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.

What Can You Accomplish in 60 Days?

I recently joined a freelance writer’s group called the Copywriter Café. Therein is a group called the Café Writers, a paid group which gives you access to a certain set of guides and a community of strong writers. One of the resources available is the 70 Day Sprint, a 70-day challenge to build a better business.

I’m currently on Day 10 and have learned loads so far. The group and guide give me plenty to think about as I craft this business I’m working on.

My participation in this challenge again brings to mind Darren Rowse’s “habitual dreamers vs. habitual action-takers.” I’ve been a mixture of both over the past few months. However, my actions have mainly been dedicated to my full-time job and the large client that I currently have. I haven’t dedicated any time to growing my business or working on my blog, something I need to do if I intend to turn freelancing into a full-time opportunity.

Since I am on Day 10 there are 60 more days in the 70 Day Sprint. 60 days from today is Sunday, May 7th, 2017. This led me to the question:

What can I accomplish in the next 60 days?

What Can I Accomplish in 60 Days?

I can get through the 70 Day Sprint.
I will establish a business website.
I will post once a week on my blog.
I will have just over one year sober.
I will be five months on testosterone.
My name change will be official on all of my legal documents.
I will climb a V3 project in the gym.

Staying On Task, Staying Organized

Okay, but I’ve made goal posts in the past. You’ve read them if you follow this blog. I’ve moved closer towards some of them but have no way to measure my progress. Something I’ve learned about establishing Key Performance Indicators when working in marketing is that your goals must be SMART:

Specific: Real numbers with real deadlines. I can’t say “Climb harder projects.” I can say “Climb a V3 project.”
Measurable: I have to be able to track my progress towards the goal. How close am I to setting up and launching my website?
Attainable: The goal must be possible to achieve within a reasonable amount of time. Accomplishing the 70 Day Sprint challenge is perfect for that.
Realistic: Having a year sober when my sobriety date is April 19th, 2016 is a realistic goal.
Time-Sensitive: Setting up goals that are bound to a specific date will encourage me to work harder to achieve them.

How can I stay on task and organized while working towards these SMART goals?

I go weak in the knees for a good organizational app or a to-do list tracker. I’ve signed up for dozens but abandoned most of them because they aren’t just right. I always tend to fall back on a physical planner/calendar combo that keeps things all in one place. However, with how forgetful I am, having push notifications on my phone is incredibly helpful. Usually I set alarms in my phone and label them with the task that needs to be done.

I recently found a to-do list task tracker called Todoist that sends push notifications to my phone about the tasks I input. This is perfect for someone like me. I keep my assignments from my client, appointments I need to go to, and reminders of things to do after work. Seeing the notification on my phone reminds me of what I need to do at the exact time it needs to be done. It’s perfect.

Evernote has been fantastic in keeping many of my documents organized. I’ve got notebooks for everything from my freelance business to Elliott in Recovery to another blog I abandoned months ago.

Selecting My Priorities

I like to think that I can accomplish every single thing I set my mind to but I tend to become overwhelmed and give up on all of it. This is one of the most negative aspects of my personality that I have to work daily to fix.

Rather than setting up a massive list of goals, I find that when I establish small groups of projects there is a much better chance I’ll complete them. Small, daily to-do lists are helpful and keep me on track. SMART goals will allow me to feel as though I’m making progress, rather than working towards an aimless goal of “Get farther along in my transition.”

My priorities are the items I listed above. These are the projects I will work towards over the next 60 days.

What Can You Accomplish in 60 Days?

60 days, 2 months. It’s a decent chunk of time. What would you like to accomplish in the next 60 days? Where would you like to be? Join me if you would like to. Establish a few goals or projects you would like to accomplish over the next 60 days along with me.

Let me know in the comments what your goals are. I’m interested to know what other people would like to accomplish over the next two months!

Becoming a Habitual Action-Taker.

Just over a month ago I received a text from my friend Noah.

“I know you’ve been saying you want to rock climb. I’ve got a guest pass valid for the rest of November. Do you want to go?”

