Uncomfortably Numb

Why do we do destructive things to get numb?? Whyyyyyyy?? It’s very obvious to me now… thank goodness. It’s because it prevents us from confronting our real issues head on. That sounds funny, right? I get that… but I’m telling you when you are sick or in a position to rather numb than deal that’s what that is. Four, five and 10 years ago I would rather drink than face myself. Any.Damn.Day.Of.The.Week. I often said in my many years of trying to get sober that I can put down the drink no problem, it’s living sober that’s the real issue.

Why do people relapse, continuously disappoint, and turn back to their destructive ways? It’s plain and simple really… because, believe it or not it’s so much easier! It’s easier to disappoint and apologize, recover from a hangover, make empty promises, live with regret, live with insecurity… (you feel me, right?)… than to face the music of how we got there and to fix it. We know it sucks. Like really, really sucks, but slipping back into old patterns and succumbing to the numbness is just so much easier than getting well. Getting well was, by far, the hardest thing I have ever done in my whole life. In fact, another thing that I often say is that I might never relapse again because learning to live sober initially sucks so incredibly. Now… would I do it again anyway? Absolutely!! The best thing I ever gave myself, my children, and my husband was my sober self, who was willing to look at herself and find an amazing life inside wellness.

The thing that we, the people who numb, don’t fully understand in the depths of our destruction is that while numb there may be no pain, but equally there can be no joy. That’s big. And true, sadly. In hindsight, all of my “joy” when drunk, drinking, or recovering was false or forced. Authentic joy, well.. and all the other emotions only became authentically me in sobriety.

What we choose to numb may seem harmless enough, even pleasurable. Sucks that what feels pleasurable in the moment is really just screwing with the quality of our life. Numbing agents take care of the surface issues lickity split, but in turn cover up the deeper troubles. Well… duh! Right? Of course. Though I can tell you that I did not know that that was what I was doing until I started doing the inside work required once you put that numbing device away. Once it’s gone you will in fact be flooded, mowed over, and bombarded with feelings. Most of them annoying and gross and too heavy to bear. It’s why in my case I seeked out a lot of outside help to see me through it. It’s in receiving that help that those very same feelings and emotions started to add vivid color to my life instead of out and out fear.

It’s a road. A long and windy road, that I can promise you. But what I can also promise is that if you see it through everything will start to make sense. It’s very powerful, but more importantly, it changes you. It is only through change can we keep the numbness from seeking us out, from patterns repeating themselves, and from returning to our previous selves.

One thing that we often aren’t willing to give this very experience is time. But time is what it takes. Wholeheartedly, you have to be willing to get through the muck to get to the good stuff. I’m telling you, it is worth the ride. I look back now and nearly laugh at my emotional ignorance, and yet am eager to continue learning more. Every time I put away a numbing agent that I was using to avoid my reality, I’ve grown. Feelings become more intense and acute, but not tragically, rather enjoyably. Now, don’t get me wrong, the things we’ve been storing up, hiding away, avoiding will come to the surface too, but with a clear mind and a new outlook, getting to the other side of that is extremely powerful too.

It is a continuous journey. Continuous. I still have things about myself that drive me bat shit crazy. Insecurities that don’t make sense to me and frustrate me to no end, but instead of getting drunk in the face of them, I seek learning and practice to overcome. It’s a bumpy road, sometimes trying, but often wonderful…. beautiful even. Avoiding numbness has given me the courage and the grace to handle even the most intense of emotions and situations today. Courage and grace. Those are words, four years ago I would never have used to describe myself. I still have so much to learn, do, and give back, but today… I’m so grateful to be unnumb.

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Change is Better

I was talking with a friend of mine yesterday, we were talking about change ultimately, but I suppose the main topic was fear.  Good grief… I could write a novel on fear. It’s such a waste of time and yet we all have it, don’t we?  Of course, there’s a healthy element to fear.  It can keep us safe.  But I’m talking about the fear just to fear fear. Change and fear go hand in hand for some, so let’s talk about that today.

