She kicked ass until the very end, and it meant the most to sober women like me.
I have never seen a Star Wars movie, but I was one of Carrie Fisher’s biggest fans.
My first exposure to Fisher was through the book Wishful Drinking, which was published in 2008, the year I got sober.
For me, Fisher was not a princess in a gold bikini or a general, but something more relatable and — for me — inspirational.
Inside Wishful Drinking was a woman who had an acerbic sense of humor, who was recovering from addiction, unabashed about her bipolar disorder (unabashed about everything, really), and had a deep, unapologetic commitment to being exactly who she was.
She wrote about addiction and mental health in a way that was hilarious, without diminishing the severity of the subject.
At one point she says, “I used to refer to my drug use as putting the monster in the box. I wanted to be less, so I took more — simple as that.”
As a person still in my first year of sobriety, I completely related to Fisher’s articulation of addiction: of wanting to abbreviate herself, of her fear of exposing the depth of her emotional waters.
Katie's drinking days
Part of the reason I drank was because I wanted so desperately to be someone else. Someone less sad, less self-loathing, less ... everything.
Reading that passage was like a punch in the gut. A punch that told me, "You are not alone."
Fisher wouldn’t be Fisher, however, if she didn’t switch gears to her characteristic blunt humor immediately following a good, meaningful gut-punch.
She said, “I eventually decided that the reason [my psychiatrist] had told me I was hypomanic was that he wanted to put me on medication instead of actually treating me. So I did the only rational thing I could do in the face of such as insult — I stopped talking to [him], flew back to New York, and married Paul Simon a week later.”
How could I, a newly sober 23-year-old, relate to running away to marry Paul Simon?
Well, I couldn’t (though I do really love Paul Simon a lot).
But I had run away from anyone who challenged me to face my demons — boyfriends, therapists, or whoever happened to pull me out of the gutter from one night to the next.
I had taken a job in a city where I knew almost no one, just to escape my life in California.
When folks started to get a glimpse of the many layers of fucked-up-ness that lay beneath my surface, I fled right back to California.
Katie and her dog, Sally, living a healthier, happier life.
It’s one thing to talk about addiction, mental illness, and the general vulnerabilities of being human from behind the comfort of a computer.
But it's quite another to be open whenever the hell it comes up, which is what Carrie Fisher was able to do.
Fisher discussed these hardest subjects not as issues separate from herself or relegated to a specific category of her life, but as part of the fabric of who she was as a person, as part of her identity.
In December of last year, Fisher was facing scrutiny over the sin of having gained weight in the years between when she first played Princess Leia (at age 19) and when she reprised the role (in her late 50s).
She addressed the comments on Twitter with her characteristic honesty and humor.
"Please stop debating about whetherOR not [I] aged well. unfortunately it hurts all3 of my feelings. My BODY hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us."
Fisher was badass not because she overcame her vulnerabilities, but because she talked about them so honestly.
And that's why she has been such an inspiration to me, as a sober woman, and so many other women like me who have been helped by her willingness to be so honest.
Her support dog, Gary, a round Frenchie whose pink tongue perpetually hangs out of his mouth, inspired his own loyal following on Twitter, at least in part because he seemed to embody Fisher’s disaffected identity.
As I write this, my laptop and my own support dog — a whiny little brat of a Chihuahua — fight for space on my lap. I imagine what Fisher loved about dogs is similar to what I do: their ability to cut through the bullshit and tell you exactly what they want.
Few people appreciated a no-bullshit attitude more than Carrie Fisher, and I’m truly grateful she had a pal like Gary.
And so I’d like to honor our Misfit Queen exactly the way she would have wanted us to, with one slight addendum:
Carrie Fisher "drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra," kicking ass until the very end.