There is progress.
Here is what happens when you force yourself to get up and try not to be heartbroken every day: you heal. You eventually get to not feel heartbroken, or even heart impaired. I sometimes forget how hard I work every day to get to where I automatically feel like my self. Where I don’t question it, I know it. That place where I forget where I am for a few minutes because I’m lost in what I’m doing. That place where I am not constantly every second steadily berating myself for the simple crime of being. Oh, the being.
I get an email or two a week (not hundreds like someone suggested which made me feel so good and gave me a good laugh) from people who are just starting out. They reach out and say help me. They say I am like you. I want to be sober.
Sometimes I think we give the surface issue all the attention and forget what we’re really running from. I gave myself permission to drink too much, and then blamed the drinking for my sad sack life. And so I drank too much. I feel like if I had said “I hate myself” rather than “I hate my drinking” I would have been being more truthful. Drinking was the symptom of a much bigger problem. It’s like having a headache while you bang yourself in the head with a hammer. You have to stop hitting yourself and treat the headache. It doesn’t really work unless you do both.
The daily struggle began for me when I was five. I can remember feeling forgotten. I can remember trying to be noticed, trying to feel important. I can never clearly remember feeling like I was the person someone was delighted to see. I was an afterthought. For everyone- my parents, my friends. I was an outline of a girl and I was on the sidelines.This may not have been the intention of anyone, but it is a consistent truth in my life. Because of this I cradle my children close every single day and look them in the eyes so they know that they are the lights of my life. I tell them: you are a joy to me. I tell them: you make me happy. That without them my world would be less than. That they are tall as to space important in this world. I tell myself these things too. There is nothing like the comfort of being loved just because you are just you.
One December day in 2012 I decided I was finished. And it turns out that that day I actually was. Looking back the quitting drinking was the easy part- for me. The hard part has been facing myself, dealing with the years of guilt, shame, anger, and pain. Not wanting to face myself was why I drank in the first place. Do you see what I mean?
I’ve been trying to think of what the secret is for me. Like, what was the magical thing that changed my mind? What made it NOT ok for me to guzzle another couple bottles of white wine that night? How did I decide that was it? And what made it stick then when I was writing in journals about “I had too much to drink again. I know I need to stop” for all my life? I made morning promises several times a week, and broke them on the same night. It used to only take me a few hours to change my mind about being sober, how did I make it this far?
It was this: I wanted to love myself more than I wanted to kill myself. My heart and soul were tired of the daily struggle to drown myself. It was this: I listened when the me part of me said “I love you. It’s going to be OK.” It was this: I believed I could do it. And I didn’t look for reasons to drink again. I look for every reason to stay sober, and never reasons to drink.
I drank because I thought it made me better. And not better as in better than but better as in healed. It blocked the hurt I could not muster the courage to face because it hurt. And so I would get drunk. And then sometimes black out drunk. At the end it was black outs all around.
But I have been facing things. Facing things that are true. Facing things that aren’t. Learning what the truth is (I’m OK) and what the truth isn’t (I’m not OK). My daily struggles are ones that see progression. Like learning a language or an instrument I am finding myself more in tune. Instead of the same daily struggle (to drink or not to drink) I am having lessons in life. Which actually sounds sort of lovely but can really suck except for when it is really lovely.
For the first time in as long as I can tell I feel peace of mind. Actual peace. In my mind. I feel like it’s because I started stopping all the mind stuff and addressed some physical issues. That I am getting into my body and out of my fucking mind. For me it isn’t all about what I’m thinking, but what I’m feeling in my body. You know, paying attention to real feelings rather than ones my mind has manufactured for me. It helps so much to see how I’m physically feeling. It’s easier to not dismiss the concrete evidence.
The daily struggle is still here: it will stay forever. It’s how I handle it that’s different. I can handle my self.
There is progress. I can see it. I can feel it. I can trust it. And I am thankful.