In 12 step programs there’s a saying, “living in the wreckage of our future.”  I’m starting with this because isn’t that part of the fear thing?  Assuming we know what change will look like in a week, a month, a year when really we have no clue whatsoever.  It’s the part of fear that stops us in our tracks… assuming it will be terrible or too hard when really it’s just…. different.  I always find that so interesting because if we are changing or doing something healthy for ourselves as a way of changing, in my experience, that only leads to really amazing things.  And yet different is scary.  It’s just what’s ingrained. Are there bumps along the way and times of discomfort?  Sure… dare I say absolutely. But at the end of the day barreling ahead anyway has only proved worth it times 100.  In all of the times I’ve had to recover from one thing or another there have always been spaces of discomfort to get to the other side.  The other side is always better.  Change is hard, sometimes really hard, but always worth it.

I’ll use one of my own experiences as an example.  After the booze was no longer a symptom in my life, the emotional growth and change was it’s own ride, but I’m just going to start with the decision to not have alcohol be a part of my life anymore.

Let me tell you a little bit about how it was a part of my life though first.  I started drinking, like really drinking, in college.  That was when I discovered it’s numbing power and boy was that ever a power in my mind.  My very own built in, college expectant, found around every corner numbing agent.  I was a happy girl.  I was a party girl.  I found a reason to go out almost every night of the week in order not to feel.  I liked it.  I really, really liked it.  It became how I socialized, how I hooked up, how I got away with being an ass, my excuse for dropping classes, and my excuse for being antisocial when not drinking (the trusty hangover came in very handy when I didn’t want to be around people without a buzz).

Nothing changed for years after that.  I lived on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, which was amazing, but was basically just an extension of college in the way of lifestyle. Especially since I found myself in the restaurant industry, waiting tables and bartending. Drinking was how I spent my time at the beach, sometimes on shift, and absolutely after shift.  It literally was a part of every decision I made pertaining to what I was going to do each day or night.

I actually moved off of the islands in an attempt to get away from the lifestyle.  It worked in some ways… I discovered yoga, meditation, and what I wanted to do for a living.  But what they say is true, “wherever I go, there I am.”  So the drinking continued even though my entire surroundings were different.  This was the first time, believe it or not, that I thought maybe, possibly, I have a problem.  That was a good 8 years before I ever stepped foot in a meeting.

In the next 8 years I had a series of very meaningful friendships, jobs that I loved, moving across the country, studying to become a doula, meeting my husband, getting married, and having my first baby, all intermingled with alcohol remaining a staple in my days.  It wasn’t until we moved back across the country that it glared it’s hideously, ugly head.

I spiraled after my husband got in a very serious car accident.  It led me to going out one night and saying this exact sentence, “if I can’t go out in public and drink like a normal human being, I’m going to AA tomorrow.”  I went to AA the next day.

The following 6 years would look like a series of attempts, followed by relapse, then healing, then hurting, then a suicide attempt, then a relapse, then a suicide attempt, then rehab, then some healing, some more hurting, another relapse, having an affair and leaving my family.  Therein lies my officially official bottom.  That was almost 3 years ago that I had my last drink.

Guess what kept me relapsing and getting sicker and sicker…. FEAR.  Fear of how to live sober, fear of not having a drink in my hand everywhere I went, fear that I will never have fun again, fear that I will lose all of my friends, fear that no one will understand me, fear of judgement, fear of looking inside myself, fear of CHANGE.  Freaking Fear!!! That bitch kept me drunk.  Guess how much ANY of that matters today in the face of my changed self??  Nada, none, zilch, zero!!  I’d do it again 1000 times.  Getting well, really owning my wrongs, getting honest, taking suggestions, letting myself be helped and loved, going inside, replacing the drink with my higher self was absolutely the hardest thing I have ever done.  I’m about as comfortable being vulnerable as I would be walking on hot coals but I did it anyway.

Here’s my message, and this is so that hopefully you don’t have to endure years of fighting it like I did… Stop fearing change and instead embrace it.  Embrace the shit out of change because it’s big and beautiful and worth every single second.  Take your power back with change.  It takes a very strong person to realize that they’re meant for more and doing the work to see to it.  I took a lot of power from hearing this at a meeting, “anyone can drink… but it takes fricking guts not to.”

So that is just one of several examples of how fearing change can hurt you or help you all wrapped up in a messy little story.  Don’t wait like I did.  Don’t balk and kick and scream like I did.  Own it.  Face it.  Make change your bitch, because if I believed in regret, the one thing that I would with all my heart would be that I didn’t get the message sooner.  I love who I’ve become.  I want that for you.