*trigger warning: this piece mentions assault*
It wasn’t all bad in the big city. I got married and was clean for years. I went to classes, was working, made money, and lived the American dream. Then I relapsed and I couldn’t get back. I struggled and struggled and struggled to get clean and sober again and I couldn’t do it. I lost my marriage, my kids, my dog, my house, and myself. When the first narcissist came and paid attention to me, I fell right into it and I really lost me. I’ve been in and out of treatment a number of times.
It started when I was young, I wasn’t on the path that I should have been on to begin with after being assaulted and I started drinking at a very young age. I got caught up in a bad situation with a guy and was in and out of the hospital. I need to lump everything that happened together because I don’t want to detail it. I was homeless. I lived on the streets for years and begged, borrowed, and stole so that I could eat ramen once a day. But I don’t have to do that anymore. I am so grateful to have a roof over my head and pillow under my head. This is my house.
I’m a warrior. There have been many things in my life that I’ve looked back at. After a few years clean and sober my brain fog is starting to clear. The happy memories are coming back. I’m starting to remember happy memories and it’s so exciting. I thought they would be gone forever, but they are just buried. When you suppress the negative memories, you bury it all, not just the negative. The last six months have been a flood of memories coming back. It hurts and it’s scary to actually process stuff from thirty-five years ago. But I deal with the feelings, not the details. They won’t go away if you don’t process them, so I am working on processing emotions.
They get me down sometimes. There are days where I need to just shut my door and read or sleep. I used to feel guilty about that, but you have to practice self-care. It’s having that extra cup of coffee in the morning or reading a book until noon. There are all sorts of ways to take care of yourself that I never knew about. I have a list of all the good things in my life right now, so that when I have a bad day or week, I can look at them and remember I had bad years and now I can cope. I am blessed and highly favored because God has brought me through it. I have a deep support system and I am not my past. I am still learning, and I am not my past.
I survived my nightmares and have a 100% success rate of survival. Did I have to learn it the hard way? Yes. Did I have to repeat and learn over and over again? Yes. I am an addict. I have an addiction problem. Every time I got sober it hurt and I didn’t have the right tools. I didn’t know I was broken; I just knew I wasn’t right. But today I can sit and laugh with big belly laughs. I don’t have to wear a mask anymore. If I have a bad day, I don’t have to pretend everything is okay. I have people I can call that will support me.
My advice for someone struggling is don’t be scared to ask for help. When I relapsed, I would be so embarrassed and disappointed that I would fear asking for help. But when I did ask for help it was there. The judgement was in my head and not on the outside. With the help of my true friends, I am healing. I have a list of things that need to be done and I’m checking them off. My close friend pointed out to me that I do outreach and that is part of recovery. Giving back, creating social gathering, influencing my neighbors in an uplifting and supportive way. Being involved in something outside of myself is part of recovery. She pointed out: I am not a survivor, I am a thriver.