…To change those things I can…

God, grant me the serenity to accept those things I cannot change;

The courage to change those things I can;

And the wisdom to tell the difference.

My name is Lannie and I'm an alcoholic. The Serenity Prayer (above) holds special meaning for me, because I had the courage to change something in a big way. That something was my sex. My mother is of the opinion that this is a misapplication of the Serenity Prayer. She thinks I should have paid more attention to the wisdom to tell the difference part. In any case, I'm a woman now, so that's water under the bridge.

My sex change and my drinking are intimately bound up with each other. No doubt I was drinking heavily at least in part to keep from confronting my gender demons. Most transsexual people say that they knew they had been given the wrong type of body from the time they were three years old. Not me. I didn't have a clue. I knew I seemed different than other people, that I strangely didn't fit in, but I didn't know why. Recently my dad told me, “We knew your were different, but we thought it was just because you were smart.” I was smart. I was a straight “A” student and valedictorian of my high school class. I suppose I, too, thought that being smart was the source of my curse.

I went to college and learned to use alcohol to relieve stress. I carried this lesson into the work world, where I became a computer hardware engineer. After the tough grind of engineering school, the work world was bliss. No homework! My evenings were totally free—to drink and watch TV.

For twenty-five years just about all I had in my life was working and drinking. Oh, there was one other thing. I had this strange hobby of cross-dressing. Talk about a progressive disease! After my marriage broke up when I was thrity-five, I began with a pair of pantyhose (L'eggs, back when they came in the big plastic eggs) and soon found myself acquiring wigs, make-up, and a mail-order wardrobe. I didn't understand why cross-dressing felt so good, but I didn't worry about it. I just enjoyed it. (For me cross-dressing always involved a lot of drinking, too, of course.) It never entered my mind that I might be transsexual; I barely knew what that was.

After a while, nothing was working for me any more. I was burned out on engineering. Drinking did nothing for me but dull the loneliness and emptiness. Even cross-dressing seemed to have run its course; I felt like I was all dressed up with no where to go.

My favorite movies at that time were Edward Scissorhands and Leaving Las Vegas. I identified closely with Edward Scissorhands, an innocent, freakish boy who just couldn't fit in to normal society. Like Edward, I was constitutionally unable to shed tears. My boy name was even Edward. As for Leaving Las Vegas, that seemed to me to be a viable exit strategy.

Then one thing led to another, in a series of escapades which I may relate some time when I have longer to talk, and I got a clue. Gradually through the year 2001, the light began to come on and I came to figure out about my transsexuality and some things about my life. Believe me, it took a lot of booze and ecstasy to discover that I could enjoy sex with men!

When I did my blood work in preparation for starting hormones, the doctor asked me, “Do you drink?”

“Duh, yeah!” I told her.

“Well, you'd better stop or else you're going to need a new liver within five years,” she said. That was all I needed to hear. The transsexual's blessing is, “May all your surgeries be elective!” I spent Thanksgiving Day 2001 by myself, drinking, the way I spent most of my holidays. And that was the last drink I ever had. A month later, on New Years day, I began living full time as a woman.

Not drinking was pretty easy for me. In 2002 I was all excited about beginning to live my life as a woman. They accepted my transition at work, god bless 'em, and that went great. I had plenty of things to do besides drinking: changing my name, getting a nose job, shopping... also, I was club kiddie. On weekends I would use ecstasy, cocaine, or methamphetamine for a kick.

You may not know this, but the medical establishment requires that trans people must live for at least one year full time in their new gender roles before they are approved for reassignment surgery. So I did that, and I had my surgery about a year ago, in February 2002. That occupied my attentions for a few months. But after that, things started getting not so good. The surgery wasn't a problem; I love that. But I gave up the drugs last summer, and lost touch with my clubbing and transgender friends. I don't have my old crutch alcohol. I even gave up caffeine. I was thinking of taking up smoking so I could quit that, too. I'm very healthy, physically, but the old loneliness and emptiness is settling in again.

It's really distressing, because I thought I had put all that behind me. For God's sake, I changed my sex; what more do I need to do? I guess my alcoholism is a separate problem, and I need to work on it—probably for the rest of my life.

I'm confused, sexually. I've been dating guys a little bit, but I really don't have enough experience to know what turns me on now. I've realized that I always used drugs and alcohol to loosen my sexual inhibitions. Not that I really ever had much of a sex life, even drunk. But sober, I'm virtually a virgin.

I'm very good at giving things up—drink, drugs, genitals. I'm not so good at adding things. I hope the program can help me learn to add whatever it is I need to live a happy, sober life.

—Lannie R, 4/2004

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