textiles · exploration · misadventure


Sixty Days and Counting

San Francisco Mission mural

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Dear Asher—

Have been thinking much about you these past few months, giving you time to breathe after my deluge of memory. Hope all is still okay with you, and plans for coming home are proceeding as they need to.

Matt and I are super busy. Matt hasn’t camped much since starting work, but he did bike off to Mt. Tam this weekend with Aaron, Benjamin, and Johnny, with a headlands ride planned for the return. He was like a puppy before he left—so excited. It was SO nice to see. I love it when he gets what he needs.

I’ve been textiling my head off, as usual. I blew out my elbow weaving and am banned from knitting and spinning, so I sewed Matt six pairs of boxer shorts, and now I’m trying to make making my first quilt. What a ridiculous amount of work. I had NO IDEA.

I’m still not back to work. I cringe when I think about it, but I know it has to happen. Feh.

I’m not sure where you are, if you’re still at the farm, still going to meetings. Did you get a sponsor and start working the steps? Not sure if you’re AA oriented, or some other kind of recovery…

For me, getting a sponsor was hard. It signaled a commitment I wasn’t ready for. The first month all I did was go to work, cry in bed, or cry in the bathtub. And shake. I did read recovery books, and wrote. The emotions coming up were just… so hard. Grief, guilt, shame, anxiety, fear. Anger. Longing. I found a sponsor when I realized I wasn’t going anywhere without more guidance.

Kate had four years, which seemed like eternity back then. She made me go to more meetings, raise my hand to share, thank the speaker, and socialize after the meeting.

These may seem like simple things, but in my state they were nearly impossible. I could barely open my mouth at that stage. Really. I know. Hard to imagine.

Those exercises were good for me; they helped build a belief that people wouldn’t judge me as hard as I judged myself, that there were kind and helpful people, and that AA was a place of safety. For all the insanity, I still look at AA meetings as a place of safety, and other recovering alcoholics as My People.

Kate also took me to my first large meeting. There must have been two or three hundred people there, and I had to walk to the front of the room where the secretary gave me a small plastic chip that said “sixty days.” I walked back to my seat, and just sat and stared at it.

Why is it that our definitive moments are such small things? A haircut. A plastic chip. I knew when I looked at that chip that I was looking at a turning point.

The whole two months I’d been questioning if I really wanted to stay sober the rest of my life. I couldn’t conceive of a life or a me without alcohol. I couldn’t conceive of 65 days, let alone a lifetime. Staring at that chip, I considered a lifetime of sobriety, and answered YES to it. I wanted sobriety. I wanted it more than anything, and that surprised me. I hadn’t known that feeling was inside me until that moment.*

At bottom, I loved how I felt. I didn’t remember ever feeling so rested, and although the feelings gushing out of me were so painful, they were so cathartic too. There was a magic to it, all the change and the work I did to make it happen.

I remember closing my hand around that chip so tightly, wishing desperately for sobriety. To this day, 16 years sober, it’s my most beloved chip.

What about you? I’d love to hear how things are proceeding, how you’re feeling. I hope your insides are slightly calmer now.

*I was still seeing my therapist, John, whom I mentioned in an earlier letter, who had listened and questioned and supported me through all of the events of the past year. I credit him with teaching me the tools I needed to get sober in the first place. In his office, I’d started to learn how to be honest with myself and others. Without that, I wouldn’t have been able to know or listen to my own feelings.

(For the rest of my Letters to Asher series, click here.)