The past five years of my life have been a trip and a half, honestly.
When I moved into this house, four years and four months ago, I was at the end of the worst relapse I had probably ever had- it only lasted five months, but it was a doozy. So much so that I can’t even remember the sequence of events prior to its beginning. How long was I clean before that? I dunno. It might have been a year? Nine months? Really, I’m just not sure. The years between 2011 and 2015 were a messy patchwork quilt of good days and bad days, struggle and victory, way way up and down down down.
Ugh, I’m so sick of talking about that part of my life. I really am. But, you know, it’s part of what makes my life so incredibly beautiful today, so I can’t leave it out completely. A month after I moved in here- on April 15th, 2015- I used my drug of choice for the very last time. The night before, I’d had a terrible fight with my sister and my daughter, and I knew I was out of control, but I was so fucking angry that I couldn’t seem to control myself. The next morning I went to work and I was NOT OKAY. I remember sitting at my desk, barely holding it together. Someone said something to me- “Not having the best day, huh?” or “Someone’s having a rough morning.”, and I couldn’t, I just could not possibly hold in my tears anymore. I remember crying in the bathroom stall, shaking and trying so hard to get my heart to slow down. I knew I needed to do something drastic, and that it had to be TODAY. There was no more putting it off. The fears I had about being found out were suddenly not nearly as big as my desperation for help.
Ask anyone in recovery, they will tell you- desperation is an addicts saving grace in moments like that. Desperation is the friend who helps you find your way out of the mess you are in. And so, just like that, I started over. It wasn’t a new thing- dear Lord, I’d done it a million times before. But this time, it stuck.
For the next several years, and you know this already if you’ve been following along for a while- I went through some intense shit. I had no idea at all what a “normal life” was supposed to look or feel like, I had no idea how to function as an adult woman. Everything from the way I paid my bills to the things I understood about relationships was dysfunctional and…for lack of a better description, fucked up.
Even though I was clean, my life did not magically improve overnight. Lots of things in my life got better and easier, but I did not stop using drugs and voila! – life was suddenly perfection. Nope. If I’m being honest, if anything, it kinda got worse. It’s sort of that thing where, when you are deep cleaning your house, and you’ve been at it for a while, you’re getting tired, and you look around only to find that it looks about ten times worse in the middle than it did when you started. You’ve dragged everything out from the cupboards, closets, under the bed. It’s discouraging, right? But anyone who has done this a time or two knows that it always looks worse when it’s getting better. That’s how it was with my life. I dragged alllll the stuff out into the open, and I was dealing with it. It SUCKED. It sucked so hard sometimes that I am sure the only reason I kept going was because I didn’t know what else I could do. The idea of using again never occurred to me- that door was firmly shut. So, I soldiered on.
Therapy and twelve step meetings, self-help books and more introspection than anyone should probably ever subject themselves to- that was my life. But it HAD to happen that way, I am sure of it.
In January, I did something that freaked everyone out, including myself. I quit recovery. I dropped out of NA, and decided I didn’t want to live by those rules anymore. I haven’t said much about it here for a few different reasons. In the beginning, it was mostly because I didn’t know what was going to happen to me and I was scared- after all, I have spent the last twenty or so years of my life being told that there is no middle ground for someone like me. Jails, institutions or death. Recovery or relapse. Once an addict, always an addict. But I didn’t want to be sitting in those rooms twenty years on, talking about the sad shit that happened in my old life. I didn’t see the value in it anymore. It seemed…kinda weird. And I had a hard time believing that it was wrong of me to say “I’m done with that life forever.” when I knew it was true, FOR ME. I started to wonder if constantly discussing the life I’d lived before was…like poking a wound, keeping it fresh instead of letting it heal. It seemed counter- intuitive to me. So I stopped.
I am happy to report that, as of this writing, I am doing just fine. In truth, I am doing better than I ever have in my life. I am happy and whole and healthy and free of all the prepackaged ideals I leaned on so heavily in the beginning. I’m not saying they weren’t useful or important or really good for me at some point, because they were! I would never fault anyone for sticking with what works for them. But THIS is what works for me, and I am so glad I took a chance and struck out on my own.
What works for me has nothing to do with what might work for you- this was the other thing that made me keep quiet about this leg of my journey. I would never recommend to another recovering addict to try another way of life. This was an extremely personal, and risky, decision that I made that happened to be right for ME.
I have spent this summer hiking in forests and playing in rivers, jumping on our trampoline, and watering my garden. We’ve flown on planes and played on beaches on both sides of the United States. I’ve laughed with friends, eaten dinners with ocean views, gotten butterflies in my stomach and remembered how to kiss. I’ve gone to parties and picnics, seen movies, gone bowling. I’ve had sun-tan lines and dirty feet and wild hair, and probably gotten about a thousand more smile lines around my eyes. And you know what? I’ve never felt more beautiful in my entire life.
Because I’m living my life the way I have always wanted to- by my own rules, not because anyone else has told me how it should be, or how it should look. And for the first time ever, living my life the way I want to doesn’t come with a cost or with terrible consequences. It comes with a feeling of peace, happiness, and contentment. That is the most beautiful thing of all, I think. I am so grateful that I was brave enough to make it through those hardships, strong enough to do the work that needed to be done, and confident enough to believe I could get here…to exactly where I am, right now.