In January of 2019 I made the decision to quit drinking, it wasn’t the first time I made that decision, and with the exception of one stressful, temptation-filled, night a few weeks later, I have been sober since then. Sobriety is an interesting place to be after my life, a slice of happiness, calmness, contentment, and innocence that I have never really experienced.
My problem with alcohol didn’t develop until my only child died, and I was severely injured by a surgical mistake a few months later, and while before that I was just a social drinker, after those losses it changed, alcohol because more of a need than a want. Something inside me changed, perhaps chemically, or perhaps emotionally, but for whatever reason, alcohol became my crutch to get through the days.
I didn’t tell anyone that I had quit drinking, I didn’t post a sober day count on the social medias, as I had seen how that works… sometimes announcing your intentions to the world brings all manner of chaos around, like a light turned on the in dark, the moths will come. So I quietly, secretively even, went about getting myself sober.
It was easier this time than the others, it was almost like God reached down personally to take all the longing, pain, and angst away, and I was doing an awful lot of praying. I felt light, clean, inspired, and uplifted, completely foreign to what I referred to as my depressed normal. And thankfully, after a lot of hard work, my life, and lifestyle, is set up to maintain and support a sober, healthy, life. I’m sure my way is not the way for most, but for me living simply, with nature and prayer, has given me a new perspective and a new life.
The thing about being given a new life, though, is that the old one is still there, it still exists whether I am participating or not, people gotta people, after all.
What never really dawned on me was that the alcohol was just another symptom of a deeper issue. They say addiction is a disease, and I do think there are some genetic components to it, but I feel it is mostly just a symptom, one of many used to avoid a deeper pain.
I realize now that I had been full on running since I left home at seventeen, running to avoid feeling some uncomfortable and ugly truths. Running like the devil was on my heels, piling fresh traumas onto the old. There was literally no calm oasis from ages seventeen to thirty-six, no time for my body and mind to relax, but going into a deeper level of thought, running was the only way to escape the deeply ingrained fear, shame, and hatred of myself. The pain all abused kids feel, I imagine.
When my son, Steven, died, I hit a wall. I couldn’t function, and then the surgery threw me so low there was nothing but the bed, my thoughts, and me, and that was a terrifying place to live. When I recovered physically, Chardonnay and Merlot were my new best friends. I had successfully gotten up on my running feet again without looking down into the deep abyss inside, I had simply shoved some more stuff down in the hole, and took off in a new direction. I am nothing if not resilient.
You can only run so long, though, you can only stay so busy, and I know how to stay busy… Thankfully God has been quite gentle with me this time, no bruises, no concussions, no open wounds, no terrible tragic events, just a strong, loving, man, gardens, flowers, trees, water, and animals. And you know what? I still didn’t look; I buried the abyss under a hundred things to accomplish everyday, and knew I was healing and on the right path, still blind, but not self-injurious besides a few pulled muscles.
I always thought the word “triggered” referred to some entitled kid who became offended by a flag or a sign or a statue, it was never a part of my vocabulary, but then a text came, and I looked at the word triggered in a new way. It’s funny how your body reacts sometimes, long before your mind or emotions catch up, and I suppose that visceral physical reaction has saved my ass more than a few times in my life, but it’s different when there is no real, physical, threat.
I had an anxiety attack, followed by what can only be described as a complex posttraumatic syndrome event. There was nothing to fight, nowhere to run, but my body sure reacted, and I’ve learned that the word triggered is more of a psychological term to describe the reawakening of repressed traumas. Suddenly the rug was pulled out from under me, and I wasn’t just peeking down into the abyss, I was swimming in it.
Repressed memories are not forgotten memories, it’s more like the memories are all there, you just don’t look at them all at the same time, you look at one, occasionally, if you have to, and avoid the others. You compartmentalize them; you divide them into smaller, manageable, pieces, and set them back in the furthest corners, out of sight, out of mind. And once they are placed on the shelves, way in the back room of your mind, you slam the door, lock it, and turn forward while putting on your running shoes.
For the last weeks those memories, all of them, have made themselves known, in what could be described as vibrant flashbacks, or what is definitely known as nightmares. I’ve not been tempted to drink them away, though, which is a real blessing. Suddenly, it seems, God has given me the strength to face them head on, and deal with the issues that have kept me in self-destruct mode for all of my life.
What I am finding is that a lot of the definitions I’ve used to describe myself are not my words, and are not the truth. I feel like I’m unburying the person I was meant to be, and burying the person created through violence, brain injury, dissociation, trauma, and fear.
I also know that the world doesn’t accept personal change well, those flapping butterfly wings disturb the darkness in the universe and in people, and I know by speaking openly I will be inviting chaos, and I pray that I am indeed strong enough, but it is time… It is past time for me to start the healing process.
My life seems to have been divided into sections, eighteen years a child, eighteen years a mother, eighteen years a grieving, suicidal, self-destructive, mess, and I am really beginning to look forward to the next eighteen years. Things are looking up, but first I just need to turn on the lights and trudge through the abyss for awhile.