I consider myself a writer but how can I call myself one if I don’t write?

Outside of self-stroking journal entries and blog posts at my tech job, I do very little intentional writing. Nothing like the personal nonfiction essays I used to pen in school.

Can I truly be referred to as a writer?

The last “real” piece I wrote was Against Absolute Truth four years ago and even burst forth from fake flights of inspiration. Amphetamines encouraged run-on sentences that lacked substance. If I could even locate the work I wrote in school, I don’t know that it would make sense in my sober mind.

I keep expecting to be good at something that I never practice. While I might have an inherent knack for lacing words together, the result looks much like a plastic bead necklace created in a kindergarten arts and crafts class.

Perhaps I’m too hard on myself; I don’t know. It helps to be patient with the practice but that implies that any practice is being done in the first place. And it’s not.

Mental masturbation bound between grey covers hardly counts as writing. Margaret Atwood said, “Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice.” If there is no practice, my writing hasn’t the slightest chance of improving.

I’m incredibly marketing-minded at this point due to work but how can I market something that doesn’t exist? Rather than focusing on creating a widely-read blog, why not focus on the exercise of consistent writing? Documenting the process? Learning from mistakes? And allowing the small audience I have in on my imperfection?

My unshakeable quest for an unreachable perfection and this fear of looking stupid will kill me before I can kill myself. Everyone looks stupid at some point. But I’ll look a lot more stupid hooked to fluid drips on my deathbed as the reality of everything I could have been chokes the last breath from my chest.

Intentional practice. I’m not Anne Lamott. I’m not Joan Didion. I’m Elliott. But that doesn’t mean that what I have to say is any less important than that which Lamott and Didion contributed to the world.

Precise delivery will come with regular execution. Not before. Not a single writer sat down and wrote their best work during a first draft. Endless edits and countless revisions produce greatness, not some inherent ability to write the elusive perfect piece from the moment they placed words on the page.

Being kinder to myself will help, too. The self-deprecating internal monologue keeps me from starting before I even sit down. Blind refusal to accept myself as an imperfect human being among billions of other imperfect human beings will stunt my growth far more than the self-aggrandizing journal entries.

I wrote about this exact thing more than two months ago. I ended with, “Living in grey is beautiful when I open my eyes to shades other than black or white. And when I’m gentle with myself and my constant state of practice.” Then I have the audacity to sit here and berate myself for where I’m at in my practice.

my heart woke me crying last night
how can i help i begged
my heart said
write the book
– Rupi Kaur

Be gentle with yourself, Elliott.

But please, for the love of God, just write.

From the Carry #1

I’m reading Atwood right now (Alias Grace) and realized one of two things (or, perhaps, a combination of the two, which is more likely):

  1. I presently write like an illiterate heathen.
  2. I’ve gotten worse at writing since college.

I was never an award-worthy writer by any stretch of the mind but I thought I was better at the written conveyance of my imagination before.

Or I was just high and riding on fake flights of illusory brilliance.

Regardless, reading Atwood makes me realize how poorly I write. Or, from a positive perspective, how much room I have to grow.

Obviously my current capabilities are a result of minimal input. I don’t practice. I don’t write much outside of the banal documentation of my day-to-day life. And it’s banal only in that I lack creativity in capturing it.

There is so much beauty in the daily repetition of life that I either miss because I’m not paying enough attention or fail to encapsulate properly within the grey covers of these notebooks.

For example – I was talking with a friend the other night about the beauty there is in shades of grey (as opposed to black-and-white thinking) but neglected to connect that to the fact that I document my life in grey notebooks until this moment.

I continue to expect perfection from myself in things I lack extensive experience in, like perfection is an achievable goal to begin with. Perfection doesn’t exist; only practice. But I don’t even practice.

Perfection is a product of black-and-with thinking.

Practice is living in the grey. Even Atwood wasn’t perfect. I’m sure she tore her books apart post-publication and found numerous areas for improvement. But that’s exactly how she improved—practice.

Without practice I’ll never better myself. In writing, in my program, in any one of my hobbies abandoned in my quest for a nonexistent perfection.

Living in grey is beautiful when I open my eyes to shades other than black or white. And when I’m gentle with myself and my constant state of practice.

From the Carry is a small series I’m starting as a practice in imperfection. Most of the time I avoid posting on my blog because I want things to be perfect— From the Carry is the antithesis to that idea. By transcribing what I wrote directly from my notebook, no edits or alterations, it reminds me that things will never be perfect and that is okay.

The Recovery Process.

I underwent a bilateral mastectomy with a chest reconstruction for gender confirmation, also known as top surgery, on Friday, September 22nd. The four-hour procedure began at 11:15am, landing me in post-op around 2:30pm.

