As soon as I marked the third out on my scoresheet and the teams on the field started their transition from top to bottom of the ninth, I booked, hurrying down the narrow metal walkway from the press box, through the stands, to the big chain-link gate down the right-field line. I positioned my hands on the latch — I’d been scolded by the grounds crew for actually opening the thing before the game was over — and stood at attention, heart pounding. Ready to pounce.
I must have looked like a crazy person. I mean, I pretty much was. The fear of having to walk into a clubhouse full of naked men after the game to do interviews was so strong it snapped me into ‘fight or flight’ survival mode around 10:30PM every night. I was more scared, cornered animal than 22-year-old reporter with a job to do.
What was I so 🤬-ing scared of? Ah, the central question of my existence! And the best answer I’ve been able to come up with as I’ve looked back over my life: I always craved safety and security, and, being prone to extremes, I pretty much viewed any discomfort as a fate worse than death.
Thus, avoiding discomfort became my primary purpose over the course of 40+ years.
In the 20 I spent as a journalist, post-game interviews made me hella uncomfortable, and adding nudity to the equation was just like 😱 to the point of 🤯. So, in my role as a minor-league beat writer in Macon, GA, circa 2000-2002, I went out of my way to avoid that scenario at all cost. I sprinted onto historic Luther Williams Field the second out #3 had been recorded, before the players had a chance to go inside, and got whatever quotes I could in a five-minute span.
Usually that meant turning in a one-source story, but I did not care. Crisis averted!
Back then, I relied on bottomless Bud Lights to help me come down from those episodes and soothe the anxiety of having to do it all again tomorrow. The drink of choice changed over the years, but the coping mechanism became an autopilot routine. Summoning the courage to work in sports journalism took a lot (too much? 🤷🏼♀️) out of me, but I could always find comfort in booze at the end of the day.
Courage and comfort have been playing a strenuous game of tug-of-war inside me all my life. It didn’t stop when I switched industries…or even when I quit drinking.
Now, behold the grown-up version of that poor, frightened girl at the Macon Braves game. I am two years into a “Plan B” marketing career (term used loosely), fantasizing about the day I can start “Plan C,” and I’m midway through my 20th month of sobriety.
The Brene Brown quote that led off this post, stolen from this week’s “WTF is Success?!” course materials, has never seemed so relevant. Having finally summoned the courage to tackle my addiction, I now must do the really hard work of getting comfortable…being uncomfortable.
Geez, I’m starting to sound like a self-help guru.
It sucks to admit this, but even in the absence of active addiction, anxiety and fear remain a huge hurdle to my happiness. Imagine the girl at the ballpark gate, except sitting with a laptop in a living room, preparing to get on a Zoom conference call with company leadership, as all the following runs through her head at once:
What if they point out a mistake I made that I wasn’t aware of? What if they put me on the spot and I don’t have answers? What if I get in trouble for not having X,Y,Z projects finished? What if they heap a bunch of other projects on me that I don’t feel equipped to handle and I feel overwhelmed and destined to fail? What if they flat-out tell me I suck at my job? I’d honestly rather just get fired…
…Except then I’d have to find a new job, and what if no one wants to hire me? What if I never have the chance to make a living doing something I love?
Sound exhausting? Dude, you can totally see why I wanted to escape from myself all those years, can’t you? You can see why intoxication was so damn attractive, right?
And if you read last week’s post, equating success in life to inner peace — a built-in sense of comfort, not based on external stimuli, that equips you to choose courage, instead of always trying to avoid pain — you can see how elusive success might sometimes seem.
Everything I’ve written here paints a somewhat hopeless picture, but that’s never the message I want to send. I mean, there’s hope for anyone who can summon the courage to change, to inch out of their comfort zone, to show up each day with an open mind and a willingness to try things a little bit differently, even though nothing on the path ahead looks clear, much less secure or safe.
When it came to addressing my drinking, that’s what I was so 🤬-ing scared of: change might come with excruciating pain.
I’m so fortunate that I cleared that first hurdle — the willingness — nearly two years ago and got myself into a recovery program that’s basically in the business of providing hope. I can go to a meeting and sit among other courageous addicts, who struggle with many of the same issues I do but refuse to give up the fight, and I can find the comfort I used to seek in a drink.
I am not alone…that’s comforting.
I am on the right path…that’s comforting.
Success in sobriety will ultimately lead to success (AKA inner peace) in life, as long as I keep showing up and inching forward. …Nothing more comforting than that!
So, I don’t know if I fully believe Brene Brown. For all the times in my daily life when I feel painfully torn between courage and comfort, there are times when my recovery community makes me feel like I have the best of both worlds.