I have no intention of spending my entire adult life healing from my past, but I do have every intention of doing the work as thoroughly and deeply as I can for as long as it takes because I AM worth it. In the rooms of AA I have often heard it said that at 5 years the “real work” starts. I have to assume that means 5 years is around the time people start figuring out what the Hell happened in their lives to cause them to seek solace in a substance to begin with. There are those who strictly feel that nothing happened and they were born with the gene. That may be true for them. I am certain I was born with that gene. My family is full of alcoholics and addicts. Throw some “complex trauma” into the mix and I really didn’t stand a chance. Gene or no gene. As many times as I have been in therapy in my life, never have I ever addressed that complex trauma. Until recently. The complex trauma I am referring to is ongoing childhood sexual abuse. Things that were never my fault, but affected me for a lifetime. I’ve eluded to it here before but never came right out with the words. Because they are hard words to write about. I know the statistics, and I know that I am NOT the only one. Not even close. I am not writing about it for sympathy, I am writing about it because sharing my truth with the world is the best thing I can do for ME. I won’t go into details, but I will say that it seemed to me like I grew up with a stamp on my head indicating that I was the one to be used in this way. I was the one. It was OK to do these things to me. And I always wondered why. I thought something was wrong with me. I KNEW something was wrong with me. Today I know that this is just the way it goes with a child who has been sexually abused. We are either stuck in the vibration of being a victim or our body language changes in such a way that we are an easy target. And it happens again and again. To so many children. I’ve always been resistant to processing it in therapy, because I am an adult and these were things from my childhood. It seemed silly for me to go back and dig shit up. Especially since I didn’t necessarily think it was still affecting me. But, then those repressed memories started flooding back and I really had no choice. I have talked about EMDR therapy before and the fact that I suck at it. I wish I could process that way, because it seems like a quicker solution to me. I always say I suck at EMDR, but the reality is that I don’t suck at it, I just don’t seem to process that way. I happen to be really good at psychodynamic therapy. Maybe I’m even the best at it. Because that’s important. 😉 Two weeks ago my therapist and I were talking about some things that were “heavy.” That’s the only way I can describe how it feels to process those events. It feels like heavy energy weighing down on me. It’s shame. I know that today. I still have a lot of shame associated with that abuse. Intellectually, I KNOW that it’s not mine to carry and that I didn’t do anything wrong, but emotionally, it’s still there. Sometimes more so than others. This was one of those days. I left her office feeling bad about myself. I didn’t share that with her at the time. I drove myself straight to the tattoo shop. I just knew I needed a new tattoo right then and there. I was so disappointed when the tattoo shop was closed. This ended up being a blessing in disguise. I didn’t see it at that moment. It gave me an opportunity to figure out exactly what that need was about. At first I thought it meant I felt the need to hurt myself. But, now I realize that I just wanted to feel something different than what I was feeling. I have spent a lifetime wanting to feel something different than I was feeling. I am in no way against getting more tattoos, but I do realize impulsivity is something I need to be aware of. I really thought I was past that need to escape and I was good to go with “sitting with my feelings.” That experience was an eye opener for me and a reminder of what recovery is all about. It’s about healing on every level. It’s about being with uncomfortable experiences and staying present. I am not sure when those feelings of shame go away. I have read every Brené Brown book. I have read John Bradshaw’s books. I have a full understanding of how shame works. I just haven’t quite figured out how to completely move past it. I do all the reading, writing, meditating, energy work, therapy and body work. It isn’t a feeling that’s constantly there. But, when it hits, it hits hard as feelings of unworthiness. That’s a feeling that’s hard to sit with. I’ve heard the phrase “feelings aren’t facts” and it rings true here. I am worthy, simply because I AM. My hope is that sharing my truth is a step toward letting go of shame and a step toward empowerment. Empowerment is where it’s at.