My brain immediately started listing off reasons I couldn’t go rock climbing, something been talking about wanting to do for the past few months, without me realizing it until it happened. I started typing with some inactive part of my brain as the active section continued with its diatribe of things I could do instead.

“I’m available on Wednesday at 5. Let’s do it.” I replied.

On Wednesday I arrived home from work and worked on a blog post for a client. After I submitted the post at 4:45 my brain suddenly began to invent excuses as to why I couldn’t go rock climbing again.

You’ve got another assignment. You could play video games instead. You’re tired. You don’t have time.

I fought back against the endless stream of thoughts pelting me. I stood up from my desk and walked to my room to change. That inactive part of my brain perked up again.

But this is something you’ve wanted to do for months.

The Reality of My Climbing Experience

I climbed in college with friends who loved to head out to Joshua Tree and scale the spectacular rock formations there, or to the local gym when we were too hungover for the two-hour drive. I could scramble my way up a wall alright so I imagined myself scaling the 15-foot bouldering walls of the local gym with only a minor struggle.

Boy, was I mistaken. I’d never been bouldering before, much less climbed in years, and I was out of my element. So much for my expectations (as always).

I realized how out of shape I’ve gotten after three climbs up the wall. My forearms burned, my legs screamed, and my hands were numb. And it was exhilarating. I missed the welcome ache of sore muscles during a workout, the inner turmoil my body and brain fight out as I push through the pain. I tore my palms in four places, taped each up, and continued to climb.

I climbed until I reached the top of the wall and realized I could hardly hold on. Scared I’d hurt myself on the way down I finally tapped out. I could hardly move and my hands were bleeding, but I had the most fun hour and a half I’ve had in months. I’ve gone back three more times, taped up my skin “flappers”, and climbed for as long as my weakened muscles would let me.

Rock climbing was even more incredible than I spent months imagining it would be. I’m grateful Noah asked me to go with him.

How Much Time Do I Actually Have?

There are 168 hours in a week. Currently, the only things occupying my time are 40 hours a week at my job, a two-hour engagement on Monday night, and a three-hour engagement on Tuesday night. I spend 7 hours per night sleeping Monday through Friday, so that’s another 35 hours. I spend about 12 hours sleeping on Saturdays and Sundays; 24 hours.

That leaves me with 64 hours of free time to do as I please. 64 whole hours! Before I continue on this train of thought, let me step back momentarily to my 12 hours of sleep on Saturdays and Sundays.

In my two weekend days, I get two-thirds of the total sleep I get spread out over five days during the week. An unnecessary 10 extra hours are spent on extra sleep, or 6.25% of my week. That’s insane. If I were to sleep my regular 7 hours, that would bring my total weekly free time up to 74 hours!

I now possess 74 hours a week to do with as I please. Looking at the fact that I have 74 hours in a week, free for the taking, changes my perspective on my free time.

How much more time do you have than you realize?

Time as a Commodity

I read somewhere recently that time is the only true commodity in life. We may lose money but we can get it back. When I lose track of time, there’s no getting that time back.

Currently, the most important things in my life are:

  • My higher power
  • My fiancee
  • My family

The most important activities to me are:

  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Blogging
  • Freelancing
  • Rock climbing

If I’m selective about how to spend my time, it’s important that each activity I do contribute to one of the seven things above. Otherwise, it’s not pertinent to my progression. The way I can determine that is by asking, “Will this activity move me closer towards or further away from my ideal self?”

I spend a fair amount of my free time scrolling through Instagram and Facebook. I spend mindless hours on these social media channels before bed, during downtime in the car, or waiting for appointments. I look picture after picture at people going places I want to go or doing things I want to do. Instead of watching other people, I’m going to work towards going the places I want to go or doing the things I want to do.

Sure, I can play a round of a video game or scroll through Instagram for a few minutes, but as soon as I start to sink hours into these activities the problem rears its head.

