Stoner Liberal -> Binge Drinking Conservative -> Sober Democrat
For nearly 15 years, I self-medicated my depression and anxiety with drugs and alcohol. While dealing with the narcissism of depression and the side effects of substance abuse, I was too self-absorbed to empathize with anyone’s problems that didn’t directly involve me. That included my family, friends, and especially politics. Now that I’m almost a year sober, my growth as a person has amplified my political awareness. I always kind of knew who I was politically, but I was easily swayed into other camps ― just like I was easily swayed by any drug or drink that crossed my path.
My first memory of caring about politics was a few months after being expelled from high school, due to my drug problem. I wasn’t able to vote in the Bush/Kerry election of November 2004, as I was just a month shy of 18. While I couldn’t vote, I attempted to make up for it by smoking insane amounts of pot, listening to The Doors, and talking about equality to the Republicans that surrounded me in my home state of Texas. Looking back, I was the epitome of a stereotypical “hippie liberal.” Of course, nobody took me or my messages seriously ― I didn’t take me seriously.
The summer before that election, Michael Moore released “Fahrenheit 9/11.” My friend and I attended a public screening of the film in Crawford, Texas near Dubya’s ranch. I grew up in Waco, Texas, so Crawford was less than a thirty minute drive. This was my first visit to the town of less than 1,000 people, but I got the vibe that this wasn’t a typical “Crawford experience.” The country roads were packed with cars and people proudly showing their support for John Kerry on bumper stickers and signs. There was even a vegan food truck. It’s hard to find vegan food anywhere in Texas, let alone in a town like Crawford. There were also plenty of Bush supporters protesting the liberal event. At one point, I picked a few flowers from the ground and handed them to Republicans while flashing them a smile paired with a peace sign. I got some strange looks and even a classic “damn hippie” remark. I loved it.
Fast forward to 2008’s Obama/McCain election. I was in a completely different place, mentally. Though I still had my liberal beliefs on women’s rights and gay rights (a.k.a. human rights), I didn’t talk about politics. I only talked about partying and pop culture. In those four years, while Bush was blaming Iraq for 9/11, I had dropped out of college several times, slept with lots of guys in search of validation, and drank myself into an oblivion on a regular basis. I didn’t have time to care about the Middle East and how that might affect our country. I was more concerned with reading the latest “news” on PerezHilton.com.
“Nobody took me or my messages seriously -- I didn’t take me seriously.”
My obsession with pop culture got me slightly interested in the election. I remember seeing Sarah Palin’s first speech and thought, like everyone else in America, “She looks like Tina Fey!” Fey’s triumphant return to “SNL” during the fall of 2008 as Sarah Palin was the highlight of my week, every week, that election season. I don’t know if I was infatuated with Fey’s performance as Palin, if I was just so excited to see a woman running for VP, or both. Either way, I developed a strong fascination with Sarah Palin that I still have to this day.
That was my first election to vote and I proudly wrote in Tina Fey on the ballot. My mom got mad at me because she said I didn’t take the election seriously. She reminded me that voting is a right that needs to be respected. I stood firmly in my choice that Tina Fey would be a damn good president, but now I wish I had listened to my mom. I didn’t even research Obama or McCain’s policies, because I was too busy putting together this amazing McCain/Palin costume with a friend.
Looking back, I wish I can say that I voted for our first black president, but it is what it is. I can see now that I cared more about pop culture than politics.
Fast forward to 2012. Ugh. I try to pride myself on not having any regrets in life, but when it comes to my election behaviors, I have a few. I’m pretty embarrassed by my actions during the Obama/Romney election. I was hardcore into Romney... like... suuuuper into him. For two reasons and two reasons alone: “He’s a business man” and “Paul Ryan does CrossFit.” In 2012, I was a full time college student studying business and I taught fitness classes four times a week. So naturally, those two things resonated with me. With little political clout, I proudly shouted from the rooftops, or in this day and age, shouted from my Facebook timeline, “ROMNEY 2012!!!! WHOO!!”
I had a Romney/Ryan yard sign. I supported Trump’s racist birther movement. I spent more time buying into right wing propaganda because I was too drunk to care enough about doing research to see which candidate I most identified with. I had no idea what socialism was but I heard people at work say “Obama is a socialist” with a negative connotation, so I started saying it, too. I didn’t know anything about the job market, but I heard lots of people say “Romney will create jobs because he’s a business man,” so that sentence was soon added to my repertoire. Whenever I “talked politics,” I secretly hoped that nobody would challenge me because I didn’t have a single leg to stand on. Luckily, I was often surrounded by people who didn’t know much about the election either, so I was safe. It was an echo chamber of ignorance, and I had nothing new or insightful to say.
While I loved “connecting” with my local friends who were passionate about Romney, I pissed off quite a few of my liberal friends. My (gay) uncles and my (gay) best friends even unfollowed me from Facebook. This should have been the reality check that I needed. Instead, it only appealed to my defiant side. I was dating a Mexican immigrant who was enthusiastically supporting Obama, but I voted for Romney. I didn’t see how hypocritical that was, because my judgement was as cloudy as my vision.
“It was an echo chamber of ignorance, and I had nothing new or insightful to say.”
Election night, I sat at George’s (the bar where I worked at the time) and binge-drank Shiner Bock, smoked Camel Turkish Silvers, and watched the election updates. I was sooooo into it. When Obama won, I cried in dramatic despair. I even made an ignorant Facebook status that now makes me want to gag.
Now, it’s the 2016 Trump/Clinton
disaster election, and I’m happy to say that for the first time, I’m voting with complete confidence. I’ve done my research and I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. Since I’ve quit drinking, I’ve realized that I’m a passionate feminist who is finally grasping the concept of empathy. I’m voting for Hillary because she stands for things I care about, like equality, diversity, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, how mental health needs to be addressed with the same seriousness as physical health, keeping the DREAM Act alive, and so many other values that I’ve had all along, but now, sober, I see clearly for the first time.
I’m not blaming anyone for why I voted, drank or behaved the way that I did in past elections. But it was hard to figure out who the hell I was in a place like Waco, Texas, when I was usually high or drunk. On November 8, just a few weeks shy of my first sober birthday, I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton. Because for the first time, I know exactly who I am.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.