Guess who woke up 1,700 days sober today? This girl right here! I am not really a day counter so much anymore, but occasionally I check my sobriety app and yesterday I happened to hit it at 1,699. Last night before I fell asleep, I was thinking about my first AA meeting. Not really my first, because honestly, my first meeting was after a 28 day stay in a treatment center when I was 21 years old. I was battling an addiction to methamphetamine then, and not an alcoholic (in my mind), so I really couldn’t relate and didn’t feel like those meetings were the place for me. (I’ll share more on meth addiction another day) My first meeting on my journey to getting sober was here on Oak Island. I think it was early fall. September or October, but I could be totally wrong about that. Because I was drunk. I woke up that morning to find that my husband had hidden my car keys and wallet. A sure sign that the day before had not been a good one. He had also hidden my bottle of bourbon. Or poured it out. But, he didn’t hide the Mike’s Hard Lemonade (which I typically mixed with vodka). So, at 8 am, I started drinking Mike’s Hard Lemonade because that’s what I had. I was very much drinking it to piss my husband off. I was drinking AT him. That was something I did regularly. Like a child. I called a friend to start a bitch session about what an asshole he was to hide all of my stuff. She stopped me short to ask WHY I was drinking at 8 o’clock in the morning. She couldn’t wrap her head around it and proceeded to tell me that I was drinking way too early and it was happening way too often. She told me that I might have a problem with alcohol and that I should go to an AA meeting. She offered to take me to a meeting that was starting at 9 am. I got off the phone and got ready to go, still drunk from the previous day and working toward a new day’s drunk. A few minutes later she called me back because her car wasn’t in her driveway. She had forgotten that she got a ride home the previous night and didn’t have her car. Immediately, I felt it was shady that I needed a meeting but she didn’t? For whatever reason, I was ready to go and kind of set on it, so I called another friend who came to my house, picked me up and took me to the church where the meeting was. She recognized the blue AA sign in the window, told me this was the place for me and dropped me off with my Mike’s Hard Lemonade. What a freaking mess I must have been. And really, her too, for recognizing the AA sign from her own attempts at getting sober and for letting me into and out of her car with that drink. But, Whatever, I was the one who was drunk at 8 am. I got out of her car, took a big drink or the Mike’s, and poured the rest out. I walked into the meeting late and disruptive. As soon as someone tried to speak to me, I immediately became angry. Really, really angry. I had nothing in common with these people. As far as I could tell they were a bunch of miserable old men who were forced to go to these meetings every day for the rest of their lives and that was it for them. A miserable existence that I wanted no part of. It terrified me. I acted like a complete asshole in hopes that everyone would hate me and I would never be invited back. Imagine my surprise when they told me to “keep coming back.” And I did. As it turned out, everyone I knew was incredibly happy that I was going to meetings. In their minds it meant I was not drinking. In reality, it meant I was hiding my drinking and drinking even more because nobody knew. Let me tell you, once a person starts hiding their drinking, it goes downhill quickly. Since nobody knew, I could drink at 6 am. And I did. I just had to keep the ice quiet as I was filling my glass. I drank all day. Everyday. I even woke up in the middle of the night and drank myself back to sleep. The next year and a half was horrible. I was never not drinking, and therefore always making poor choices. My therapist was treating me for Borderline Personality Disorder. Since nobody knew how much I drank, there MUST have been some real mental health issues going on with me. And I went with it. I took that Borderline Personality Disorder and owned it. I even had the shirt. Seriously. A shirt with the diagnosis code on it. It was easier to go to therapy and work towards living a good life with Borderline Personality Disorder than it was to not drink. I joined a Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT) group and went every week. I sat in that group and judged all of those people in my head. They had real problems. I obviously did not. My life was a constant attempt to be drunk, without appearing drunk. My entire life was a lie. And it was hard. The reality is that I wasn’t really fooling anyone but myself, and at some point I stopped hiding. I landed in the ER countless times. On one occasion, because I no longer cared about anything at all, I went to bed in the middle of the afternoon with a half gallon of vodka. I proceeded to drink the majority of it straight out of the bottle and what I didn’t get in my mouth, I spilled all over myself and the bed. My husband decided I was probably going to die that day and he wasn’t having it. He called 911 and I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. All of those trips to the hospital run together for me and I don’t have a clear memory of exactly what happened next. Some of those trips ended with me locked in the psych hospital. Sometimes they ended in detox or a treatment center. Never was it a happy place for me and never was it where I wanted to be. All through this process I was attending AA meetings and resisting the program because I didn’t believe I was powerless over alcohol and that my life was unmanageable. Can you imagine? THAT was a miserable existence. That miserable existence is one I never want to go back to. Every day I am grateful for the moment of clarity that hit me on day 5 of my final treatment center. The day I chose to live.
That’s why I do the work. I choose me. I choose to live. Some days I think it takes a lot to be me. Some days I slack, but there are so many things in my repertoire, that I am hitting on at least two or three of them daily. Meditation. Yoga. Journaling. Meetings. Energy Healing. Therapy. I’m adding Kirtan and Dancing to that mix because they feel so good to me. There’s healing in all of it. In the past 1,700 days I have built a life that I absolutely love. It is through my recovery that I discovered my gifts, my passion and my purpose. I am FULL of joy today. I know what it’s like to live in the dark, and I am grateful when even the tiniest light shines my way. Today, the whole sun is shining on me.