Additionally, I’ve started to take on more freelance work, resulting in less time for activities I enjoy doing. I’m generally at my day job, at home freelancing, rock climbing, or spending off time with Kate. I’ve had priorities other than my blog resulting in their neglect. For example, this post has been sitting in my Google Drive for over a month. I’ve tweaked it occasionally but it’s been left mostly untouched. I’ve had to adjust the first line multiple times, as it originally started, “Last Sunday…”

I want to win. I want to better myself. I want to achieve my goals and be happy along the way. I won’t do that if I spend 6 hours on a Sunday afternoon playing League of Legends. I’ve got other things I want to do with my life! If I instead invest that time into submitting proposals and completing current projects, taking Kate out to the beach for an afternoon of reading, or meeting up with my mom for coffee, that’s what will help me achieve what I want from my life.

Not League of Legends.

Habitual Dreamers vs. Habitual Action-Takers

Darren Rowse talks about two groups of people in the first episode of his ProBlogger podcast: “habitual dreamers” and “habitual action-takers”. The habitual dreamers, he says, rarely follow through on their dreams. But the habitual action-takers regularly follow through with what they say they’ll do to see where their dreams will lead them. Habitual action-takers find success while habitual dreamers are left with just their dreams.

Habitual action-takers perform minute, daily actions that move them closer towards their plans and goals. Habitual dreamers wish for things they’ll never achieve because they don’t do the work to achieve them.

Currently, I’m a habitual dreamer. I have all these plans and hopes for things that I want to do with my work life. Right now it’s:

  • Hold down a full-time job
  • Freelance write
  • Run two blogs

All simultaneously. But when the time comes to work on those personal projects like freelancing and blogging, things I slide back into video games or scrolling through my phone. I dream of doing them but don’t put in the time or effort to actually get them done.

I have an overwhelming tendency to hang around wishing instead of working for what I want. If I want to achieve the things I dream of, I need to become a habitual action-taker. I need to follow through on the things I say I want to do. I need to push away the laziness and aim for my success. Sure, material success is not the most important thing in the world, but success in the goals I set for myself is absolutely important.

How I Plan to Move Forward

In my last post I overviewed my goals for the past month and explained how I’ve worked towards achieving each of them. I’ve worked towards a few of them, but I could try so much harder. Time management is an important aspect in all of this.

Now that I’ve waited so long to post this it’s the New Year. I’ve never liked New Years Resolutions because they seem to always slip away so I wanted to avoid making this post about that. Instead of resolutions, I want to make changes daily in the choices I make to move myself closer to the person I want to become.

For example, I haven’t been getting up early. If I were to wake up early, I could utilize that time to work on my blog or build a freelancing website. I hate waking up in the morning but I continually press snooze, inadvertently causing myself to wake up over and over again. Counterproductive! Starting tomorrow, I will stop pressing snooze. Also, if I wake up earlier, I’ll have more than 74 hours a week to do things.

I plan to have top surgery by July so I’d like to lose at least 30 pounds before then. I’ve been climbing at least two to three times a week since I originally. I invested in a three-month pass and a pair of my own shoes (that I found on sale for $40 off!) so I wouldn’t have to spend money on rentals every time I go. It’s a great way for me to get a workout since I don’t enjoy running, but I do need to find some type of cardio that I enjoy.

I can also start using a few of those 74 hours to cook food instead of purchase it from a window. It doesn’t take very much time to put together a meal and I actually enjoy cooking! My laziness results in me doing it less often. My habitual dreaming, rather than habitual action-taking.

Ultimately, I could either waste my time watching other people do the stuff I want to do or I can spend that time working towards it and then experiencing it myself.

I want to be in Colorado by April of 2018. I’ve got a lot of work to do before then.

A One Month Update on My Goals.

I spent last night reading the book Awareness by Anthony de Mello cover-to-cover and it provided an incredible change of perspective. My all-or-nothing thinking distorted for a few hours my understanding of the world, and I believed I simply needed to spend the rest of my life in meditation and denying myself pleasures in the world. As I continued to read and arrived at the end, he proceeded to discuss how life is nothing without good food, good people, good conversation. It’s an amazing book that induced a momentary spiritual experience, an understanding of my place in this world and a brief period of “okayness.”

