Living in a ghost town (Part 3)

ghost town

Wow.  I can’t believe how long I have waited to write this post!  It’s been over 3 weeks since I wrote Part 2, which was about my daughter.  Writing that post brought up a lot of sadness and grief.  That, coupled with long hours at work for the past few weeks, forced me to take a little break from my blog and practice some self-care.  But I’m back and ready to write.

In Part 1, I talked about what it’s like to live in the same place where I am constantly reminded of my past, my bad choices and other negative memories.  In Part 2 I talked about living in the same place as my daughter, with whom I have no relationship right now.  In this post, I want to talk about how I deal with all of that and how I no longer let the ghosts lead me to where I was before I got sober: back to depression, self-loathing, and anger – back to drinking.

I’ve been in recovery now for a little over two and a half years.  However, I have only ten and a half months of continuous sobriety.  So you can see, it took me a while to finally get to a place in my recovery where I don’t feel the need to drink.  A lot of what I have learned has to do with dealing with my past.  Not just realizing all of the things I’ve done wrong, but actually dealing with it in a healthy way.  I don’t know what works for others, but these are the things that have worked for me.  These are the things that have made my last ten months different.

The first thing that I have done differently is allow myself to feel my feelings.  As an alcoholic, I was a world-class emotion stuffer.  I could, for a long time, just turn off negative feelings and pretend that they didn’t even exist.  I could hide them so far away, that I really think I actually believed they were gone.  Water under the bridge, just move on.  The problem with that is that no matter how far down I pushed them, they were eventually going to resurface – with a month’s, year’s or decade’s worth of vengeance.  And they did.  And I tried to drink them away.  Now when those feelings come up, and they do, I don’t try to ignore or avoid them.  I feel them.  Really feel them.  And you know what?  No matter how bad they are, they don’t kill me.  It took me a long time to learn that, and to be okay with it.

Another thing that is different is that I talk to people about what I’m feeling.  I have stopped putting on my game face, and started letting people in – my husband, my sponsor, my friends.  Last night, my husband and I were at Target.  For some reason, thoughts and feelings about my daughter came up and I started to get emotional.  I could feel my throat tighten and my eyes getting watery.  I was overcome with missing and wanting her.  My husband was in another part of the store and I could have easily “gotten it together” and composed myself before I went to find him (he was looking at Star Wars Legos, by the way).  But instead, I went to find him even though I was all weepy.  I told him that I was really missing my daughter and that something had triggered my emotions.  He hugged me, told me that he was sorry, and held my hand.  Nothing was solved, there was really no action taken other than me opening my mouth and saying how I felt, but I felt relief.  Had I kept walking around the store until my red nose and wet eyes went away and not said anything, I would’ve wallowed in my sadness.  Alone.  Just speaking the feeling was enough to get me through the moment.

I have written before about the role that acceptance has played in my recovery.  I have found that when it comes to living in a ghost town, acceptance is definitely the answer to my problems.  As I drive around town and places or things remind me of my alcoholic behavior and the trouble it got me into, it’s easy for me to slip into my old ways of thinking:  either minimizing or maximizing the impact of my actions.  The colossal mistakes weren’t really that bad, were they?  Or, the small transgressions…what kind of a nutcase would do something like that?!?  I operated at one extreme or the other, I wasn’t able to see the situation for what it really was, an alcoholic acting like an alcoholic.  When I am able to remember a situation or choice that I made and say to myself, “yes, I did that.  It was a really awful thing to do and I’m sorry for having done it, and I don’t intend to do it again” I’m able to accept things they way they really are, or were, be okay with it, and move on.

A huge part of dealing with my past is telling myself the truth.  When I get down on myself for it, and I still do sometimes, I have to remind myself that the person I was three years ago is not who I am today.  That is the truth.  I have changed, grown, become self-aware, and I am better for it.  I am no longer in active addiction, I am repairing the wreckage of my past, I am facing things that I never thought I could face, and I am living honestly.  Remembering those things helps me when I am faced with the ghosts around me.  The truth is those ghosts have nothing on me anymore…I’m not even the same girl that they haunted for so long.

Finally, the last, and most important piece to living with the ghosts of my past, is my faith.  Knowing that I have God in my corner, unconditionally, saves me every day.  When I am able to turn my will and my life over to His care, and know that things will happen in His time, His way, I can relax.  The things I have done and gone through were for a reason.  His reasons, not mine.  When I choose to have an open heart and I allow God in, I can have peace.  And I do.

Living in a ghost town isn’t easy, sometimes it’s downright hard.  But I am learning to do it.  And if I remember all of the things I have written about, I can do it with grace.

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7 thoughts on “Living in a ghost town (Part 3)

  1. You hit all the biggies there, Jami. Honesty, faith, letting go, sharing, acceptance. These are big for us, because we rarely used these things when we were active. These are new things for us, and we try to practice these things daily. It comes easy for some, not so easy for others. But the more we move towards deepening these things and keeping them active, the more we continue to grow. Letting others know what is going on with us, knowing that the Creator is running the show and is keeping us protected and safe, letting go of things we can’t control, being honest to others and ourselves, and accepting of things as they happen…these are the things that keep us grounded and connected. And we when we are centered and in communion, we are fine. We practice spiritual principles in all our affairs, and it seems that you are really opening up here and tackling these things on…and in your situation with your daughter and her absence, these are key to keeping you centered.

    Thank you for your honest posts, and your insight.

    Wonderful 🙂

    Blessings,
    Paul

    • Thank you, Paul. You’re right, as long as I remember those key things I know that I will be alright. Sometimes I find it easy to do, but a lot of the time it’s hard to remember when those things, especially when I get down about it. Progress, not perfection, I guess. 🙂
      ~Jami

  2. Jami, there’s not one thing you’ve written that I can’t relate to. One fo the biggest for me is asking for help or simply reaching out when I’m feeling off-center. That game face you talked about is so familiar to me. For so long, it didn’t occur to me to let people in so it still feels awkward sometimes. Your recovery is inspiring.

    • Thank you for your kind words. Asking for help was (sometimes still is) so hard for me. I thought that it was a sign of weakness, and who wants to be weak?? Now I realize that, for me, asking for help is a sign of strength because it is difficult. I’m getting better!
      ~Jami

  3. Dear Jami,
    Being able to forgive yourself is a huge step, and it sounds to me like you are making gang-buster headway in that practice. To be able to see the changes in yourself is great! Self-awareness is a gift of doing the work because I know I didn’t realize that I had any impact on anything or anyone but myself. How wrong I was! I am beginning to identify my feelings. It’s taken me a long time to get to this part of the work. I have been numb for so many years that to identify a fear for what it is and say it outloud to myself or to someone else is a huge milestone for me, and you are making them as well!!! And how much faith in God helps make my days go by so much better has been a huge gift, too. Like in your day!!!
    I love you, and have missed you.
    love, Teddi

    • Thanks, Teddi. Self-forgiveness is pretty tough for me, but you’re right, I am making some headway. I didn’t realize for a long time that I would never get better until I was able to do it.
      I miss you too, and MS. With Austin’s new job, we can only make it there on the weekends. I hope we see you soon!
      Love ya,
      Jami

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