This past weekend, a group of activists blanketed the National Mall with a monument to rape survivors made out of 100 quilts.
[img: a photo of 4 copies of the same zine in alternating black and white covers, which are of an upside down beer can with the zine’s title as its label. they are laying on top of a white and neon colored leopard print background.]
You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania #9: Two Years of Sobriety
For the longest time I thought that countless difficulties I faced before I became sober would magically vanish by quitting drinking - but eventually I came to the realizations that I hadn’t made concrete plans for life post-booze, and sobriety wasn’t the super fun root beer keg party I assumed it was going to be. I became cognizant that my issues with sobriety were innately tied into some deep hurts concerning anxiety, trauma, sexual assault, bar culture, and much more. In the 4 sections of this zine, I attempt to take stock of my mistakes and hurts over the past two years, showcase some misconceptions about sobriety that I have come up against, explain my attempts to battle my insecurity over continuing to stick to sobriety, and give some suggested pointers for folks who would like to support their sober friends and community members.
This zine is B&W, 1/4 size, 38 pages, & text heavy. US$2.50 +shipping - price can be negotiated, as can whether you’d like a zine with a black cover or with a white cover + colored pencil details! [Etsy / Tumblr ask / youvegotafriendinpa (at) gmail (dot) com] Note: This zine will debut at The 2014 NYC Feminist Zine Fest (which I am an organizer of!) on Saturday March 1st - any copies not sold there will be mailed out to the first Etsy orders & messaged requests the week of March 3rd. <3
Giving it Up / Intro
I am hoping that creating a space in which I can lend some insight to my sobriety while being honest about its complexities will keep me motivated to engage with difficult emotions and open the door to communicating about the topic with folks who are sober, interested in becoming sober, or empathetic to those who are sober.
I. Two Years Gone By
on a lack of strategy
…I was shocked that I basically had no functional plan for actually coming into contact with alcohol in a safe, healthy, and positive manner. And the only way I could think to deal with it was to shut down completely, walk away, and hope that I’d be able to prepare myself enough in the meantime to pick it up later. But the praxis form of my sobriety wasn’t a boss battle in a video game that I couldn’t seem to beat – it was a huge part of my life.
on realizing the intersections of sobriety & anxiety
I’m still learning how to be around alcohol without having really intense kneejerk reactions to what’s going on around me. I’ve tried to think, “Would I feel differently about this place or situation if I was also drinking right now?” and I’ve surprised myself with the honest answers I’ve given. Trying to complicate the partier/sober person duality into a spectrum of possibilities has been important in helping me to better mentally separate “This situation/these people are making me uncomfortable” feelings and “My anxiety is what’s mainly perpetuating my discomfort” feelings.
II. Misconceptions of Sobriety
on the idea that sobriety takes “Strength”
Another hard truth I’ve had to come to terms with in recent months is the fact that being labeled “strong” has its own particular set of baggage for me separate from my decision not to drink… I’ve nearly always had a reputation among friends for being reliable, able to handle intense emotional turmoil without showing distress, and a resource to turn to for assistance with nearly any problem. “Strong” has consistently been the primary adjective those close to me have used to describe me, and while it used to give me a surge of pride, it now has basically devolved into another way to say, “You don’t really ask me for support and I like that in a friend.”
on formerly using alcohol as a coping mechanismIt was as if I was constantly playing a secret, shitty drinking game with myself: See some frat boy hang out of his pledge house and yell, “Are you a dyke or a fag?” Drink 3 shots and maybe cry about it a little in your bathroom. Fear getting beat up by rednecks at a party in rural Pennsylvania for being gender non-conforming? Hide in the corner and drink a 40 until the heat of your hand warms it up to an unbearably gross temperature. The girl you’ve been crushing on dances with you and seems to be flirty? Drink 2 more beers, pass out, wake up, and explore any rationalization for her actions other than, “She probably genuinely likes you.”
III. No Use Crying Over Spilt Booze
on making “self-care” a daily routine instead of a special occurrence
It might be an unpopular opinion, but at this point in my life I’m so stressed out all of the time that my special self-treatment activities need to be constant and habitual, not only when I’m feeling down. I’ve questioned whether messages like, “It’s okay to not do anything but lie around and watch Netflix once in a while!” end up enabling avoidance behavior due to the open-ended nature of the “once in a while” time frame. In the past I’ve told myself, “Well, there are lots of other people out there who don’t respond to e-mails or phone calls and just sleep a lot when they’re stressed out too!” each and every time I’ve put off important tasks, which was way more often than just “once in a while.”
on pushing through the negative aspects of sobriety
While I still would like to take some time to figure out how to breach the subject of my sobriety with other people, I don’t want to stop having conversations with myself about what I need. I want to challenge myself to be proud of the small victories while making room for tackling even bigger ones. I want to become more adept at seeking out the positive aspects and effects of my sobriety instead of focusing only on the negative ones. I want to be more intentional and mindful in other aspects of my life, not in relation to my sobriety.