I took from it the understanding that no one truly knows what God is (and that it’s impossible to know) and to spend my life consumed by questioning the meaning of life is to waste it. I’m grateful to my friend Andrea who suggested another book of his to me for it led me to the book I finished last night. My thoughts are still quite jumbled so I will reflect on what I read and return with a more cohesive report in a few weeks.

Instead, I want to use this post as an update on the goals I established just over a month ago. I want to consider the progress I’ve made and that which I’ve not done so well on, but rather than morbid reflection, I want to look at what I’ve done well. The self-deprecation that takes place in my head isn’t as loud as it was a few months ago but it still holds its place. If I continue to allow it a firm grip on my thoughts then I’ll be doing a disservice both to myself and those around me.

Now, without further digression, an update.

  1. Make an active effort on this blog.

    I’ve posted on average once a week since I wrote that post, but averages are not always realities. After starting a side-gig with freelance writing, I moved away from my personal projects and towards incessant working. I’m still trying to decide what exactly I’d like to do with this blog but not posting won’t help me to determine where I’m headed with it.

    I think I try to make everything perfect, have a concrete purpose here when I really seem to be moving in the direction of periodic updates on what’s taking place in my life. I don’t know whether people are truly concerned with the happenings in my everyday, but I know that I’d like to have something to look back on a few years from now and see where I’ve come from.

    I’ll continue towards the goal of one to two posts a week; I’ve got enough going on to fulfill that.

  2. Half hour walks, four times a week.

    I’ve ended up walking half an hour about once or twice a week. Kate and I take the dogs on multiple walks a day that add up to about 20 minutes a day, but one solid walk per day would be much healthier for me. Especially with Kate’s stomach issues that hospitalized her last week, walking is an important part in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for ourselves and I want to continue making more of an effort. Walking is an extremely enjoyable activity for me so I want to do it more often. I want to participate in some sort of activity that keeps my body moving so I will continue walking. While I may not head out for a half hour every day of the week, four times a week is still an achievable goal.

  3. Start rock climbing.

    I still haven’t done this but it’s still something I want to do! I need to do a better job of budgeting because my excuse so far has been “I don’t have the money to do it.” I do have the money to do it, I just put that money towards other things. If rock climbing is an activity I’d really like to do then I need to prioritize the funds to do it. I was supposed to go with a friend this Thursday but I’ve got a meeting to find out more about legally changing my name and gender through the courts. I’ve got to set a date to climb! This is also a goal that stays!

  4. Learn to code.

    While this seems like a fun thing to do, it’s just not something that is a priority in my life right now. There are other things I’d rather do with my time so I’m going to set this one to the side for now. Sorry, Learn C# in One Day and Learn it Well, I’ll read you at another point in my life!

  5. Continue my transition.

    This is something I’ve very much followed up on! I attended my first gender assessment session last Monday and was officially diagnosed with gender dysphoria. I have an additional assessment tomorrow where we’re going to establish a plan moving forward. I can break this large goal down into sub-goals, which include legally changing my name and gender, starting HRT, and setting a top surgery date. I’m working towards each of these by taking the little steps I have in front of me. It’s not as quick as I’d like, but I’m moving forward!

In addition to these goals, minus the dropped “learn to code”, I would like to add two more:

  1. Lose weight.

    This is bringing back one I had a few months ago. After discussing it with the therapist, I’d like to lose 30 pounds before I go through with top surgery in order to get the best results that I can. I’ve stagnated at 172 for the past two months and stopped eating healthy after allowing stress to take over. My goal of losing weight ties back into walking four times a week and rock climbing, but I can also add eating healthy in. I read somewhere that, “You can’t outrun your fork!” Losing weight begins with diet, so if I continue my lazy diet I won’t move forward.

