43 Days Alcohol Free: Talking it Out

Yesterday was a hard day for me. I was hit by depression in a way I haven’t experienced in quite some time. I was distracted at work to the point of needing to leave; I was refreshing the same screen at my desk over and over, not actually doing anything.

I cried for most of my drive home and immediately laid down in bed, in the dark, when I walked in the door. I felt desolate. I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt flat and unmotivated all evening.

I texted my boyfriend to say I needed to talk to him, and he welcomed me to come over. My heart was beating in my temples, and I felt like my stomach was sinking, up until the point when I arrived at his apartment, laid down next to him and closed my eyes.  He rubbed my back as I cried silently for about half an hour.

I knew I needed to talk to him. I knew I needed to say something about how lonely I’d been feeling lately. About my depression. About needing more from our relationship. But as I tried to think about what to say, my chest got tighter, and I couldn’t find the exact perfect words to start the conversation. Once again, I was keeping myself in a holding pattern, trying to speak and then stopping myself.

At that moment, I realized there was never going to be the perfect conversations starter for something like this. There was no way I could gracefully start a conversation about feeling like shit. I just had to start talking and let it go from there.

And so, I started talking. And he listened – encouraged me, even. I talked about how I’ve been dealing with depression, and how stubborn I’ve been about seeking help, despite the fact that I know that’s the worst thing one can do when they’re faced with something like depression.

I talked about needing more from our relationship. More communication, mostly. More connection. I told him that I’ve been holding things in because I don’t want to be needy, or demanding. I told him I don’t want him to feel like he has to change who he is for me. I told him I had no idea what he wanted or expected, because we don’t ever really talk about our relationship.

I asked him to just talk to me more. I asked him to express more interest in my day-to-day life – ask me questions about my day, perhaps, or talk with me about what I’m learning in school. He said that while those aren’t things he typically thinks of doing, he agrees that it’s something he should be doing, if only to help me feel more loved.

And to my surprise, instead of getting defensive or acting as though my requests were unreasonable, he laid with me and asked me what else he could do. He wanted me to give him more examples of ways he could help improve our communication, or help us feel more connected. He told me things that I could do, too, to help him feel more connected to. For example – instead of keeping my feelings all wrapped up in my head without talking to him about it, he just… wants me to talk to him about it.

So simple. So obvious. And yet, for some reason unknown to me, it’s a huge hurdle that I still need to practice clearing. It’s been a similar story in many of my other relationships. As I get older and gain more and more experience, it’s becoming really apparent to me that I can’t just claim that open communication is a value to me – I have to actually do it. You know, I have to model the values that I claim to hold in high regard.

How novel, hm?

By the end of the conversation, I felt much lighter. We were laughing together. My worst fears were assuaged. And I felt so silly – guilty, even – for walking into the situation believing that there was probably only way to solve this issue – the worst case scenario of breaking up.

Just goes to show, there’s no way I’m anywhere near perfect when it comes to my relationships. I’m working hard to understand and navigate these complex aspects of my life, things that I might’ve made snap judgments about if I were still drinking. I’m learning to be more accepting, more open, more intentional.

It really gets me to realize how drinking probably wasn’t my main issue – I’ve got a lot of things to unpack and re-organize in my life. I’ve got past pains to reconcile. I’ve lost many things, and gained many others, and in my 27 years of living, I’ve felt every loss and gain very deeply.

I can’t keep denying my highly emotional nature, and I can’t keep trying to bend myself into what I think others want me to be. When I drank, I wasn’t being true to who I was. I was inauthentic and easily manipulated into what I thought others wanted me to be.

And now, I need to unlearn those behaviors. I just need to be myself, honestly, and treat others with the honesty and respect I expect. I need to actually talk to people before I make assumptions or jump to conclusions. I need to get better at perspective-taking and not always expecting the worst. Because, you know, people can really surprise you sometimes, in very best ways – if you just give them the chance to do so.

Life is a non-stop lesson in grace. I can’t forget that.

Day 43 is currently in progress. I’m excited – my semi-centennial celebration is coming up in just a week. Maybe I’ll get myself a little treat to mark the occasion.

Cheers all.

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