I never end up writing about what I think I’m sitting down to write about. My ego shows me the chair, but my heart usually has a different agenda. There’s always a kind of deception between my hands and intentions, which in a nutshell is exactly how I ended up here.
Recovery is quirky like that.
Most people celebrate having done something; addicts celebrate what it is we haven’t done.
I wanted to write and share my growing list of 100 Reasons To Quit Drinking, and one day, I will. But this morning, waking to my 100th day sober, there was just one thing on that list that kept pushing it’s way to the front of the line screaming Pick me! Pick me! and so, here we are. Of all the 100 (and easily more) reasons to not drink that I’ve collected, this little gem is the piece de resistance in the crown of my sobriety.
One of the most regretful parts of addiction is that it numbs your ability to love.
Anything. Anyone. Everything.
I used to refer to booze as Liquid Courage – and it’s absolutely anything but that. There was nothing courageous about drinking myself to oblivion. I was cowardly, numbing myself each day as a way of eluding the truth. There was nothing brave about my tolerance. Being able to easily drink anyone under the table (including myself) is foolish, not fearless. There was nothing gallant or valiant in poisoning myself bit by bit and bottle by bottle, aware of the slow death I couldn’t live without. Killing myself from the inside out was pitiful, not proud.
Referring to alcohol as Liquid Courage does a disservice to those who are truly courageous.
Courage is having strength in the face of pain and struggle. And, the more I drank, the less strength I was able to muster. The more I drank, the more I summoned situations that brought me – and everyone around me – nothing but pain. The more I drank, the less courageous I became, and the less courageous I became, the less I was able to love – myself and everyone around me.
Fear and courage are brothers.
What is courageous though, is feeling fear and still choosing to act. Courage is following your heart. Courage is persevering in the face of adversity. Courage is standing up for what is right. Courage is letting go of the familiar. Courage is suffering with dignity and faith.
Courage is being sober when all you want is to be wasted.
Courage is acceptance when all you want is to forget.
Courage is loving when all you want is to run.
And I ran.
With every drink, with every bottle, I ran like the Cowardly Lion in the face of all my Flying Monkeys: my responsibilities, my desires, my fears and my hopeless disability to truly love. It’s impossible to feel love when you’re so drunk you can’t feel anything at all. I ran to what I thought would give me pleasure and escape, but instead it only ever gave me disappointment. I ran to fill myself with what I called courage, but I only ended up full of cowardice.
I believe addicts have the biggest of hearts, and they are the most easily broken.
It was my desire to love and be loved, to love myself, and to somehow be better than I was that perpetuated my drinking to the point of hopeless dependency and despair. It’s because of our big hearts that long to feel full that we try and silence the hollow and endless echo with drinking and drugs. It’s because our big hearts are too full of feelings that we turn to anesthetics outside ourselves to numb what we do not know how to accept or embrace.
It’s because we feel everything so loudly that we try and quiet the riots in our heart.
It’s because our big addict’s heart is longing for courageous love, and to love courageously, that we shutter them away in liquor cabinets deep inside our half-dead chests because we are afraid that we don’t know what to do with them.
We stay drunk and saddled to what’s familiar, thinking the fear and the failure can’t find us. We hide our cold feet in boots so heavy we become stuck in one place.
And it was in an anxious, brave moment of decisive self love that I rallied the courage to free myself from the familiar, once and for all allowing all the pain and anguish to pour through me, no longer dulled and drunk – so that I could courageously love and allow myself to be loved.
Choosing to get sober was understanding that there would be tender parts that would need healing, and allowing myself to love myself enough to feel them and forgive myself so I could in turn love others with the fierce honesty they deserve. Getting rid of alcohol was the first step in acknowledging that my heart was not inherently flawed after all, but instead, it was bursting.
For quite possibly the first time ever, I gathered enough courage to swallow my fears and insecurities instead of another drink.
I was so tired of never having enough of what I no longer wanted – and it took courageous self love that I didn’t even know I had to sweat it out and push through so I could finally allow myself to have what it was I truly wanted all along: freedom from feeling powerless.
Here is the most important thing I have learned in my sobriety:
When you want to run, stay.
When you want to hide, open up.
When you want to give up, go a little further.
That right there is courage, and it’s the most important ingredient in this wild recipe of sobriety. It takes courage to admit you have shrunk in the shadow of your addiction. It takes courage to allow yourself to feel all the feels. It takes courage to own your story, and it takes courage to reject the assumed shame that comes tied to it with the same ferocity as you once used to repel reality.
It takes courage to learn how to love yourself enough to stop undoing yourself.
Amelia Earheart put it most perfectly, and I’ll close with this:
“Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”