Day 2,414: A Moment of Monstrous Grace


I laughed yesterday at the start of this otherwise long, dark chat with a friend freaking out over, you know, the possibly post-Constitutional state the United States is entering. ‘Don’t drink’ was probably sincerely meant on some level, but hearing it in his sardonic Boston voice—”two words of advice for you, boss,” I imagined him saying, “boss” being his nickname for me (I have no idea why)—kind of cracked me up.

Then I gasped at the realization that drinking hadn’t even occurred to me. Which is a huge, huge fucking change that happened when I wasn’t looking sometime between the night Donald Trump won the presidency and the night he became a temporary king.

If you’ve read my book, you might recall that Election Night 2016, aka Day 1,234 of my sobriety, is when I fully internalized that alcohol couldn’t save me from anything—that sadly, it does not in fact alter reality. I was as scared as I’ve ever been that night, and I knew I wasn’t going to drink, but my terror and grief and rage were almost physically intolerable. And that’s to say nothing of my intense self-pity that I couldn’t erase the night with wine, couldn’t blur the next four–please God let it be just four– years that way. At least then I would have had a plan, right?

What killed the self-pity was the sudden, blinding realization that whatever destruction awaited the US under Trump would still happen if I drank. That blunting my perceptions of reality wouldn’t do a damn thing to change reality itself.  That my relapse would just be…my relapse. I hadn’t known I’d believed otherwise until the truth hit. And when it did, I was terrified. There was no comfort in it.

But it’s also, I believe, the moment my sobriety really snapped into place, almost three and a half years after my last drink. It was a moment of monstrous grace.

And now here we are, another 1,178 days later. Fifty-one senators just decided that the president bribing a foreign power for help cheating in an election–violating those senators’ own budgetary authority in the process– is so totally not a big deal that they don’t even need to hear witnesses before voting to acquit. We are entering a phase in American history where neither Congress nor the Supreme Court can be relied on to check the president’s worst ideas and impulses. That would be scary even if the current occupant of the office were a normal human being and not a blown-up, sadistic Chucky Doll who’s into rape and obliterating nice things.

My 2016 fears of what a Trump regime would do to this country were mostly not overblown. Many of the things I was afraid of have actually happened, along with worse ones I couldn’t have imagined. At this moment, nothing seems implausible. So I’m scared and sad and angry and kind of bitchy–and yet drinking in reaction to all of it never entered my mind, because I know it can’t change anything. I know the only way to cope with reality is to actually be in reality, and wait. And I know that at the other end of the waiting, I come out okay. Solid, clear-eyed, able to think. And not afraid 24/7, because no feeling can be sustained that long.

It’s the one good thing Donald Trump has ever brought to my life: a fear so unbearable that it became a revelation. So if you are sober but wobbling on the edge of drinking these days, because of impeachment or Brexit or the strikes in France or the freaking Iowa caucus or anything else that feels both catastrophic and out of your control, maybe your fear can become an unlovely gift too. Maybe you can accept that nothing you put into your body will undo reality, and that sucks, but it’s also okay, because you were built for reality and you are going to be all right. Just as you are.

So if you don’t know what to do?

I have two words of advice, boss: don’t drink.



9 thoughts on “Day 2,414: A Moment of Monstrous Grace

  1. I’m registered Green Party, I worked to try to get Bernie Sanders the nomination in 2016. Ok, so, your panic and dread over a Trump presidency sounds irrational given that America’s foreign and domestic policies have been utter garbage for as long as we’ve been alive and that corruption in our elected officials is commonplace. Trump isn’t so much a Boogieman as just the manifestation of a crappy system — one that drives people to despair, addiction and desperation. That you’ve gotten sober is a victory over a cruel society. It’s remarkable. Trump is just a cheap hustler, a con man. George W was far worse. Obama was no better.

      1. Obama did not support gay marriage til quite late in his Presidency. It’s true that Trump is beholden to the Religious right, but is in many respects no worse than Bill Clinton. I don’t get hung up on identity politics because I’m a working class person.

      2. Not getting hung up on identity politics is a position of privilege many do not have. Also, ‘working class’ is an identity.

  2. What a wonderful post!
    US politics these days, months, years… is pretty much like listening to the first lines of Bohemian Rhapsody.
    “Is this the real life…?”
    Maybe, from my, admittedly limited, European viewpoint, it has never been so clear to me how little we actually know about the folks on the other side of the pond. It is a mad world we’re living in.

    And no, drinking is not an option. No matter if your DOS is 2000 or 12000 days gone. It never was and it never will be.

    Thanks for sharing

  3. Trump is a malignant narcissist. He is a cruel, vindictive king. He has now been given carte blanche by 51 spineless senators. Trump only cares about what benefits him….. period.

  4. I love this post, but I am reading it during the lock down. At the beginning of all of this in mid March, I drowned myself in several barrels of whiskey and beer to “quell” my anxiety. Because time had become irrelevant, waking up and pouring a drink wasn’t such a big deal until it was.
    My body rejected the last sip I took, which is something that rarely happens. I’ve always prided myself for having an ironclad stomach. Most alcoholics do, but that was a turning point. I felt dirty and out of control. For whatever reason, I saw myself through my husband’s eyes, and thought, “What would it be like to live with and love a drunk?” I became ashamed at the mountain of empty cans and bottles of recycling that had accumulated in the garage in two months. I estimated the number of them. Hundreds. All mine. How is that possible? Then I began counting the past year, two years, ten years, and I had to stop. I told myself that I would not have to count anymore.
    I know that I am a newbie. Twenty-one days does not merit a ticker tape parade, but I remind myself that it feels good to be on the other side. Will I attend meetings? Well, right now there are none, so no, but maybe in the future. Will life be shitty? It’s a pandemic, and while my husband and I along with our friends and family have been left unscathed for the moment, I feel like I can handle it. Will I experience weakness? I experience that every day under normal circumstances, so I’ve been able to “brush it off” because, like I said before, it feels good to be on the other side. So damned good!

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