In the weeks leading up to surgery, many people asked why I wasn’t more worried about the procedure. It was a surgery, after all. Each time someone asked I explained, “I’ve been waiting for this day since the time they grew in.”

What I didn’t account for was the recovery period post-surgery. I stay pretty active during my day-to-day life, jumping from engagement to engagement, so I wasn’t ready for how immobile I’m supposed to be. The two incisions running from the center of my rib cage to beneath each armpit significantly impact my range of motion.

For the first three days, I didn’t have the energy to do much but sit in bed and attend portions of a meeting during the days following surgery. I never played around much with opiates, either, so the way they dumped a concrete dust filter over a world of muted pastel shades overwhelmed me.

My sponsor came over to my house Sunday morning, two days after surgery, to check in and see how I was doing. As we took my dogs on a brief walk around the complex, I explained that I felt dull. I haven’t sat around not doing anything since I was loaded and to sit still was exacerbating.

She cut me off when I mentioned the word “dull,” though.

“No, not dull,” she replied. “That word possesses a negative connotation and this process is anything but negative.”

I nodded in response, remained silent as I knew she would suggest alternative terms to use.

She pondered for a moment. “Healing. Recovery. Those are terms you can use. Not dull.”

Patience with the process

“Patient” is not a term I would use to describe myself, especially for my own process. During these past five days since surgery, I’ve realized how impatient and stubborn I am with my own process. I’ve known it to some degree but it’s been a very physical manifestation of a mental battle taking place since I got sober last April.

I expect too much of myself immediately out of the gate. Whether it’s with my sobriety, my top surgery recovery, my writing, or any new hobby I pick up. I expect to master something immediately. When I don’t, I give up on it after a few weeks.

Ray Bradbury said something excellent: “Go to the edge of the cliff and jump. Build your wings on the way down.”

I jump repeatedly but forget every time that building is a process, not something that happens instantly. It takes weeks and months of consistent and intentional action to build those wings. They won’t sprout from my back without dedicated work. And when I give up a few weeks into the process before those wings have a chance to catch a tailwind, it feels like I’ll never get it. Patience with that process, accepting that I’m on a journey with no exact destination, is an imperative part of it.

I’m still learning how to cultivate that patience. To exist in the present moment with little regard for the moment before or after the current one. Often, I’ll turn around on the path and wonder where the past few months went.

Realization of self-absorption

I didn’t realize it’s been almost four months since I posted here. Limited electronic documentation of the past sixteen weeks exists outside of Instagram and Facebook. Most of it resides within the journals I started to keep again.

I don’t share much of myself with others in person, much less online. I’m open about the process and progress of my transition but very limited in sharing how I’ve felt about the whole thing. I live in fear of what the collective “you” thinks of me and how you see me. I won’t share at a group level and I hardly post on here because I have this obsession with needing to be perceived a certain way.

Through working with my sponsor, I realized how delusional I still am. I didn’t realize this preoccupation with what you think of me is another form of self-absorption. I might not be self-absorbed in the “typical” sense but I’m still constantly consumed with myself. Living based on my perception of your perception of me. Me, me, me.

But, much like my recovery process, this won’t go away overnight. Through intentional practice, altering my thought patterns through diligently working the steps, I can find freedom.

Building my wings

“Change course. The focus on you and where your spiritual life is where the healing and future is,” my friend Andrea told me after adding another tally mark to count the spins on the merry-go-round that are our conversations. “You’re free to stop bashing your head against the wall whenever you choose to.”

Stop focusing on what isn’t and instead focus on what is. Be patient with the process but don’t give up before my wings sprout. Consistent right action breeds self-confidence and self-esteem. Learn as I go and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Patience with my recovery process is a lifelong journey, not a destination. Now I just need to make my feet catch up with my head.

Lessons From Blogging My First Year of Sobriety.

I started Elliott in Recovery to share my experience as a transgender alcoholic. I view the world through a unique lens. I hoped to help other alcoholics and addicts, transgender or otherwise, seek sobriety. I wanted to educate curious people through my own understanding of being transgender and in recovery.

What began as an honest attempt to help quickly unraveled. Through a lack of discipline, dedication, and consistency, Elliott in Recovery fell apart. My blog migrated away from raw and honest to surface level and self-indulgent.

I littered Elliott in Recovery with a series of empty to-do lists and an apologetic lack of follow-through. If you sift through the chaff of recent months you can find grains of insight and honesty towards the beginning of the blog.

I recently realized I lacked a distinct voice. Something to separate my writing from the endless online chatter I now find myself contributing to. Something that readers can connect with. Something that provides a reason to return.

