I got a package in the mail yesterday from a distant relative. It was such a thoughtful and kind gesture, and I really appreciate them taking the time to send it to me.
Before I opened the package, I re-read the facebook message I had received that sweetly encouraged me to enjoy the photos, and expressed that they really hoped it helped bring back some great memories.
Inside of the manila envelope I found a large stack of random pictures that were taken at various stages of my childhood.
I sat down on our porch swing that faces our back yard.
I began looking though them as I listened to my boys playing on the trampoline.
It was great seeing all of my cousins. Everyone was so young, and so adorable. Looking at the smiling faces of my grandma ,my great grandma, and other relatives who I instantly recognized put a smile on my face.
My smile faded as I could faintly hear that apathetic voice that I have intentionally and strategically buried with truth and immeasurable amounts of hours worth of self-care & maintenance.
It was the familiar feeling of disconnect.
If I hadn’t recognized the faces in the photos they may as well have been stock photos that come inside of new picture frames from a local retail store.
I kept trying to envision the specific time in history anyway.
But it was blank.
I tried to carefully study each photo thinking that maybe, just maybe, if I stared long enough; if I really let the details in the photo sink in, surely, some kind of flashback or emotion would surface.
So I took my time.
I examined facial expressions, clothing, photos on the wall, flooring.
I closed my eyes, trying to imagine the scenario. The smells, the sounds. Something. Anything.
But nothing came.
As a sober adult who has been on a complicated, yet gratifying journey working toward being the best, healthiest version of myself for almost a decade now, this isn’t my first rodeo in relation to feeling detached.
I know that throughout my childhood, the effects of trauma seized moments from me before they even had a chance to play out.
I can recall certain instances when I visited a friend, went to school, or attended a birthday party, but what I remember are feelings, not specific memories.
I can remember feeling different.
I can remember never allowing myself to fully embrace a moment or freely express raw, genuine, emotion.
Everything that I said or did was always carefully calculated and thoughtfully dispensed.
But just as I or anyone else thumbing through this stack of photos can clearly see: it wasn’t all bad.
There were blocks of time where I had opportunities to be free, and to enjoy be a kid, but I never welcomed it or embraced them.
My experiences were always negative because of the way I operated day-to-day.
I was always busy surviving even when it wasn’t necessary.
I made my home down in the pit that I was stuck in, and just to be super safe, I was also wrapped in real fear of losing my sense of control.
So much of my life
has had been handed over to trauma.
The good news is: that was not the end of my story.
It could have been, but by the grace of God, it wasn’t over. It was just beginning.
For me, sobriety meant finally having to face the hard stuff and voluntarily giving healing permission to begin its work in my life.
Although I don’t lead a perfect life and I may not ever not rid myself of the shadows left from the scars, today I understand what I have control over, what I don’t, and more importantly, I value how little control I actually need to have.
Never again will I believe that I am nothing more than a channel created for fear, or meant for compulsion, because I am free.
So trauma, you can keep that manila envelope.
I will keep the gifts of sobriety that I have been gifted and am able to open each and every day.
And for that, I am beyond grateful.