Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Just Because

My eleven year old daughter leans into me, out of the blue, and sighs happily.

I rest my chin on the top of her head (the top of her head? when did she get so tall?) and inhale her musky-strawberry scent.

"What's up?" I ask.

"Nothing, Momma," she mumbles.  "I just wanted you."

She wants me. 

Two months ago I lay face down on a rumpled, cramped twin bed at the treatment facility and sobbed until my eyes ran dry.  In my mind's eye I could only see the smoldering wreckage of my life.  I drank again, I thought, and the worst part is I don't even know why.

I rub her back, and we sway back and forth.  I love you, she says, simply.  Not in response to a gift she's been begging for, or as an apology for one of her mood swings.  Just because.

Love you too, I reply, afraid to say more, to overdo it, scare her off.

My mind pings back to her first visit to the treatment center; how she stayed at arm's length and only flicked her eyes in my direction twice.

With each visit she moved a little closer.  On the second visit she sat next to me while we ate lunch. The third?  She gave me a hug before she left.  By the final visit she chattered away about her life, and even smiled at me.

The card from her that greeted me as I walked in the door after a month away said:  I love you, and I am so proud of you Momma, but it will take time to build back trust. Just don't drink.  I know you can do it.

One thing about tossing a bomb into the middle of your life?  You get to pick through the ruins, hoping to find the things that truly matter to you, praying you can get them back.

Like the musky-strawberry scent of a pre-teen girl who hugs me, just because.


This post is part of Heather of The Extraordinary Ordinary's free-writing link-up, Just Write.  Click HERE to join in!

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Other Side of Fear

I want to say a heartfelt thank you to all the support, love and encouragement I have received since my last post about my relapse.

I'm pleased to report that the saying "feelings aren't facts" is totally true.  My fear of being judged or alienated proved to be ill founded.  If there are people judging me out there they are remaining blissfully silent. 

I am overwhelmed (in the good way) by all the comments, messages and emails. 

When we are suffering, it is easy to feel like we're the only people on the planet. It seems like the bad feelings are never going to get better.  No matter how many times I have said to other struggling people "hang in there, it gets better", it is still very difficult to believe that when it's me who is in pain.

When I wrote about my alcoholism before - from the start of this blog - it was from the relatively safe perch of time and distance.  It wasn't as hard to write about the stigma, shame, regret and guilt of alcoholism with over a year sober tucked under my belt.  For someone who writes extensively about the power of truth and vulnerability, when it came time to share my own without the buffer of time I felt more frightened than I have in a long time. 

I had to wait to hit "publish" on my last post until I felt in my gut I was putting my words out there for my own healing, not because I wanted to dispel rumors or try to project some image of okay-ness that wasn't true.  I had to be sure I wasn't writing for anyone but myself and was able to let go of the outcome.  

I forgot about the power of truth and vulnerability.  Not everyone understands addiction or recovery, but everyone understands suffering and courage.

Because it takes courage to be vulnerable.  When someone speaks or writes their truth - unvarnished and straight from the heart - I feel awe and admiration, and no small measure of respect.  When it's my turn, however, the urge to varnish. minimize or maximize the truth is overwhelming.  

And why do I want to polish up the truth?  Why do I feel this urge to minimize my accomplishments?  


Fear of being judged, of course, but also fear of the "who do you think you are's".  

I have learned that fear is at the root of so many deflecting emotions like anger or resentment. Fear is also at the root of pride, envy, perfectionism and shame.  At the heart of it all, for me, is self-centered fear of rejection and abandonment.  

Social media can amplify and exaggerate this fear.  People don't post about their vulnerabilities often.  We aren't practiced in expressing our fears.  When perusing Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. we can find ourselves comparing our insides to everyone else's highlight reels.  

What I felt from the responses I received from my last post was relief and identification.  Even people who aren't alcoholics, who aren't in recovery, wrote to me about their own struggles, fears and experiences with falling down and getting back up.

Many, many people expressed that they wish they could be more open about their fears, doubts and insecurities but that they couldn't because of fear of peoples' reactions, of not fitting in and being perceived as weak or inferior.  

There is a chasm between how we feel on the inside and what the world sees, and at the bottom of this chasm is a river of suffering.

Every time we open up and share our truth, our vulnerability, we are building a bridge across this chasm.  In recovery we do this all the time; we open our mouths to save our lives so the chasm doesn't swallow us whole.

I will never be rid of fear, but I am learning to embrace it as a great teacher.  The antidotes to fear are self-love, faith and truth.  When I can face my mistakes, regrets and truths with compassion and love, I can find the strength to build that bridge. The only way fear wins is if I stop trying; if I avoid what is really going on inside and keep polishing up the outside instead.  The shiniest castle built on sand will eventually fall.

My relapse happened, in large part, because I didn't want to face some hard truths about what was going on underneath it all; how my foundation was crumbling as I madly kept on building. 

I can't get well on my own; when I try to fix myself I inevitably make things worse.  Thank you - everyone - for your words of hope and encouragement, but mostly importantly for sharing the vulnerable, beautiful parts of yourselves. When we raise our voices together, fear doesn't stand a chance. 

If you're struggling and have been afraid to reach out for help because of fear, take a deep breath, and speak your truth to a trusted friend or loved one. Or even start by speaking your truth out loud in front of a mirror. Tell yourself what you're afraid of.  Truth shines a light on the things that make us suffer and sends fear scuttling into the shadows.

Let go.  It's worth it.  You're worth it.

And so am I.