Jeff Goins is an author who began his path to publication by blogging. He suggests asking a few close friends how they would describe you as a voice discovery exercise.

I needed a direction to head in so I sent off a few messages. Many responded, providing lists of adjectives that outlined a framework the my personality. One description in particular stuck out to me.

One of my closest friends said, “Friendly, hesitant, and loving. You’re very open but still a bit shy about being confident. Does that sound like you?”


That one word blasted away the roadblock I found myself running into repeatedly. I worry about sharing myself and my experience. That hesitation translates into each to-do list I post.

She continued, “You’re hesitant in throwing everything out there so you don’t look, I don’t know, stupid or embarrassed or exposed. I’m not sure what keeps you from pulling back the curtain in your writing. You can be you without the excuses.”

What lies at the root of that hesitation?


Fear that I will write irresponsibly.
Fear that something I post will offend someone.
Fear that the wrong person will read the wrong thing and my life will explode again.
Fear that you will find out who I really am inside: an insecure little boy, terrified of his own shadow.

My friend asked, “When you’ve read other things online that you identify with, is it surface level bullshit or inner real fear shit?”

It’s inner real fear shit. And that’s exactly what I’m not writing.

Other alcoholics, addicts, and transgender individuals can benefit from hearing the voice of that scared little boy. From walking alongside him as he navigates his journey.

That’s where the real writing is. It’s in sharing my story and in bringing you along with me. I have a long way to go in this journey, so much left to learn, and you can learn with me.

I planned to launch an eBook today detailing my experience during my first year of sobriety but after this conversation I realized I riddled the writing with apprehension. It is filled to the brim with unanswered questions. Holding back in places that should have pressed forward full-force. Rather than releasing a half-hearted documentation of a pivotal period of my life, I prefer to crack myself open and spill out every truth I have. I apologize for not following through but I also owe you more than that.

I have plenty to explore within my own experience: being transgender, addiction and alcoholism, staying sober, mental health, eating disorders. Much also exists outside my scope of understanding which I can start to learn about: privilege, transgender rights, politics, and the rights of other marginalized groups.

Fear controls my life and that reflects in my blogging. There is so much I can do with Elliott in Recovery if I stop hesitating. If I drop the fear of sharing myself with the world. If I focus on the one person I can help rather than the dozens I can offend.

Faith is the antidote to fear.

Faith in myself, my journey, and my higher power. Faith that things work out the way they are supposed to, whether or not it’s convenient for me.

Faith without works is dead. If I want to cultivate self-esteem, I need to do esteemable acts. That can start by sharing openly and honestly with you here on Elliott in Recovery.

Welcome to the next year of the blog.

What Being a Transgender Alcoholic Means to Me.

“You’re so much more than those two labels,” a mentor of mine commented when I shared a post from Elliott in Recovery on my Facebook.

I spent much of my life attempting to avoid labeling myself, trying to simply exist and be. But through Elliott in Recovery I branded myself as a transgender alcoholic, a man born as a woman with a drinking and drug problem.

Yes, I am more than those two labels. But at the same time, those labels help to make up who I am.

What does identifying as a transgender alcoholic mean to me?

It means I’ve found myself among two marginalized groups of people. Misunderstanding and a general lack of knowledge surround gender-nonconforming folks. A refusal to learn about our experiences continues to pervade much of society. Blind dismissal runs rampant.

Increasing amounts of medical research and a surge in media attention brought recognition to the struggles of alcoholics and addicts. Society better understands the impact of alcoholism and addiction on millions of Americans. Still, stigmas continue to penetrate the lives of substance-dependent individuals.

My identity as a transgender alcoholic means lots of questions. Questions about alcoholism, questions about addiction, questions about being transgender. I almost always have little problem with explaining my experience to those who ask with sincerity. I am the only transgender person that many of my friends and acquaintances know.

My identity as a transgender alcoholic sometimes means frustration. There are days I don’t want to play 20 questions. People can find the answers to many of the questions they ask with a quick Google search. I never want to talk with you about what’s in my pants or my plans for the space between my legs.

My identity as a transgender alcoholic often means anxiety, caused by those who refuse to understand or accept who I am. It is difficult to co-exist with people who deny the existence of my true self. While I should not determine my worth based on someone’s acceptance of me, knowledge of this fact does not always make it easier.

If I’m not careful, I find myself stuck in these feelings of frustration and anxiety. I permit their hijack of my emotional state for extended periods of time. And that is a dangerous place for this transgender alcoholic to exist.

How do I combat the emotional hijack?

