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.

An Update on Insurance.

Today I spoke with the insurance agent regarding my eligibility for insurance through my work! I finally reached my 90 days so I’m able to get company insurance, which means that as soon as it goes through I’m going to get in touch with an endocrinologist to discuss starting hormone replacement therapy. While I’d love to manage top surgery as well, just the ability to start hormones would be absolutely incredible. It feels as though I’ve been waiting forever but it’s truly only been a few months. I cannot wait for the opportunity to begin but I know I need to continue to exude patience with the process and enjoy the moments I’m experiencing as they come.

The insurance agent for my company wasn’t exactly positive about the benefits coverage regarding Gender Identity Disorder so he said he would make a few calls to find C out and then give me a call. I didn’t hear from him today so I hope that I will hear from him tomorrow, otherwise it’s going to be a long weekend. It’s amazing that it’s already here, the opportunity to start this process so soon. The process is already started, actually; I now have to wait for the next step of my journey. Said Ella Maillard, one of the twentieth century’s great travel writers, “The hardest part is getting to the station.”

I also decided I want to begin freelance writing to gain experience as a writer and for the supplemental income it will provide. While I’m not where I used to be, I think I still have the capability to piece words together in a somewhat coherent way, so hopefully someone will be willing to pay me to do so. Writing is something I’ve always wanted to do and with this age of the internet it’s so much easier to begin a career. While the market is somewhat saturated at this point, I’m hoping I will be able to establish some contacts and get paid for what I’m capable of doing. I’m not sure what will come out of it but I thought that I could at least start on it.

This blog is an excellent avenue for me to practice my writing skills again. I wasn’t quite sure what to write about this evening but I wanted to get a blog post up and update the few of you who read with that is going on in my transition. It’s not much but every single step counts for me. I’ve been working on maintaining a more positive attitude even though it’s not difficult to get exactly what I want when I want it. Typical alcoholic.

I’ve been questioning my involvement in the things with which I choose to spend my time lately. I want to be more mindful about how I spend the precious time I’ve been gifted, and I’d like to spend more of it reading and writing. I pulled a book from my shelf that I’ve been meaning to read for three years now: The Quest for Meaning by Tariq Ramadan. I’ve been questioning my existence again (as I always do) and I thought this book would be a good place to start. It was suggested to me in my Atheists, Believers, and Religious Debates class my senior year of college and it’s travelled with me from bookshelf to box to bookshelf during each move. I’m thrilled to finally start it.

Wake, sleep, rinse, repeat.

Life has fallen into a state of repetitiveness. Wake up, walk dogs, go to work, take lunch, finish work, go home for an hour, go to group, come home, watch TV, sleep. Day after day, week after week. Someone mentioned to me that perhaps this is serenity due to lack of calamity, but I truly hope this isn’t what my life settles into. I want more for myself. I want to see incredible things, meet amazing people, try things I’ve never tried before. I hope that this is not serenity.

While I appreciate that time slips by quickly sometimes bringing me closer to the moment I’m able to start my medical transition, I realize the last 174 days have blurred past in a series of wash, rinse, repeat. I don’t like that I’m not appreciating each day as it is, focusing on the negative rather than the moments of beauty that I would see if I would only stop for a moment and seek them out.

I live for the two day weekends each week then end up sleeping them away, exhausted from I don’t even know what. I’m not taking seriously the time that’s been given to me, the life that has been saved by half an inch. I’m wasting away not working on the things that are important to me because I won’t take the time to sit down and figure out what those things are.

I know that I’m here to help people. I know that I’m a transgender alcoholic. I know that I’ve been given the gift of writing, however rusted it may be, but as I begin to spin the gears again the rust will flake off and the shininess will show again. I’ve got a small platform to discuss the things that are important to me and I want to assure that I utilize that platform to its full potential. I don’t want to live for two days of sleeping when there’s so much to be seen and appreciated around me.

I’ve made a list of goals I would like to accomplish.

