I’m “supposed” to be more concerned with admitting that I’ve had a tonne of partners in my life – but that whole “shame-thing” got old the moment I got sober.
Moderation – of anything – has never been my forté.
I was young, confused, tormented, experimental, melancholy (and maybe a little bit slutty) – you know, a typical teenager / early-twenty-something in the late 1990’s who just left the small town for the big city.
I fell into what I thought was love easily.
I see now that what I was falling into wasn’t even close to love, resembling more of a waterbed of approval I would sink into over and over again, riding the waves until it settled, predictably, into boring, self-conscious, insecure stillness.
And I’d be laying there alone.
I fell in love with what I thought was being seen. The only thing I was being seen as, however, was available. And being seen as available is about as unflattering as it gets.
I may as well have been a marked down dishtowel in the checkout aisle that you impulse buy since you know you’ll use it, but it in no way means it’s something you want or need or have any intention of treasuring for the long term.
Every time, when I sensed the attention waning or the addictive sparkle of being needed start to fade, I would leave.
I have a lot of experience with leaving.
Escaping. Running. Hiding. Ghosting.
I see the pattern now.
I can see the fear, and I can see how leaving relationships and escaping reality via bottles and bongs are more alike than they are different; they are all just varied paths to the very same end – avoiding pain at any cost.
By being the one who leaves, you can’t be the one who gets left.
Each time, I would chalk up another failed relationship (friendship, job, opportunity, you name it) as being “one weirdo closer” to the real thing.
I always bailed before I could get burned, then wrote it off as though I had narrowly escaped entrapment by a psychopath or something similar – anything to help me lick my wounds (read: justify my fear-based reaction as having been absolutely necessary) and take the onus off myself (read: project the blame anywhere and on anyone but me).
Drinking naturally fit perfectly with my pattern – escapism comes in many sexy shapes and sizes, not to mention flavours and varieties of grapes.
The most dangerous thing about fear is that it’s liquid.
It finds all your nooks and crannies, all the tight crevices you fight to hold closed, and it gets inside. And just like water, it flows to your lowest point and gathers.
Souls were, unfortunately, not made waterproof.
Fast-forward 20 years and here I am, still struggling with staying – but now, with opportunities and situations rather than relationships for a change (more on Hubs in future [and many past] posts). Perhaps it’s residual dampness left behind from 40 odd years spent underwater, but I recognize it now – no longer obscured and warped in the way things bend below the surface.
No longer viewed through merlot-coloured glasses.
I’m still working on calling myself out when I see the pattern reemerging.
“You’re doing it again.”
It happens, unfailingly, when I get close.
Close to success, close to realizing a goal, close to being vulnerable and exposing my underbelly where I can be hurt the fastest and the most. Close to actualizing a dream, or close to being uncomfortable, suspended in some uneasy space between feeling out of control and the reassuring emergency exit door.
Close to possibly falling, but shedding my wings before ever giving flying a chance.
And then I place whatever I’ve abandoned into the greedy hands of The Future, who never hands things back. I set things aside, I avoid and procrastinate, and I will ‘finish that later’ – forgetting that what I do now is what I need to deal with down the road. I give them up the same way I gave up perfectly good people and perfectly good circumstances – that this just wasn’t the one.
This just wasn’t the right time.
It will happen when it’s supposed to.
I’m just ‘one weirdo closer’ to the real thing.
It’s that deeply rooted, waterlogged fear of “But what if they don’t like me?” and “What if I fail?” The grasping for approval, still there after all these years, swishing and swooshing beneath me like the same old waterbed with the same old apprehensive anxiety making me seasick. And so I lay there until it settles, until the waves calm, until it’s safe to climb off and walk away.
Except I don’t walk to the liquor store, anymore.
At least there’s that.
That emergency exit has been permanently boarded up for more than a year now, heavily graffitied with afterthoughts of whether my addiction was the chicken or the egg – the cause or the effect of so many of my insecurities (but we all know it was a bit of both).
This past year has been without a doubt, the best year of my life.
I don’t have much money in the bank, my name in lights, or a quaint cottage on the lake. But I feel as though I’ve won the lottery. That’s the curious thing about sobriety – the more you remove, the more you gain.
The space that becomes available when you take drinking out of the equation is incredible. Sobriety acts like a sump pump slowly helping to drain away all that watery fear that has collected at your rock bottom, all the damp insecurity that saturates your confidence. Now that I’m sober, I’m properly on my way to fully drying up once and for all, because once you’ve fixed the source of the flood, you can start working on the damage it’s left behind.
I’ve dried up, and I’ve opened up.
I’ve become a teacher (like a real-life, stand in front of a classroom teacher). I’ve taken up new hobbies (sourdough bread baking is my new and much healthier addiction – and yes, I know there’s a Jesus joke in there somewhere about multiplying loaves and turning water into wine – but maybe the other way around this time). I go outside. I meet up with friends. I stay in touch with family. I wake early and read, write, and meditate. I keep my promises and my appointments. I do all this, and yet there’s still so much work and repair still left to be done.
But that’s okay.
Because now I’m one day closer.
One more drink I haven’t drank, closer.
One more moment of staying when I want to run, closer.
Closer to knowing in my bones that growing closer to myself is where I have always wanted to be heading. Closer to truly understanding that every moment and experience can only take on the meaning that I give to it.
Closer to knowing that success is measured by how easily and peacefully I sleep at night.
Closer to appreciating how the weight of taking a chance and staying through what makes me uncomfortable is infinitely lighter than the weight of things avoided, undone, and unsaid.
I’m no longer one weirdo closer, because I know that the approval and attention I was seeking can’t be poured into me. It can only grow from inside myself, in all that glorious new space that has opened up since I’ve dried up – gently watered with self awareness and self care, instead of flooded beneath waterfalls of fear.
Sober. Recovery Blogger. Writer. Photographer. Storyteller.