sober lifestyle

Exodus


My husband and I are supposed to set off today in the ’ole four-wheel-drive sleigh, to embrace the majesty of a holiday road trip to Chicago, via Honesdale, PA.

Our annual Christmas vacation typically takes us to both his (north) and my (west) parents’ houses, and we prefer to drive, rather than fly, because it gives us greater freedom/independence at our destinations — not to mention more room to pack.

Given the chaos at my part-time marketing job (who knows if I’ll even have it when I return to Philly in January), and the uncertainty over my counseling internship at the methadone clinic (they haven’t gotten back to me about training, start date or schedule 🤷🏼‍♀️), I’m especially eager to am-scray this year. I want to travel, even though our cross-regional trek could apparently involve some weather-related perils. 🌨

I mean, at least that’s what I’ve heard from my forecast-obsessed family members, who keep texting me about storm reports they saw on the news. I know they mean well, but getting freaked out about stuff beyond our control is precisely what we recovering alcoholics are trying NOT to do, so…snowrenity now! You know what I’m saying? 🙃


Whatever happens out there between Point A and Points B/C, I know one thing that will be different inside the car.

Instead of absentmindedly scrolling through Twitter for large chunks of the 14-plus-hour trip, I’ll be trying to get better acquainted with a new social media community on Post.news.


Peep my Post profile ⬆️, and my parting words on Twitter ⬇️. I know WordPress won’t ban me for posting about other platforms; WordPress doesn’t know what ban means (witness my follower list, which is 90% spambots.)


Post is buggy, as you might expect from a still-developing platform experiencing fast-and-furious growth. However, I can already tell you, if the “wolves” of misinformation, hate, incivility and mind-boggling idiocy prowling around on Twitter had you seeking refuge somewhere, anywhere else…Post does indeed feel like a safe haven. If you prefer honesty, decency, empathy, and the valuing/respecting of all human life to…well, the opposite of those things, Post might give you hope that maybe we’re not truly living in a full-blown Margaret Atwood or Suzanne Collins dystopia.

OK, so maybe Post is a bit of a true-blue liberal echo chamber, but I’m not going to apologize for loving that! I whittled my Instagram feed down to mostly recovery and therapy accounts a few years ago, and it’s been positively wonderful.

After nearly 42 months (that’s 3 1/2 years!) alcohol-free and four semesters on the Social Justice track of a grad school Counseling Psychology program that’s geared toward producing multiculturally-competent mental health professionals in the 2020s, I can’t be messin’ with folks who want to turn back the clock on human rights or further marginalize victims of systemic oppression. And it appears that Twitter’s new ownership has planted its flag firmly in that camp.

I’m still in the process of unpacking a lifetime of white privilege and questioning all the assumptions I absorbed during my WASPy middle-class upbringing, but I’m “woke” enough to know that I want no association with bigots, elitists, fraudsters or insurrectionists, nor do I want to support the dismantling of democracy, the war on pronouns, or the hijacking of “free speech” as an excuse to hurt people.

Plus, the bird app boss reminds me way too much of insufferably smarmy, self-satisfied dudes I’ve worked for over the years. Another rich asshole who thinks money entitles them to relevance and reverence? GTFOH!


So I exited Twitter. Big whoop, right?

It’s been a while since I “needed” that app for anything but a chuckle (I’ll miss you, @Super70sSports), but it did used to be a pretty big part of my professional life. For a time, it was the lifeblood of my writing career.

I won’t bore you with my entire social media origin story. …Well, then again, maybe I will. 🤓

In late 2008/early 2009, I left the print side of the local Bucks County newspaper and moved over to online content production, working as a pop culture blogger for phillyBurbs.com, the website of said newspaper. The only way my online work found an audience was through persistent tweeting on my newly minted @jenwielgus account.

