It’s three years ago today since I last drank alcohol. 23:59 to be precise when the last drop of vodka slid down my throat. I hadn’t been to a meeting since the start of the year but felt today I wanted to make a concerted effort to go. Not that I felt the need in the sense to stop me from using but to share in my abstinence success, catch up with other group members and to stay focussed. It’s easy to get complacent and not celebrate that what you have achieved so far is pretty damn good. I don’t ever give myself enough or even any praise with the successes in my life. Far too easy to accept failures as that’s more the way isn’t it? You can’t go into a recovery meeting and tell everyone how great you’re doing and how you never think about alcohol now and don’t even miss the codeine buzz and calm either? I mean there are people there who are really struggling with addictive behaviours and they don’t want to hear about everything being hunky dory with you? Truth is … they do.
Each and every person around that table celebrated in my success. They were generous, kind, hopeful, supportive and humorous. That’s why I like to drop in still because we all help support each other at whatever stage of recovery you are at.
Right now on the eve of the start of my third year of sobriety it has got me thinking about not only how far I have come but also where I am going. As I’ve written about before stopping drinking was only one aspect of the bigger story. Stopping codeine was something else and in many ways the harder of the two due to the physical withdrawals and the realisation that I was on my way to just being me. Just little old me. I had found that prospect quite terrifying. I’d have nothing to hide behind but what was I hiding from? The answer of course was myself or the me that allowed myself to properly feel and not self medicate the negative feelings or enhance the positive ones but to actually feel what was happening in me good and bad.
Since I was around eleven I started to have feelings of judgement, conditional love and not being good enough. Although that could also come with big love, support and praise it could change like the flick of a switch. My coping mechanism was to adopt a cool, ice maiden exterior where no emotion was shown that way I couldn’t let what I was feeling inside affect me. What I was feeling inside was hurt, sadness, fear and a whole lot of anger. My Nana was the creator of this but through circumstances my parents facilitated it. It is only now with my new found clarity that I look back and accept what happened. A lot of it circumstantial and a lot of developing clashes between a dominant older personality and an emerging strong teenage one who like her grandmother also knew her own mind. It could be really tough and sharing a room didn’t help but in many ways both of us were put in a situation where familiarity really did breed contempt. For so many years I blamed every negative ounce of me on her and what my parents allowed by moving in with her but I can either choose to carry on living like that or I can choose to let go and get on with the rest of my life but in order to do that I know I need to do one thing. Forgive.
I do and I feel a weight lifted. I look at my own children and I know what I want for them. I want them to know every minute of their lives that I love them – unconditionally. I don’t want them to ever have an ounce of doubt of my love for them. I don’t want them having to show forgiveness towards me for how I made them feel once I am dead. I don’t want regretful love and wishing it had of been different.
I’m not making that an excuse for my binge drinking habits or analgesic popping ways but I know the root of my inability to accept myself lay in my formative years and I carried it into adulthood using substance to take the edge off of me. It took a real plummet in my self worth from an unhappy and emotionally toxic marriage and subsequent divorce to enable me to take that substance crutch and throw it into the recycling. What came back was the courage to support myself and my children without the voices in my head telling me I wasn’t a good enough daughter, granddaughter, wife and even mother.
The kids and I have our own unique way of saying we love each other. When they drive off on a Sunday for three days with their Dad we always sign ‘I Love You’ by pointing to our eyes, heart then each other. Nothing new there and commonly used by many but we have our own unique way of writing it too. An eye, within a heart, within a U. We sign it on birthday and Christmas cards, letters, postcards, notes or messages to each other and have done since it has just been the three of us together.
Here you can see my youngest leaving a message on the kitchen reminder board.
I had this idea to do something that would stay with me forever and always bring home to me even in the darkest moments how blessed we are to have each other. How blessed I am to receive such unconditional love from two human beings and what a privilege and joy it is to love them without condition. So I made the decision to take our unique and personal symbol and give it permanency.
This is phase one and completion will be in a couple of weeks time but when I look at it I find it reminds me that being just me is good because I am being authentic in my love and every night my children go to bed they know how much they are loved and so do I.
In many ways my binging on drink and codeine was a form of self harm for it stopped me from forgiving myself all the negative thoughts and feelings I had squeezed to capacity inside of me. Forgiving another does take courage, faith and trust but to forgive yourself takes kindness and that can be hard to do. When I sat in that group today I felt kindness from each and every one of them, I feel kindness from my children, I feel kindness from my family and friends but by forgiving myself and celebrating what I have achieved I am starting to be kind to me.