The day that I had the idea to start an online journal, I had the biggest panic attack of my life. It’s taken me five years to realize that those two things were related. From the beginning, Drunk Monkeys has been a source of joy, connection, and consternation, in pretty much equal measure. I knew that to do this, and to do it right, I would have to put myself into the spotlight in a way that I wasn’t used to or comfortable with. And I, basically, remain just as uncomfortable in the spotlight (Klonopin, highly recommended), but through this little magazine, I’ve met people dealing with those same fears, and I’ve watched as they channeled their depression, rage, and anxiety into art of the highest order. Each day now, when I scan my Facebook feed, I’m met with hundreds of writers using their words to express those doubts, to heal themselves and their community. That’s a daily gift that I didn’t have on November 10, 2011.
But there’s a cost with that. Any creative endeavor requires time, and every artist, to some degree, selfishly protects that time. The year that I launched the site is also the year that I married Corissa. Our wedding day was barely a month before the launch of the site, and I didn’t place my full attention on my coming marriage. The wedding seemed like a thing that would happen no matter what, while I had to build this site from scratch. It was extraordinarily selfish. That’s not a thing I get to take back, and there are other moments that I should have been there for, in our marriage, in friendships, and with my family, that I either avoided or met with a distracted spirit because of how proud I was of this magazine. How much time I wanted to spend nurturing it, tinkering with it, helping it grow and flourish.
And two years ago, as my body withered from anxiety-based anorexia, it took me a long time to realize the role that running the site played in the fear that was swallowing my life. Each day that I looked to the site for relief from my fear was a day that the site added to it. I grew weaker every day, people around me were terrified. You get choices in those circumstances, where something outside of yourself asks if you want to continue, if you can find the strength to do so. I said that I did, and I found that strength, and began the slow crawl out of that hole. Today I can manage that anxiety better—through prayer, food, and patience. But that time fundamentally changed my relationship to the site, and there’s a part of me that’s wanted to run away from it ever since.
But there’s a cost with that, too. And as anyone who’s tried to talk me down throughout the past few years knows, I’ve found an astonishing variety of ways to justify it—but they’ve all just been more fear. Fear that I was missing out on other aspects of my life, fear that I was losing time to write or just live in the world. Fear that what I was doing didn’t matter anyway. As recently as three weeks ago, I had told a close circle of friends that the site would be shutting down soon, and that I would make the announcement in our anniversary issue.
Anyway—this is not that letter.
And I owe that, as I owe so much of what’s good in my life, to Corissa. Over the course of our life together—which, altogether, in almost eight years now—she’s had to deal with my fear in so many ways, ways that you could never ask anyone to do, ways that either are offered out of love or never come at all. She’s dealt with the panic attacks, the anger, the sleepless nights, the part of me that hides from responsibility. She’s dealt with that because she loves me, and once you have this woman’s love, you would be a damned fool to lose it. She said, correctly, that I would regret shutting down the site two minutes after I did it. She told me to take some time to sit with this idea, to find other ways to make it work, and to remember that I’m no longer in it alone. That, really, I never was.
And I never have been alone in this enterprise. From the first week of the site, I was publishing work from some of the people that I love most in the world—Corissa’s own poetry, poems from my mother, TV recaps and film reviews from Ryan Roach, one of my oldest friends (I mean in length of time known, not age, Ryan, calm down, okay?), and humor pieces from the mysterious figure known to you all as Lawrence Von Haelstrom. And that crew of friends expanded as I met writers through running the site on a daily basis. Soon we had real staff writers, and then real editors, and then real Managing editors, and now, after five years, around thirty different writers and editors have rotated through the DM staff. This list, I hope, is complete:
SC Stuckey, Co-Founder; Lawrence Von Haelstrom, Contributing Editor; Ryan Roach, Film Editor; Allan Ferguson, Staff Writer; Nathan Alan Schwartz, Poetry Editor/Social Media Coordinator; Nathan Graziano, Staff Writer; Ryan Swofford, Staff Writer; Sopphey Vance, CEO, On Impression Network; Donald McCarthy, Features Editor; Gabriel Ricard, Film Editor; Lily Murphy, Staff Writer; Michael Patrick Duggan, Staff Writer; Tegan Webb, Fiction Editor; Pamela Langley, Managing Editor; Samantha Eliot Stier, Assistant Editor; Cassie Ciopryna; Assistant Editor; Andrew James Stone; Assistant Editor; Aaron Wiegert; Poetry Editor; April Kelly Jones, Fiction Editor; Taras D. Butrej; Film Department; Juese Cutler; Film Department; Scott Waldyn, Film Department; TJ Spurgin, Music Editor; Karly Little, Staff Writer; Traci Strand-King, Assistant Editor; Bradley Sides, Book Reviewer; Natasha Narkiewicz, Managing Editor; Dani Neiley, Film Editor/Managing Editor; Lauren Kinney, Assistant Editor; Lawrence Evan Dotson, Music Editor; M.G. Poe, Staff Writer; Alex Schumacher, Artist; Kolleen Carney, Social Media Coordinator
Thanks to all of you. Five years, hundreds of posts, a thousand fans in social media. Look at what we’ve built together.
Looking at that list of names makes me realize how blessed I am, and how much I’ve learned from all of them. And the latest lesson I’ve learned is that I have a support structure here that I’ve never truly utilized, so I’m going to start doing just that by stepping away for awhile. I don’t know, as of writing this, how long that will be. I’ll still be around to help out, but someone else will be in the Editor’s chair for awhile, and I think we’ll be stronger for it. But I want to see Drunk Monkeys continue, so it’s time, after five years, to let someone else carry the torch.
And, so, a final note about laziness. I’m writing this—in typically lazy fashion—about two hours before it needs to be posted, which means that it’s two days since America elected Donald Trump as our President. I won’t say that he’s not my President, because he is. I didn’t vote for him. I think he’s unqualified, piggish, and has with an emptiness inside of him that can never be filled—a dangerous combination in any world leader. But I’m an American, and that makes this man my President. And as with every President, it is the role of writers, artists, and reporters to hold them not to their own values, but our collective values. And, collectively, America has decided, much more slowly than I would like, that we support civil rights, gay marriage, compassionate immigration reform, reproductive rights, and a health system that takes into account those who cannot afford coverage. And, as we would have to do with any other President, we will hold Trump accountable to those standards, which all stem from basic human rights and common sense. So I invite all of you who have played a part in what we’ve been as a nation and what we still can be, to join us over the next five years of Drunk Monkeys—because we’ve got work to do.
Founding Editor, Drunk Monkeys