On my journey of self-discovery and working through the “Fourth Step” in my recovery, I am ready to face my darker side. This is the side that prevents me from loving myself and others, from letting others love me, and from enjoying life. The purpose of this step is to begin to remove that which blocks me from joy and love. What I am learning here, I hope you can relate to also!
It can be a painful process, but there finally comes a time when I have to stop running and avoiding resentful feelings. I need to look for buried emotions of fear, anger, hurt, and shame that have accumulated from past events in my life. I have subconscious beliefs about myself and others that could very well be interfering with the quality of my relationships. Some of these beliefs might say “I am not lovable”…”My opinions are not worthy”…”People can’t be trusted”…”I don’t deserve to be happy or successful”. I have gone through life harboring so many self-defeating beliefs and behaviors, and I need to try to unleash all of the guilt and shame surrounding them. I need to expose them to the light!
I am at the 9 month mark of my sobriety, and I find my mind obsessively wandering again- conjuring up similar thoughts as I did a year ago, at this time. The whisperings, the promises, and the wishful thinking that with a drink- relief and happiness will come. Ahhh- that escape! And- NOW I can be happy again!
I am in a tug-of-war with certain realities in my life. There is a constant battle circulating, in my head, about right versus wrong; selfishness versus selflessness; my needs versus the needs of others. There are moments where I feel I have sacrificed my happiness for the happiness of others. I am suffering so those closest to me don’t have to suffer. Why do I have to give up the one and only thing that makes me happy? How am I supposed to be happy when all I really want, COMES WITH A PRICE! Am I being selfish? Is my ego hijacking me? …. All questions I battle with, on a daily basis.
This disease is very patient. It sits. And waits….doing push-ups in the corner, gaining strength, and always ready to pounce at my most vulnerable moment. Just a few minutes of letting my guard down, and I could get swept away by an impulsive decision. Which in turn would change my life forever. I am learning that my thoughts and words have great power! If you allow your worst fears or fantasies to fully form, you run the danger of bringing them to life. It happened to me once, will I allow it to happen to me again?
During my torrid love affair with my blonde, sultry, rich, chill boyfriend (I’ll call him Chardonnay), I have now realized the amount of lying I succumbed to. I lied to protect Him! That’s how strong he was. When he had his lecherous talons in me, I didn’t care. I would protect him at any cost, for fear of losing him forever! He was my most-devoted better half. He was adoring and reliable. He was not judgmental, and he made me laugh! No one will ever love me as much as he did (or so I thought). So it’s certainly not his fault that he’s killing me. I would lie and I would die protecting him.
Five years ago when I was questioning my drinking habits, I vowed to myself that I would never become an alcoholic because I couldn’t imagine a life without alcohol. If I had to cease drinking altogether, I would rather be dead. I truly believed that life was not worth living if I had to let Chardonnay go. Wow! To even write this down, scares the shit out of me.
I kept “him” at bay for as long as I could, but he was so persistent! I needed him to relieve my anxiety and get out of my self-abusive-battleground-of-a-head. His given name was Chardonnay, but he went by many different aliases…Vicodin, Gin, Tequila, Hydrocodone, Cabernet, Percocet. Sometimes he would even convince me to play with knives and showed me really cool burning techniques.
I knew I had addictive tendencies when anything I took, that altered my brain chemistry in any way, was telling me “Yes, Yes, Yes….More, More, Please More!” Finally I feel NORMAL! Finally I feel happy! With a drink, comes the warm fuzzy feeling. And then the “big hurt” is gone! The big hurt…where did it come from?
Throughout my life, I had learned to become very well-armored. The walls came up so no one could hurt me. I presented myself well on the outside, but inside I was falling apart. Self-love and self-respect were quickly vanishing. As a teenager I withdrew to protect myself from criticism, judgement, and disapproval. I was only concerned with how I looked in others’ eyes. I only spoke what I thought others wanted to hear. I needed to make others happy. If they liked me, then I could like myself. The moment I felt any deprecating eyes upon me, I became self-abhorring and hypercritical of myself.
What I am learning is that I spent a great portion of my life as a prisoner of what other people thought of me. I had absolutely no concept of myself, not a clue as to what my true feelings were. What are my values? Are my opinions and ideas worthy of consideration? And why would anyone care to hear them? So many years wishing I was someone else- anyone else! How awful- what a fucking waste of time!
I began to deny and doubt my own feelings and perceptions- I couldn’t trust my own intuition. Because I couldn’t express myself to others- it made me so self-conscious and anxious, I just completely isolated myself. My self-esteem sank lower and lower and my self-image became so distorted.
