Tonight I ran six miles in under an hour – 58 minutes, to be exact. I blistered my feet and finished with sweat dripping down my face and back. My legs are going to be really sore tomorrow.
I ran through and around the wilderness reserve area by my dad’s house. I’m staying the night here because I’ve got a dermatology appointment in the early morning and, my dad’s house is 5 minutes from the doctor’s office, rather than the 30 minutes it would take me to get here.
Three years ago, I was back in this same house. I had arrived at my dad’s doorstep only a week earlier, sad alone & scared, having just left my ex-husband (rather, asked for the divorce, and I subsequently moved out) back in Denver. I didn’t have a job or my own place to stay. I was drinking like a madwoman – literally anything I could get my hands on, I would drink. I tried to occupy myself throughout the days by polishing & sending out my resume, attempting to build up my Etsy soap shop (long since dead), and taking hours-long walks through the wilderness reserve area – the same one I ran today. I spent my evenings drunk.
Running the wilderness area and surrounding neighborhoods today felt so different, but also oddly the same as before. I thought about myself 3 years ago walking the same path I was pounding along today, and I thought about how fucking miserable I was back then. I was so broken. I walked and walked and walked because I felt directionless, like there was an endless void in front of me and I had no clear path through it.
Today I thought affectionately about my past self. I wondered what Past Me would have thought if she could’ve seen Present Me, with the same short hair and a few more tattoos, not quite as skinny but stronger-looking anyway. I wondered if knowing how things have turned out for Present Me would’ve made Past Me a little less afraid and depressed. I wonder if Past Me would’ve understood or appreciated the impact those early days of aimless wandering had on Present Me and everything I’ve (we’ve?) become.
I guess this has been on my mind lately. I’ve had a couple of strange dreams about my ex husband over the past few weeks. In one of them, we were getting re-married, though very casually and without a lot of fanfare. In the other, we were merely standing in each other’s presence, with no animosity or awkwardness – just being there, together.
It’s hard to not go through this part of the year without bittersweet memories of that miserable yet important time in my personal journey. Even though the memories don’t flood and overwhelm me like they used to, they still roll in like a quiet tide, lapping at my feet as they gently erode the other memories that surround me. Sometimes they catch me off guard, and sometimes I watch them as they get closer. I’ve learned to stop fighting them or making myself feel bad/weird for experiencing them. They just are what they are – nothing less, nothing more.
Thinking about my ex-husband is still a little weird, though. At first, when we separated and I moved home, I was confused and dumbstruck. It felt like I had temporary emotional vertigo for about two months afterward. Then, for a long time (6-9 months), I was angry and numb. Oh god, was I angry. I just seethed with the kind of rage only a divorcee can feel. Eventually, I slowed my boil to a quiet simmer, and I became more passive aggressive and dismissive. Over time, that all mixed and swirled into roux of forgiveness and acceptance. Now, for the most part, I have peace.
Yet, during this time of year, I seem to be swept back up into the same stream of emotions that caught me back in 2014. I catch my addicted mind romanticizing that time as my breaking point, where I felt like I needed to drink to survive what I was going through. Never mind that it made it worse, really — that at least in the long run, drinking so excessively and so frequently made me even more anxious, depressed, and despairing than I would have been sober.
I think that Past Me would’ve been amazed and somewhat skeptical if someone told her that in three years, she’d be 1+ year sober, halfway through a Master’s program to become a Counselor, and in a mostly stable & healthy relationship. She would’ve been inspired to see me running through the reserve today, my form strong and my brow dripping with sweat. I also think she’d be really relieved if someone held her and told her it was okay to cry, and hopeful if someone reassured her that soon the painful stabbing ache in her heart would feel more like a dull scar – not quite gone, but no longer painful or disorienting.
I feel like there are a lot of reasons for me to stay sober now: my future vocation in counseling, my mental and physical health, my sense of accomplishment, my friendships with other sober folks, my own personal need to be clear-headed and conscientious about how I spending my time and who I am spending it with, etc., etc. There are lots of reasons for me to be present and move forward with sobriety, which makes it easy to withstand the small twinges of craving I get every now and then.
But right now, during this 3-year anniversary of my return to myself, I feel like there’s yet another reason to stay sober added to the pile: to do better by Past Me. To make sure that the Me I am today is a Me that I will continue to look fondly upon in the near- and far-future. Because hey, I’m worth it.
We all are.
❤ Em. Day 394.