“We do not see things as they are,
we see things as we are.”
– Anais Nin

We use the term “scratch the surface” to describe things of great depth; things that take time to fully understand or uncover.

It’s our way of saying we’ve only just begun.

On the surface, it looked as though I just needed to stop drinking. Or at least, stop drinking so goddamn much. It was as though it was too hot outside and if I just took off my jacket I’d be fine.

I wore my addiction like a heavy winter coat on a stuffy summers day.

It felt secure and safe, with deep pockets to fill up with my insecurities so I could carry them around regardless of the weather. The more I drank, the heavier the coat became. Every drink was just another layer.

It wasn’t until I stopped drinking that I was able to start stripping away the layers; one by one until I stood there vulnerable and being seen.

It was only when I stopped drinking and the coat came off that I could see all the scars I had been hiding.

Most I had refused to remember, and some I lied to myself about having forgot.

A lot of them weren’t healed, yet.

The longer and harder I drank, the easier it was to cover them up and deal with them later. Later, when I wasn’t feeling so vulnerable. Later, when I could peel back the layers in privacy and look at them myself. Later, when I was sober.


Maybe tomorrow…

It never happened.

This isn’t to say I didn’t know they were there. Most of the scars still hurt, and it was through drinking (a lot) that I found I could numb away the attention they were screaming for.

For a little while, anyways.

Getting rid of alcohol, I discovered (and in my gut already knew), was just the tip of the iceberg.

And all humans are like icebergs: complicated, magnificent, drifting illusions.

As above, so very much more below.

What I saw on the surface (I need to stop drinking) was nothing compared to what was actually weighing me down. The scars and the hurt were still there, just below the surface, away from the light and submerged in liquid denial. 

Neatly covered beneath the heavy layers of drunkenness that were cooking me from the inside out.

We do not see things as they are,
we see things as we are.
– Anais Nin

I have to share this quote again, because it is exactly how I lived my life for so very long. I only saw a small fraction of my problem and my addiction, because I had drank myself down to a fraction of myself.

That’s not entirely true.

I saw it. I just stayed drunk enough so as to not have to admit it.

If I stayed drunk enough, long enough, I could forget about everything going on below the surface.

It was only when I stopped drinking that I was able to shed some light on (and admit to having) my wounds and scars. And you know what it feels like when you’ve burned your hand and you later put it near something hot?

It hurts.

It was in those scary, early days of sobriety that my scars started to scream for attention again – and at just Day 16 this time around, they’re still yelling. With the glacial clarity that comes with sobriety, it slowly became/becomes obvious that drinking (the visible tip of the iceberg) is just a symbol – a symptom – of something much, much bigger.

Getting rid of alcohol has been the easy part.

The hard part, the part that is calling on all my courage, is to dive deep beneath the surface now and start dealing with all the facets that make up the whole. All those hard to reach corners where I’ve stashed my shame and regret, the dark depths where the lies of inadequacy live, and the sad, shadowy parts where I store my fears.

All the heavy things, that ironically keep the iceberg from sinking.

All the real reasons I drink. All the years of lies I’ve woven into layers around me; lies about why I drink, unravelling and undone in a worthless pile at my feet.

It’s in the weight of these sober truths that the big picture becomes visible. Every scar, wound, false belief and fear, slowly rising to the surface, thrown into the light and demanding to be seen.

This is the hard part. 

This is the part where I need to lick my own wounds, without the anesthetic of insobriety.

It’s like a reunion of all the things that keep me up at night, finally gathered in the same small room and wanting to catch up with how I’ve been, since I’ve been gone so long.

All the painful parts, vying for my attention after years of neglect.

It’s in the diving deep after we stop drinking that we can start to see everything, for once, as it really is. It’s in the stripping away the layers of drunkenness that kept me covered and hidden, that I can finally feel and deal with all the hurt parts I’ve been numbing.

And it’s in finally seeing the entire, overwhelming, beautifully complicated iceberg as a whole, that I can finally begin to really, truly heal.

Written by SJ VanDee

Recovery Blogger. Sober AF. Photographer. Storyteller. Writer.


  1. Beautifully written. There’s an old AA saying…If you want to find out why you drank stop drinking. Early sobriety is scary, all of the shit hits you like a ton of bricks but it’s also really exciting because you are getting to know and to love yourself. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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