You know what I don’t miss around the holiday season?
Faking my way through gatherings in an attempt to live up to the expectations of others, and to look and sound as sober and happy as everyone else seemed to be.
I would make an exhaustive effort to fit by faking my way through what I thought was a pretty decent premeditated plan, that I was always sure would get me through. And it was always the same with me. I tried to ‘fit’ by blending in. By blending, I really mean that I needed to disappear.
Every holiday event, gathering, or get together went something like this:
- Became hyper-focused and compulsive. Continuously check your eyes and complexion in any and every reflective surface to make sure you are still blending nicely with the regular, annoying, happy, folks.
- Consistently and purposefully enunciate all of the your words, and the sounds and syllables in your sentences when communicating. It’s what they all do. It sounds so sober.
- Always open your eyes extremely, almost weirdly wide when someone is speaking to you. You are officially sober looking, and paying attention. Also, only blink occasionally.
- Never doze off sitting upright. It scares them and could spark whispering and suspicion and it’s only downhill from there. Sleeping while smoking is also frowned upon.
- Eat the food. If you can’t eat make a plate and sit where eating is taking place and blend. Take a bit or two and throw it away (always plate facing down.)
- Periodically disappear. But act surprised when people start asking where you have been. Your confused reaction will help to kick-start them second guessing their own judgment, which gives you at least two more opportunities to slip away for alone time.
- Always avoid the loud-mouthed well-meaning family members who think they have sober radar. They only stir things and cause drama.
- Become combative if they begin to sense that you might be high. Confront them. How dare they accuse you, again? I mean, who do they think they are anyway?
- Always be sure to announce that you have to leave early to make sure you get home in time to sleep for that job interview that you have the next day. You have that job interview to make them stop asking questions about what is happening in your life.
- Never forget to make rounds. Ask people for gas money to get to your interview that you don’t actually have. They really wouldn’t want you to miss it, now would they?
- Bail before you forget to enunciate and watch how you are walking. Those are two signs that the night is about to get even better.
- Call as many people as you can. Only people who might want to ditch their gathering for a bar, too. When they don’t answer, call them again.
- Most of everyone is sick of being around you. So go home so that you can not think about how much you wish you could be annoying and happy and sober like the people you just had to escape from.
- Spend a few hours crying, wondering what is wrong with you and why you can’t do normal things and why you are always alone.
- Drink more, chain-smoke cigarettes and search and re-search your apartment to find ‘those one pills in that cellophane’ that you hid for later.
- Fall asleep sitting up in the hallway looking for said pills.
- Wake up the next day unsure whether you made it to that gathering or not? Probe. Search your memory bank for fragments of the prior day and try to piece together what happened. Mostly try to remember if you found ‘those pills in the cellophane that you hid for later’.
That was exhausting.
It is safe to say that I don’t miss any of that. I don’t miss feeling like I need to melt away into nothing in order to escape feeling like a fuck-up.
Being around people who seemed to lead content, calm lives, forced me to become more self-aware of how empty I felt. Maybe that’s why I preferred hiding and faking my way through. It wasn’t so much about being around them, as it was how I saw and felt about myself when in their company.
Hiding, after it has become a lifestyle, can feel so powerful. It is like the hold it has over you cannot ever be broken; like it would take a miracle for you to push through. I want you to know if you are reading this, that breaking free is possible for you.
I walked into the idea of living an authentic life completely terrified to look and see who and how I had become. I had tried and failed at rehabilitating myself and my life countless times.
My consensus was that I had been running for too long and it was too late for me. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do or how to be. I had no idea where to start. It was just too much.
But, by the Grace of God, I stayed alive long enough to take the first step anyway. I wish I could tell you that it was magical and easy, but it was magical and terrifying and difficult.
The good news is that while early recovery can feel sucky, and unstable, and like it’s just not working, it is not hopeless and exhausting.
Somehow it works itself out as you plug new things into your heart and your mind. The long piled up list of things that you never dreamed you could get through, or find the strength to face, will eventually be dealt with.
Through the sorting process, you will learn about who you are and what you are capable of. You will gain confidence and your heart will mend. My mind is still playing catch-up, but I know for sure our hearts mend. 😉
And while time passing doesn’t heal, it does teach us about who we truly are. God paves new paths for us to walk and all that is required of us is to agree to keep moving forward, making one healthy, new choice at a time.
I am still so grateful to have celebrated my tenth sober Christmas this year, and I am looking forward to my tenth New Year’s Eve of doing NOTHING.
By nothing, I mean a lot of important somethings.
I won’t be searching, driving around, searching for willing babysitters, money that I don’t have, or for specific drugs or people. I won’t be faking my way through any gatherings, and I won’t be forcing myself to attend parties that I don’t really want to go to in the first place.
I also won’t be waking up a special hatred for myself on Sunday morning.
The only thing I will feel guilty about on Sunday morning is how many carbs I consumed from all of the Pinterest appetizers that we are making, and the only ‘plan’ that I have had to make this holiday season have been detailed grocery store lists.
God is good.