Courtesy of the alcoholic label, a friend introduced me to an indescribable new way of living. I received the opportunity to look inwards at my own behavior rather than outwards at the actions of others. With the help of another alcoholic, I got down to the causes of why I am where I am today.

I learned to take responsibility for the choices I made that led me to my present situation. I know that my identity is not a choice but how I conduct myself in light of it is. This raw and honest self-reflection is an opportunity many of my trans brothers and sisters do not receive.

Through this new way of life, I practice the cultivation of patience to tolerate intolerance in order to live a peaceful life. Although I do not condone bigotry and ignorance, accepting the state of things provides inner peace. But I am nowhere close to perfect in this practice.

Also, I still don’t know where the line between acceptance and push back should be. Prolonged emotional turmoil will lead me back to the bottle. At the same time, blindly accepting ignorance will not help the progression of society.

I struggle knowing that not everyone will like me but it is a fact of life. There will always be people who dislike you, regardless of who you are. I’m sure I could find someone who disagrees with Mother Teresa. And she’s a thousand times kinder a person than any of us will ever be.

What about identifying as a transgender alcoholic in recovery?

My identity as a transgender alcoholic in recovery means I received an opportunity to grow stronger. I can think of no better cross of labels. Being transgender is difficult because many still disagree with my “lifestyle.” However, with the spiritual program of action, I learn on a daily basis how do cultivate my self-worth from within.

This is something I have to work at daily. On the days I don’t acknowledge self-worth from within, I suffer. But through practice, I will no longer seek external validation from strangers. I will validate myself.

My identity as a transgender alcoholic in recovery means I have the chance for a new life. A life where I am no longer a slave to drugs or alcohol. A life where I am able to be my true self.

As a transgender alcoholic in recovery, I built a community in which I am respected, supported, and loved. One that asks nothing of me. One that wants to see me happy, joyous, and free, just the way I am.

Which Goal Did You Accomplish in the Past 60 Days?

A few months ago I posted about a challenge I participated in: the “70 Day Sprint” from Steve Roller of the Copywriter Cafe. I wrote the post on the 10th day of the Sprint with 60 days remaining. I challenged you to set a goal and accomplish it during the following 60 days.

You most likely never saw that post because two months ago, I had still neglected to send an email to my list. That’s something I worked on during the past two months. I plan to do even better in the future.

In the past, I used Elliott in Recovery multiple times as a progress tracker, even in the original 70 Day Sprint post. I listed goals I wanted to accomplish then dashed away all progress towards them away in the following weeks. Crawling back each time with my tail between my legs, I promised you I would do better next time. But I never did.

Not until the 70 Day Sprint.

What I learned from completing the 70 Day Sprint

One time I wrote about the components that make up an effective goal. One crucial aspect of a goal is that it be measurable. If you can’t measure your progress on the goal, how do you know when you’ve accomplished it?

Until the 70 Day Sprint, I never had a measurable goal outside of making it into work every day and writing articles for my client. When I completed the final day of the Sprint, I was brimming with joy over the sense of accomplishment I felt.

I completed something big.

The official title of the 70 Day Sprint is “The 70 Day Sprint: How to go from unstable freelance income to profitable business owner in 70 days or less.”

Steve’s hope is that by the end you have a few actionable items to take away and apply to your business. The Sprint provides a different way to think about freelance writing, one I never considered before. Much less heard from other “gurus.”

The 70 Day Sprint not only challenged me to reconsider my freelancing business. I also realized I can apply some of what I learned to how to run Elliott in Recovery.

Some of you signed up for my email list all the way back in November but never received a thing. All you got was an email to confirm your subscription and then static after that. The Sprint encouraged me to stay in contact (or in my case, initiate contact) with my email list.

Why do I feel that this long-term goal will prove itself a pivotal part of my process?

The importance of long-term goals

Short-term goals are great. Aiming to post once per week on Elliott in Recovery keeps me accountable to both you and myself. I dropped off while in Utah for my sister’s graduation and the week after that but I return with fresh resolve.

Long-term goals provide an overarching theme to your daily activities. When Darren Rowse talks of habitual dreamers vs. habitual action-takers, he points out that small activities add up over time. The little victories you accomplish each day add up to help you achieve your long-term goal.

They also provide a larger feeling of accomplishment. It’s great to cross grocery shopping or laundry off your list as a mini-goal each week. But to look back two months from now and see how the seemingly insignificant activities you did each day added up to something greater?

That’s something to be proud of.

How to keep long-term goals from overwhelming you

The best way to keep from becoming overwhelmed is to stop looking at your long-term goals as a whole. Break them down into small daily tasks. For example, looking at the entire 353-page PDF of the 70 Day Sprint overwhelmed my fingernails off.