I was a passive observer in life. I have always let everyone else decide things for me. Maybe because I was the youngest and quietest in my family? I didn’t have the power to make decisions for myself. I was fearful that I would make mistakes or appear too pushy or demanding. I worried that if I was decisive, I would alienate or make those around me unhappy. I had such a desire and determination to be liked, I would do or say anything…I eventually ended up with no real opinions, feelings, or values of my own.
I could transform myself into anyone the person I was presently with, wanted. I was an amazing CHAMELEON! I had many different masks and disguises. Decisiveness felt too risky, too likely to cause conflict and loneliness. I couldn’t make confident decisions for my real self, consequently my inner wants and needs were never satisfied.
I was self-protective and defensive because I felt inadequate and could always find fault with myself. I didn’t want to let anyone close enough see how I really felt inside. This defense had built up over a lifetime. I just trained myself to hide my real feelings- maybe because I didn’t want to get yelled at. There was a lot of yelling and verbal abuse growing up in my home. I learned to get positive attention by looking “pretty” and being “nice”. Throughout my life, my self-sufficiency helped me survive and protected me from rejection. But as an adult, I became a prisoner of my self-sufficiency, isolated inside. I kept people at arm’s length with a detached charm.
My life became the sum total of all of my mistakes, little tragedies, and bad choices. Addition on top of addition, they piled up until the cost of keeping up appearances was too high and the weight was just too much. And then, Collapse! This is where my addictions came to the rescue.
But I now want to get to the point where I am not fighting me, or you, or life, or this disease, or the devil, or God. I want to be at peace with ME, with you, and with my very own God. When I perform according to the best I know, there seems to be a nod of approval from the universe. If I can reach the highest potential and expression of myself, if all of my actions and intentions are driven by LOVE, then there will be no repercussions- no guilt or shame.
Maybe I need to accept the current situation I put myself in. Acceptance doesn’t always mean we are giving our complete 100% approval. It does not mean surrendering to the will and plans of another. It is not forever- it is only for the present moment. I can accept my sobriety, even though at times I may not love it. I can give up the fight of always walking in its path of temptation. I could surrender, no matter how uncomfortable it is, and move forward with life in “real time”…raw, exposed, but honest and humbling. Accepting and surrendering are two concepts that hurt the most before we do them!
It has taken me 46 years to finally acquire a little self-love. To be OKAY. To be OKAY with sitting in my own skin. To be OKAY with my true self. No wonder I frickin’ flooded my veins with Chardonnay. I couldn’t stand myself. I walked through life with the soft comforter of a wine buzz to soften the blows of life. But now I know I cannot spend the remainder of my life desperately wishing I was anyone but me. That is completely unacceptable!!!
This is the beauty of life. Time is mine to keep and to change. Just a few minutes can be sufficient to carve out a new road, a new track. This is how we grow and learn- like trees- swelling to encompass all of these stories, promises, lies, bribes, and habits. Branching out, reaching for light, clarity, justification, and approval.
If we can recognize that we’re making a mess of things, do we have a clue about how to stop? How do we satisfy our own happiness, and grow strong and independent, without being too selfish? Do I have to live my life always at a crossroads, continuously trying to choose the right way to go? Am I moving towards my own clarity and happiness? Am I causing others harmful confusion and pain? My heart is quite often split in two.
There is a Native American story, that I love, where a grandfather is speaking to his grandson… He says to the boy, it was as if two wolves were fighting in his heart. One wolf was vengeful and angry, and the other wolf was understanding and kind. The young boy asked his grandfather which wolf would win the “fighting in his heart”. And the grandfather answered, “The one that wins will be the one I choose to feed”. How can we call on our innate intelligence to see what helps and what hurts ourselves and others? I’m on the fence….which way do I jump? Which wolf do I feed?
Some of our main faults and impulsive actions stem from pride, anger, fear, and jealousy. What are our destructive tendencies? What keeps us up at night? What makes our skin crawl and our blood boil? What keeps us from having healthy relationships with other people? These are all questions I need to contemplate if I want to move forward and live a loving, fulfilling, soulful life.
We must let go of old grudges and not avoid people and situations and emotions that make us feel uneasy. I will try not to cling to my fears and close-mindedness. I will try not to hold onto resentments. Resentments poison my heart and my mind. There will always be that background hum of edginess and restlessness…there will always be that vengeful urge to blame anyone but ourselves.
Whatever conclusion I come to, all I know is that if I FIGHT for my story, if I can OWN my story, and if I can LOVE myself through this process- it will be the most courageous thing I have ever done! Yes, there is pain in our lives but there is beauty too. I just need to open my heart, quiet my mind, and live gracefully in the moment.
Give love. Feel empathy. Have a sense of humor. Practice gratitude. Be kind. Admire moments of grace.