You lost me with the cursing.

Probably for the best. There will be more of it.

I’m okay with the cursing, but what exactly is “a newsletter about fucking up”?

It’s a newsletter that celebrates the ways that “fucking up” makes us more valuable to each other, not less. Readers write in about their fears and their problems, or the ways they think they have fucked up or been fucked over, and I — along with select guests — use our own history of massive fuck-ups to find whatever grace is available in the situation. We don’t solve problems, we don’t “fix” fuck-ups, but we do hope to pull people across the chasm of self-doubt or pain.

Why are you doing this?

I got sober in 2011, after a few suicide attempts; the last one was a fairly close call. For whatever reason, the physical craving to use drugs and alcohol didn’t creep back up in those early months. I suspect that maybe my body was just trying to save itself by making me recoil from the poisons I’d been using.

The thing that almost killed me in early sobriety wasn’t something I ingested literally, it was the thing I’d binged on since I first became aware it existed: self-hatred. Put it another way: I had an easy time putting down the chemicals that hurt me, I relapsed continuously on emotionally abusing myself. Thinking of myself as a bad person was a habit even stronger than booze or pills, and eventually I had to admit to my rehab counselor that this was the thing I needed help with. It could kill me directly (another suicide attempt), or indirectly (drive me to use again — a slower form of suicide), but unless I could stop the constant babble of criticism in my head, I wasn’t going to make it very far.

My counselor had good news and bad news: The bad news was that “negative self-talk” was probably impossible to quit cold turkey, and so I should stop beating myself up for not being able to stop beating myself up (HOW DID SHE KNOW!?). The good news was, well, there was a lot of good news, and the most significant piece of it was this: I could silence the nasty, lying voice in my head — and its criticisms were lies! I knew, intellectually, that 90 percent of what I said to myself wasn’t 100 percent true — talking about what I was hearing. “Check it out” is therapeutic phrase I remember.

So I did. I developed a support system of friends and strangers (people who happened to be in the same twelve-step meetings as me) to whom I could whisper my deepest fears and mutter my biggest mistakes, a metaphysical vessel into which I could decant voice in my head. So I ran a fact-check on the tyrant who’d been running my life thus far. This had the strangest effect: No one told me the voice was right. No one agreed I was a failure. No one suggested I should continue to listen to the voice in my head, it had a point, after all.

I did and do a bunch of other stuff, too, to variously muffle/drown out/change the channel on the “you fucked up” voice. I practice affirmations! I write gratitude lists! I create goddamn vision boards.

But next to sharing those lies I hear in my own head, the surest antidote to self-hatred has been to hear others unburden their lies, and to tell them truths: You are glorious. You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are loved. I know these things are true because someone said they were true for me.

This newsletter is my attempt to expand the circle of people who can tell that truth to each other.

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