1. Make an active effort on this blog.

While I know that I can’t post every day because I have a variety of responsibilities to attend to, posting at least once a week while aiming for twice is an achievable goal. Often I feel as though I don’t have anything to say; however, when I sit at the computer to write I find there are more words inside than there appear to be. If I can find a way to coax them out the way I used to in college, I can create a nice little project here to look back on in times to come, to see how I’ve changed as both a person and a writer. One to two times a week gives me a few days to notice the things worth noticing and then capture them here as I see fit.

I continue to believe that I’ll be able to sit down and write as well as I used to, when in fact writing is like any other art: it takes practice to be good. Just because I was somewhat well-written before doesn’t mean the talent didn’t disappear; it’s going to take work for me to return to the place I once was. I can’t command my vocabulary the way I used to and I use too many commas now, but I’m trying to put words down and get used to the action of it again, and it will come back in time.

2. Half-hour walks, four times a week.

My original goal was to run a 5k, but I realized I had no true interest in being able to do this. Running has never been an enjoyable activity for me no matter how much I try, and trying to force myself to be something I’m not hasn’t worked well for me in the past. I only want to run a 5k to say I can run a 5k, but I wasn’t enjoying the process of getting there at all. I dreaded the days I came home to run, and the Couch to 5k app dings plagued my dreams.

Instead, I’ve realized I love to take my dogs on long walks and look around me to see what is taking place in my bustling suburb; I don’t want to remain in California forever but I can appreciate my surroundings in the meantime. There are beautiful things to see but because they aren’t snow-capped mountians and endless blue skies I deem them unworthy. The freeway near my house passes traffic constantly and the mossy creekbed smells of rot, but the clouds still trail across the skies creating paintings at dusk that rival those of past greats.

3. Start rock climbing.

I believe that things come in threes and my friend was recently the third person to suggest rock climbing to me. I’ve been a few times and always enjoyed it but it was never something I got “into.” However, I’m looking for more interactive forms of exercise and it may not stick, but it’s something I want to do when I move to Colorado so I might as well start now and see if it’s something I truly enjoy. There is an indoor bouldering gym nearby that I’d like to try out and the memberships are the same price as a gym pass and, I imagine, twice the fun.

I want to try it out before I commit to a monthly pass so that’s another goal of mine. Go climbing. See how I like it. See if it’s something I can see myself sticking to. There seems to be a community among rock climbers that I’d like to be a part of, so we’ll see how I like it. I’ll let you know when I end up going.

4. Learn to code.

This is a difficult one because it is such an open goal. There is so much to learn in the world of coding, from HTML 5/CSS to Java, from Python to C++. It’s not something that I can just “learn,” but it’s something that I can take a bite out of and attempt to work on it a piece at a time. I can pick one language and begin to learn it until I understand it and then move onto the next. I was originally taking a computer science course that is due December 31st, but I ended up too far behind due to outside circumstances so I will attempt it again come the new year when it’s reuploaded.

From what I’ve read, you don’t just go in to “learn to code.” You go in to create a project. That’s where the real desire to learn comes from, from a passion project that you want to put into life. I’ve got some ideas but they’re not nearly fleshed out, so I have some things to consider as I go about selecting my first language and taking those initial steps to get started.

5. Continue my transition.

This is another open-ended goal as there are myriad things I’d like to accomplish within this umbrella. I’d like to start my medical transition, to begin hormone replacement therapy, but before that I have to get enrolled with insurance. My three months at this job is tomorrow so I’ll be eligible but I’d like to talk with the insurance agent before I sign up to assure that gender identity disorder is covered within the plan my employer has selected. I don’t want to sign up for something I won’t be able to use. There’s a small sub-goal: talk to the insurance agent.

I’d also like to get started on my legal name and gender marker change. From what I’ve learned it’s a more expensive process than I originally imagined, but I’m saving up money right now (currently $250 a month) and I’ll be able to apply some of that to the process. I’ve got the forms printed and I need to fill them out, and I’ll go from there and document the experience here.

