Day 1,276: Dissident

Am I a dissident now? I thought yesterday, reflecting on national events that have not exactly worked out to my liking. It’s not an everyday word, dissident–it makes me think of tanks and gulags, Vaclav Havel and Andrei Sakharov. Not me, walking around on a dignified low boil, making practical contingency plans I hope I won’t need.

And yet, it kinda fits. Present me with any role–corporate worker, woman, wife, sober person, American–and I’ll find something fundamental to take issue with, if not outright reject. And if I couldn’t find that thing to cross my arms against, I’d probably invent it, God help me. Like one of those actors who find themselves reworking lines as they speak them, I’m constitutionally unable to just play the goddamn part as written.

But I’m low-key about it–I’ve got credit in the straight world, to borrow a line. Comparing my adolescence to my sister’s, my father once said: “She would argue us into the ground over every rule and curfew. You’d just nod and then go off and do exactly what you wanted.” You’d have to be paying real attention to see me as a dissident,  and hardly anyone would watch that closely–including me, I guess, or it wouldn’t have surprised me so much to realize Yes, you’re a dissident. You always were. Now it just matters a little bit more. 

Being sober is also a small act of dissidence that feels like a bigger one these days, something writer Megan Koester absolutely nails in a scathing new essay in ViceThe whole thing is worth your time–it’s the entire reason for this post!–but here’s the line that knocked me flat:

“I know people who have been dead drunk for days, a reaction I find logical. To stay loaded is to remain in stasis, pausing the video game that is life while figuring out your next move.”

That’s exactly how I’ve been feeling–that in this first extended period of, you know, spectacular political upheaval and global uncertainty since I cleaned up my act, life has somehow insisted on marching forward even as I struggle to process it all in real time. There’s no cycle of numbing/suffering/shame to distract me from the sense that a whole lot of things seem set to blow. But there’s also no distraction from the fact that in recent weeks I’ve also cooked good meals and written and gone to the movies and bought (and worn!) killer lingerie and laughed at my younger dog’s first experience with snow and had startling moments of connection with other people. All of this is happening. All at once.

September 11, 2001 is the date I became a daily drinker. For no good reason–I lived in a peaceful college town over a thousand miles from New York,  and didn’t lose anyone in the attacks, and didn’t know anyone in the military. But I was anxious and horrified, and a giant glass of wine each day seemed like the rebellious, life-during-wartime thing to do. Why not, right? We were all going to die soon anyway.

Except here we are. And my sense now is that the truly radical life-during-wartime thing to do isn’t drinking. It’s, well, living life during wartime. At least I think that’s what a dissident would do.

8 thoughts on “Day 1,276: Dissident

  1. My daily drinking also started on 9/11/2001! I too, did not know anyone directly affected by the horrific event – but had a fog about me for several months afterwards. It seemed unbelievable that such a thing could happen here in the United States. I’ve been in recovery since May 2015 and have a family history that – had I been paying attention – should have given me pause that daily drinking could very likely lead to a problem. My husband drank with me but never progressed past 2, maybe 3 glasses of wine, and is a ‘normie’. I knew nothing about the disease and assumed my tolerance had increased and could be brought back down when I wanted! Then, in a 6 month period of life changes and depression, it took off into full blown alcoholism. I have learned a lot about the disease, have met many wonderful people in the process and have learned much about myself. Enjoy your blog. Here’s to life lived in the present!

  2. Congratulations on your new life..which isn’t so new any more!
    I’m sober 11 years now and recently realized that if I had no impulse to drink during the election season and had no impulse to drink all this past year when both I and my husband have been stricken with cancer( me;Breast-Stage II-B invasive lobular, him; NSC Lung cancer), that I am in good shape indeed. I briefly wondered what it would be like to emulate a friend or two who were hitting the bottle.. either because of cancer or Trump, but the immediate response was “EEEW!! Just no!”
    I just want you to know it gets better and better as the years pile on. No matter what happens to me these days, I am fucking sober and that is just the best thing in the world.
    And you are right about “wartime”. I feel this is the time I and everyone really, need to be fully present and aware, without the distraction that the addiction cycle creates, without any “relief”. I feel I owe it to the Syrian refugees, the environment and all who suffer, to at least be in my clear right mind and to bear witness, if not provide actual help.

    But I never take my sober state for granted..speaking just for myself, I know I have another relapse in me, but I don’t have another recovery.

    I’m enjoying your posts very much..good service work you are doing here..and look forward to more!
    Now I’m gonna read that Vice article.xo

    1. As a woman on the edge of sobriety (you know that place where you want to stop drinking but the compulsion still has access to your reasoning) it’s good to hear this.
      I pray you and your husband find healing.
      Offdry girl, I need another post…

  3. I am also a dissident!! Plus 3 years sober. I have had a horrible time dealing with the results of the election, but I hadnt thought about it in the terms you stated above….perhaps just staying sober, aware, living passionately with love towards God, myself and others, is the greatest act of dissidence I could possible show right now! I love it!!!!!

  4. Being sober is absolutely an act of dissidence. The world needs people to be conscious and awake, especially now. At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I think it suits governments that the majority of the population is drunk most of the time, they can get away with so much more. Whenever I get overwhelmed by the state of the world I just reread an article Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote titled: Do Not Lose Heart, We Were Made for These Times –

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