2 Things I’ve Realized While Being Sober in 2020:

1) When you’re sober during a crisis, social media starts to look like a really bad, really desperate reality TV show (you know, the kind I love to watch).

As a society, we rely on booze like the comforting friend most of us are taught to look to in times of trouble, and social media is their highlight reel. Being sober in 2020 feels like peering into a whole news feed full of inside jokes you just don’t get anymore. Scrolling starts to feel like a voyeuristic maneuver to spy on a club you quit – a sorority you told your friends “wasn’t for you.” It’s like waking up and choosing to take the red pill over and over again, sometimes because you know it’s the better choice, and sometimes out of morbid curiosity. Maybe social media has always been like this – a big, long booze commercial starring nearly everyone – and I just didn’t notice before because I did my best to avoid scrolling. And before that, I was in on the joke.

Instead of feeling left out of the club, I feel good. I’m now an observer rather than a subject. I escaped a cycle that looks like fun, constantly reaching out with magnanimous hands offering relief and ease, but it fails every time. It’s a bully, a mean girl – after a night on the inside you somehow feel worse, until it comes around the next day promising to fix the problems it created. Get in bitch, we’re staying mildly cloudy at all times to avoid reality! This abusive cycle becomes particularly obvious when you’re no longer participating. Booze fixes problems just as well as Regina George values feminism (before she got hit by a bus and had an awakening).

I read an excerpt on social media that I screenshot about the differences between the underlying fears in George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. After doing some basic research, I found the quote as part of a forward in a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Showbusiness, by Neil Postman. I’ve never read it. It was written in 1985. I’m surprised no one in journalism school mentioned it.

“Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no big brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think… What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

It’s been years since I’ve read these books, and plan to reread them again soon. After becoming sober this analysis seemed to resonate with me and pair beautifully with my reality TV theory. At this point I believe booze and social media work concurrently to produce the results Huxley feared, because no one is forcing us to partake, we choose the numbness for ourselves, and it takes work to escape it. Now, my challenge seems to be more in the looking away from the booze-induced denial fest, but we’ll delve into that topic another day.

2) Your brain off alcohol and drugs is capable of some crazy shit; good luck sorting that out. AKA: Everything is now an existential lesson in living… yay.

Seriously. There has never been another time in my life where I have gone through a significant amount of life-altering experiences and been sober enough to observe how I feel and respond in that moment, and then remember enough to be able to reflect on it later. It’s unsettling how much introspection and time is lost to alcohol consumption. I go to weekly therapy, workout about five days a week, eat healthy food and take vitamins. I don’t even take an Advil unless the situation is dire. You’d think my brain would be clear, my memory vivid, and my understanding of reality better than when I was drinking or taking anti anxiety drugs. Well, in some ways it’s not, but my recognition of that fact is new.

This is probably confusing, so I’ll attempt to explain using a recent example. When I got the news that Humboldt County was issuing a stay at home order and my business would be mandated to close, I literally do not remember much of the next three months. I remember staying late to work on one last client, packing up my car with all my retail products, and driving home. After that, it goes blank, or at best, spotty, until I started working in person again on July 1st.

That shit is confusing as hell.

In the past I would’ve chalked that up to nightly alcohol consumption. No big deal; it happens to everyone. Things got blurry; life was stressful. I drank more to cope with my crushing new reality. Now I look back and am forced to reckon with something much more complex – I get to unpack what stress does to my brain, how I react and respond, and what implications that has on the rest of my life. Awesome. So while things get clearer, they become more confusing. Instead of wallowing, scrolling social media aimlessly and letting my business die, I did the exact opposite. I used 100% of my brain capacity (ask my husband, he could probably tell you what actually happened during my three month out of body experience) to grow my business during what continues to be the most challenging time for me as an entrepreneur. But I don’t remember three months of it.

I think the lesson I’m taking away from this realization is that we are complex beings in a complex universe who understand very little, but without booze I’m awake enough to really think about that.

Monthly Resource Collection: October 2020

I’m losing focus. I can tell when this is happening because I feel scattered, ungrounded, and become obsessed with work. October has been a whirlwind for my business (all good things, coming soon) but that means that during my “down time” I do less learning and more zoning out. Tuning out. Which ultimately leads me to feeling unsettled and unfulfilled. I go from work to distraction, from distraction to work. I’m in constant movement.

