Hello dear readers…
It is a winter wonderland here in Saint Paul, Minnesota and I absolutely adore the snow. Fresh snow. Clean snow. Everything is white and new. And the world is so quiet. I am feeling warm and fuzzy, serene, calm. Joyous, actually.
After spending nearly 32 years determined to maintain a sizable chip on my shoulder, I find this, like the silent falling snow, utterly wondrous. How have I arrived at this strange place? This general and specific state of happy?
It has been a lengthy and bumpy journey. At times downright excruciating. But it began the day I decided to stop drinking.
I’ve blogged about my “bottom,” my sudden unavoidable awareness of the unmanageability of my life. My last “drunk” was pretty dramatic; it yielded stupid sex with an unloving and married man, a verbal altercation with that same guy, bruises all over my body (from falling down in the street), a hangover of The Hangover variety (minus the tiger and any semblance of amusement), missing an important celebratory event, the shakes, sweating, and utter despair. Whenever my sick brain starts to ponder maybe, just maybe… I try to put myself back in that morning. I can still conjure it up… thank you, Universe.
My last “drink,” was actually rather unceremonious. It was the night before I checked myself into detox. Two days after that horrendous “drunk.” I drank a bottle of shiraz–because it was on my counter– while I answered intake questions from the counselor at The Retreat, the recovery center I would then spend 30 amazing days. What I recall about that final alcoholic beverage is that when the bottle was empty (which happened rather fast, in typical Andrea fashion), I wanted more. A lot more. Vats and vats. And that frightened me in my bones.
The following day was the start of the quest for happy, although it was a good two years into recovery before I really got joy. In my bones. It was slow and it was sudden. And it was work.
I’ve said this before and I will say it again– I needed, and continue to need, a lot of help. From my fellow alcoholics and my therapist. From the many emotionally sober individuals I am blessed to have in my life. Opening up and sharing was invaluable. The grief I drowned in wine for so long began to swim. I felt confused and lost, tired and sad. Much of the time. But I let people guide me and I put myself in service to others. I also engaged in dialectical behavioral therapy and discovered Prozac. Godsends. Truly.
As I worked, as time passed, the chip, deeply imbedded in my shoulder started to fill in and scab over. It isn’t completely healed… I still pick at it from time to time. But it’s much shallower and smaller than it used to be.
Part of the healing process has been making the decision, setting out the intention to be happy. That I can choose to be content and fulfilled– it’s fascinating and… well… super cool. The truth is, I like being happy. I like it a lot. It’s still shiny and new. I am protective of it. I want to keep it. Hold it close. At the same time, it’s utterly frightening. Like horror slasher movie scary.
You see, it’s when I am most happy that my recovery and my sobriety are tested. Because when I am not in pain, I don’t possess the drive to get to meetings, to work with others, to see my therapist. When I feel fine is when I get complacent. I think, I am doing great! I don’t need to do any work today. The today turns into tomorrow and the next day and the next…it happens so fast.
This was the topic of conversation among a group of recovering alcoholics yesterday morning. Complacency. How we get there and why it is so, so dangerous.
Complacency is the poison to my happiness. It is only when I am not complacent that I get to happy. But once I arrive in happy, I lean back into complacency. Then, like clockwork, I find myself disgruntled, pissy, selfish. The pain eventually forces me to dig deeper again and seek out all that help that’s just waiting. And voila! Back to happy I go. It’s the oddest mindset. I must remember that when I am most joyous, that’s when my alcoholic brain begins whispering to me, maybe, just maybe…
I am grateful for the self awareness and honesty that recovery has brought to my life and for the opportunity to share my stuff with others. Writing, unpacking my diseased brain–it’s meditative for me. And so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you, dear readers. It’s hard to believe that I have been at this blogging gig for nearly a year! I wouldn’t be here without you and your continued support.
Peace and love.