“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.”John A Shedd.
It’s 5:20 in the morning. I haven’t had coffee yet and I’m not editing this- so bear with me. I woke up about an hour ago.
I’m sitting here in the dark thinking about how much has changed recently. I’m moving into a new place. I need to build a new sober community. For the first time in my adult life, I won’t be responsible for the daily care of another human being. And I’ll be living in a city for the first time, which can only mean at some point I will have to parallel park.
These are terrifying times, friendos.
About a month and a half ago (honestly, I’m guessing. It feels both like it was yesterday and ten years ago) I suddenly and immediately needed a place to stay. I was undone. I could no longer be in the home I helped create and I didn’t really want to be anywhere else.
One of the gifts of sobriety is I now know when life deals you one of these blows the first thing you do is tell the truth about it. Texted Mary. Texted Matt. Texted Johnny. Texted a few other ride-or-dies and said THIS IS HAPPENING. I’ve learned that for me to stay sober, my people (not ALL people) need to know what’s happening in real time. Having done my work, I know that slipping into secret-keeper mode is not an option for me. I knew I needed to accept it in real time, too. No fighting the fact of it.
Then I texted a friend who was dog-sitting for another ride-or-die person and asked if I could stay there that night. She said of course, and for the next few days she was a lighthouse. Still and bright and guiding. Eventually, the friends whose house it is came home, and they told me I could stay until I found a place, which is unbelievably generous. Unsurprising, because that’s just who they are, but still. We’ve taken to calling it B&L’s Home for Wayward Girls. I may need to have a plaque made for them.
Home is such a tricky thing because it’s not just a house, it’s a concept, right? It’s the place you live, sure, but it’s also the people you consider family and a feeling. It’s the place you should be able to exhale, where you feel protected, nurtured. It’s supposed to be your safe place.
I’m one of those people who makes a home wherever I go. I nest. To be displaced, even for a short period of time, is really unsettling for me. For the first couple of weeks I slept very little. I’d wake up at 2:00 or 3:00 most mornings with an increasingly familiar clutch of anxiety in my chest. I’d try sleep meditations, prayer, Netflix – ANYTHING – to quiet my mind and get back to sleep, but nothing would work.
Eventually, I settled in a bit. Things started to come together. I found an apartment, began to make plans. Began to dismantle what was no longer my home. Began to pack. And began to sleep a little easier.
This morning I woke up in the 4:00s and that familiar clutch of anxiety was back, like a steamer trunk on my chest. I got up and peeked out the french doors at the little harbor the house overlooks. It’s cold and dark and all the boats are tethered and protected.
I feel a bit untethered, too. Not in my old home, not yet in my new one. I don’t have my stuff. It’s an in-between place. I’ve never done well with uncertainty. In my drinking days, I could handle pain better than I could handle not knowing what was going to happen. I have friends who call this being “in the hallway.” Even that analogy freaks me out. I just want to pick a damned door and put a wreath on it and go inside.
I am not yet home, but I am safe. I do not feel tethered, but I do feel held. And perhaps safe and tethered only really matter when you’re in the storm, anyway. Maybe safe is as much a concept as home is.
In a few days, I’ll walk through a new door, unpack, and start building a new life. This is not what I wanted, but here we are. Here I am. It’s scary and a little exciting, if I’m honest. Mostly scary, though. And deeply sad. But an opportunity – crisis always is. I’ll have to try new things, take new chances. I’ll be different on the other side of this, that I know.
When I was packing up my office, I found this. A friend gave it to me when I was going through my divorce. I haven’t seen it in a long time. I put it in my purse and have been using it like a worry-stone.
These past weeks have been filled with grief and gratitude in near-equal measure. I’m grateful to be sober. I’m grateful to have a community where I am known and loved. I’m grateful I have done my work so that I can move through this in a way I will not regret.
And I am so, so profoundly grateful to my friends, who have provided shelter from this storm.
All will be well.