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The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book Let Your Privates Breathe, by Melissa Steussy.
I want you to know that you don’t have to trudge this road alone.
Once we start talking about our issues with alcoholism, shopping addiction, overeating, childhood trauma, insecurities, the world will meet us where we are.
The scariest part is crossing that line between what we used to hide behind and getting real about how we have felt and what we have gone through.
There is a massive amount of power in coming together and telling our stories. Our shame keeps us separated, and in separation, shame only grows. When we share our truth, we get wings to fly.
Victory over our demons that haunt us come from, first, acknowledging, and second, sharing our humanness with another. It took me years to find the strength in my own story; for the longest time, I was wrapped up in it and wore it like a comfortable glove. I used it to justify my idiotic behaviors and impulsiveness. I used it to throw myself pity parties and make excuses, but something clicked when I no longer told my story from a victim’s point of view. I trudged through the muck of my deepest hurts and grief, and I found freedom.
I found beauty. I found forgiveness and empathy. I found myself—my true self.
I look back at pictures of that woman I was five years ago and see how hard she was trying to fit the mold. I see the pain in her eyes and the yearning to be seen and heard by a mother and a father. The emptiness of her past and the shame around who she thought she was.
The facade was real. The smile, the laughter. I used to deter and hide the intensity I was feeling, but my mind was always whispering to me, “You are not as good as her, look at where you came from, don’t tell anyone or they will think you are gross and dirty.”
I saw others taking trips so I wanted to take trips. I saw others get new vehicles so I wanted to do the same.
I was constantly doing that one next thing that would bring me the value in someone else’s eyes. If I had what you had, I would be able to carry myself like you and smile like you and feel confident like you. The problem is our worth and intrinsic value need to come from within—we can’t fill it up from the outside.
Trust me, I tried.
Getting in touch with my pain was the only way through it. Learning to acknowledge that little girl inside of me who was treated poorly and sit with her through her pain was the only way to find peace. I talked in therapy for years. I was medicated and unmedicated; I tried so many fixes, and I am thankful that all of that has brought me to the healed place I speak to you from now.
For so long, I was too afraid to face my pain and distracted myself in a myriad of ways. A quick fix always seemed like the answer. I wanted people to like me and think I was “enough,” but inside, I didn’t feel like I was even close. I couldn’t measure up. I was working from a deficit of comparison that was, like they say, “The thief of joy.”
I remember sitting at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and sharing the negative. I couldn’t see what I had to offer as a sober alcoholic. I had nothing to give, and I trudged through sobriety for the majority of it. For a long time, I used AA meetings for a quick fill-up when I was low or empty. I would go and share and hear a few things and feel better for the next couple of weeks until I needed that connection again.
I was lucky I didn’t drink. I definitely wasn’t happy, joyous, or free like they talk about in the books of AA. I had moved a few times and had a hard time connecting at meetings. I didn’t make much of an effort, though. I felt like I was managing well. It can also be challenging when I had 10 years of sobriety and was new to a meeting. Sometimes I had the most sobriety in the room, but my literal ass was falling off.
I like how in AA they say, “One day at a time.” I just have to keep trudging. Through pain, there is purpose.