Life gets stressful. We all get stressed out from time to time and it takes its effect on our bodies, minds, and souls. Unfortunately we tend to try to push past these stresses, or shrug them off, not allowing them to fully exist. Until - boom!
You crack and crash, like I did yesterday. I was on my way up island, I was stuck in traffic in an overheating car for an hour in the blazing heat, my phone was going off, and I just thought to myself, "Fuck this," and I cut across traffic and turned around and went home.
I locked myself in my room and sent a message to my roommates in our house group chat basically saying, "Hey, I love you guys, but I really really need to be alone right now and just not think. Have a good weekend," then I uninstalled Facebook messenger from my phone and had a nap. I spent all of yesterday and last night in my room reading, and it felt fucking amazing.
I take these 'me' days every so often, I try for once a month or once every two months. Where I literally do shut out the world and focus on myself and allow myself to breathe and truly feel my stresses without any distractions. When I first realized I needed a day like this, I was working as a content co-ordinator for a magazine and the deadline stresses were wearing me down to the point where I caught a nasty head cold. My mental health declined to the point of my physical health declining as well. It was an eye-opening experience and a reminder that I need to take time for myself.
Initially I felt guilt. I started calling them Selfish Days, and it was an unhealthy label, because instead of relaxing I would feel as though I was procrastinating or avoiding. That's simply not the case. I handle my responsibilities, and then shut everything off and walk away. The guilt accompanied these first few Days, before I snapped out of that mindset. If you feel like you're being selfish, you are defeating the purpose of these Me Days. You are taking the time to rest, relax, and to truly recharge.
In fact, my Me Day has extended to today as well. I'm at home all alone, my roommates are out for the weekend. I'm strangely not lonely. I'm cleaning, I'm organizing, I'm cranking the music as loud as I want to (sorry guys), I'm playing guitar in every room of the house, I'm cooking, I'm reading. I am truly enjoying being on my own, with my thoughts. I've gotta say, uninstalling Facebook Messenger from my phone has been an incredibly liberating experience to boot.
By spending time with myself, by myself, my attitude has completely changed. The stresses are washing away, slowly but surely. Before this weekend I couldn't remember the last time I took a day to myself like this.
Life gets hectic and it gets fast-paced and suddenly there aren't enough hours in a day to accomplish everything that you want to do. Balancing friends, work, relationships, that's hard enough - and the ultimate sacrifice is the time that you need to be spending with yourself, for yourself. So fuck it. Take a Me Day.
Stay in bed. Have a bath. Read a book. Sleep. Dance around your kitchen. Go for a drive. Write it out. Play your guitar, sing, and sing loud. Eat that fast food meal, that comfort food - eat ice cream. Wear your pajamas all day. Turn off your phone. Write a letter. Go to the beach. Do anything that your heart and body is desiring on your Me Day (within reason) and really make that day about yourself. Don't let yourself feel guilty for needing to take time to yourself - feel proud that you recognize it, and hopefully before you end up stuck on the side of a highway in a car ready to break down ...
And if you do, turn the fuck around and go home and focus on you. You deserve it.
I'm really, really good at loving myself.
I'm absolutely terrible at letting myself be loved.
When I was 24 I left a seemingly perfect relationship. He treated me well. He took care of me while I was sick. He celebrated my successes and was empathetic towards my depression. He watched me spiral out of control with alcohol and stayed by my side. We dated for nearly two years and were on track to getting married and having children.
When I left him my father said to me, "Nobody will ever love you the way that he did."
Even though the relationship seemed perfect, that's exactly why I ended it.
I didn't feel that I deserved that love. I didn't love myself. I needed to learn to love myself the way that he did, so I knew that I was capable and deserving.
Learning to love myself took strength, courage, and yes, sobriety. I learned to value myself and put myself first. To take myself on dates, buy myself flowers, and call myself beautiful.