  2. Wake up earlier.

    I’ve read endless articles about successful people who start their days early and I’d like to be one of them. I make excuses because my workday starts at 7:00 AM, but if it’s something I really want to accomplish then I’ll find a way to do it. An ideal morning routine includes meditation practice, a walk, a few minutes of writing, something to eat, and a cup of coffee. Aligned with this is an additional goal to QUIT PRESSING THE SNOOZE BUTTON. I snooze away half an hour every morning that could be better used to work towards my goals!

So that’s six goals I now have to work towards in order to live a happier, healthier life. I’ll continue working towards them along with updates every month or so on how they’re going. Are you guys working towards any goals right now? Let me know!

Why I Feel Like I Need Others’ Permission to Live.

As I navigate through my recovery journey, I continue to uncover more truths about myself. The most recent discovery I made has to do with my constant seeking of approval and permission from those I care about most.

I remember on my 22nd birthday I told my friend Sophie all I wanted was to not have to make the decisions for the day. Looking back now I realize what a silly request that was. Why do I want to have no control over my life? So I won’t be responsible for the consequences? Because I lack the confidence in myself to trust the decisions that I make? I imagine there are multiple reasonings at play that I could get into, but let’s follow the lack of confidence.

Self-confidence is an issue that, like many others, I have struggled with for a long time. Sometimes people are surprised to hear that. I’ve been told I carry myself as though I do, but I’m working to better match my external self to my internal self. I have a difficult time with accepting myself as I am, as both transgender and an alcoholic. Through my most recent relapse, I’ve managed to come to terms with the latter, but I’m still working on the former. I’ve only been out for a few months so it will likely come with time, however, I do wish that the acceptance would come quicker.

I think it’s only through practice and trust in my journey that I will develop confidence in myself. I’m learning that I don’t need permission of anyone to live my truth. All each of us is attempting to do is live out our own understandings of the world we’ve been placed in. My perspective is no more right or wrong than the next person’s but I only believe that from a logical standpoint right now. The emotional attachment to this is much more pervasive. I still believe that someone else has the answers to the existential questions I’m asking, and I need only to keep asking to find it.

We each start our lives living within the framework with which we were raised, but at some point we realize that we’re able to make our own decisions. It took me a bit longer to come to this, and with the insistent inner monologue constantly second-guessing everything I do, it’s difficult for me to trust this process. I have a hard time letting go of the framework I was raised to operate in and develop my own truth because I still somewhat believe the one I was raised with is the only way.

My senior portfolio in college was titled, “Against Absolute Truth.” I questioned the notion that any one religion is the “right” one and proposed that perhaps each is simply a different path to the same place. That religions are human conceptions of a power greater than us that can’t be conceived by our limited understanding. No one knows what happens when we die and I live my life terrified of the idea that I might burn in hell for eternity. The Bible clearly states its stance but it’s my choice to decide whether or not I will let that control me. I believe I’m a good person but it says the only way to heaven is to believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins.

Would a loving God condemn an entire group of people for not accepting this? Ignore the love, tolerance, and kindness they showed to everyone around them because they happened to accept a different truth in an effort to reach the same destination? Jesus said the first greatest commandment is to love the Lord thy God, but is there a specific way the Lord thy God must be loved? How am I to know that another religion’s path to the Promised Land isn’t correct?

There is no way to know and I can’t wait around for someone to answer that question for me because they can’t. No one knows the truth. All we can have is faith in our own understanding that we are doing the right thing for ourselves. I have a difficult time with this because I don’t trust my own journey, and I don’t quite know how I’m supposed to come to that acceptance. I’m learning that I’m able to create a God of my own understanding, but what if that’s the “wrong” God?

Perhaps I think too much on a topic that shouldn’t be so complex. Maybe I over think it. This is the journey I’m on, though, and the questioning mind is the one I was given. In time I may learn to trust myself and my perspective. Until then it will be an exhausting game of second-guessing. All I can do is move forward. I’ve been told the only way to gain self-esteem is by doing esteemable acts. Perhaps I will come to an acceptable understanding through the process of helping others.

