to the before bedtime XL quantities tortilla chips and XL spoonfuls of peanut butter to wind down my days. (And those chips and PB have kept me over 200lbs on a 5’4″ frame for the last 15 years – wow).
    I love the liberation in not giving a fuck whether I WANT to overeat or not — and just not overeating instead. Like you, I have spent so much time trying to finagle the next part of my life to kill the want-to. I also applied your concept to the most insidious part of my addiction, the “I know!, I’ll start my diet tomorrow and eat whatever I want to tonight!” part. The way to stop this decades-long pattern of deadly procrastination is to stop the procrastinating whether I feeeel like it or not.
    THANK YOU FOR RECOVERING OUT LOUD KRISTI — you’ve shared your experience strength and hope and your talent at drawing such fine distinctions that strike home for so many of us under the thumb of substance abuse — and as a result I am already living a changed, sober life.
    Love, Light, and Recovery for all who desire it!
    Pam L. P.

  4. Your article helps me to stay sober! I’ve re-read it at least 10 times. And I know it opened the eyes of many of my friends since it was shared widely. We’ve been slowly brainwashed over the years and it’s time we take notice and support each other. Thank you for your honesty and your guts! I’m also happy to be on your side of the pool.

  5. Thank you for writing. As a newly sober person, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in some of the thoughts I have. Thank you for being an inspiration 🙂

  6. You hit a nerve, and now you must pay for it with people’s nastiness. It’s a predictable pattern that never fails. I LOVE your candor, and the fact that you are not apologetic for staying sober! Coming from an extremely alcohol crazed family~ I GET YOU! Thank you for allowing us gals to share the other side of the pool with you! XO

  7. Haters gonna hate. I’m proud of you for throwing a rock hard enough to crack the notion that alcohol is not only harmless but our birthright. It takes guts to speak up, and you did so eloquently and hilariously. I also like what you said here about the next right thing. Again, proud to know you.

  8. Yikes! Well, I am glad it went viral because that’s how I found you and your blog 🙂 but I hate that it brought out the creepers on you. I’m at the start of day 8 because of your inspiration.

  9. Just got through with “Giving up alcohol opened my eyes to the infuriating truth about why women drink” over at Quartz. I’m not a woman but I sure feel for the things you have to deal with. I’m dry 3 years now and living without alcohol sure makes the other side of the pool a neat place. Don’t you agree? Also just got through with Choose Yourself and Althurer relates about how a friend told him 33% of folks will like what you do, 33% will like it and 33% won’t give a flying F. So ignore response to your stuff as much as possible. You’re doing good.

  10. Thank you… I stopped drinking 7 months ago and my daughter is sober a year now. So far my daughter and I have been a party of two. Its wonderful to hear a voice out there telling a story thats so familiar.

  11. Thanks for this, it’s on point. And thanks for staying with those of us that still need the story to save our lives, despite what must be a great weight of other things vying for your attention. Thing is, I’ve read the response articles, slate, wp, nyp, etc. I don’t think you said anywhere that men don’t also have pressures that result in over-indulging or that 49 hour work weeks are not also a factor in drinking culture. My husband works in tech and he knows someone that threw themselves out a window during the last round of lay offs. I’m sure this is not an isolated event. There are a lot of broken things in our society. But you were writing about women. whether its 49 (or 68) hour work weeks or having to spend 8 hrs a week on hair and makeup on top of that, life is hard. What is all the fuss from these other writers about? Summer doldrums in the news business, that’s what.

  12. Hi there, I just wanted to say thank you for your essay. I came across it quite by accident and like many others, felt you hit a few nails right on the head. I have not read any reviews. I see no point.
    I’ve come to a point in my life where I feel like every event, every interest, and every everything is linked to alcohol and somehow I’m on a train I can’t get off. I can’t even complain about my problems on FB without someone saying ‘it’s wine o’clock!’ (as you have pointed out). Book club = wine. Yoga = brunch and mimosas. Play dates = mommy snow cones. Even a knitting circle = a stitch & bitch with wine. Yard sale? Who wants to be sober for that? New staff meet and greet = try some local brews. Urban bocce and beers. Doggie happy hour. To say nothing of weekend dinners with friends, meet ups of wineries and after work happy hours which are more traditional venues for alcohol. It was all sort of fun and ‘what one does’ around the times you aren’t chasing your tail at work. Now I realize it has compounded. Now I realize I have some real work to do now. The hard work of challenging myself to break those activities apart and enjoy them on their own – quite possibly will mean I have to do them on my own. Maybe I will get there and maybe I won’t but I hope so.
    One last thing – I was sad to see many people suggest that the author and her sympathizers should be simply switching up your social circle or getting a new job. We live in a world where people search for (and find) their life partners on a website. Meeting new people you feel comfortable with and leaving old friends behind is not a decision. It is a tough process.

  13. I’m a man, but I have four daughters (and a son). How people are treated is important to me. I hope your article and others like it might improve how people are treated, and how they treat themselves. I’m generally pessimistic, but I think maybe it will. Well done.

