In the last month or so I’ve had a few different people accuse me of glossing over my alcoholism on social media. I’m not sure what that’s all about, exactly. I assume this doesn’t occur to most people and the angry belief that I’m not tweeting/blogging/Instagramming/whatever-ing enough about addiction comes from a place of being Weirdly Focused and/or Overly Invested. But I suppose it’s also true that I talked about it a lot for a while, and then I didn’t.

I have one of those sobriety apps on my phone, the kind that simply tells you how long it’s been since your last drink. At first I launched it all the time and stared at the counter like it held some great secret promise. I’d switch between the days and months view to see what felt longer, as if there was some sort of gaming checkpoint hidden in there. As if you don’t go all the way back to zero if you fuck up.

Today the app says I’ve been sober for 8 months and 22 days. (Or: 266 days.) The numbers seem calmer, more certain. I have no doubt that I will see twelve months on that screen, and that it will keep climbing.

What I didn’t tell you before is that I’d been backsliding for a long time. I was drinking in secret when JB traveled. It wasn’t happening frequently, but it was often enough for me to get progressively worse. I sometimes wonder if part of me engineered the humiliating public events of last June as a desperate way of throwing on the brakes — although perhaps that lends too much control to what was clearly an out-of-control situation.

The first few weeks were as raw and terrible as anything I’ve ever gone through. For days on end I ate sandwiches made from Wonder bread, yellow mustard, and bologna, in some strange attempt to be gentle with myself. (It was like eating something from a half-remembered childhood memory — the wadded-up dough that sticks to the roof of your mouth, the bland hotdog taste of the bologna — and I’ve never wanted it before or since.) I slept too much, I cried too easily, I was convinced I was utterly worthless and my family would be better off without me. I twitched in shame and my heart pounded with anxiety. I was utterly revolted by the person I saw in the mirror.

And slowly it got better. I stopped passively suffering and I started working on healing. Little by little, that suffocating miasma of self-loathing began clearing away. The days added up.

I don’t go to meetings these days, but I still see a counselor. We mostly talk about inconsequential things to start with, then meander around until we get to a subject that feels like it’s tugging on something, and we delve into that. I think of our appointments as my regularly-scheduled emotional spring cleaning. Lifting up rugs and exposing the detritus I’ve swept out of sight.

I belong to a private Facebook group for alcoholics, and while I don’t post there very often, I read it every day. Over and over, I read about people relapsing. For a while I wondered how healthy that might be, whether it created a discouraging outlook that backsliding was somehow inevitable, but I’ve come to believe these stories serve as an important reminder for me. They are, in maybe a morbid sort of way, an ongoing exercise in gratitude.

Last but not least, I’m committed to a fitness routine. I know without a shadow of a doubt that exercise has a direct impact on my mental health. It is, I think, the most critical part of my recovery.

My name’s Linda, and I’m an alcoholic. I will never stop being ashamed of the terrible choices I’ve made. But I’m facing forward now. I’m doing things differently than I did before, and my outlook is stronger. I am hopeful about my future. I’m a thousand times healthier than I was 266 days ago. I fully own what led me to that point, and I’m incredibly grateful not to be there any more.

I feel good, these days. Really good. And I’m glad you’ve been here when I’ve needed to talk. It’s helped me more than you could know.

Last night I repeatedly kicked a man in the groin. Later, I put my hands around the back of this man’s neck — a man who is not my husband, by the way — and drew his face close to my own neck while I kicked him some more. Then we high-fived and I petted his dog.

Let me back up.

So a couple weeks ago I somewhat impulsively signed up for a month of self-defense/combat classes. The gym uses the Haganah F.I.G.H.T. system which is “based on Israeli martial arts and Israeli military tactics used by Israeli Special Forces operatives in extremely hostile situations.” Because you know me, constantly being attacked by dangerous people wielding weapons! Why, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been folding laundry and HOLY FUCK REBEL ATTACK.

Ahhahahahaha. No, I don’t exactly know why it sounded so fascinating to me. Maybe because it doesn’t rely on fancy techniques with poetic-sounding names (instead of the Deadly Bird Nest Swaying In the Wind and Surrounded By Rushing Waters, you have, like, elbow strikes and kicks). Maybe because I turned 40 in February and I need a midlife crisis activity that’s cheaper than buying a sports car. Maybe because I like mixing up my workout routines and having different things to keep me engaged in physical activity. Maybe because it just flat-out sounds badass.

Also, there was a Groupon.

I went to my first class on Monday, and while I was super super super nervous the owners, a husband and wife team, were very cool and helped put me at ease about being the giant uncoordinated n00b. Each class starts out with combatives — punches, finger jabs, throat strikes, elbow strikes, knee strikes — then switches to partner work. As in, you’re partnered with another human being you have to pretend to be fighting. I don’t know why I was vaguely surprised by this, it’s not like it would be very effective training if you didn’t actually practice the moves on a person (“Excuse me mister attacker sir but could you sort of stand perfectly still for a few minutes while I … yes, just like that, great … I’ve only done this on a punching bag, so if you could just straighten up a little and not … great, and I’ll just wrap you in this soft rubbery surface so I don’t hurt my foot … say, is that Rapist Noir you’re wearing?”), but man oh man was it awkward. We weren’t grappling intimately on the floor or anything, but I had to practice stopping a guy and then getting one arm under his armpit and the other pressing down on his back so I could theoretically throw him on the ground.

Anyway, it was all very new and different and I came home feeling pretty jazzed that I’d done it, and then I went back to another class yesterday that was later in the evening and I was the only student there. I mean. The only one. Just me and the trainer. NO ONE ELSE. And I died. But I was already there and it would have been really weird if I’d just run away screaming and peeing, so I did the combatives with him — have I made it perfectly clear that it was JUST ME? — and then we did some kicking drills and then he told me to kick him in the groin.

You guys. Seriously. I was like, “I don’t think I can do that,” and he was like, “Yes you can. I’m wearing a cup,” and I was like, “No really I can’t because I can actually feel my cerebellum ripping loose from my spinal cord from acute embarrassment and I’ve lost all motor control,” and he was like, “Okay but you’ve got to get over that,” and I was like, “I FEEL LIKE I AM GOING TO BURST INTO LITERAL FLAMES,” and he was like “KICK ME IN THE GROIN” and I flailed a tiny terrified little superlight kick that barely brushed his crotch and I was like “OH JESUS GOD I AM SO SORRY” and —

Point is, this part was really hard. I had to mentally wrestle down at least 72921850650102395812434 panicked messages telling me that it was wrong to kick this nice man in the junk. Just thinking about it is making me cringe all over again. There’s the thing where you don’t want to hurt someone, of course, and there’s the … you know, the penis area thing. The thing where your foot is going between someone’s legs and touching their penis area. Yes there’s a cup but even the word cup sounds embarrassing all of a sudden. Cup. Cup. Gah.

Later we practiced this drill which I had a terrible time memorizing because each time he added another move to it I’d jettison the previous move — spit, kick, punch, box ears, headbutt, elbow strike, uhhhh, uhhhh, oh yeah grab neck, uhhhhhhhhhh — and then I had to practice it on him, which meant we were back to the groin kicking (Me: “Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!”) and also the neck grabbing and pulling in close and oh my god.

His wife told me the awkwardness about physical contact goes away over time, and I believe her, but holy crap this has been a really unusual experience for me. Which is actually very awesome, because, you know, I pretty much never do unusual things. I think I’m really enjoying it — in a weird I-am-five-hundred-and-seventy-three-miles-outside-my-comfort-zone-and-my-internal-organs-are-shriveling-from-discomfort kind of way.

Fight Club

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