Begin Again (Again)

Another year, another month in rehab; seems like this cycle never fails to repeat itself. Stress, depression, poor coping skills and ultimately, drinking. Drinking is not the origin of the problem, but the one that usually brings the issue to life in glorious Technicolor and Surround Sound. Learning who I am and why I do the things I do will more than likely be a lifetime project, but I am getting closer to my truths each time. How many times does one have to travel down a road before they recognize it leads to a destination that is not the one they want? How many times do I try again, only to fail? How many times can people be there for me, encourage me and help me when I just fall back to pieces again? Compassionate people have their limits and everyone has something they are battling, be it depression, simple unhappiness, a toxic relationship, addiction, avoidance and a painful past. The painful past doesn’t stay in the past; like a child coloring for the first time, it goes outside the lines of the past and bleeds into the present time, often without our knowing.

One of the things we learn in therapy is why we react the way we do to certain people, places and things (emotions can be included with things) and I am learning that my painful past is fully present in my present day. The strings that lead back to the original pain are like telephone wires, communicating and echoing the pain of the incident long ago. If I do nothing to cut those ties, heal those wounds and exorcise those demons, I will be destined to repeat this process over and over again, until I can fight no more or until I am dead and gone. This is not a post about blaming others for my past, but more to understand how the past is still manipulating my thoughts and with them, my emotional well-being. I have created a great deal of my painful past, simply by being a human being and trying to make myself happy, without having the understanding of how to create real happiness. Alcohol made me happy until it made me dangerous to myself and others; men made me happy until I realized the emotion I was feeling wasn’t happiness, but some ugly deformed cousin of happiness in which their happiness (supposedly) made me happy. The old saying “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” may be true, but it’s better to not pretend love when it’s lust you’re feeling. Not to confuse the two, which I have done for most of my life. If you’ve never felt true, unconditional and pure love from someone, how would you recognize it? The thrill of the love affair brings about emotions that could be mistaken for happiness, but I’m fairly certain that the formula for happiness does not include compromising ones morals or living in secret, experiencing alternating moments of bliss and shame. My life is what I have made it and will continue to be a mix of good and bad, but mostly what lies between the two. I am responsible for my happiness and my well-being. I am not responsible for everyone else on the planet, I cannot save anyone except possibly myself. Others may care, but their lives demand their time and attention, as it should be. The choices I have made in the past have led me to the place I am today as the choices I make today will lead me to tomorrow’s destination.

My painful past is not without its benefits, as pain is a sure sign of growth. I have learned how precious life is and how easily one (me) can believe that I am not worthy of such a precious gift and try to return it. I’m pretty sure God (or Buddha, or my Higher Power) doesn’t want me to take that gift and s**t all over it and return it to Him with a single finger salute. I’m pretty sure the idea is to live the life, to the best of my ability with whatever gifts and challenges that come with it; learn and grow, love and give, have and hold forever and ever. Understanding that to error is human and to forgive, divine is the formula and there is no pass or fail, there is only learning and growing. To love oneself seems simple enough, but for some of us, it is the most difficult challenge we face, every single day. So, I will begin again (again) and keep trying, keep learning and hopefully, ultimately, I will love myself as those of you who love me do. This is my wish and my most passionate prayer. For a life without love is no life at all.


Happy One Year Anniversary to Me

Today I celebrate my one year anniversary of freedom from drinking. When I started out on this journey, I had great expectations and a healthy dose of fear about giving up my dear friend, alcohol. We’d had a long relationship that started when I was 13 and it had been my constant companion throughout my life. I wasn’t sure that I could manage without it. From the days of standing outside the liquor store asking people (mostly men) to buy me Bacardi, to the homesick days in Mississippi, drinking White Zin (yeah, I know – yuk!) to the days of red wine and roses (without the roses) to the final days of Happy Hours ending in blackouts, not to mention the poor choices I made while intoxicated, I have come to the realization that alcohol is no friend of mine.

Since I have quit drinking, I’ve been able to reconnect with myself, feel my feelings and have regained a sense of power that I thought I didn’t have. I have faced events that would have sent me running to the nearest bottle before and I have lived through those events, shed the tears and moved on. I have regained my self-esteem, my confidence and my ability to truly be present. I would have to say this is the best gift that I’ve ever given myself and I know that there will be times when I romanticize those drinking days, but much like the boyfriend that wasn’t any good for me, I will have to strive to remember why we parted in the first place.

Today I celebrate my first year and I pray for the strength to have many more years to come. I have made a promise to myself that I will nurture and love my mind, body and soul; I cannot keep this promise if I am drinking. I have found a clarity that is better than any buzz I had gotten while drinking and have shed the guilt, the shame and the constant worry that came with drinking. I no longer have to wonder if I’ll make it home without getting pulled over; I no longer have to ask someone else what I did or said the night before. I don’t have to choose between buying a bottle of wine or buying groceries. It sounds pretty simple, but it all adds up. I am by no means stress free, but I have a found better ways to cope with my stress.

So, today I will be celebrate my one year with family and look forward to the next year. I have found a great strength and comfort in the Serenity Prayer and for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, I’ll leave you with the prayer in closing.

God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can

and the wisdom to know the difference.