Its voice starts out harmless and sounds like my own.
“It won’t be that bad—it’s only one night. It’s your birthday and you’re alone again. One hit will take away all of that and you won’t remember how lonely you are. You can do it—drown the pain. It’s only one day.”
I want to believe it—one hit won’t matter.
But the voice is lying.
It doesn’t tell me how depressed I’ll be when it’s over, how hard it will be for my brain to recover, and how I won’t be able to enjoy the sound of my sneakers crunching rocks on the dirt road in the morning or hear my dog snore beside me at night.
It won’t tell me that I will regret it and the pain will be 10 times worse than it is now because all I will want to do is smoke it all away, anything that hurts from that point forward, and forget all the strength I’ve built up just to live life to see the mountains look different and feel the edges of the sky.
I stopped smoking marijuana two years ago, after 15 years.
Sometimes, I forget it was the best decision I ever made, especially when life fails to meet my expectations. What used to be the best day of my life, I now dread. I used to wake up knowing I could put my depression aside because today was different, it was my birthday. I could celebrate my life and stop wishing, for one day, that I haven’t thought about suicide for the last 20 years.
I don’t know when it happened but silently it crept in and, like a bloodstain, the thought that I have to survive another year just stuck. I don’t remember when it turned, maybe too many birthdays alone and it became like prom, too high of expectations and it’s just another Saturday night.
But the truth is my birthday shouldn’t be about any of that. The day I was born is sacred. I should be asking myself who I want to be this year. Reflecting upon what I haven’t done and still want to do. Like New Year’s Day, this day should be about pulling cards of inspiration, burning sage, and letting go of all the things that hurt me. It should be about writing more and being braver about saying what I want. Telling the guy I’ve been falling in love with how to show up for me even when he might fail and break my heart. Telling a neighbor she is being racist and myself that I need more time off work.
Because this year, I should stop breaking my own heart with lies of how things should be and accept with grace how they really are.
So, I didn’t take that hit.
I want to feel what it’s like to cry and grieve for birthdays that didn’t go as planned and feel the joy of creating a beautiful new life in an enchanted place full of freedom. I want to look back on the previous year and feel proud of becoming a single dog mom who has given her daughter a great life of endless roaming in open space and prairie dogs to chase. The strength of finally getting a salary I deserve and purchasing a new badass truck to pull a trailer full of the wreckage from my last breakup.
There is enough to celebrate without blurring it over with smoke. I will toast and honoring myself by lighting a white candle, booking a massage, and remembering that now I am living a life worth living.