And just like that, 40 days.
You know those moments when you come across something, and it feels as though it was meant just for you? It’s like someone had been reading your thoughts and placed exactly what you needed to see, hear, or read right in front of you. Thats exactly what this quote did for me this week. I’m not going to lie and say that Thanksgiving was easy. There were moments that day and the weekend that followed where I honestly wondered if I was strong enough to make it through this. It was in one of those moments that I came across this quote, and for some reason after reading it, I knew I would be ok. I don’t know about you, but for me it feels impossible to get through anything uncomfortable when I think about the future and all the hard days that are to come. Often times my mind runs away with me and I forget to focus on just making it through the day I’m in. In recovery they tell you over and over again “one day at a time”, and I completely understand the reason behind that now. When you reset your mind to that way of thinking, the one thing that you thought was impossible for you to do, suddenly starts to feel possible. If you would have told me a few months ago that I would spend Thanksgiving sober, I wouldn’t have believed you. There is no way I could do that. I haven’t been sober on a holiday in years, and plus, why would anyone stay sober on a holiday? Even the thought would make it feel impossible to me. But guess what? I did it. I stayed sober the entire day. I proved to myself that it is possible. If you ask my family they’d probably say I wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around that day, and I know I wasn’t, but that’s ok. I was able to spend time with my 88 year old grandpa and actually remember what we talked about. Even though I woke up that morning instantly feeling the pain of spending my first holiday as a divorced (almost) person, it was all worth it. I was able to feel all those feelings instead of drinking them away, and there is something so healing in that. I am grateful.
Since Thanksgiving, I have spent a lot of time going through all the photos I have taken over the last 10+ years. For me, part of healing and moving forward includes deleting any picture that reminds me of what I am trying to move on from. When it was all said and done, and I had gone through every picture I have, I deleted 2,358 photos. Some of them were harder to delete than others, but in the end, hitting that little trashcan button at the bottom of the screen felt so liberating, and gave me a little extra strength that I’ve been needing. I think one thing I didn’t realize would happen going through all those photos is I would come across some that I forgot I took, but am so glad I did, and also some that I wish never existed. There were hundreds of pictures from 2013-2014 that brought tears to my eyes. Not necessarily sad tears, but tears of hope. In all of those pictures I was sober, my smile was happier, and my countenance was brighter. As I looked at them I was in shock at how different I looked when I am sober vs when I was heavy in my addiction. In a way it made me angry at myself for ever picking up a drink again, but it also reminded me of how amazing living the sober life can be. As I’ve been looking at all these pictures over and over again the last couple days, I have been writing down all the positive things in my life that I get to enjoy now by staying sober, and also all the negative things that alcohol brought into my life. When you actually sit down and write a list, it makes you wonder why anyone in their right mind would drink. One list describes so much happiness while the other describes so much darkness. So why do we continue to drink when we know how terrible our lives could turn out? That is one of the most baffling things about this disease, and one thing that will never fully make sense to me. I just have to remind myself that it is a disease of the mind, and your mind is more powerful than you can ever imagine. As you read the story I’m about to tell you, you may also be confused on why anyone would ever go back to drinking. This story is sad in the beginning and explains all the sad realities of living life trapped in addiction. This story also comes with the pictures I mentioned so you can see how much alcohol affects the way you look, your body, and your countenance. The great part about this story is there is a happy ending, and one that I am hoping will inspire anyone out there who struggles with addiction to make the choice to get sober.
As I look at these pictures the story is so clear to me. This is a girl who lives every day in fear of not being good enough. This is a girl who has extreme anxiety and feels the only cure is excessive amounts of alcohol. This is a girl who wakes up every morning full of shame and regret not remembering what happened the night before. This is a girl who hides bottles all over the house so that no one can see who she really is. This is a girl who goes to work hungover, and who’s work performance lacks. This is a girl who has no self-confidence and wonders how anyone could love her. This is a girl who cries herself to sleep some nights begging for someone to take the pain away. This is a girl who pushes away family and friends and spends most her time alone. This is a girl who rarely keeps her word and is full of excuses on why she can’t come through. This is a girl who does not finish what she starts. This is a girl who is behind on her bills and who has made a mess of her credit. This is a girl who takes care of others to the point where she forgets herself. This is a girl who pushes her husband away and doesn’t know why he married her in the first place. This girl is hopeless and thinks there is no way out of her addiction. This girl is not happy and gets ready in the dark every day so she doesn’t have to look at herself. This girl does not feel loveable and hates the person staring back at her in the mirror. This girl hates life.
These pictures tell a story of the same girl you just read about, but in this story the parts are much happier and full of hope. This girl loves herself and has confidence that shows. This girl is a runner and loves doing races. This girl has finished three 1/2 marathons and feels proud of herself. This girl is funny, and is told often that she should be a comedian. This girl loves being around family and friends and doesn’t have to hide who she is from the ones she loves the most. This girl gets promoted at her job and is an amazing leader. This girl wakes up with a clear head having no regrets from the night before. This girl still has anxiety, but is nice to herself and has better ways to cope. This girl has finally hit her goal weight of 130 and feels pretty when she looks in the mirror. This girl wakes up feeling happy and excited about life. This girl finishes what she starts and pays her bills on time. This girl keeps her word and isn’t full of excuses. This girl is an amazing wife, friend, and daughter, and even when she fails, she knows she gave it her best. This girl is passionate about animals, mainly her dog, and has a dream of opening a rescue one day. This girl can’t wait to be a nurse and knows she will be a good one. This girl takes care of others at her job, but doesn’t forget about herself. This girl is beautiful on the inside and out, and knows how special she is to those around her. This girl is HAPPY, and this girl is SOBER. The End.
That’s as real as it gets my friends. That is my story with no edits to make it look better or worse. The reality of addiction is scary and feels like you are living in your own personal hell. As I wrote the first part of that story, I wanted so badly to give myself a hug. I would tell that girl just how loved she is and that she deserves someone who loves every part of her. I would tell her she is enough and that her life is important. I would remind her of what an amazing caregiver she is and the difference she makes in her patients lives. I would tell her to believe in herself and not to give up. I would tell her how much brighter her life is going to be, and that she would experience excruciating loss in the future, but that she was strong enough to make it through. I would tell her how much her mom and dad love her and how needed she is in the family. I would tell her how proud I am of her despite the mistakes she has made. I would remind her that no one is perfect and that there is beauty in flaws. If only I was able to tell myself those things, how different things would be.
So, for any of you who know someone who struggles with addiction, please remind them how special they are and that there is hope. Encourage them to get sober and live the good life, because it is possible. Nothing is impossible.