December 2, 2019

Alcohol was great at letting me Hide from my Pain—but Not for Healing It.


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There are those pieces each of us has, the pieces of a story keeping us locked into a tale that doesn’t necessarily serve us.

From this place, we allow deception to be woven into who we think we are and how we behave in any given scenario. We cling to these beliefs so steadfastly, unaware that they are the cause of our suffering.

And then something happens, something that jostles us a little. Sometimes, that jostle is enough to get us to reexamine the threads of our story. We are granted an opportunity to peel back the layers of our existence and identify that which no longer aligns. We courageously dive into the emotions that come up when our greatest fears are realized and acknowledged.

My deep courageous dive—which really feels like fumbling around in the dark most of the time—started when I had this fairly groundbreaking awakening as a result of my marriage ending, and quite haphazardly sent myself down a rabbit hole of self-discovery and transformation. I find it incredibly interesting how a single event in the course of our lives can determine the rest of it. Something that I, at one time, thought was the end of my life, catapulted me into a vibrant journey of self where I was handed an opportunity to discover the inner workings of my heart and soul.

Just about one year ago, I stopped drinking alcohol.

Of all my ruminations—and believe me, there are many more to come—the inquiry into my relationship with alcohol was one of the most interesting. Alcoholism runs in my family and I have always had a sinking feeling that I was one drink away from following suit. I had been experimenting with alcohol in my early teens and have, more or less, been drinking ever since. There were times my drinking was excessive, but mostly it was not. I have never gotten in trouble for drinking. I have never missed a day of work due to drinking. Drinking has never severely impacted any area of my life. And yet, it was complicated because I relied on it.

It was my escape. A glass of wine or a pint of beer was the perfect solution to a hard day with the kids. It always solved any anxiety associated with social events and go to me out to dance when I only went to listen to the music. I used it often in the early days of my divorce, desiring to do anything but try to understand what the hell was to become of my life. I used alcohol to stop feeling. Alcohol dimmed the emotions so that I didn’t have to listen to the anxiety, fear, and pain. When it wore off, I kept busy mothering my children until I put them to sleep at night and poured myself a glass of wine.

I drank so that I didn’t have to feel. I drank so I couldn’t hear the the voices that screamed out all of my fears. I used drinking like a light switch, masking emotions in the numbing effects of alcohol.

I had been thinking about stopping for awhile. The fact that I wasn’t consuming alcohol in a way that created much of an impact on my life made it easy not to address it with any immediate attention. And then, as is frequently the case, something happened that made my heart hurt and tears flow and I got stinking drunk and made a fool of myself. And then, I decided to be done.

It was not hard for me to stop. This alone was surprising to me. Through meditation and committed personal healing, I had created a practice of looking at the shadow aspects of me and it was clear that my relationship with alcohol was one of them. My desire to rip out the seams of my old story so that I could release anything that kept me stuck in that old paradigm was stronger than my desire to drink. It was that simple. I didn’t want to be enslaved to any behavior that took me out of feeling, because it took me away from healing.

For me, the healing has always been related to worth and worthiness. The story runs so deep that the actions in my life mostly resulted in trying to quiet the voice that demands it to be true. So many defenses set up to try to escape the underlying notion that I wasn’t enough. Alcohol was one of the ways I quieted my lack of confidence.

Letting alcohol go from my life gave me an opportunity to participate in my life fully. Releasing the crutch has allowed me to go deeper into this process of healing and getting to know myself. As more and more time passed, I realized that I no longer needed alcohol in the way I used to. I could go to a party and not drink and not feel anxiety or fear talking to new people. I could have a really rough day and not hide at the bottom of a glass of wine. I could face the new steps in my life fully aware that I had developed new ways of dealing with the stress of life.

What caught me off guard was at about nine months into my non-drinking journey, I suddenly got the urge to drink again. I was in the process of moving out of the house I had shared with my ex and into a new town where I didn’t know a soul. I was embarking on a total reset and fresh start. For all the excitement, I was scared out of my mind. It was a lot and I wanted a drink.

Up until this point, I really hadn’t thought much about drinking. This strong urge forced me to look a little bit deeper. I realize I wanted to drink because I was scared. I felt really vulnerable in this new town, new house, new life. I felt like a kid on their first day of college—away from home and completely groundless.

During this time, some friends came to visit and we went out. Before heading out for the evening, I reasoned with myself that I might have a beer and that it would be okay. At the restaurant for dinner I had tea and didn’t even think once about drinking. After that, we went to see some music. My friend offered me a drink and I paused. I became aware that there was absolutely no reason I needed a drink. I did not feel awkward surrounded by strangers. I felt completely comfortable in my skin. I did not question my worth or ability to have fun sober.

I recently read an article written by Tommy Rosen of Recovery 2.0 in which he describes his life and sobriety and how he has completely rid himself of any desire to get high:

“My life means so much to me. My recovery and my work in the world with Recovery 2.0 means so much to me. My relationship with my wife, family, teachers, and friends are so important to me. I love this planet. I love people. I love myself and I love God. I am grateful for all the blessings of my life, and while I neither dislike nor condemn the feeling that this drug has produced, I do not desire it over the life I have chosen. I am free.”

It was in this moment—living my life fully aware—that I realized I too had found freedom.

My freedom and my desire to heal the stuck parts of me were so much stronger than the desire to hide from it. I can’t say for certain that I’ll never drink again. I do know I will not ever use anything to hide again. I spent my life hiding from my truth and light. I hid from my emotions, hid from success, hid from the weight of a bad day or a big decision. I won’t hide from pain because sometimes stuff is supposed to hurt.

As a kid, I got growing pains. I would lay awake in bed, legs aching while my body transformed. Even though my physical body has finished growing, I still get growing pains. But instead of my legs aching, it’s my heart breaking as I learn to let in more love and compassion. It is soreness in my throat as I learn to speak my truth. It is throbbing in my head as I create space for inner wisdom. I do not have a desire to numb this transformative pain. At the risk of sounding cliché in metaphor, I am a caterpillar becoming.

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