The two main aspects of my life I want to document in this blog are my transition and my journey in sobriety, in the hopes that some other transgender alcoholic will be able to benefit from where I saw a lack of information. While I’m not going to be any sort of concrete evidence of how to do things, I hope that my experience will help someone else. I’m still very new to all of this so it’s all going to be from the beginning which, I believe, will be interesting to follow. But of course I believe myself to be interesting. I could merely be rambling to an empty cyberspace, but I’ll look back on this project in a year or two and see evidence of the changes I’m working so hard to make.

I believe that having goals will make it easier to remain present while I slowly get things ready to move. While it’s still around a year away, I’m starting to see it becoming a reality. I’ve established both these short-term goals and some long-term goals that perhaps I’ll write about another time and I intend to see them through. I have things I want to accomplish with my life and I don’t want it to become an endless cycle of sleep, work, eat, rinse, repeat. I was made for more than this and I want to see the things I can accomplish. I won’t be able to see those things, though, if I don’t take the first step.

Transgender Alcoholic.

I have abandoned this blog for over three months now; I thought it had been only two but time is passing much quicker than I realize. This also means that I have been out as transgender for nearly three months. Coming out (again) was something I thought I would never do. Once seemed like plenty and twice was simply torturous. Hiding my true self was a massive contributing piece in the puzzle of my alcoholism; up until the end of my drinking and using, the alcohol and drugs allowed me to avoid diverting attention to the part of me that wished so badly to be revealed. My dishonesty contributed to my suicide attempts as well. If I killed myself I wouldn’t have to tell anyone. Now that I’m on the other side of the door again life has taken on a much brighter filter.

Entirely accurate statistics regarding the LGBT community have yet to be collected; there is still fear in coming out, regardless of the progress society has made, which contributes to the inability to properly gather correct information. Studies that have been conducted reveal that those in the community are more likely to use alcohol and drugs compared to the general population. Research suggests that up to 45% of the LGBT community struggle with alcohol dependence. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, there are nearly 18 million Americans who abuse alcohol and more than 100,000 die of alcohol-related causes each year.

I’ve been considering lately my purpose in life. It’s an unknown that’s endlessly plagued my existence for the past few years. What am I here for? What am I meant to do? As the fog of alcoholism slowly dissipates, I’m starting to make discoveries about myself that I was unable to make before. I have been pondering what my innate gifts are and realized I’ve always had the capability to help people and make them smile, so perhaps that is a facet of what I’ve been placed here to do.

I’m starting to accept that I’ve fallen into two niches of the population: transgender and alcoholic. Both have copious amounts of people I can help, people I can make smile. I want to be a place of support for those who are like me, to be a beacon of hope that things can and will eventually get better, as long as you’re honest and willing to work on yourself. That is what I’ve learned thus far. I’ve been far from perfect and have only done a few things properly but as I’ve shared myself with people and taken a step back to see the areas in which I can make adjustments, I’ve grown into a better person. I’m in a completely different place today than I was 163 days ago when I was shattered, hopeless, and addicted.

I’m still an alcoholic; that is as much a part of me as being transgender is. But today I am a recovering alcoholic. I am taking small steps each day to adjust my thinking, my behaviors, and the way I respond to life. Today I try to pause before instantly reacting to whatever takes place before me. Living reactively is exhausting. Today I have direction and goals I am working to accomplish. I want to legally change my name, to begin HRT, to run for thirty minutes without having to pause and catch my breath. I want to finish my steps, to start helping other alcoholics, to become more involved in the LGBT community. I want to find other transgender alcoholics who struggle with the same difficulties that I have.

My reach on this blog is minuscule but I would like it to be greater. I’ve heard the saying, I’m finding my place in the world and I want to help others do the same. I don’t want to see anyone else die to this disease, nor do I want anyone to die feeling lost and alone in the sea of binary heteronormativity. I want to make a difference in this world and that is what I aim to do.

My name is Elliott and I am a transgender alcoholic.