Looking at it as simply one email per day, though, made everything more manageable. I set up a task every day then checked it off my to-do list.

Finding a good task management app

I used to make more habit of finding every type of to-do list app out there but didn’t complete any items I put on them. Other than walking and feeding my dogs, the lists stacked up.

Asana was too jumbled, Trello too plain, and Google Tasks made me feel like the Google police would show up wherever I was headed to (not like they couldn’t do that with Mail, Maps, or any other parts of the Google Suite that I use).

Then I found an app called Todoist. The user interface is simple and clean, laying out your week of tasks in whatever theme color you choose. Creating repeat tasks was simple and the gamification encouraged me to come back every day.

They offer a desktop app that syncs with the app on my phone. And no, I’m not an affiliate for them (but maybe I should find out about that?). I just love using the software.

Find a task management app that works for you, or revert back to the tried-and-true pen and a notebook. Take 15 minutes to disassemble your large goal into smaller, manageable, daily victories.

Then cross those suckers off.

So what are you going to do?

Decide the kind of person you want to be 90 days from now. Do you want to learn a new hobby? What about taking a class? Have you put off your drive to exercise or eat healthy?

90 days from today is August 22nd, 2017. That’s three whole months to get yourself closer towards something you want to accomplish.

Break your large goal into manageable tasks. If you want to eat healthier, cut out soda or fast food one day each week. If you want to start a new hobby, find a video on YouTube to learn how.

Then take the first step towards that goal. Give the sodas in your fridge to a friend. Go for a 10-minute walk. Find that YouTube video. Do something today that will move you closer to where you want to be.

As Seth Godin says, “Soon isn’t as good as now.”

The 70 Day Sprint inspired me to begin contacting my email list. If you’re on it, thank you for your openness to receiving my words directly in your inbox.

If you aren’t on my list, you can sign up to receive a weekly dose of your friendly neighborhood transgender alcoholic. I’m releasing something on June 9th. But my email list will get it two days early on June 7th.

Sign up now in the form on the left-hand sidebar. I’d love to have you join us.

How to Not Drink At a Graduation Party.

Initially, I intended this post to be about how I spent the weekend blending in. Most of my family doesn’t know how to handle my being transgender. They still use my old name and female pronouns. I felt like I spent the weekend blending in. Much like the earth from the window of a plan 35,000 feet in the air, I felt like I watched myself going through the motions.

As I wrote the post, though, I realized the important part wasn’t the inability to assert myself. The weekend was about my sister and her graduation, not about Elliott insisting he be called by the correct name and pronouns. There is a time and a place for that; two weekends ago was not it.

It was that I made it through the weekend sober.

As I sat down this afternoon and began formatting the post I initially wrote, I thought about the true accomplishment of the weekend. Once I started the rewrite, I remembered a series written by my friend Kristi Coulter called “How to Not Drink At a ..”

This one’s for you, Kristi.

I took my one year of sobriety on April 19th, about two and a half weeks before leaving. I gathered reminders at many of my regular locations and a few I don’t frequent. I was plugged in and feeling good. Admittedly my connection with God was lacking but I had a large list of other sober alcoholics to call.

I didn’t imagine the weekend of my sister’s graduation would be as difficult as it was, though.

My alcoholism stems from a combination of environmental and biological factors, with a heavy emphasis on the biology. Much of my family drinks to excess. Whether or not they are alcoholics is up to them; that’s not for me to decide. I do know that many of them enjoy a few drinks and a few more than that when the family is gathered together.

I haven’t seen most of the family I saw since I was about 16 or 17, before I started drinking. Today I’m not drinking. I sandwiched the destruction of my life between gatherings with my heavily intoxicated family. Thankfully everyone is more than supportive of my sobriety.

That doesn’t make it any easier to transport a beer bong chilled by a cool Coor’s Light from the dedicated beer bong holder in the living room to the back yard.

So how did I stay sober during her graduation weekend? And how can you stay sober through the upcoming graduation weekends you may have to attend? The season is upon us and graduation is rife with champagne-soaked celebrations.

Here are a few things that helped keep me away from the drink for another few 24-hours:

1. Always have something in your hand.

Whether it’s a bottle of water, an energy drink, or a cigarette, having something in your hand helps keep people from offering you something. Common drinking courtesy includes offering others a beer, mixed drink, or a shot. If you have something in your hand already they’re less likely to offer.

Personally, I channeled my inner Red Bull affiliate throughout the weekend, crushing can after can of the wing-giving beverage (and I should have taken them up on that large settlement a few years back .. I never grew any wings).