  14. I just wanted to say thank you for your essay. I came across it quite by accident and like many others, felt you hit a few nails right on the head. I have not read any reviews. I see no point.
    I’ve come to a point in my life where I feel like every event, every interest, and every everything is linked to alcohol and somehow I’m on a train I can’t get off. I can’t even complain about my problems on FB without someone saying ‘it’s wine o’clock!’ (as you have pointed out). Book club = wine. Yoga = brunch and mimosas. Play dates = mommy snow cones. Even a knitting circle = a stitch & bitch with wine. Yard sale? Who wants to be sober for that? New staff meet and greet = try some local brews. Urban bocce and beers. Doggie happy hour. To say nothing of weekend dinners with friends, meet ups of wineries and after work happy hours which are more traditional venues for alcohol. It was all sort of fun and ‘what one does’ around the times you aren’t chasing your tail at work. Now I realize it has compounded. Now I realize I have some real work to do now. The hard work of challenging myself to break those activities apart and enjoy them on their own – quite possibly will mean I have to do them on my own. Maybe I will get there and maybe I won’t but I hope so.
    One last thing – I was sad to see many people suggest that the author and her sympathizers should be simply switching up your social circle or getting a new job. We live in a world where people search for (and find) their life partners on a website. Meeting new people you feel comfortable with and leaving old friends behind is not a decision. It is a tough process.

    1. It’s worth it, so keep on doing what your’e doing! I have eleven years now. Don’t fret too much about the people thing..it will sort itself out. Eventually you will be able to hang out with anyone doing anything and it will not be a problem.(.but you may well find that people who were entertaining when you drank are blustery bores when you stop being anesthetized yourself).
      If you take the journey, you will never regret it and I wish you the best!

  15. Love your work on drinking. As a man, I can say that you’ve captured my experience with alcohol pretty well, too. My wish is for everyone to have a life that not only needs no escaping, but makes the blur of booze seem like a most regrettable waste of time.

    Strength!

    David

  16. A friend posted a link to the QZ.COM piece and I’m glad she did. I loved it and followed the author link to your blog to tell you so – where I read that you’ve been trolled and otherwise abused by people who most likely don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s really, really good to spend time with you on this side of the pool.

  17. Hi there. I feel a little shy writing, how weird! You really captured something in your essay that resonated with so many people, you must be so proud to have created that.
    I’m not going to read the criticisms, fuck that shit. Who wants to know what the narrow of mind want to think?
    I love that you’ve seen this from a sober perspective and the little voice that’s inspiring you to self-care and take a moment is one I want to cultivate for myself.
    Thanks for inspiring!

  18. I read your article four times in Quarz. I didn’t get it.

    Now, that doesn’t mean I’m saying I thought it was bad. The language was descrptive and the flow was expertly disjointed at times when the narrator was feeling confusion or anguish. It was written in a confessional style. It was developed and paced through switching between illustrative vignettes and contemplative monologue. The transitions were well done. In short, it was well-written.

    Where I didn’t “get it” was that I had no frame of reference. As a rather lackluster summary, I provide this: it seemed to be mostly about the tyranny of other people’s opinions and expectations. And that’s where I get lost…

    Let me use a few simple examples to highlight my disconnect. People have made fun of the way I’ve dressed my whole life. I’m just… stolid and unimaginative. I don’t dress poorly… I just don’t want to stand out for my dress in any way. A dark gray wool suit and a simple red tie? Sign me up. When I was a child, these taunts of plainess bothered me. When I was a youth these statements angered me. When I became a young man, I realized the only person’s opinion on my clothes that mattered to me was my own. From then on, I’d just respond with bland statements such as, “Is providing unsolicited fashion advice all you have to do with your time?”

    Likewise, I’ve never been interested in the usual social activities. Sure. I like camping, hiking, kayaking, etc. But barbecues and spectating sports. Yawn. And then talking about sports as if it was a subject that actually merited analysis and debate… Then, I realized people really liked this kind of stuff while calling me boring for finding an article on medieval tax levy and collection to be an interesting source for conversation. Meh. After I grew up, I realized that most people like this sort of thing and that’s not bad. I should simply select out of these groups and move on. No harm, no foul.

    And then there have been girlfriends that have expected chivalry and jewelry and constant entertainment and maintenance. They’re not bad people. I just can’t give, all the time. Sometimes, I need to be in the “getting” queue. But not every girlfriend I’ve had has been like that.

    Anyway, I hope my thoughts have illustrated my inability to understand your article. I guess the part I don’t get is… Everything you mention in your article exists externally. Why would someone internalize that stuff? Any of it? Other people’s expectations only matter if they are allowed to matter…

    I guess I will close with thanking you for writing your article. You seem to be patiently sifting this boozy subculture for truth. And while I may not understand your truth (after all, I doubt I am your target audience), I can at least respect your impetus to quest for it.