Most of the actual links I posted were like trees falling in the woods, or shouting into the abyss, but I did find a niche with fans of the old NBC “reality” weight-loss spectacle, “The Biggest Loser.” Through the blog I created specifically for following the show, plus frenzied two-hour live-tweeting sessions every Tuesday night, I became kind of an everywoman authority in this little corner of the cultural landscape.

Me, in another lifetime, at a Biggest Loser casting call. Yes, I made a T-shirt to advertise my blog (Twitter handle was on the back).

…A dubious distinction, looking back, now that we know how sketchy that whole production really was. For all its positive messaging and inspirational energy, which I know was real/valid for many people, “The Biggest Loser” did legit physical harm to contestants, and, as detailed in the work of Aubrey Gordon, inflicted emotional pain on fat people in general. (PLEASE do yourself a favor and read Gordon’s book, “What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat,” or listen to the “Maintenance Phase” podcast for a social justice take on this and many other “wellness” topics.)

Suffice to say Twitter was a valuable platform for me as a fledgling content creator. It helped me build a (mostly) supportive community that stuck with me as my career careened in different directions, and my life almost plunged off a cliff.

I used to tweet local sports updates and links to video packages I produced for an online show called “Game On.” Then, I switched to sharing personal experiences, after I left journalism, tackled a 20-year addiction to alcohol, and started blogging about my recovery in this space.

Another “scene from my life and career”: Shooting a football feature story at a Bucks County high school.

Overall, the experience was positive and troll-free, though I did have a brief brush with the dark side of Twitter in my rock-bottom drinking days. Or, one of the dark sides. All I can say is that active addicts do a lot of f^cked-up shit, and not all of it is fit for print. Social media is tailor-made for self-centered attention whores, as I was back then, and it’s not surprising that someone hell-bent on chasing a high through external validation would latch on to the instant gratification of social media…and take it too far.

Nowadays, blog links and nature pics are pretty much the extent of my social media presence. And that is a beautiful thing! Literally. 👀⬇️


That won’t change, just because I’ve moved on to a different social platform. Honestly, I can’t imagine I’ll have much time for tooling around online with so much (gulp) real-world shit to take care of in the coming year.

If this job endures and the internship happens as planned, I’ll be working 20 hours a week, interning 8-10 hours a week, and managing a full course load (9 credits, or three 3-hour classes a week).

Just writing that brings the ’ole anxiety boiling to the surface and triggers my flight reflex, the yearning to skedaddle anytime I feel uncertainty or discomfort closing in around me.


Of course, a commitment to sobriety means a commitment to staying put and fighting through whatever challenges life inevitably throws at me. And while I can unapologetically build myself a cyber bubble, being selective about the media I consume (no 10-day weather forecasts!) and the networks I join, I still have to live — and work — in the “real world.” And if I want to make anything of that life or do anything with that work, I 💯 have to do it all without alcohol.

That’s why it’s still important to make time for 12-step meetings. I’m fortunate to have found a local group that meets every day at 7AM via Zoom; it’s the perfect blend of virtual convenience and authentic human connection, diverse personalities and common principles. I can log on today for a spiritual boost before we hit the road, and pop in any day during this holiday getaway when I feel the need to…well, get away. The chance to be around family for 10 days is cause for celebration, no doubt, but it can also get claustrophobic!

Having these cozy little safe places in the middle of chaos and uncertainty — from the great outdoors to the AA fellowship to the news on Post to this imperfect WordPress platform — reminds me of a saying I heard early in recovery (but had a helluva time finding in meme form anywhere on the internet)…


As goals go, that’s got to be one of the best. I’m definitely not there yet, but now that I’ve got the “not drinking” part down pat, at least I can say I’m on my way. 🚙💨

2 thoughts on “Exodus”

  1. Thanks Jen. I hope your driving is smooth and your holiday experience is meaningful and warm. Looking forward to following you on Post. I’m enjoying the volume of content there, and the lack of bile, so far.

    Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, prosperous and peaceful 2023 to you and your husband.

    Peace.

    Liked by 1 person

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