If you don’t already smoke, don’t pick up smoking. If you are a smoker, having a pack on hand at all times helped me. It gave me something to physically distract myself from the presence of alcohol. It was my “thing to do.” My mom doesn’t like that I smoke but it’s better than me drinking.

I didn’t ruin my sister’s graduation because I had a cigarette on the front sidewalk.

Since only one other person in my family smokes, it provided an excuse to walk away from the madness even momentarily. Having a cigarette gave me a quiet moment to myself. And before you non-smokers jump on me, I know I could have stepped away without the excuse of a cigarette. It simply gave me something to do with my hands and relieve stress while I had that moment.

2. Keep some other sober alcoholics on speed dial.

Actually, is speed dial even a thing anymore? I used to have all my speed dials programmed on my old flip phones. Now it’s much easier to search your contact list and find who you need.

Regardless, have a list of sober alcoholics who know where you will be. Enlist the help of friends who are willing to pick up the phone at any time of the day while you’re there. I made multiple calls a day which helped get me out of myself, kept me from focusing on my self-pity.

Let people know where you’re going before you leave. There is little worse than having no one available when you need the help of another person who understands. I know that when it comes down to it all you have is God, but the voice of reason from a fellow alcoholic helps, too. Keep lines of communication open while you are out of town or even down the street.

3. Have a physical object to hold onto that reminds you of your sobriety.

I keep my one-year chip with me wherever I go: one in my wallet and the other in the watch pocket of my jeans. Whenever I need a physical connection to my sobriety, I pull out either one of these chips, look at it, reflect upon it.

Having something to hold in my hands connects me on a physical level to why I’m doing this. It provides a moment to pause and meditate wherever I am, to remember why I am walking this path today.

The foot-long scar on my right forearm is another reminder to stay the course. Each time a frozen shot of Fireball looked appealing, I glanced at my arm. I know, deep down to my core, I will die the next time I relapse. Oftentimes I hear the phrase “seconds and inches.” I am living proof that alcoholics often survive by the skin of our teeth. That’s something I never want to forget.

4. Come up with an exit plan.

This is one thing I did a poor job at: I didn’t have an exit plan. I was able to walk out of the party and down the street a few times but there was no way to physically remove myself from the situation. I imagine if push had come to shove I could have borrowed a car but I didn’t have anywhere to go.

Whether you are going across town or out of town, plan ahead for a way to remove yourself from the situation. No matter if it’s a borrowed car, an Uber, a taxi, or public transportation, figure out a way to leave the party if need be.

I’m grateful the need for this never arose. I would have figured something out but it would have been difficult. Having an exit plan is a necessary part of attending an alcohol-infused celebration.

How do you make it through celebrations sober?

Again, the whole weekend was for my sister. Every crack of a beer can, shouting of “Shots!”, and turning down accidental offerings of drinks was worth it. To be there, sober, for my sister, was one of the many gifts I’ve received during this first year-and-change.

These are just a few options to help you stay sober during a graduation party. Do you have any suggestions? Let me know in the comments.

How Honesty in Addiction Recovery Changed My Life.

My teeth clamped my bottom lip.

Eight years of anticipation lie in wait at the tip of the tattoo gun’s needle. Randy dipped the gun in what looked like a water bottle cap, filled halfway with onyx-black ink.

“You ready?” he asked, snapping his latex gloves into place.

“Let’s do it,” I nodded. I readjusted my arm one final time before locking it in place. I glanced down at the foot-long scar slashed on my inner forearm, shimmering in the fluorescent light of the tattoo shop.

I bet that hurt worse than this will. If only I could remember.

The needle met my arm, started to dance its design into my skin. I exhaled the breath I didn’t realize I was holding.

It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had built it up in my head.

Honesty in addiction recovery

Honesty saved my life.

During the fourteen months of sobriety before my relapse, I was honest about everything except for one of the most pivotal parts of my identity. It drove a deepening divide between how I presented myself to those around me and the way I truly felt inside. The person on the outside was a confident lesbian, proud of herself and her identity. She carried her head high, knew the right things to say, and when to say them. But it wasn’t true. It wasn’t real.

After the relapse, the following 8 months of destruction and insanity finally beat me into a state of reasonableness. I was broken seemingly beyond repair. Seconds and inches away from nothingness. And then received the most beautiful gift of my life. A reprieve. But that reprieve depends on the amount of willingness, honesty, and open-mindedness I live with on a daily basis.

When I attempted suicide on April 16th, I still thought I would never tell anyone I was transgender. Though I had hinted towards it, I never permitted it as more than a fleeting though. After getting sober and doing some work, I realized I had enough strength to share my secret.

