WHEW! Long time, no read! Part of me wants to apologize for the long gap, but I also realize that this can only come from an organic timeline, and setting expectations or deadlines will just create unwanted stress in relation to my writing, and before I know it my perfectionism will make me abandon you completely. (Trust me, it’s not you, it’s me.) It’s been a while since I have been able to sit down and collect my thoughts. I recently picked up a second job and between those hours and the holidays, time to myself for reflection has become fewer and further between. (Partly by choice – if we’re going to be honest.)
This time of year has always proven to be a really hard time for me. My first intervention was held the day after Thanksgiving in 2013. My entire world came crashing down that day, and this season has always carried the weight of that since. When I was on my journey with sobriety, I would normally do very well January – October, but would ALWAYS relapse before Thanksgiving. Every. Year. I became quite famous in my family for ruining the holidays. (Hey – at least they could count on me for something.) But really, I think it’s important to address this, and be open about it. I am far from rare, I know a lot of addicts struggle with getting through the holidays. I remember a few years back I lost TEN PEOPLE in the 4 week span between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s hard on all of us – the ones in active addiction, and their loved ones watching them struggle. When really, behind all of the pain and the actions taken to dull it, are just hearts wanting to connect. People wanting to feel loved. It’s tragic to think that if you go far enough back, that’s the source behind nearly all conflict. Someone wanting to feel loved and accepted, and always coming up short.
For me, this year feels different. Not too different, just not as hopeless. I still find myself getting moody and picking fights. I feel the distance between my family and I. I feel the loss of years wasted with family members that are no longer here. I just FEEL more than I usually do; so I feel the need to self medicate a little more often than I usually do. Thankfully I’m not reaching for anything too heavy. I think that way of thinking has finally worn off. But I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t affecting me at all. I’m still sick. And in need of constant maintenance. Even now, with all the tools and coping mechanisms that I have, I find it astounding at how badly I still want to take the easy way out. How cognitively, I KNOW that coming home to three glasses of wine and 4 hours of Netflix is not helping me work through anything, it’s just allowing me to tune out. But yet I still pine for that sweet illusion of relaxation. When really, all that it’s doing is pushing the timeline of my healing process further and further out, and robbing me of my ability to be present in my life. It’s why I haven’t written much, or mediated at all. It’s why I’m having trouble sleeping at night. And why I still haven’t gotten a tree, or decorated my home. Because my avoidance and diseased thinking has been in basic control lately. I’m still sick. But don’t worry Mom, I know this all sounds really scary and negative, but it’s not. And all it takes to transition from scary to safe, is a simple re-framing.
I remember thinking when I was being brought up in AA that you need to be spiritually sound at all times, do DAILY inventories, always jump right into your feelings, be calm in traffic, meditate three times a day, etc etc. Basically you shouldn’t feel any negative feelings ever and if you did, then you weren’t doing something right. I always equated negative emotion to failure of some sort. But A: This is totally unrealistic thinking to begin with, and B: Sometimes you need to fall off track just so you can get back on.
The way we build confidence in ourselves, the way we build our self worth, is by overcoming adversities. If someone came in with a magic wand and removed every challenge in your path, you would never feel accomplished. You would never have the same kind of relationship with yourself and your intuition as someone who has been through the trenches and comes out alive. You would never feel proud. Have you ever noticed that the people with the CRAZIEST stories are always the most grateful for their hardships? I watched a documentary last week about a guy who lost all four limbs and part of his face, and said he wouldn’t go back to his old life in a million years. That’s because hardships = lessons. And lessons = growth. And growth is the ultimate goal – the one that can never be fully achieved. The only trouble with this process is learning how to grow from your mistakes instead of multiplying upon them. If nothing changes, nothing is gained. And unfortunately, the biggest helper in this category is time. People don’t normally do anything different until they are so exhausted by themselves and tired of feeling what they feel that they are willing to try something new. Don’t worry, eventually you’ll wear yourself out. Just remember that you are always in control, and can intervene on this process whenever you choose to. You aren’t held prisoner to some timeline of suffering determined by fate. You’re in charge of your destruction, and your salvation.
“Only when the pain of remaining the same becomes greater than the pain of change, will I finally change.”
This is what people mean when they say they’re grateful for their pain. No one likes to feel it, but its important to have been felt. We must be gentle with ourselves. And not judge so harshly for our struggles or shortcomings. So no, I am not a happy camper this time of year. I don’t like to look at it or deal with it. But I also know better than to try and run from it. Sometimes, it just needs to be felt. And met with reality and gratitude. The times when my head is being the most unkind, I try to remind myself of all the years past that I prayed for the life that I have today. That my truth was once so hopeless and full of despair that I couldn’t even imagine having what I have today. That truth is a gift. An absolutely priceless gift that nobody in the world could’ve ever given me. It had to come from myself. Just in time for Christmas.
To anyone out there is still in that place – know that it is not your forever. If I got out, so can you. NOBODY could have prepared me or convinced me that I was capable of this much growth and change in 12 months time. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE AND CHANGE CAN HAPPEN SO MUCH FASTER THAN YOU THINK. Please, please reach out to me if you feel cut off from the ones you love this season. Know that I have been there and I understand it. And know that you will be met with truth and compassion. You don’t have to run anymore.