That’s all I aim to do. Instead of overthinking endlessly, I want to reach outside of myself and help other people. Living life outside of myself will help me not think so much about things I’ll never know the answer to. Maybe it’s just that. Helping other people to get out of myself and stop cycling upon things I have no control over. I can’t be the only one who struggles with this so I hope someone is able to identify with my rambling.

I believe through sharing my truth I can help someone else. This may not have made much sense to some but might read clearly to others. Explaining what’s going on in my head might connect with another person somewhere on the internet.

I don’t need to wait around for acceptance and permission, I need to give it to myself. It’s not so much the path that brought me here that matters but the steps I take going forward. I want to do esteemable acts and learn to trust the journey I’ve been placed in. I can do something little every day to help myself move towards that.

If you relate or have any insights on giving yourself permission, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear others’ opinions on this.

Welcome to Elliott in Recovery!

As you may have noticed if you’ve been reading for a little bit, I moved my blog over to a new domain. My own domain. Elliott in Recovery; stories from a transgender alcoholic. I realized I was going about it improperly by using WordPress.com if I wanted to make something out of this blog, so I made the decision to purchase a domain name and host it on my own. I want this blog to become a resource for others who struggle with their own journeys and I have more control when I host it on my own. I plan to cover how I learned the difference between WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress, from the perspective of a know-nothing, new blogger. (I thought you had to purchase WordPress.com annual hosting in addition to self-hosting. That is incorrect!)

Since self-hosting, I still have not been able to post because I’ve been busy with another new turn in my path. I started a freelance writing career! I’m still working as a content writer at a software company but I’m looking to expand my horizons and start my own business (sort of) with freelance writing. I already have two clients and have been working for a week and a half, which has kept me extremely busy and away from my own blog. I’ve been writing about addiction and recovery for a treatment center’s blog and the material has been fantastic to write about thus far.

I’ve realized the capacity to make money that exists in freelancing, but I currently lack the courage to take the plunge and write full time. I’m a nervous person and the stability of a 40-hour office job, albeit not what I want to do with my life, is more reassuring than the uncertainty that freelancing provides. However, have I not spent the past six months stepping out of my comfort zone? Have I not taken control of my life and made decisions for myself in regards to what I want to do? Why stop now?

I know I have the capability and drive to make it but I also need the confidence in myself to make that decision. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life working 9-to-5 (well, 7-to-3:30) for someone else’s dream. I want to work towards my own dream, my own future. Freelancing is something I can take with me wherever I go; I’m not tied down to any one location or company. I work for myself, set my own hours, decide whether or not to take jobs. I’ve got a “boss” in my clients, but I’m ultimately my own boss.

The freedom that comes with freelancing is inspiring to me and makes me want to work for this dream. I’ve always wanted to write for a living. While not every article will be enticing to write about, it’s something I have a passion and drive to do. My fingers fly across the keyboard so easily and I know it is what I was placed here to do. All I need is the bravery to jump in order to see if I can fly.

Six Months Sober and I’m Still Learning.

Today marks six months since my first day fully sober from any type of mind-altering substance. It’s been six months and three days since I was released from my second hospitalization in the course of five months. On the night of April 15th I began drinking as I always did with a glass of lemonade and a glass of vodka. I would take a small sip of lemonade, a few large gulps of vodka, and chase with another sip of lemonade, over and over, until my words slurred and my skin tingled. Only once I could speak without stumbling over my sentences would I consider myself close properly inebriated, but that didn’t keep me from continuing to drink. Marijuana held the main role in my using. I was always capable of smoking while drinking when I was using in college but during this past relapse I always ended up a little bit “weird.”

While under the influence I always found a way to take even the slightest perception of a tense tone from my fiancée personally and proceeded to strike back on the defensive. Looking back there was never a reason to be defensive, though, because the altercation existed entirely in my head. When we fought due to my antagonizing I would use at her, believing that would solve a problem. That was the only way I knew how to solve feelings of discomfort, anger, joy, fear, being upset. Drink. Smoke. Attempt to slow my brain with substances that failed to stop my thoughts long ago. No matter how much I ingested, the internal dialogue never to paused. What used to solve my problems now duplicated them and I wasn’t sure how to handle them.

