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March 2019


Welcome to the latest installment of my digital perzine!
This issue contains words about celebrating, sobriety and comforting oneself with art.

My creativity heals myself and others. 
- Julia Cameron
The Artist's Way
 
Art's purpose is to sober and quiet the mind  
so that it is in accord with what happens.
- John Cage

On celebrating and sobriety and the comfort of creation.

Content warning: This piece deals intimately with problematic alcohol use.

 

A lot of things have happened in the last six months - I paid off my student loan, learned to drive, won an award, moved across the country, had a birthday. Things have been big and busy and #blessed. Life-changing. There have been times where I’ve felt my body surge with gratitude, thinking of how the small things rolled themselves into the big ones. My chest has warmed as I considered each person who had been a part of this journey, whose face has shown up along this path. Existence has vibrated with energy and colour and sound. There’s been a lot to celebrate.

 

Two years ago, I stopped drinking. In the process of sobering up, there grew a room in my mind in which I could take apart the reasons that I drank and learn to fully understand them. It was as if I had decluttered my brain and could tinker with the bits I was unable to throw out. I found new space for healing, a place within myself that I didn’t know I needed. I now know it’s the reason that things are getting better, that there’s less of a struggle with mental illness and the day-to-day functions of being a human. This ability to acknowledge, analyze, wonder and reflect has had an obvious impact on my life - easily the best thing I’ve done for myself since I moved out of my parents’ house.

 

In its simplest form, sobriety is the act of not doing something. It is a passive choice. In most cases, it’s easier to not do something than it is to do something. I’m lazy AF. I love not doing things! Stay home on a Friday night? Any chance I can get! Roll over and go back to sleep? As often as possible! Following this logic, sobriety should be a cakewalk, right?

 

Okay, but it’s not.
 

Our culture inherently links celebrating with drinking. Parties, cheers, champagne, that whole it’s-bad-to-toast-with-water thing. It’s awkward; finding genuine ways to celebrate success and allowing your friends to applaud you sans alcohol. Doing this while being both uncomfortable and the center of attention can really trigger social anxiety.

 

My early twenties were spent drinking copious amounts of alcohol so that people I didn’t like would like me. It was a competition of coolness with no refs, just players, that I never signed up for but suddenly found myself on the field. It’s laughable for me to talk about now, how much energy and money and time went into planning and preparing for parties that I wanted to leave right away. The best part of those nights was when I’d find myself pulled away from the crowd in a one-on-one chat with an acquaintance, having an actual conversation. Great, except that thanks to the booze, the next morning I never remembered what we’d talked about it.

I’ve grown a fair bit since then -  I’ve come to terms with being insecure, and have at least stopped feeling insecure about being insecure.

 

Now, for me, the significant struggle comes from the shadows of celebrations. Those moments that seem to push the buttons of sadness, when the everyday silence is suddenly amplified by all the surrounding noise. Like, when I’m alone in a bathroom stall or taking off my makeup, making coffee the next morning or walking to work. Those are the moments that make it apparent to me how much things have changed and how often my expectations don’t match with reality. That’s when I realize that after all of the hours of hard work and connecting with people and pushing myself to do good, I still don’t feel valid. And that’s when sobriety gets hard. When I feel the need to drink, it weighs on my hands and on my lips and down my throat. I hear the call to the bottle, the urge to slip into a blurrier reality where things are a bit easier, and provide a bit of relief.


In the past two years, I have learned that when my body feels this way I need to slow down, pull myself above it and dissect myself with a cold, impersonal interest. I prod at my feelings and urges until I know where they’re coming from, how they all fit together. Using that information, I can then care for myself in a healthier and more meaningful way. If this sounds like bragging, it’s unintended. It’s been a frustrating climb, with plenty of slip-ups and setbacks, but this is where I’m at now. I can’t lie, it’s sometimes incredibly embarrassing. It’s hard for me to acknowledge that as an adult I am still working on calming and soothing myself, that I am pushing thirty and sometimes react like I am three, that I’m not comfortable drinking again until I no longer feel the compulsion to do so, and to know that that may never happen. It’s a total, shameful bummer.

 

However, there is good news. Art is the good news! It’s no surprise that in tandem with getting sober I’ve gotten more creative. I take comfort in my ability to create. Find solace in the act of sitting down and using my hands to make something. What I make doesn’t actually matter. It’s the headspace I enter while creating. The immersion, the flow of working on a problem outside of myself, having the ability to control something completely. It’s the process, not the product.

 

In the past six months, I’ve retreated into my creative practice. I have taught myself to sit down with my materials when I’ve felt emotionally hungover. Paints, pencil crayons, an X-Acto knife and some old mags, a pen and my journal. Being quiet and hunched over a desk may not be everyone’s idea of a banging party, but it allows me to remember the good times and live through the rough ones.

Recommendations

Pieces to Pathways - It's important to recognize privilege, even through our hardships. P2P is a peer-led initiative offering Canada’s only substance use support program for LGBTTQQ2SIA youth (ages 16-29). On behalf of this issue, I made a donation to their program. @pieces.to.pathways

Accumulation - Ever since the SBB Reading Series ended there's been a poetry shaped hole in my heart. Kate's newsletter eases that ache. Subscribe here.
NOTES
 
Thanks to Cosette for once again editing this newsletter. Her steadfast support in this process has made the endeavor significantly more manageable. Also thanks to JM for providing a third set of eyeballs and his always reassuring "yr fine." 

There are 3 copies of my debut zine, Strange and Mysterious Creatures, still available for sale at Likely General on Roncesvalles, in Toronto. If you're interested in supporting my work, purchasing a copy is a great way to do so!
 

Bio

EA Douglas is an artist currently living in Vancouver. EA spends most of her time drinking coffee, writing, making art, reading, and looking after tiny humans... in about that order.

You can contact EA via email or by following her on Instagram - @ea.douglas.

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