Substance Abuse Specialist
As a recovering alcoholic, I always seem to be one thought away from a drink. I know this because my journey through alcoholism has shown me how powerful addiction is.
I have realized I am my own worst enemy: the stories of unworthiness drove me to numb my pain with a bottle of wine. My mind fights the flip between freedom from alcohol and the prison of my mind: I have to monitor my thoughts and actions continually, so I do not drink.
My enemy (alcohol) is also my friend, my solace, and a trickster waiting in line to deceive and ultimately destroy. It sits silently, waiting to plant its roots in my mind and body. It allows me to relax. With alcohol, I am secured in my numbness, and nothing upsets my calm.
It was eight years ago that my ability to control my addiction ended. A surprise attack, it took me from being in control of my life to hiding myself from the world in its entirety. It lifted me away from my functional alcoholic existence to a prison made of a substance found on every street corner, and part of my own making. The walls of this prison were made of my insecurities. The person in this prison bore little resemblance to the person I wanted to become. I went from a functional alcoholic to a brooding melancholic, merely existing, and holding no self-esteem or love.
Have you ever been pulled toward something that inhibited your ability to think rationally? To do things that you usually would not do? Something that slowly steals your soul and breaks you from the inside?
As humans, we all have the fundamental needs of nourishment, feelings of safety, and personal security. And most importantly, we need touch from another human. Do you feel safe, secure, happy, and loved?
I grew up in an alcoholic house. My primary care-givers were my aunt and uncle, and my aunt drank from morning until night. I had a diary, and on the upper right corner of every page, I wrote "yes" or "no." Was it a day of quiet desperation, or alcohol-fueled chaos? I wonder, have you ever felt similar?
I don't remember having or receiving any feelings of self-acceptance or self-esteem. I lived in constant fear that I would be the object of the outlet of my aunt's self-hatred, so I left home when I was a senior in high school. My sister had been permitted by the State to take care of me until I graduated. I had no friends, no adult to look up to, and no feeling of safety. I am sure some of you understand exactly how this feels.
Although I was entering adulthood, I had not been taught the nuances of navigating life or being in touch with my emotions. Have you ever felt that you were trying to survive in a world that you did not understand? When everyone seemed to know where they were headed, and you had no idea where that might be?
I started drinking when I became a dance teacher. Every time I did a show, I was only able to perform after I had a few drinks to boost my self-confidence. Drinking relaxed me. It gave me the courage to share my talents, and, in turn, allowed me to feel pride and self-worth. But I still didn't have a feeling of purpose, only of survival. I had to be strong enough to keep my past in the past and visit it when needed as a learning tool.
My drinking escalated slowly from casual to necessary. It took me to a place of depression and self-hatred. The drinking continued until I found myself not leaving the house or answering the phone. I was drinking and sleeping until I could no longer find any worth in the person I saw in my mirror: all I saw was shame. As the storm continued to rage, I knew that I needed help to find the calm within me. Do any of these feelings resonate with you?
I went to rehab. I attended meetings and therapy. I came to believe that the end of my addiction was within me. I deliberately spent time looking inward, finding that special person within me. I realized the difference between love and loving myself.
You do not have to repeat the past; instead, you can choose to learn from it. Self-acceptance will lead you out of needing acceptance from others. It is within your grasp, but will never be found through escaping with a substance. As for substances, remember, they are the great deceivers!
P.S. If you are struggling with your sobriety, I am here to chat!