I also know it’s never just a drink for me. It’s an escape, a cover, and place where I go to hide. It’s a mask I wear, a trick I play on myself. It’s a lie I tell to myself that I will be more exciting. It’s a distraction from things that make me feel uncomfortable, from the feelings of insecurity. And it’s also a statement that I am not good enough as I am. It’s a crutch, a security blanket, and a safety net. I don’t need it anymore, and it’s confusing to me that I ever did, and why society still does. In the light of sobriety, intoxication is the grimy film on a portion of my life. Memories, they stay unclear. Some of them have feelings of greatness and invincibility vaguely tethered in my brain, but most are tinged with remorse, guilt, and shame. I try to move past the regret I have for needing to dull the realness of life. I thought I was empowering myself, but what I was really saying is that I was not strong, interesting, or confident enough to face life on life’s terms.
Most of all, the drink made me not afraid. It excused me from attempting the things that I was too worried I would fail at to even start. It whispered in my ear that I couldn’t do it, but that it was okay because I had something to fall back on. The fear I wasn’t thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough, worthy enough, good enough, or just, enough . . . was crippled by alcohol. It didn’t matter. It masked those feelings and replaced them with false bravado, superiority, and a sense of entitlement. The problem is that it didn’t treat the fear and its underlying cause. It simply arrested it long enough to give me a sense of relief. But when I was sober, there it was, powerful as ever. The alcohol could not cure the desperate need I had to bury my feelings.
I’m in the process now of acknowledging those things, the “defects” and the “shortcomings” that have prevented me from living a full life, and letting go of them. I want to accept myself for who I am, flaws and all, but I’m in a state of struggle. Quitting alcohol was the easy part. Letting go of my old ways proves more challenging. It’s harder (and yet easier at the same time) to confront myself under the harsh light of the microscope of sobriety; alcohol was there to conceal those bad traits and decisions before. I actually have to feel my feelings, to acknowledge why I make the choices I do, and to release the beliefs and actions that are unhealthy for me now. It’s perpetual slow motion these days. I feel like I am swimming towards the surface, quickly losing my breath. I’m hoping to feel the burst of air in my lungs as my crown breaks through the plane where air and water meet. I know I am close, but do I have it in me? The weights of the past are still tied to my ankles, pulling me down. Can I shake them free before I drown?
I think of when I was younger, at a crossroads. I could not have known what I know now. In any scenario, I had to go through to learn. There is no way around it. The hardest part is accepting that, accepting my experiences, and accepting myself. There is no race. There are things I can’t learn any other way. The experience is not gained by avoiding the challenge, the lesson is taught by living. This is my challenge right now, knowing I am exactly where I need to be; that at no point in my life will I have “arrived.” No baby, no house, no job, no trip, no epiphany will change that. All I can do is be present, mindful, to ask for help, to be willing, and to find the courage, somewhere deep down, to change. But most importantly, I need to remember to be grateful for where I am, each and every day, and to know this is a journey and not a destination.