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.