  19. Congratulations! I know the criticism sucks, but so many people who need you have found you thanks to that. Your essay inspired me to have a conversation with my partner about my not drinking and he said the only think that annoys him is that I try to hide my not drinking by using wine glasses to drink cranberry juice or non-alcoholic beer which I go into the kitchen to pour. Well, I agreed with him. I’m considering becoming open about my recovery. 5 months into being sober. I would never have agreed with him so readily if I hadn’t read your point ‘if you can, you should consider recovering out loud.’

  20. Thank you for offering your supportive voice to millions of women. I so enjoyed reading your article, nodding in agreement in far too many places and at the same time, happy for shared perceptions.

  21. It’s a gift to see my drinking as a feminist issue. It’s nice to hear someone say that my life is intolerable and no wonder I drink. Also, I love the wonderful understanding that I’m being asked to do something (quit) without my having any real personal evidence that quitting will help me. And I love the part that says I can have faith that the evidence will reveal itself to me over time.

  22. Keep it up. We need truth tellers and the fact your work has sparked so much response means it’s hit home, in one way or another. Thank you for being brave and strong.

  23. “Enjoli ” is one of the best things I’ve read in ages. I smiled through the whole thing. I remember that damn commercial. I was ten when it came out and I threw it into the “future Jean” plan along with Charlie’s Angels and the Virginia Slims ladies. I love your piece, and I stand in support as you ride out the aftermath of truth telling.

  24. I read the Time article, and I read yours. I understand her point, but it came across as defensive, especially when she felt the need to begin with her daily routine, which sounds exhausting and slightly self-promoting. Did you “shame” women? Well, yes and no, but none of that really matters.
    I’ve read your blog, and you’re not shameful or malicious (and I wonder if she has read it, too). You’re not out to hurt anyone. That rings true. Yes, you are judgemental, but you’re the first person to do admit it, and you have the right to be. It’s who you are. It’s how you think. It’s how you write. And is it harmful? No. You’ve maintained your integrity by being observant of and vulnerable to yourself and your surroundings.
    Keep writing, Kristi. It doesn’t matter what names they call you. You know who you are and what your purpose is.

  25. I am a door maker and woodcarver in rural northern New Mexico with three years of sobriety. Yes, we live in a culture which worships drinking and is utterly blind to the profoundly devastating effects which alcohol exerts on all aspects of our society, because it is everywhere. For anyone who doubts this, volunteer at a homeless shelter (as I do). What you see will open your eyes once and for all: alcohol is vicious and not to be trifled with. And yes, probably about 20 percent of the population can indeed drink infrequently and responsibly. But those are terrible numbers…. I admire you Kristi, keep writing about these issues because they are so important. Unfortunately, women do have to be better than men, and their use of alcohol serves them in no way whatsoever as they navigate a society which treats them so abysmally.

  26. Slate is how I found you. Now I have read everything I can find that you have written, and I want to keep reading what you write. I have been sober for 25 years, and I really like what you write on sobriety. But I also want you to know that even more, I love your writing, your voice, your perspective. Thank you so much for sharing all of this with the rest of us!

  27. You are a gifted writer. You have a strikingly authentic rhythm and voice. As an editor, I find it brilliant. As someone in recovery, I find it inspiring. You nailed it on the head, my dear, with a missile. Bravo.

  28. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” [Oscar Wilde]

    Ignore the gutter dwellers writhing in the mud, because mud is all they have to sling. Instead, keep looking at the stars and sharing what you see, because your writing is revealing the stars to many who were blind … and allowing us to leave the mud behind.

  29. Thanks for your article and shining the light and being open, honest. Someone I know shared it on FB and I read it -which let me to ‘sober blogs’ – (who knew?! I feel like I’ve been living in a hut!). I was inspired, after reading your article and other blogs, to put the wine bottle down. I have been drinking since I was 16. We are INUNDATED with alcohol as you say, everywhere we go. I mean, wine and YOGA? REALLY? I desperately want to be ‘on the other side of the pool’. So today, I started my own blog. Just for me. So I can anonymously talk out loud. And have no one find it on my computer or in a notebook….For now. And fuck people and what they think. Walk proudly, out loud. Wine-less and all. I’m at Day 7. I just bought a plethora of cheese. And I’m not whining about wine yet. I also got ice cream for dessert. Kinda of like a bait and switch for wine.

  30. Your article was a world-shaking, paradigm-shifting, eye-wrenched-opener for me and I thank you wholeheartedly for smacking a truth across my face. It was revolutionary, at least for me, and revolutions are seldom amicable. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

  31. I came across this blog while taking as many words on the Internet on staying sober as I can possibly find. This is my first week. I followed the trail of the Wild Geese and landed here. Then I saw this post and have to tell you that I read your essay on Medium back when it was first published and I thought it was one of the most raw, honest and well-written pieces I have read in some time. It shifted my perspective and is one of the reasons I am here. The fact that some people are uncomfortable with it is irrelevant.

  32. I’d own up to “cunt” but that’s just me (Shirley Manson of Garbage is my hero and I credit her toughness for helping me create my own “fuck ’em” attitude). As a fellow sober girl (two years and some odd months), I immensely enjoyed your article. It resonated strongly with me. And I’m glad to read your blog, too. 🙂

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