On April 15th I interpreted a normal disagreement as an argument and progressed it into a fight. Already crossfaded, I abandoned the glass of vodka, switched straight to the bottle in the freezer, and swigged deeply. Already crossfaded, the alcohol went straight to my head and I passed into that state of viciousness. I continued to shout and she wanted it to stop, but once I started I was never able to step down from my heightened emotional state. She went next door to the neighbor’s house to get away from me, our neighbor’s husband came to our house to assure I was okay, and I was in the kitchen throwing the silverware drawer across the floor. Exactly the way my father used to. I saw a serrated knife slide across the floor and before I realized what was happening I clutched the handle in my hand and dug the blade down my arm. I knew it was down, not across, if you were trying to do it right.

A tourniquet was applied and the ambulance arrived quicker than four months earlier. I was accepted at the hospital and tested at a .26 blood alcohol content. Half the .46 of my near death in December but with double the physical damage from this attempt. Seventeen staples secured the gash and I spent the night holding myself in the hospital and insisting it was an accident; I couldn’t go to the psych ward again. By some sick grace I wasn’t placed on another 72-hour hold but when I went home in the morning, arm bundled tightly in shining white gauze, I immediately got high.

I needed to relax, after all.

Three days later, on April 19th, I made the decision to get sober. Again. I tried for those three days to maintain with marijuana but realized I was lying to myself. While I never made attempts or fought with Kate stoned, when I was honest with myself I saw my life was quickly slipping away in a series of dazed days and restless nights. My quality of life poor and the way I thought of myself abysmal, I knew I could continue on if I wanted to survive. Survival is no way to exist, though. I wanted to live. I gave away all paraphernalia cleared out the house, and set out to get sober. I wasn’t sure what the future held, whether I’d relapse again like I had last time, but I wanted to live.

Six months later I’m miles away from where I was and simultaneously only an arm’s length away from sliding right back. I can’t believe the six months passed so quickly. I do wish I started this blog as soon as I got sober or stuck with it from its origination in June, but my brain was muddled and I wasn’t ready to put to digital paper what I scrawled endlessly in notebooks. However, I’m learning that things work out exactly the way they’re supposed to and I wasn’t intended to start a blog then. I’m ready now, though, and hope that my story can help someone who is struggling the way I struggled. While our stories may not be identical, I imagine we can find commonality in the barren insides and cyclical thoughts.

Recovery from addiction and alcoholism is not easy but was the best decision I could have made. I gained the courage to finally come out after years of silence and stuffing. I didn’t believe I ever could and if I didn’t get sober I don’t think I ever would. I’m living constantly in learning mode. I’m making minor adjustments on a daily basis that make lasting impressions on my life. A friend told me a few months ago to appreciate every step of this journey that I’ve found myself on and this project helps me to do that. I’m setting goals and achieving pieces of them as the weeks pass. My next plan is to start rising an hour before getting ready so I can begin meditating and writing Morning Pages. I want to begin setting a positive start to my day rather than pressing snooze countless amounts of times until I’m leaping out of bed to get ready hurriedly. Starting my day in a rush leads to more scattered thoughts and I believe this is the next step in my journey.

While I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be, I’m farther away from where I don’t want to be. I’m endlessly grateful for that. I’m reading more, writing more, learning more. I’m meeting amazing people both online and offline who are helping me along this path and whom I hope I help as well. I’ve got a long way to go but I’m appreciating the small moments of joy in each day and I believe I’ll begin documenting those as well.

Why I’m Writing a Thousand Words a Day.

I discovered a website, Medium, where I can read various personal essays people have written. It’s an incredible platform where I’ve found some amazing pieces of writing, including an essay called, “How Writing 1000 Words a Day Changed My Life.”

