PEOPLE CHANGE and that’s O-FUCKING-KAY by Audrey Francis

Inside the Box | Comments (2) | May 31, 2016

When Black Box decided to re-open the “Inside the Box” series, I immediately had a sinking feeling in my stomach.  Every time I write one of these, it forces me to put into words something I’m afraid to talk about.

At Black Box, we say there is a responsibility to call yourself an artist. One of those responsibilities includes accepting change. Even more, being willing to embrace change. Especially when that change is something you’re not comfortable with or, even better, when it happens at a time that is less than convenient.

When I was 16-years-old, I never truly felt like I had a community outside of my family. I didn’t feel like I fit in at school, I didn’t trust that my friends were really friends, and I didn’t have a voice. I just tried to do what everyone else was doing and if I couldn’t do that, I just tried to make everybody laugh. There was nothing I felt like I was the best at. So, I decided to become: The Best Partier Ever.

Somehow, I managed to get around my very strict parents, go to parties, and pretty easily down a bottle of tequila, then surf on cars. (You heard me).  This tradition carried on to college where I very quickly was able to hold my own as an unusually strong whiskey drinker, bong ripper, and acid dropper. I mean… it was Colorado… so what else was there to do?

I became a master at hiding this from my family, but making it my “brand” outside of my home.  I continued this “brand” when I moved to Chicago and for nearly the entire first decade of living here.

The fucked up thing about this though … was, at that time, that was how I found my voice. That was how I ended up meeting new people, having fun, letting go, and learning to just say, “fuck it.”

Somehow, in that incredibly unhealthy cycle, I ended up discovering what (I thought) was the most authentic version of myself.  Partying, to me, was like what Vegas is in Black Box.

The problem was… change. I changed over time. My drinking changed over time. And very quickly, the thing that brought me so much fun, power, exhilaration, happiness, and even professional connections… was starting to make me a miserable, angry, lonely, false person.

I knew something needed to change, but I was very reluctant to change the one thing I thought set me free.

I remember my boyfriend at the time (who thank GOD is now my husband) looking at me in a way that made me realize everything I was trying to be… was a lie.  And even scarier, it didn’t fit with who I was anymore.

The craziest thing about that moment of realization – was my fear of change.

This one thing I had chosen to become, I had made my identity… this one thing that made me feel like I could finally own my voice, live fully, and speak unapologetically… this one thing that I worked really hard to become, “Audrey the bad ass partier,” wasn’t working for me anymore. And I had no fucking clue what else I had to offer.

I thought, “People won’t like me if change, how can I make friends with cast mates if I don’t go out, how am I ever going to network without going to parties?”

I was terrified that making a fundamental change to the way I operated would make me less successful. Because the truth is, without booze, I have crippling social anxiety. I hate crowds, I hate small talk, I get very anxious in professional/social situations, and I would donate a kidney to just be able to stay home, eat Thai, and binge watch Ink Masters.

I truly believed that if I changed who I was that much, that I couldn’t be the artist I had worked so hard to put on the map.

This coming June 4th, I will have not had a drink in three years.  These past three years have been the most eye opening, heartbreaking, beautiful, happiest, and scariest years of my life.  I have lost a lot, but I’ve gained more. I’ve learned to actually deal with shit instead of drink or deflect it away. That was the harder change to make, and it was worth it. Making that change and enduring the changes that came along with it, made me a stronger person and artist – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I knew what I was doing was wrong for years, but I was so afraid to change. I thought if I changed people wouldn’t know where to put me in their minds, so they would just put me out of their minds.

We all have that one thing that worked for us a long time ago. For me, it was drinking to be accepted, to escape, to feel rewarded, and to be the wild fun chick people liked to hang out with.  To eliminate that from my life, to accept and embrace that change and the hundreds of changes that came after… actually gave me a voice, a perspective, and way of living that I didn’t even know was possible.  

So… thank you Black Box for reminding me that to evolve as an artist I have to evolve as a human. And to evolve as a human, I have to accept and embrace change. Even if that change means me having to learn a whole new version of Audrey Francis.