Not Alone

This fall, I will be starting my third semester of graduate school. I’m pursuing my Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and I hope to graduate and become an LPC by Spring of 2019 – shortly before I turn 30 years old.

It’s funny, really – here I am, an alcohol abuser who is currently measuring her success in continuous days spent sober, with lots of emotional “unpacking” to do, and I’m working toward a degree in a field where I’m basically agreeing to be the safe “vessel” for other people’s problems. I feel strangely drawn to this line of work and feel compelled to call it, well, a calling. I guess in a way, I want to use the strength from the experiences that tore me down to help others going through similar things.

Even before I got divorced and decided to go alcohol-free, I knew I wanted something more for my career than marketing. I wanted to feel like I could actually make a difference for others, while being able to hold onto my more sensitive, self-expressive, intuitive side. My first job out of college was at a marketing agency where, for a while, I was chasing status, money, office cred, recognition – whatever. It felt so hollow. I would go home to my fiance/husband and we’d drink about it, lamenting how horribly our respective bosses were at running their businesses, and how underpaid we were.

Undergrad wasn’t much better. For most of my time in college, I was a depressed English major who only got a grasp on hope for a few months at a time, moving between jobs and apartments, drinking and eating myself into complacency, refusing to seek out mental health services to work things out. I gained a lot of weight. I felt horrible about myself. I felt like my boyfriend was bored of me, or found me unattractive.

I tried diets, exercise, journaling. I didn’t have many friends in the area to share my stress with, so I kept it mostly inside. At night and on the weekends, the boyfriend and I would frequently drink ourselves silly. Sometimes it was great, and sometimes it’d lead to a big fight. But most times, it was just…lonely. And boring. We numbed ourselves out enough to be content with watching Trailer Park Boys for hours in a row, or him playing video games while I stared on, not knowing what to say.

From around the time I was 13 or 14 years old until recently, I could never seem to forgive myself for not being perfect, or at least near-perfect. I never gave myself any room to breathe on the path I chose to get there, either. It was always all or nothing. I was chubby, unpopular, and shy during much of my k-12 years. I wanted to diet as early as 12 years old, but quickly gave in to my cravings – and figured that I should just go all in, since I’d already messed up my plan anyway.

To some extent, that has always been me. High expectations, low tolerance for failure. Self-abasement, depression, motivation to change, action, then failure again.

With drinking and quitting drinking, it has never really been different. I’ve tried to moderate and quit several times over the past 6 years. Each time, the cycle above would play on repeat. On the outside, no one was the wiser. But inside, I was dying to have someone reach me, or to have someone I could reach.

I always tried to do it alone. I never sought out real help. I made plans – very detailed plans – and in my excitement, would start out with all cylinders at full operation.

And then, inevitably, I’d fail. I’d eat a whole package of cookies, smoke another cigarette, or buy a 6-pack of beer intending to have one, and instead having 4. And I’d feel so guilty for it. In a way, I simply came to expect it.

This time, I want to try different, rather than simply telling myself I have to try harder. I hope that, with continued sobriety and introspection, I can loosen the grip I have on my own throat when it comes to doing things perfectly. Because goddamnit, I’m not perfect. I’m not. Just tonight, I had at least 4 slices of pizza and some cheesy bread, and I had to actively and gently remind myself not to call myself a glutton in my own head. IN MY OWN HEAD.

This time, I’m reaching out for help, even if it’s only anonymously to start – on here, on Reddit. I’m talking to a therapist. I’m keeping a journal and loading myself up with helpful resources. I’m not going to let myself whiteknuckle the entire experience until someday, hopefully, I can relax a bit whenever someone cracks open a beer.

This journey has already proven to be more rewarding than any other I’ve taken so far, in terms of being sober and taking care of myself. I eventually want to start reigning in my diet, but I’m not going to go crazy on myself. I’m going to make small, incremental choices until they build up to something bigger.

Most importantly, still, is that I’m not doing this on my own. My voice isn’t falling into a vacuum, or getting drowned out in my own head. And it’s in that little piece of stability and reassurance that I find such a lovely glimmer of hope – every single day.

Here’s to another night sober (as my boyfriend lays on the couch completely absorbed by No Man’s Sky). Day 32 in the books.

 

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