Four years ago today, I ended a six-week relapse and took my last sip of alcohol. I call it a relapse now but, in all honestly, when I first stopped drinking in June 2014 I had no intention of making it a forever thing. It was just a good long break to get healthy for spine surgery and I never stopped dreaming about returning to normal drinking, whatever that was. In those six weeks I learned normal drinking and I can never coexist. I set my intentions to choose differently. For good.
I’m not going to lie, getting sober was far and away the most difficult thing I have ever done. The first time around was easier – having not yet come to terms with forever, there was always the promise of being able to go back. The second time around was insanely emotional as I began the process of not just getting sober but working on my recovery.
Getting sober was far and away the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
Motherhood in 2018 was an experience I never saw coming. Before now, I haven’t gotten detailed about what happened because a huge piece of it is not my story to tell. However, my son has since become comfortable with me sharing a little bit because he knows it can help others.
In January 2018, my then 13-year-old sustained a concussion resulting from a brutal, malicious, illegal hit during a hockey game in Boston. While the concussion itself was diagnosed as mild, the effects of post-concussion syndrome were severe and my kiddo quickly slid into an unmanageable depression, unable to express his feelings and incapable of coping with a feeling of brokenness that couldn’t be fixed by an ice pack, a Tylenol, or a hug from mom.
It was terrifying and heartbreaking to see my child in such a place of despair and desperation that he felt at times the only solution was suicide. It shook my family to its core. Several times. Thankfully, we were able to get him the help he needed and he has now completely healed both physically and mentally. He will tell you he is better today than he was before the concussion. I can’t argue that. We know how lucky we are to have him back, with his light turned on and shining bright.
I could not be happier. Except that I am miserable.
For about six months, my son’s healing process was a lot like the image below which I think is somewhere in just about every sober person’s Instagram feed. For weeks, just when things seemed to be getting better, they got worse again. It was as if someone was flipping the light switch on and then off and then on. There was no in between. The roller coaster’s ups and downs were beyond extreme and wildly unpredictable. For months, it seemed every time I started to settle back into “normal,” the poop hit the fan. Again. And, again.
So many days, I wanted to escape. I wanted to check out. What I always came back to was the incredible gift my sobriety and recovery presented. Had I not been sober, I never could have given my son the support he needed to heal. I could not have given my family the support we all needed to heal.
I stayed present. I didn’t numb out. Not with alcohol, anyway.
To say I emerged from all this unscathed would be a lie. I ate my way through all of it. I have put back on just about every pound I lost in 2017. I lost 50 pounds in 2017.
I could sit here disgusted with myself, but I am done with that. I could beat myself up, but I am done with that. I look terrible. I feel terrible. And, yet, I do nothing. Self-loathing, and wishing for what was, and focusing on what I do not have will not deliver me to some magical place where the thin girl from December 2017 is waiting with open arms to embrace and welcome me back. And, yet, I do nothing.
I know what I need to do to get where I want to be. I’ve done it. It’s not hard. I know how good it feels. I want that feeling. I know all the things — and, once you know them you cannot unknow them — I’m just not doing them. I’ve been blocking my success by self-sabotaging for weeks now. And, racking up weekly Day 1s as I start the journey only to throw myself off the path, over and over.
Last night, it finally hit me.
All this weight holds significant meaning for me. And, releasing it is terrifying.
What if I lose the weight and get back to that amazing place where I am truly happy with myself again and something else bad happens? I lost myself last year and it was so darn painful to lose me. I can’t bear to lose myself again, so I somehow convinced myself it would be better and easier to simply remain lost.
This is the brain that became addicted to alcohol. This is all the negative self-talk I’ve already spent a ton of time turning around. I thought I was done with this. And, I think that’s why it never even dawned on me to look here for answers.
In hindsight, I see exactly how I simply stood by and watched myself lose me. Now, if I don’t find me I never have to lose me again. If I stay lost, I know what to expect. As painful as it is here, it’s easier and more comfortable than risking losing myself again.
Oh my hell!!!!! Is this the thinking that’s actually in my head right now?! The disbelief when I realized what was holding me back opened up the most gigantic dam and the tears flooded my face. With the rest of my family in bed, I am surprised my sobs didn’t wake anyone.
Holy fucking shit! (Sorry, but I say that in real life … a lot.)
If I don’t fix it, then it can’t break again. But the thing is, I feel I’m becoming more broken every day.
I stay up eating after everyone else goes to bed. Just the way I used to drink. I hide the food packages in the trash. Just like I hid wine and beer bottles. I’ve created a life I don’t want to escape. So why am I doing this?
Because I lost something and it hurt to lose it and I’m afraid of how hard it will be to get it back and how much it will hurt if I lose it again. But every day I wait to begin is another day I sit in the energy of lack and I glorify and give power to a struggle that doesn’t really exist.
My body hurts. All the time. I am exhausted and I do not sleep. When I do sleep, I struggle to wake. I think I’ve had a headache for a year.
Who deserves this misery? No one. Not me. I’m not protecting anyone by staying in this place of suffering. And, I am only hurting myself. I’m done now. I figured out my why and now I can be finished with this phase.
Take the action. The thinking will follow.
There’s no magic wand for this. No one else’s love can fix this. Only my love for myself can make me whole again.
Starting now, in this month of self-love, I’m going to double down on exactly that. I’ve been mistaking self-worth for self-love and while I value and respect myself, I have not been loving or kind to myself. Not because I don’t deserve it, but because I am terrified of healing just to be hurt again.
By simply doing for myself as I encourage others to do for themselves the shift will happen. I know this to be true.
I swallowed the pain. It turned into fear. It’s time to spit it out.
Fear, I see you. I understand you. Your welcome wore out a long time ago. In fact, you were never even invited. It’s time for you to leave and take with you all the crap you brought in the door.
So this is how I celebrate the beginning of year five. Releasing. To make room for receiving. Without sobriety and the lessons I have learned in recovery, this would not be possible. I could not be more grateful.
“The moment we accept our pain is the moment we release our suffering. Suffering is created when we offer life resistance, and what we resist most are the experiences that bring us pain.” ~Alaric Hutchinson
Note: It is more frightening than ever to be vulnerable in this space. I’m a certified professional life and recovery coach now and I feel like there are expectations that come with that role. But the bottom line is I am always going to be me. Unapologetic. Transparent. Authentic. Honest. If I can’t share my truth, how can I help others find theirs. I’m leading by the example of my raw imperfection rather than the intimidation of perceived perfection. I refuse to place myself on a pedestal where others will see me ans presume I have it all figured out. I want people to feel drawn to me because I have navigated the same choppy waters and found all the ways to not drown. I can’t imagine being able to understand others’ pain and struggles without having traveled this path myself. It’s the journey, not the destination. I’m never going to ooze perfection. But I am taking a lot of gunk and turning it into glitter. Piece by tiny little piece. One day at a time.