The nervousness I felt before getting my first tattoo reminds me of the nerves I feel when getting honest in addiction recovery. I build up expectations of what the other person will say and operate on assumptions. I have a conversation with the other person in my head. I play a convincing role as Person #2. I map out every possible way the conversation could go.

And oftentimes the conversation ends up going in none of those proposed directions.

The solution to delusion is honesty

Delusional: adj; characterized by or holding idiosyncratic beliefs or impressions that are contradicted by reality or rational argument.

I learned about the masks we create as addicts and alcoholics, mainly in our disease. We put up a facade, a show, insist everything is okay, that our drinking and drugging is normal. Because everyone steals their brother’s unused Adderall prescription and snorts it off their dresser during winter break. Right?

If I am honest with myself there was nothing normal about my use. I recall the first time my mom told me, “I always knew when you were drinking heavily because your knees were scraped up again.” Not everyone drinks to the point of tripping and falling? But that was normal for me. That was my reality.

It took a relapse and a new collection of consequences before I realized it, though. Try to convince a crazy person they’re crazy. I was delusional in active addiction and alcoholism. I lied to everyone around me and, most importantly, I lied to myself. I had to believe my lies in order to make them convincing. I thought I meant every false promise, good intention, and each insistence that I would do better next time.

Every alcoholic and addict is delusional when they first get sober. We spend countless months and years defending our actions in order to get loaded. We find a way to decline or escape social engagements, avoid our families, skip work and other obligations. We become masters of lying to those around us and spinning ourselves into a delusion.

The only way to crack through delusional thinking is through willingness, honesty, and open-mindedness. By doing something differently. What we’ve done with the majority of our time obviously doesn’t work. Why not try something else?

The healing that takes place in a year.


Overcoming the fear of honesty in recovery

Honesty in recovery was initially terrifying. I had no problem speaking my mind with the assistance of liquid courage and powdered confidence. To be honest while clearheaded and fully aware of possible consequences seemed impossible. The potential threat to my security and well-being gave me an excuse to keep my truth hidden.

It took the reliance upon something greater than me to get me through each coming out conversation. I had no control over the outcome but knew it would be okay, regardless of what happened. The only thing I can control are the actions I take and how I respond to the consequences (positive OR negative) that arise from those choices.

I’m learning daily how to better manage these reactions. I don’t have to cut the guy off on the freeway to get back at him for cutting me off three miles back. I don’t have to yell at the DMV representative on the phone for being unhelpful (although that I still did .. I’m still a work in progress).

I don’t have to react today but I can respond. When I react, I’m acting on my first thought. When I respond, I took a pause to gather myself before speaking. The latter always produces better results.

I was told that I’m not responsible for my first thought but I’m responsible for my second one.

“I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

You have the opportunity to be honest today, to share your truth with someone. Even if you share it with only one person it’s a step towards freedom. Freedom from delusion. Freedom from the lies. Freedom from the mask you spent years putting into place. It won’t all fall away at once but you can take the first step towards the rest of your journey. Today.

You will only pass this moment once. Right here, right now. What are you going to do with it?

Day 365.

I started this blog on Day 50.

Today is April 19th, 2017. Today marks Day 365 clean and sober. One year. All in a row, all nights, holidays, and weekends included.

I first got sober on June 1st, 2014. I started in recovery at 22 years old with the ends of my hair brushing my waist, a different name, different pronouns, and a head fogged up from four years of substance abuse and denial.

When I got sober on June 1st, 2014, I had very few consequences. I had just graduated from college. My parchment proof of an exorbitant financial investment was en route to my parents’ house. I felt different, like I didn’t fit in with those I met who had been arrested, charged with DUIs, lost their kids, dropped out of school. Those situations were not my reality.

But I was focusing on the outside circumstances of these people, not on their inside feelings.

Had I paid mind to the way these people felt, regardless of what they lost, it might have been different. I convinced myself that my alcoholism and addiction was simply a college phase and relapsed on August 1, 2015.

It only took 8 months to collect many of the consequences I heard other people share about.

During that 8 months my mind kept repeating, “If you kill yourself you don’t have to tell anyone you’re transgender.”

On the night of November 30th, 2015, I drank a fifth and tried to swallow two bottles of antidepressants. EMTs whisked me off to an overnight stay in the hospital and I was transferred to the psych ward the following morning. 72-hour hold.

I continued to drink.

On the night of April 15th, 2016, I drank a fifth and sliced a serrated knife through the soft skin of my forearm. EMTs whisked me off to an overnight stay in the hospital but I talked myself out of the psych ward.

I didn’t truly want to die but I wanted the pain to end. And I knew what I had to do.