Instead of reading, I watch TV. Instead of learning, I scroll. Instead of being grateful, I shop. I notice these patterns and try to give myself a certain amount of understanding when I’m feeling overwhelmed, however, the irony is in the realization that the behaviors I tend to revert back to during times of intense change or stress only increase my feelings of anxiety. And on we go.

I’ve put safeguards in place over the years to prevent the spiral – a solid morning routine, work boundaries, fitness, meditation, healthy eating, mindfulness, and less media consumption. Since the start of shelter in place I have participated in more media consumption than I’d prefer. Much more. But it saved my business, and serves a necessary purpose. However, after coming off of a month-long digital declutter, resulting in my claim to be a digital minimalist, the subsequent use of constant tech is taking its toll. My mind felt clear and awake before. Inspired. And now it feels loud, cloudy, and distracted.

The reason why I bring this up is because I’ve gone from reading at least several books a month, no none. Suddenly. And I know exactly why. It’s not that the time suddenly disappeared, it’s because I’m falling into old time wasting patterns that do not serve me. And I do not want my priorities to change. I’m much happier when I’m learning, taking time for introspection, and living a quiet life. I’m not doing that right now, and I feel it.

This month’s resources consist of the few podcasts I managed to focus on that I think are currently relevant. Most are from Code Switch by NPR. I also included a couple episodes from the true crime genre (another one of my favorite types of podcasts) that discuss important social justice cases, therefore, making them relevant here. I imagine that between work, the election, and general holiday chaos, it may be a struggle for me to conduct interviews for my guest features, or even prioritize reading books. I’ve come to terms with that as my temporary reality.

So in January, I plan to completely step out of the media world once again to find my footing and build on the progress I made before the world changed.

Notable Podcast Episodes:

NPR Code Switch

– “Is Trump Really That Racist?” Code Switch, NPR, 20 Oct, 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/code-switch/id1112190608?i=1000495497006

-“Let’s Talk About Kamala Harris.” Code Switch, NPR, 13 Oct, 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/code-switch/id1112190608?i=1000494674687

-“Is it time to say R.I.P. to ‘POC’?” Code Switch, NPR, 29 Sept, 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/code-switch/id1112190608?i=1000493048421

-The episode I found most interesting: “The Latinx Vote Comes Of Age.” Code Switch, NPR, 27 Oct, 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/code-switch/id1112190608?i=1000496309010

True Crime Podcast Notable Episodes:

“The Death of Kendrick Johnson.” Weird on the Rocks, 3 Aug, 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/weird-on-the-rocks/id1453938390?i=1000487067103
Continue reading “Monthly Resource Collection: October 2020”

Sensi Magazine Freelance Work: Pre-Pandemic Digital Declutter

Today I’m sharing a piece of freelance work I wrote for Sensi Magazine, North Bay after roughly six months of research, and one month of executing my “digital declutter” plan for the month of January.

For those of you that followed me at that time, it will come as no surprise to learn that I had all but eliminated unnecessary technology use from my life. This included but was not limited to: texting, social media, internet surfing, television, and email. I’d use these things for work (during very limited and designated time slots – and only on my computer), or for personal reasons if only 100% necessary. I had researched my way into a routine that I was more than happy in.

I was reading more than ever, taking time for quiet introspection and meditating regularly. I felt grounded for the first time in a decade, and planned to continue minimal tech use moving forward. That is where this article came from.

The reason why I’m sharing this now is because 49 days after coming to these liberating conclusions as a digital minimalist, COVID-19 forced my brick and mortar business location to shut down and overnight I chose to pivot to stay afloat. I switched from a service-based business to one that was retail-based, instantly. Suddenly all the technology I had happily left behind was my lifeline. Social media, online meetings, email and texting kept us open for the fourteen weeks our literal doors were closed.

Now that we are open, I’m navigating both worlds and trying to find my balance, grounded-ness, and answers again. My plan is to write about this new journey, starting with today’s article. In February when I wrote it, it was simpler times for small business.

Full Issue: https://issuu.com/sensimediagroup/docs/2020_08_mag_nb/24