Ex-Boozer Chronicles: Circus Classes

I’ve attended Vulcana Women’s Circus for over seven years now. It’s the sort of place you’d join after suffering a nasty breakup or the death of a loved one, or a bout of depression. Essentially it’s where you’d go if you wanted to run away to join the circus. Mine wasn’t quite so dramatic: it was 2011 and my closest friend at the time left town, and I realised I had a lot of empty space in the shape of a quirky brunette.

The reason it’s so perfect for all the above reasons and more is that it gives you strength, physically and emotionally, and makes you feel part of something fun and inclusive. It helps to mend broken people; crack by crack it makes them whole again. In the last year, on my mission of sobriety, I have turned back to Vulcana. I guess you could say it’s like my AA.

Even whilst I was a massive boozer I would still attend classes but I wasn’t overly reliable. Sometimes I would be hopeless in class because I was hungover, other times not arriving at all. On occasion I would leave early so I could make the bottle shop on my way home. One time, several years ago, I was practising for a show on a Sunday, and I had been out until 4am the night before, and I was sitting on the trapeze at 9am the next day, still drunk, working on my routine. It was only later that day I realised how dangerous and silly I had been. I could imagine the news.com headline: ‘drunk amateur circus performer falls from trapeze. She claims she had been dreaming about a full cooked breakfast. Call for circus to be shut down for negligence’. I’m still always late and occasionally leave early but it’s not because of booze. Turns out I am just naturally disorganised.

On average I’ve probably been in a show once a year since I began my foray into the world of circus, and my standard celebration after performing would be to drink myself silly with friends. Except last time, just over a month ago, when my cronies and I performed a Sia inspired piss-take on the triple trapeze. Instead of going out afterwards and boozing myself into oblivion, I went home with my partner and ate pizza. Yes, I know it doesn’t sound overly thrilling but it was just what I needed. The thing is, performing is scary and exciting so afterwards you experience a natural high, a ‘fuck yeah, I did that’ feel good vibe that can’t be beaten. If anything, alcohol diminished this shine, and the next day I would wake up feeling like a half eaten sausage roll discarded on the side of the road instead of victorious about my achievement.

I attend circus classes once a week. After work I never feel like going. I always want to palm it and head home to chill but I force myself to go as I know it will be worth the effort. When I was drinking, especially if I had a stressful day, sometimes I would decide to go home and drink my bodyweight in wine instead. Now I am rewarded for my diligence by those sweet endorphins that manifest themselves when you are surrounded by an amazing group of women, and you are working on kick-ass moves that make you feel a little like a superhero. It’s a lot different from feeling like a superhero for a night because the alcohol makes you think you are the most awesome person in the room, and then waking up the next morning feeling like a dried corn husk.

I’ve read a few articles that acknowledge isolation and loneliness as a root cause of addiction, so it makes sense in sobriety to reach out and find a group of people who gel with your brand of weirdness (for an interesting read check out the 1970s study called Rat Park). For me, circus makes me put myself out there, physically, mentally, and socially. I didn’t start circus when I quit drinking but I found my way back to loving it because I did. I’m not here to reinvent the wheel, but I’m definitely going to roll with it, one circus class at a time.

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