When I started on this recovery journey I thought the only part of me that needed to change was the part of me that craved alcohol like I craved oxygen. The longer I stay sober, the list of things I need to work on seems to be getting longer and longer each day. You see, the alcohol was just a symptom – it was a quick fix for what was really broken – me! Over the years, I taught myself to use it as a coping mechanism – and for a long time, it was the ONLY coping mechanism I had.
Since getting sober, my addiction has manifested itself in a number of different ways in my life – most recently into things like codependency, food and shopping.
When I sit back and think about this, it makes sense to me. I spent much of my life trying to avoid uncomfortable feelings – I spent a good chunk of my twenties not allowing myself to feel anything at all. I was always searching for something outside of myself to make me feel better about myself. Alcohol, pills, attention from men, money, food and relationships.
Spoiler alert – none of those things made me love myself anymore than I did before I had them – in fact, most times they made me feel worse.
Here’s the thing, when you don’t allow yourself to learn healthy coping mechanisms, you will resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms 100% of the time.
Alcohol, for example, was convenient, swift and it never once rejected me. Food is accessible, necessary for survival and it fills the physical/emotional void I feel at times. I have never once had to tip-toe around food or obsess about what it thought of me. And then there is codependency. This one is sneaky and all consuming. It’s not tangible. I can’t hold it in my hands, but I can hold it in my mind and my heart – and I do! It is relentless. When I take on the feelings of others, I don’t have to focus on my own uncomfortable emotions. I can stuff those thoughts and fears down so deep that I don’t even realize I am being buried alive – all while carrying your feelings on my shoulders – slowly sinking under the weight of it all.
Add to that my incessant insecurity as it pertains to my physical appearance, because somewhere along the way I learned to attribute worthiness and value with outward appearance. I carry this with me to this day. I still have this “beauty is on the outside” mentality – but ONLY as it relates to myself. I can find beauty in every single person I meet, and yet I still struggle to find anything beautiful when looking at my own reflection.
I know this is not unique to me, but sometimes it feels as if it is…
Like most things in life, these moods ebb and flow. Some days I feel confident – secure in the person that have become, or at the very least, tolerant of her. The next day I feel embarrassed by my weight, or my tired eyes, and I have to push myself to even set foot outside my house. Those days are my hardest – those days suffocate me.
And so I’ve learned that the road to recovery is a life long journey. Today, I need to continue to work on self-acceptance. Tomorrow, it will be something different. It’s a process.
That’s what recovery is – a process. If my goal is to simply be better each day than I was the day before, then I should never be bored. I will ALWAYS have something new to work on. This is where growth happens. This is where the real work in recovery takes place.
Can I accept life on life’s terms? Am I willing to look at my part in all of this? Can I survive my emotions? Can I set healthy boundaries in order to protect my recovery? Can I make changes when necessary? Am I willing to look deep within myself and dig out all of those things I’ve buried deep down and work through them one by one?
The answer to all of these questions is yes. I will continue to put in the work because self-reflection and a fearless moral inventory has worked for me – and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I don’t always know how or why it works, but I do know that I haven’t picked up a drink in over 5 years. In this moment, that’s all the proof I need.
It’s not always easy. Most days I wish there was an easier, softer way – but I’ve been around long enough to know that the things we want most in this life take a great deal of effort to obtain. We do not grow as human beings when things are served up on a silver platter, we grow through trials and tribulations. And I’m not done yet!
The greatest coping skill I have gained in recovery is the ability to talk openly and honestly about what is really going on in my life. If my secrets kept me sick, my honesty will keep me healthy.
Thanks for letting me share my recovery with you all – even when it’s not so pretty.