day 100: back where I started

“I am never anywhere / Anywhere I go / When I’m home I’m never there / Long enough to know.”
– Boygenius

I rolled into Madison as the sun was setting on New Years. It would be the tenth city I’d be sleeping in over the last thirty days, and I still had two more destinations to go before the end of the week. I had my last drink here one hundred days prior, and spent my first few weeks without alcohol in its embrace. Wave after wave of pride and loss hit me while walking down the familiar sidewalks I hadn’t traversed in months, now covered in slush and snow, bringing tears to my eyes as I held back the urge to mourn the person I buried here in September.

Driving nearly a thousand miles over the last four days, I spent a lot of time listening to audio books. While making my way across the snow-covered fields of Wisconsin I finished The Seven Storey Mountain and The Alchemist. The first a series of anecdotes of a man’s journey to his destiny to serve God as a Trappist. The second a story of a shepherd’s journey destined to find a great treasure, if only he could listen to his heart and be his own legend.

Journeys keep coming up as a theme in my sobriety. Or maybe it’s just that I’m on a journey and am looking to identify with it more. This journey is wearing thin though. I fear I’ve taken the idea to an extreme, as usual, and decided that physically journeying across the nation would be the best way to get sober and to figure out who I am. And while I’ve avoided drinking and laid the first bricks down to building a new life, the most significant aspects that led me here don’t particularly have anything to do with my frequent flier miles or rental car status. Love, honesty, vulnerability and peace in solitude don’t require highway signs or gas station receipts.

Tomorrow I’ll be making a decision to finally call a set of four walls my home. The longest I’ve ever lived in the same place, besides high school, was 3 years. As kids we always traveled as military brats, and I always needed change as an adult because the cadence was so comfortable. Without alcohol derailing me from taking on responsibility, I’ve found a new solace in knowing there may be a set of keys in my hand soon that will finally be an answer to the question, “Where are you from?” Finally a place I won’t run from when things get hard every few years. Finally a place not steeped in memories of booze.

I’m afraid, but confident. I’m doubtful, but passionate. My heart and mind are in the midst of a tug-o-war. There are just as many reasons to not buy this land as there are to throw caution to the wind. The audiobooks I listened to only drilled in the advice I’ve gotten a dozen different time from different resources in the sober community. Whatever you want to call them: blessings, coincidences, miracles, omens, signs… The things I keep looking for aren’t the things I’m finding. It’s the things that keep working out when I’m not looking that are defining the path I seem to be taking.

The more I feel this place the more I know it would be a mistake to walk away. My heart spoke to me while walking through the cattails surrounding the pond, taking the deep breath of that old wood smell in the upstairs bedroom, the heat from that old wood stove that crept into every room, the smell of manure in the freshly tilled field and the remnants of hay in those horse stalls. It all spoke to me, “Yes, Billy, you are home.”

The more I think about this place, the more I find reasons to stop dreaming and get back to what I was told I am supposed to be doing. To go back to a career because it will make me the most money. To go back to LA because successful people live in big cities. To go back to my apartment because AA says I’m not supposed to make any big decisions in the first year. To go back to everything I left except this time somehow leave out the alcohol, the only thing that kept me where I was.

And if I’m being completely honest with myself, I keep waiting for someone to tell me not to do it. To tell me this is a mistake. To warn me that I’m jumping into things too soon. But everyone I’ve shared my plans with have only supported me. And it’s bittersweet, frustrating yet hopeful.