Are you ready for more soul bearing?
If not, flip the page. I won’t be offended.
Lately, I’ve been thinking of personal demons. All of us have them; they’re a part of the human condition. Sometimes we conquer our demons; other times, they conquer us.
My demons are triplets, what I call The Trifecta.
Demon 1: A fear of being the real me.
I beat this demon when I transitioned from male to female at the not-so-young age of 52.
Why did it take so long to get here?
It’s simple: like many “gender correctors” (people who transition later in life), I feared that all hell would break loose if I ever admitted to myself (and then, to the world) that the “true” gender in my brain didn’t match the physical gender of my body.
Those familiar with me know that yes, all hell did break loose as I transitioned genders: divorce, a lost job and big career change, people who refused to accept me, and savings down the drain.
And yet, I survived. Actually, it’s been way more than that. In reality, I’ve thrived as Ellen “Ellie” Krug. Twenty years ago, it was impossible to imagine the peace of mind that I have now.
Score one for me.
I’ve also taken on Demon 2, the fear of being alone, what I call my “Alone Monster.”
This demon has its roots in my alcoholic father who used to go missing. Often it was for several hours; other times, he’d be gone overnight without a word. Years of therapy revealed that this fed into my grave fear of being alone and unloved, something which later morphed into a fear of dying alone — I just couldn’t bear the thought of being on my deathbed without a lover to hold my hand. Throw in that I suspected I’d be very single post-gender transition (I sure called that one right!), and the Alone Monster had me near-paralyzed.
All of that therapy eventually paid off; ever so gradually, I realized that authenticity and living in the moment are what I value. Most of the time (with “most” being the operative phrase here), I’m okay with not having a lover and with the thought that I’ll likely go out of this world alone.
Take that Alone Monster! No longer do you totally control me.
Lastly, there’s Demon 3, a tall blonde with a deep voice and a bottle of Chateau St. Michelle chardonnay at her side. This demon, dear gentle readers, springs from my fear of being sober.
She absolutely loves booze — mid-quality chardonnay and Heineken in particular — and is quite social to boot; she’s befriended bartenders and liquor store owners near and far. Indeed, I’ve been told that without this demon at my side, Ellie Krug is “no fun.”
For a long time, I believed just that.
Even worse, this demon propped up my other demons. Alcohol, I thought, was the magical elixir that compensated for keeping the real person inside me — a woman — closeted. And, too, a good tall glass of chardonnay always seemed to alleviate the pain of loneliness; an alcohol-fueled buzz made all of the other crap livable. There was no way I’d be able to handle things sober.
At least that’s what I told myself. For decades.
Much to my utter surprise, drinking actually makes it way more difficult to deal with everything else in my life. Inevitably, with a few chardonnays in me, I’ll say or do something that spawns next day regrets. Throw in that booze really screws up my sleeping (I’m talking middle-of-the night insomnia after the alcohol in my system burns off), and rather than help, drinking exacerbates all of the other issues I hoped to salve.
As it turns out, I had everything backwards. In fact, getting rid of Demon 1 and keeping Demon 2 at bay paved the way for dealing with Demon 3.
However, I’m not entirely there just yet. As I write these words, I’m closing in on only 100 days of sobriety — my latest sobriety stint in a series of stints. I feel really good about this attempt, so I’m optimistic that it will stick.
All I know is that for today, I’ve put Demon 3 on hold. Hopefully, I’ll be able to say the same thing tomorrow, but I won’t know for sure until tomorrow arrives.
Thus you have it, The Trifecta, more oversharing by yours truly.
As I often tell others, I’m simply a survivor, just like everyone else. What I’ve survived is the fragility of the human me. I’m not precisely sure how I’ve accomplished that and certainly it’s been pretty messy, even ugly.
Still, the payoffs have been immense: authenticity, clarity, and gratitude.
Plus maybe a healthy liver. Or at least one that’s not as pickled as it could be. Thanks for listening.
Ellen (Ellie) Krug is the author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change (2013) and the architect of The C* Project, a new rural Midwest diversity/inclusion initiative (www.elliekrug.com/the-c-project). She welcomes your comments at [email protected].