Denver, Chicago, Lansing, and 77 Days of Sobriety

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, as you might have noticed. I think there are roughly 7 regular readers who will have noticed… This one’s for you. Sorry it’s so long. Apparently a lot happens in 6 weeks.

I left Seattle at the end of July and headed to Denver to see my brother. I hadn’t been back there since my graduation from Americorps 5 years ago. My time living in Colorado was difficult. It was when meningitis threatened to take my life, when I had my heart broken as well as my ankle, and where depression took its hold on me with renewed strength. But it was also where I met some of the most important people in my life, where I learned to chase my passions and where I was shown more kindness and love than I can fathom.

Returning to a place riddled with so many mixed memories was strange but good. It was restorative to spend time in a place I grew to love without any of the struggles that made me want to leave. I met my brother’s girlfriend and their spunky dog and fell in love with the life they’ve built together.

Playing Sorry at a brewery like serious adults

After a week in Colorado, I moved on to Chicago, this time to see my sister. There I was met once again with the joyous (and sometimes obnoxious) presence of adorable kids and a house very clearly full of love. I spent a week catching up with old friends and meeting people important in my sister’s life. It was lovely to get to see the world she’s been a part of since her return to the US 8 months ago. I was also able to spend some time getting to know her fiance better, who will become family in just three short weeks.

Bachelorette party for my beautiful sister in Chicago

From Chicago I headed to Lansing, Michigan, where my parents live. This isn’t the house I grew up in, nor had I visited since my parents moved here, so saying I’ve come “home” is a bit of a stretch, but I have at least returned to familiar things. The dishes we had when I was a kid. The books I loved growing up. The same board games. The blanket that used to lay on my bed. Elements of home in a brand new place.

My parents by the river behind their house

The house my parents moved into is an ongoing improvement project. And while I am usually repelled by hard work, I’ve actually enjoyed the switch to physical labor over the mental stimulation that usually accompanies my other work. I’ve painted, weeded, planted, mowed, sanded, scraped, and cleaned. Which has resulted in a pretty consistent mix of feeling accomplished and feeling pooped.

I’ve been trying really hard to get my parents’ cat to love me. Or at least not hate me.

I have spent the past two weeks here adjusting to a new normal. But really, it’s been a summer-long transition. 11 weeks ago I stopped drinking. I came to the realization that I was not doing a very good job of building a life of stability and health. I was reliant on alcohol, not because I was physically addicted to it, but because I knew of no other way to navigate life with anxiety. Social interactions were governed by booze, and it was my go-to method for relieving anxiety when stress or panic started to build.

What I realized was that I was shaping my life around who I was with alcohol. And that wasn’t who I wanted to be. I want to be capable of living a good life without relying on vices to get me through the day. I want people to get to know me as I am sober: a little shy, somewhat socially awkward, terrified of crowds, and somehow still kind of an awesome person. I want to meet people as they are sober and I don’t want to see the world through the foggy lens of drunkenness.

Life is hard. Pretty consistently, overwhelmingly so. But that’s how I want to experience it. I want the highs and lows as they are, not numbed by drugs or alcohol or anything else. I want to become a person who is capable of living without needing to be numb.

But I’ll tell you what…it hasn’t been easy. I have changed my habits entirely. And the first six weeks were impossibly hard. But I’m learning to adjust to this new version of life. Bars and crowds make me terribly anxious sober, so I haven’t been going out. I’ve picked up new hobbies. I tried my hand at wood carving. And miraculously my hand only got cut twice by the end of it. I’m a home improvement guru (ish) now. I’m finally reading Harry Potter for the first time.

It’s been a long summer of travel. And while I’ll be immensely relieved to finally get to unpack my suitcase and live in a room all my own next month, I’m glad for the past couple of months. It has been a summer of transition both in location and in my personal life. But I think I’m moving toward something good. ❤

I think she’s starting to like me

5 thoughts on “Denver, Chicago, Lansing, and 77 Days of Sobriety

  1. Yay brave and beautiful Caitlin! And “sort of awesome” needs to be addended asap to “super amazingly awesome.” Sorry we missed you in Lansing! Turns out we were only there for 12 hours:) And glad to be one of the 7, I love reading your words and hearing your honesty ❤️


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