I knew life would change when I got sober three days later. It changed the first time I got sober, however minimally. I didn’t get completely honest and it brought me back to the bottle and the bong. I knew if I wanted it to be different this time I had to be honest. Entirely honest.

Today I am 25 years old, I have short hair, my name is legally Elliott, and I’m still getting used to the fact that men pee all over the toilet seats in the bathroom.

This past 365 days has been a journey, a transformation of both mind and body.

Of learning who I am.

Of discovering my place in this world.

Of realizing I have a story that can help people.

I do my best to show up on time, try to be the places I say I will be, and reach my hand out when someone needs help. I’ve developed emotionally, mentally, and physically during this past year. I’ve hurdled the logs and boulders in my path and tripped over twigs. I’m still learning every day. Today I’m grateful for the car with a cracked radiator, the 30-minute commute, the dogs that still poop on my floor, and doing the things I don’t always want to do.

Thank you all for walking beside me. I’m grateful for all of you, too.

Halfway Through.

We’re just over halfway through the 60-day period now.

Can you believe it’s already been 35 days?

(Which also means it’s been 35 days since my last blog post .. again I have slacked)

Admittedly, I achieved the minimum amount possible to keep me going. I go to work at my day job, finish my work for my clients, attend to my commitments, and crash into bed at the end of the night.

I experienced a minor life upheaval and massive change of plans during March. It was both expected and unexpected; a twisting confusion of realizing it was inevitable yet hoping and praying for the best. However, life is in session and no one promised it would be easy. I had a few weeks to seek a new living arrangement and move an entire apartment and two dogs.

I moved into my new place on Saturday, though, and the best part of the whole deal is that I have a real desk now! After using a patio table in the “living room” area of my studio apartment for the last two years, a real desk has been a fantastic change of pace. I also got an office chair instead of a metal-framed, wicker-seated patio chair.

The new desk has provided a welcome change of perspective. I now feel like I’m sitting down to work in a real home office.

Did you set any goals? How far along are you?

That 35 days seems to have flown by. Although I’ve had much on my mind to keep me occupied, it still seems like it’s been quicker now that I look back.

So did you set any goals? How far along are you on them? Have you achieved anything you set out to do? Or are you at least somewhat started on it?

If not, I understand. Life happens and things get in the way, no matter how good our intentions are. I’m still working on building this side business but I’m unsure of where to head with it. I’m hoping to somewhat sort that out over the remaining 24 days of the sprint.

Steve focuses on not strictly upon building a copywriting business but using copywriting skills to build a business that’s unrelated to copywriting. I had never thought of it that way before. I don’t quite have ideas about what kind of business to make but I like the sound of the approach.

I’ve been thinking over the past few days about different problems I can solve for various businesses. I have never thought in this way before so it’s interesting to retrain my brain to be a problem solver.

Could I consider myself a problem solver? A hustler?

I’ve always been one to McGyver solutions around the house and figure things out. I’ve never been business-oriented until last October or so, though, so this is all new to me. To consider how to help businesses solve their problems is a new way of thinking.

I can apply my problem solving from other aspects of my life to solving business problems as I continue to learn more. I’m currently reading two books:

  • Dotcom Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Growing Your Company Online… by Russell Brunson
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

I’m thinking more about sales, something I have little experience with. I worked in restaurants for most of my life where I flirted with upsells, but no one ever directly taught me how to sell.

After the restaurants I transferred into getting through school by the skin of my teeth and cramming as many substances into my body as I could find. I focused on staying high all the time but never on the hustle. Student loans helped pay for things so I didn’t worry much about hustling for anything.

Now that I’m clear-headed and on my own, there are bills to pay and things to take care of. I learned about the world of entrepreneurship when I received this content writing job last July. It’s a captivating and interesting group of people to surround myself with. The more the fog has lifted the more ideas I have.

24 more days to go.

If you started on your goals, keep going! If you haven’t started yet, get to stepping!

There are 24 more days in my 70 Day Sprint and I’m interested to see what I can accomplish over the next three weeks. Now that I settled in (and have a DESK!) I feel more focused and driven, aiming to establish my intentions.

I realized Elliott in Recovery, my blog, has become somewhat directionless. It developed into a sort of stream-of-consciousness, documenting whatever is taking place in my life at any given moment. As I have yet to post consistently there is very little following.

I don’t know exactly what my goals are with this blog. I imagine if they were more developed I could be more intentional about the things I post. I don’t know that anyone is interested in the ramblings of a 25-year-old transgender alcoholic but that’s what it’s been so far.

You watched me stumble as I check in occasionally, always apologetic yet never taking the action to adjust my habits. Words are just words; the real proof is in my actions.

I’ve got 24 more days, friends.

Let’s see what I can do.