Fat, wet flakes started falling as I neared the causeway at Tyler State Park, smacking me in the forehead and occasionally the eyeball, and my face broke into a self-satisfied smile. This was my plan: To be out in nature when the storm started, and before every other human within miles crawled out of bed.
My mom is somewhere cringing, picturing this scene — “Do you always go walking alone?” she once asked me with alarm — but the truth is I much prefer the park when it’s deserted, and even sometimes when it’s dark. To take in a sunrise, witness a change in weather, or just stare at an early morning sky, is such an intensely personal experience for me that I think something would be amiss if anyone else was there.
I guess you could say that it’s when I am isolated that I feel most free.
I’ve been a loner all my life, and at 42, with an annoying habit of getting up at 2AM, I’ve pretty much given up hope of ever fitting in with society. I was always one of those “morning people” that seemed to perplex all the normies. These days, I feel like I’m at my best in the wee hours, when I write or do yoga while excitedly awaiting the dawn.
(Flash forward 12 hours, when some of y’all are just eating lunch):
When I say I’m “excited” to start each day, my enthusiasm is really confined to those few sweet hours before the rest of the world gets going. That time is like a safe space where I give myself permission to be OK, just as I am.
Come 8, 9 o’clock, reality hits: the pressures of work, the anxiety of expectations — or, what I think others expect of me — the fear of failure and feelings of dread, that I might be no one, headed nowhere, meaning nothing.
Daylight reminds me why I used to drink like my life depended on it. People remind me why my best friend was a bottle. In darkness and solitude, I can create my own reality, or I can just blot it out by falling asleep. I can find what I yearn for: escape.
Oh my gosh, you guys, the days can be so hard, and there are times when I feel like I would give anything to just *POOF*…disappear!
I don’t mean I want to die. I don’t mean I want to drink. I don’t know what I mean, exactly, but I’ll tell you one thing for sure: There are times when I feel like the only thing keeping me sober is the man I live with — that sweet, silly, huge-hearted human who stuck by me through a decade of escalating alcoholism, then bent over backwards to help facilitate my recovery, and somehow still loves me despite my insane sleeping schedule and isolationist tendencies.
I’m sure a higher power has had a hand in my 19 1/2 months of continuous sobriety, but he/she/it has mostly been working through my husband.
I resist regression because I don’t want to let him down.
Freedom from addiction is a beautiful thing, a wonderful gift, and I am so grateful to be sitting here sober today. I need to say that, here in this space and aloud to myself, to steer out of the mental skid whenever I start to spin off.
Maybe it’s because it’s winter in a pandemic, and I still feel professionally lost after 2 years in marketing, and it’s my time of the month, but I’ve been spinning off A LOT lately. I think the most strenuous activity I’ve attempted in the past week, other than trudging through snow on a Sunday at 6:30, is fighting off negative thoughts.
Throughout my adulthood, this has been the time of year when depression starts scratching at the door.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if breaking free from addiction meant casting off all your proverbial chains? I’ve heard addiction referred to as an elevator that only goes down; unfortunately, recovery isn’t just a smooth ride in the opposite direction.
Sometimes, it’s like my worst fear realized: the elevator gets stuck. I’m trapped. I have no choice but to face reality, to feel those tortuous uncomfortable feelings, to experience that emptiness…and to do the work of finding another solution.
Of course, this shit is all in my head, and therein lies the great gut punch of a loner life like mine: Doing what comes naturally — isolating myself, retreating into my own little world and getting caught up in my thoughts — results in less freedom, not more. This is a trap of my own making.
So, to bring it back to gratitude and all my many gifts, I’m so lucky I have such a fantastic husband. And an amazing therapist. And a sponsor and a 12-step support group and a speaking engagement at a treatment center next week. And you! Thank you for letting me get all this off my chest.
Side note: whoever snow-blowed (snow-blew?) the main trails at Tyler State so that the soft-core (as opposed to hard-core) runners among us can break free for early morning workouts without breaking our ankles, and avoid going completely stir crazy in our houses during this stormy winter season, thank you, too! You’re truly doing God’s work! 😘