We’re living in a nation where powerful women are told to sit down when they persist in quoting Coretta Scott King, and bigotry of every flavor is being loudly and systematically reinforced. There is a constant stream of alarming news and calls to action, and in case you need your hourly reminder, our president is a reality television star with the linguistic capability of a 10-year-old who hates to read. It’s a lot worse for some than for others, but it’s a chaotic time in general.
A desire to “check out” is understandable, I’d say. God knows, as a sober person with a history of alcohol abuse, my instinctual coping method is to party life into submission. While some people can safely indulge in a little Chablis or a Colt 45 to curb the edge, sometimes I need a reminder as to why that’s a bad idea for me.
Here are a few reasons, despite the Trumpocolypse, I’m going to stay sober until the bitter (or hopefully better) end.
1. When I drink, I totally lose control.
The exact cause of alcoholism is still obscure, but it seems a kind of perfect storm of conditions in one body. There are physiological, neurological, conditional, and personality factors, as well as cultural and genealogical influences that can all be at play. The “phenomenon” of alcoholic drinking is that when you start, you can’t stop, and you can’t control how much you consume. I’ve heard it described to be like eating but getting hungrier.
By the time I was 19, I had such an intense physical reaction to alcohol, I’d not only get drunk and sick, I’d often get “meth jaw,” a deeply unattractive symptom (commonly associated with meth highs) in which you grind your teeth while your jaw dances a wild sideways jig. Yes, it’s weird. I’d also get hangovers that left me feeling like my spiritual and corporeal forms had both been charged by a semi. Suffice it to say, I was not in top form, which is important since...
2. We need all hands on deck
When I drink, I can’t be of much use to the world. And by “of much use,” I do mean I’m pretty useless. I can’t listen, I can’t process information, I can’t show up, I can’t even stand up. (Literally or figuratively.)
All of these things are obviously important. How I communicate and how I expend my energy is really important. Listening is really important, especially to people who are most negatively affected by the political structure, like people of color or LGBT folks or folks with mental or physical disabilities. Being present and sentient means I can show up to life and give what I can.
3. Avoiding problems doesn't work
I’ve come to believe trauma and previously untreated depression were also major factors in my substance abuse. This is not an uncommon form of self-medicating, wherever your stresses or trauma stems from, and it all gets exacerbated in times of chaos. Alcohol aides in forgetting.
Dr. Judith Herman writes in Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror, “...because altered states keep the traumatic experience walled off from ordinary consciousness, they prevent the integration necessary for healing.”
Meaning if I don’t deal with it, it can’t be fixed. So far it’s been more fruitful for me to tackle things gently but head on, and I think the same is true of being a citizen right now. In my personal life, I’ve done this with the help of recovery groups, community, therapy, and taking care of myself because...
4. Self-care is rad(ical)!
This is an awesome truth that has been talked about a lot in the past few years, and especially in our current climate. Audre Lorde called caring for herself “an act of political warfare” in her book A Burst of Light, and writer Evette Dionne wrote a great article about how this is particularly true for Black women. I take this idea to mean that in a system designed to keep some people down and dead, to keep oneself alive and well is a radical act.
While I know acts of self-care are of the utmost importance to my well-being, it can still be something I find practically challenging at the times I need it most. So, I practice. This includes eating well, exercising, dancing, resting, being with people that make me laugh, buying a book or taking myself to the movies. And now more than ever: BACKING AWAY FROM THE SCREENZ.
Really simple, oddly difficult, of paramount importance.
5. I'm stronger this way.
It’s just true. Here’s to being alive, awake and well so we can, you know. Fight the good fight.
Annakeara Stinson is a writer who lives in Brooklyn. You can follow her at @totalhellness.
Top photo: Facebook/White House
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