I didn't think it was possible to ever feel comfortable in my own skin. I didn't know it would be possible to ever feel like I was at home with myself, that I could have peace and comfort and warmth.
Ten years ago today I started the journey to make my way home to myself by getting sober. I was twenty-seven years old and felt like I was old, that life had passed me by and I had missed my chance. I must have had some hope left that my life could be good; otherwise, I probably would've kept on drinking and using.
After all this time, I still remember that day on January 2, 2004. I drank well into the evening on New Year's Day, just to keep myself going until I could pass out. The guilt from another night of drinking and using, the shame from not knowing what I had said or done in another long blackout. It would take me a couple of days to recover before I could face the world again. This had become my pattern: drink and use and then recover. The whole process took days of my life on a weekly basis. It was hard to get much else done or move forward.
Naively, I thought that just the act of getting sober would relieve some of my shame and self-hatred. I had no idea what I was in for and that drinking and using was only the surface of, or the symptom to, what lay beneath. I had no idea the path home to myself would take so long and be so hard. I had no idea it would also be so rewarding.
I joined a Twelve-Step Program, in which I was actively involved for many years of my sobriety. It saved my life. The people I met there were inspiring, loving, and kept me close by their side. So many times I wanted to give up — and not just on sobriety. I wanted to give up on life and the hope that one day I might be better. Then I would hear something that would keep me trudging along the path, as they say.
There were many times in the first few years where I felt like there wasn't much point in being sober if I still felt so much hatred toward myself. I felt this way when I was drinking, and I expected it to go away shortly after getting sober. Yet I still had many days where I couldn't leave the house. I started to realize that I had to leave the house within a couple of hours of waking up or else I wouldn't be able to do it at all. Getting dressed was excruciating; I hated my body and I often felt like I wanted to tear my skin off. I felt trapped, as if I was in a tiny room and every time I turned around I slammed into one of the walls. There was no space for me and I constantly tried to shrug away from the edges. I was always painfully aware of the darkness inside me.
After a few years into my sobriety, I feared my life would be filled with Twelve-Step meetings for drink, drugs, and food and then lots of therapy in between. That I would have to spend all of my time trying to heal just so I could be on par with the rest of the human race, who seemed to be gliding along with ease.
Things started to shift for me in the past couple of years. As if every meeting I went to, every therapy session, all the words of encouragement finally came through and I could see there was light and I could create a home within myself that I desperately desired. To me, having a home should signify a place of safety, love, comfort, and warmth. This was a foreign concept to me, and without being shown how to do this as a child or young woman, I really wasn't sure how to create this for myself. I think it's part of the reason it took me so long to find it.
In spite of myself and with lots of help from so many caring people, I have come to find a place I can call home. It is with thanks and gratitude that I have peace today. I finally am able not only to understand but also to embody the concept of “The Joy of Living.”
I feel a tremendous amount of love for those who have helped me along the way. I was not so easy to love — often quite stubborn, angry, and distrusting — especially to those I was closest to. The closer you tried to get, the more I pushed you away. It was easier for me to stand alone, even though I was dying inside because of it. Thank you to those who did not let me push too far.
Today, on my ten-year anniversary, I wish to offer thanks to those who loved me until I could find my way home.