Words are especially important to me. They bring meaning to the incessant thoughts in my mind and allow me to communicate them. They allow me to understand others, hear what they think, feel, want and need. I learn about people, about life, through words. Through reading and writing, I’ve found a therapeutic release. Certain words mean something to me that I cannot explain – they express my thoughts so perfectly and communicate my intentions so absolutely that I am sometimes overwhelmed at the power of a sentence, a paragraph or a conversation.
Humility was never one of those words. It wasn’t even there.
The thought of being humble never crossed my mind before I got sober. Why would it? I know now that I have spent the last decade thinking only of myself. Of course, I thought I was a good person then – I thought my heart was open, giving and kind. I thought I spent a reasonable amount of time with the people I loved, and sometimes I thought most of my heart belonged to others. In reality, I was spending most, if not all, of my precious time obsessing over numbing the pain and struggle of my life, and truly was not able to make time for any of these people or feelings. Not because I didn’t want to, not because I was a bad person – but because there was no room in my broken, closed off heart. I was constantly pushing down every emotion I felt with alcohol, and in doing so, anything good got pushed right down there with the bad. Eventually, I found myself in a place where nothing truly mattered except my own life and my own problems.
Of course, I didn’t recognize any of this before I got sober, but I did know many years ago that something was wrong. I cared about my loved ones so much – yet the distance between us grew more with time. I tried my best in relationships but they failed miserably. I worked hard in school, but couldn’t follow through with any papers or assignments, or even show up on time. I finally got my dream job and was really great at it, but ended up losing it because I was unreliable. Things were not equating – I was trying so hard, at life, I thought. And it certainly felt like I was trying hard. I was exhausted, and not just from being hung over.
Being an alcoholic, for this girl, meant every ounce of my energy, feelings and thoughts were subdued by drinking – my attitude to pretty much everything in life was “fuck it!” and that was just fine by me. Alcohol guaranteed that I didn’t have to care about anything. The thing was – all of those thoughts, feelings, and energy – it was all still inside me, being crushed by the weight of an addiction I was using to smash it all down inside of me and ignore it.
I have many “not yet’s” but I also have experienced loss and failure at my own hand, because of my addiction. I recognize now, and am so grateful to be able to, that I am not a bad person because of it; I am just human. A human being with an addiction that I am not trying to ignore anymore.
And for me – that’s where the pie comes in. Becoming sober meant recognizing that one of the most important, damaging things that I lost in my addiction was my connection with my self. I remember the girl that I was when I was a kid – full of hope and wonder and joy. I remember the young woman I was becoming before I started drinking and those things still existed. I had passions and desires. I wanted every last drop of goodness that life had to offer me. I wanted to live life, make a difference, create and share it all with the people I loved. Drinking faded that light inside of me slowly, but so surely that I didn’t know if I could ever find it again.
Humility has come to mean, for me, that I know there is a way for me to think more of myself, but also think of myself less often. I do not need to be the center of the universe, and I am certainly not in control of anything. What I am able to control is what I admit to myself, and how I treat other people. As long as I continue to think about humility as “the clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to be what we can be” then I believe that I am continuing on a path to finding the person that I lost touch with so many years ago.
I don’t think it’s a journey that will ever end for me – and I don’t want it to.
Nothing has been as truly eye opening as realizing that I have the potential to nurture my relationship with myself again and that, in turn, will allow me to care more for other people and contribute to life in a meaningful way that matters to me.
It’s scary but it’s exciting and it’s real. It’s life on life’s terms, and I’m not afraid of it any more.
(Written Monday, April 18, 2016.)