I’ve mentioned here multiple times how I’m not as good at writing as I used to be, but I conveniently “forget” the fact that in order to get better I must do just that: write. I don’t want to post on here every single day because I don’t have well-formulated thoughts I’d like to solidify on the Internet. Instead I’ve been using an Evernote notebook to store my 1000 words a day. Currently (as of Sunday, since it’s still Sunday night) I’m on day three. I’ve yet to write anything I’d deem satisfactory, but it’s been good to get words onto the page. It’s been nice to feel my fingers flying unapologetically across the keyboard and not worrying about the end result. I’ve also noticed my excessive use of “but” and “so” and “just” and other filler words. My writing has gotten lazy and I hope to use this exercise as a way to work on my word choice and sentence structure. I used to be able to do that, but as of this moment it’s time for me to stop referring to and focusing on what I used to be able to do.

From today forward I’m going to put my attention towards how I can better myself each day. Putting so much thought towards what I was capable of doing before does me a disservice. I want to make positive changes in my life and looking backwards won’t help me do that. I’m going to continue setting goals and start looking ahead. I’m going to continue writing 1000 words a day, but I’m not going to beat myself up if there’s a day I don’t do that. I’m not going to be able to do things perfectly and that is okay. It’s the journey I’m taking, not the place that I end up where the real progress happens.

I don’t like the post that I put up a few days ago because it’s not “deep” and doesn’t have much substance. It’s truthful and real, though, and that’s what is important. It’s where I was at that day and I don’t want to deny my existence. I won’t be inspired every day, I won’t be able to produce fantastic work at all times. As long as I continue writing, though, I am making progress. It’s not about search engine optimization and making myself seen and known, it’s about bettering myself and hopefully helping a few people along the way. It’s not all about me, but I won’t be able to help anyone else if I can’t help myself.

I also read a great article on Men With Pens that explains how writing a certain amount every day won’t make me a better writer. That’s a good thing to consider because if I’m not writing with intention then I’m merely repeating bad habits like using “but” and “so” and “just” too often. If I don’t pay attention to what I’m writing and merely mash out 1000 words a day then I’m not going to become any better. Ray Bradbury said, “Write one thousand words a day and in three years you’ll become a writer.” I do want to be a writer, but I want to be a great writer. Not for anyone else. I want to be a great writer for myself. I know that I am capable of it and I want to fulfill my potential and rise above it.

In order to become a better writer I must become a better reader. The last time I finished a book was at the beginning of this year and that’s shocking considering how much I used to read when I was younger. Once I started using drugs and alcohol, my attention span and desire to read disappeared. I tried to read but couldn’t focus on what I was reading and simply gave up. I’ve been working on my reading skills again and I’d like to continue doing so. I’ve been reading essays on Medium and realize how I can hardly get through a piece that’s a few thousand words; I’ve got a lot of work to do. All it’s going to take, though, is practice. As I read and focus more I will become a better reader, as long as I’m reading with intent. It’s just like writing. If I don’t do it with purpose then I’ll merely further instill bad habits.

I will continue writing 1000 words a day because it’s getting me to write, but I will also read a few essays a day to see how others formulate their sentences and use words. I’ll learn from other writers and incorporate what I take from them. I’m excited to see where I will be six months from now. A year from now. Especially considering I’ll hopefully be able to start hormones soon, but that’s another topic for a different blog post. I’m excited to see how much growth will occur in the next six months when I look back and consider how much I’ve grown in the past six months. I respond to situations entirely different than I did in April. I’m more thoughtful. I’m more considerate. I (mostly) show up when I say that I will. I’m more selective about who I spend my time with and if I don’t want to do something I don’t do it. I’m taking care of myself today. And writing more will help me to do that.

Being intentional in not only my writing but every area of my life will help me continue to evolve. I can write a thousand intentional words a day in various areas of my life. In my recovery, in my reading, in my relationships. I want to continue to work on myself on a daily basis because it’s done well for me so far and I believe it will continue to do so.