It’s days like these when every failure seems amplified. When new disappointments spur old hurts and old hurts seem to last forever. It’s in this darkness that I feel the most vulnerable; even childlike.
Because I know I am supposed to be able to reach down and find gratitude, I instinctively pull in the other direction. Instead I want solitude. I want to stomp my feet like a four-year old and have a temper tantrum. I want to scream a raging scream and ugly cry until I feel sick. And I want to crawl under my covers and fade. And just the thought of that alone, makes me cringe. “I’m stronger than that. I’m better. It all happens for a reason…”; so, on and so on. It plays in my head. My left brain talking to my right brain. The rational voice in my head trying to talk the irrational one down. “It’s your fault. You don’t deserve it. Who are you kidding? You’re not smart enough. It was foolish of you to allow yourself to even hope. Why did you open yourself up?” So, on and so on. It’s like my own thoughts are trying to keep me in darkness. And I welcome it, like an old friend. I want to be here. Like, somehow, I need this pain, this sadness. I deserve it. But these negative instincts are floating to the top of my brain because I no longer choose to numb it.
My MO has always been to avoid the tough stuff. AVOID, AVOID, AVOID. If I can’t go around something, well, then there were drugs to change my state of mind. It was wonderful. I was able to divert my brain from pain, trauma and disappointment and live recklessly and creatively. At least, that’s what I told myself. But you can only live that lifestyle for so long and once my habit started affecting my life and was noticeable to others around me, I knew I had to make a change. I pulled up my big girl pants and quit all those mind-altering drugs cold turkey. Thankfully, I found success and went on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Furthermore, I climbed the career ladder with accolades and promotions throughout my 20’s. When that slowed, I dove into creating what I thought I was supposed to do as a successful millennial. Snag a hubby, big fancy wedding, two new vehicles in the driveway, starter house, build a freaking McMansion, and two kiddos. The only thing I was missing was the white picket fence. Who tells us we need these things anyway?
Except, I was miserable. None of these things, aside from my children brought me happiness. Fast forward to 2015. My dad suddenly got sick. Very sick. And within 4 months, he was gone. Dead. And so was I. Despite knowing he had a terminal diagnosis, I was not prepared. I don’t think one can ever really be prepared for the loss of a parent. There are not words for me to describe the depth of pain and other emotions that I felt. I dove into the bottom of a bottle. My decent into alcoholism was quick and it worked. I was able to numb the pain. I shut myself off from the reality, from the loss. But I was a messy drunk. Things got out of control fast and I derailed.
I reluctantly went to AA on an ultimatum. After my first meeting, I didn’t drink for 3 weeks. I was not willing to concede to being an “alcoholic” though. I’m a smart woman. I figured I simply needed to control my drinking. I could not allow it to get too far. Just have one or two, I told myself. So, one Friday afternoon, I set out to happy hour and told myself I would just have one or two.
At 4am, I was reluctantly poured into a cab and taken home. It was in this moment that I realized I was an addict. I had no control. And every waking moment that I was not numbing myself, I was tortured. I was in so much pain and was not equipped whatsoever to handle it. Here I was, a grown, educated woman, yet I was the emotional equivalent of a six year old. I had no idea how to cope with my emotions.
I sat in the first year of sobriety in so much pain as I tried to walk backwards and figure it all out. It’s amazing what you can uncover when you are honest and authentic with yourself. It was hard. I uncovered trauma that I had suppressed for over 30 years. And I sat with it. I cried, I raged, I worked through it. I continue to work through past hurts and navigate present ones. Sober.
As of today, I am 3 years, 7 months and 22 days clean and sober. In that time, I have learned to have faith. I have learned that self-care and love is not only OK, but it is necessary. I have learned how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I have learned that I cannot do it all alone. Which means allowing myself to be vulnerable and even more, learning to reach my hand out for help. I learned that you don’t have to do it all, be it all and be ON all the time. Fuck! What a hard lesson. And even though I am sober, I still struggle with how I handle my emotions. I mean, let’s face it. Life is not rainbows and unicorns all the time. I live life on life’s terms. Because I’m an addict, my first instinct in reaction to painful stimuli is to cover it up with something else…. even if it is healthy. So, I can neurotically eat my emotions, exercise away the pain or slink into an insular depression and close the rest of the world out. Where’s the beauty in this, you ask? Well, it’s that I’m aware. And because I am aware and accept that I am an addict, I can allow the left and right brain to duke it out, having faith that in the end, this too shall pass.
***If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, reach out for help! ***