I was always worried about being left behind as a child. Overlooked by the neighborhood kids during summer tag games, left off the list for high school party invites. Even as an adult, accomplished in my field, when a smooth-talking heavy hitter turns away from me mid-sentence for someone deemed more worthy, that same feeling is there. I’m not good enough.
This is a story about realizing, through flirting with sobriety, that I had lost a beautiful part of myself years ago and then suddenly began to find myself again. The person I thought I was going to be when I grew up, somewhere along the way disappeared into the void. This story is about a girl who was told over and over again that she wasn’t terribly pretty, her ideas were too loud, and she wasn’t very smart or terribly talented. Just. Not. Enough. I have spent the past year plus of my journey reaching back and grabbing onto the hand of that small girl, talking to her late at night, crying during a yoga class with her, and bringing her back to where she belongs. This is her story, and possibly yours.
Finding the drink.
When I started this journey of learning about how alcohol somehow became a big, fat hairy major part of my life, I had my story neatly packaged up in the back of my mind. The problem had started in college, and had gotten worse when I met my husband in my early twenties while working in bars and restaurants. Easy access to parties, and spontaneous fun, all revolving around drinking. Then out of nowhere, a shared memory from a friend on social media told a very different story. Her version of my story placed me square in the middle of starting to drink way earlier than I’d been telling myself.
This memory jolt felt like a physical shredding of the wiring inside my head, making me feel unsteady about my very existence. I knew drinking had robbed me of many lost moments, ranging from time with my kids to watching a movie five times over the last few years and not knowing the ending, but now I saw this alcohol demon had also physically changed my brain and the way it functions.
The gates were now open. Other pieces of my past came back into focus. Painful relationship issues from the past I’d buried and “gotten over” crept back in without invitation, situations I’d completely forgotten started to resurface for a second look. The clarity of new sobriety offered a safe passage back in time to see those moments for what they were. To make peace with them. This realization that the person I thought I was all these years may actually be quite different than what I’d been carrying around, this is when things got really serious with my drinking journey.
I hadn’t planned for this part. I had been focused on the physical benefits of moderation and sobriety, immersed in all sorts of quit lit and online support groups, and pouring my heart out in a private online journal. Until then I felt sorta kinda in control of this sober journey. But now I felt like I was wrestling a giant bear that had moved in to my house that nobody else could see but me.
Things fall apart.
More began to unravel in my life, some within my control and some not. I started to wonder if I’d not been paying attention and this all had been happening all along, or if cutting back on the booze allowed this new lens of clarity. Soon enough, I found out this clarity, this being here regardless, was the first step towards finding my old self again.
There she is.
I didn’t recognize her at first, the old me, which sounds ridiculous when I say it out loud. I started looking for her, in photos and old clothes, dusty boxes and dysfunctional friendships. I was able to slow down and watch clouds float by or read a book before bed with her. She slowly started to come around more often and walk alongside me. I felt like I was carrying a big secret around, that everyone around me was going about their lives, happy as clams, and I had somehow moved into this alternative universe of reality, almost like I had an imaginary friend. But it felt, well, good.
Feeling good, I realized, was something I’d been lacking for a while. Good about me.
This young girl, full of dreams and hope was back in my life. She was skinny, hungry and unsure. I barely recognized her, as it had been so long since we’d seen each other. We hung out together, writing each morning, sharing our secrets and guzzling seltzer and ginger beer, becoming someone who took baths and went to bed early without apology. We are still getting to know each other again, she and I. She is still so very young and full of the blissful optimism that youth offers, which sometimes feels uncomfortable and hard to me. But she’s teaching me how to give in and retrieve parts of me that were so important back then, parts that went missing. I’ve rekindled a special friendship with an old and dear friend I ignored for decades, someone I blew off, kicked around and shut out of my life, and she’s forgiven me for all of it. Strangely enough that feeling I’ve always had of never being good enough, or being left behind isn’t there anymore. Along the way, on this sober journey, I’ve got myself back.
This post was written by Hopeful Cat – Read more from this author’s Sober Journey
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