IV. Supporting Sober Folks
on not making sobriety or “not wanting to party” the butt of any jokesMaking jokes about such a weighty issue means you don’t have to consciously think about how that topic affects nearly every aspect of your life all of the time and can come off as dismissive, condescending, and blatantly offensive. It can also be inadvertently taken as a form of peer pressure, and for folks with a history of sexual assault intertwined with drinking, it can even feel like a reminder of non-consensual actions taken against that person. I believe that making light of sobriety is bro culture in action because it privileges the experiences and desires of a select few over the well-being of those that feel silenced and alienated in certain spaces that are hostile to them.
on asking open-ended questions to establish trust with sober people
What kinds of things have been successful at helping someone feel positive about their sobriety? What are some ways in which they feel supported in their sobriety by friends, family members, community members, and so on? Are there times when they are more capable or less capable of being around alcohol, talking about alcohol, or socializing in general? Are there certain needs they’ll have when you drink around them? Are there specific things they don’t feel comfortable talking about with non-sober people, or will they let you know as the time arises?
hoax co-editor sari just released a new perzine from their series, you’ve got a friend in pennsylvania!
"This is not who I am, I’m just having a good time"
Mono type, relief, screen print, colored pencil and litho crayon on Stonehenge
This piece was recently selected to appear in ARC Gallery’s “Fractured Yet Rising” Show in March, opening Friday, March 7th in Chicago.
The show “is a multimedia art exhibit that raises awareness about the different dimensions of violence against women, and communicates the experiences, journeys and shifts in self-perception from victims to communicators about the phenomenon. The exhibition explores the theme of violence against women by engaging with story and experience, the psychology of abuse, survival and transformation, and the role of mass media and culture in furthering violence against women. Healthy definitions of masculinity and femininity also will be depicted along with spiritual and conceptual foundations for understanding the phenomenon.”
This piece is from my body of work titled “Out of Context” which “deals with the negative and positive ways we use language related to sex, identity, and race in the context of various issues such as intimate partner violence, sexism, racism, body policing and more. In negative contexts, language we use becomes a barrier to separate ourselves from behavior. We are careless with language and we forget its power. In positive contexts, language we use becomes a form of agency and a way for us to choose our own identity. We use words to relate to others. We reclaim words and choose to reject words as we desire. In some cases the degree to which these actions are positive or negative shift.”
see more of my work at jessicacaldas.com
Be a part of my newest work by participating in this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/D97WWGN
TW: Domestic abuse, violence, emotional manipulation
woohoo! First time I’ve seen this kind of thing not be cis and heteronormative. Must save this for future reference.
When [an abusive man] tells me that he became abusive because he lost control of himself, I ask him why he didn’t do something even worse. For example, I might say, “You called her a fucking wh*re, you grabbed the phone out of her hand and whipped it across the room, and then you gave her a shove and she fell down. There she was at your feet where it would have been easy to kick her in the head. Now, you have just finished telling me that you were ‘totally out of control’ at that time, but you didn’t kick her. What stopped you?” And the client can always give me a reason. Here are some common explanations:
"I wouldn’t want to cause her a serious injury."
“I realized one of the children was watching.”
“I was afraid someone would call the police.”
“I could kill her if I did that.”
“The fight was getting loud, and I was afraid the neighbors would hear.”
And the most frequent response of all:
"Jesus, I wouldn’t do that. I would never do something like that to her.”
The response that I almost never heard — I remember hearing it twice in the fifteen years — was: “I don’t know.”
These ready answers strip the cover off of my clients’ loss of control excuse. While a man is on an abusive rampage, verbally or physically, his mind maintains awareness of a number of questions: “Am I doing something that other people could find out about, so it could make me look bad? Am I doing anything that could get me in legal trouble? Could I get hurt myself? Am I doing anything that I myself consider too cruel, gross, or violent?”
A critical insight seeped into me from working with my first few dozen clients: An abuser almost never does anything that he himself considers morally unacceptable. He may hide what he does because he thinks other people would disagree with it, but he feels justified inside. I can’t remember a client ever having said to me: “There’s no way I can defend what I did. It was just totally wrong.” He invariably has a reason that he considers good enough. In short, an abuser’s core problem is that he has a distorted sense of right and wrong.
I sometimes ask my clients the following question: “How many of you have ever felt angry enough at youer mother to get the urge to call her a bitch?” Typically half or more of the group members raise their hands. Then I ask, “How many of you have ever acted on that urge?” All the hands fly down, and the men cast appalled gazes on me, as if I had just asked whether they sell drugs outside elementary schools. So then I ask, “Well, why haven’t you?” The same answer shoots out from the men each time I do this exercise: “But you can’t treat your mother like that, no matter how angry you are! You just don’t do that!”
The unspoken remainder of this statement, which we can fill in for my clients, is: “But you can treat your wife or girlfriend like that, as long as you have a good enough reason. That’s different.” In other words, the abuser’s problem lies above all in his belief that controlling or abusing his female partner is justifiable….
|—||Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men (via seebster)|
Participate in my newest project. Share your stories, experiences, and thoughts. All words used will be used anonymously.
Be a part of my ongoing project titled “Out of Context”.
“This work deals with the negative and positive ways we use language related to sex, identity, and race in the context of various issues such as intimate partner violence, body policing, sexism, racism, and more. In negative contexts, language we use becomes a barrier to separate ourselves from behavior. We are careless with language and we forget its power. In positive contexts, language we use becomes a form of agency and a way for us to choose our own identity. We use words to relate to others. We reclaim words and choose to reject words as we desire. In some cases the degree to which these actions are positive or negative shift.”
See this work and more at jessicacaldas.com
Share your experiences, stories, and thoughts in this survey. Those that share will receive a gift from me!