I've been a serial dater since I was 14. The longest I spent single was perhaps a month. Why? Simple. I had horribly low self-esteem. I had always needed a partner to hold my hand, to call me pretty, to be proud of me. I relied on it so much growing up because I was never taught to be proud of myself. To this day I still struggle with accomplishments. Some may call it being humble but I internalize my pride instead of properly celebrating it. That's part of why I've started actively using this blog. I need to share my pride, and to show others that it is important and okay to be proud of yourself.
The time for myself to grow was what I needed. I had never had that. When we split I realized that I had no identity of my own - I'd become half of a relationship. I had been recently diagnosed with having a bipolar disorder and I had no idea how to tackle that diagnosis and re-define myself. It was after the breakup that I started learning the difference between being lonely, and being alone. I loved the feeling of being alone, of being accountable for my actions, emotions and living space. I had never truly lived on my own and it was just me and my cat. I started feeling that creeping loneliness. I had to learn to separate the loneliness, and simply being alone.
The loneliness took over and I found myself repeating old habits - hello, Tinder! I met a handful of people from Tinder - some to this day have become incredible platonic friends who have supported and encouraged me every step of the way. I used Tinder to break free, to push myself and my anxiety, and force myself into new social scenarios and opened up to a plethora of new experiences. I also ended up in another relationship - whoops.
Within two months I was dating again, and I was in a casual relationship for a few months, after demanding this time to myself to grow. He was an addict and tried over and over again to get clean and sober - compromising my values, integrity, and recovery. I started to feel entirely differently than I ever had in a relationship - I didn't feel like a girlfriend. I felt like a sponsor. During this quasi-relationship I maintained my independence and let it grow. I ended that relationship relieved and ready to be on my own.
So I decided to date myself.
I woke up every morning and found something to take pride in, to myself. I looked in the mirror and started every day by saying to myself, "Good morning, beautiful." I truly relished the time and space that I had to myself. I pursued my art. I wrote a book, I pushed and grew my business, I played guitar constantly. I lived by my own accord and went out with my (new) friends when I chose to. I pushed myself to do things I thought 'scary', activities that would make me anxious. I went to bed every night in my bed and curled up with my cat, content with my life.
Did I feel bad about ending that relationship? Absolutely. I still do. There's a conflict of emotion regarding the break-up. I hurt another person, and I hurt myself. That's something I will always have to live with. We don't speak anymore. As time went on I began to realize things about myself that would have been completely incompatible - I've known forever that I don't want children, and he did, badly. One of us would have ended up compromising to keep the other happy. We had different values, different expectations and goals from life. Mind you, these are things I didn't even discover about myself until I was on my own and allowed myself the chance to breathe, and to get to know myself.
I learned something interesting about myself. I learned that I love myself too much to allow myself to be loved. That doesn't seem to make much sense. When I start to feel loved, I start to feel trapped and scared, as though that person's emotions will overtake the love that I have for myself. I feel compromised and needed. I feel like they will expect more out of me than I have to give to myself. I've created a barrier, for the first time in my life, I have standards. I thought I did when I was younger, but I've come to realize I value myself and rely on myself for my own happiness.
"No one will ever love you the way that he did."
That's okay. It's okay to me if nobody ever does. I've learned to love myself, and better.
I still haven't wrapped my head around accepting love that is given to me - not romantic, anyways. What I have learned is that love exists in all too many forms. Perhaps someday I will learn to accept romantic love again. Until then, I'm going to continue to buy myself flowers, take myself on dates, tell myself I'm beautiful, and love myself bigger and better with each passing day.
Is not an easy process. Oh wow is it difficult.
I've been on both sides of the spectrum. I've been the addict left, and the one who has had to leave an addict.
The biggest thing you can do is to recognize when it is time to leave. When the addict is interfering with your daily and personal life and manipulating and exploiting you. An addict will do whatever they can to keep you around, to let you enable them. I know, because I've done it. I'm not proud of it.
I have also been prone to drawing addicts into my life, as relationships, as friends. I have had people rely on me for their sobriety and that gets hard.
The only way I have found to do it is - tough love. Cut them off.
I know. I know they'll get the validation and enabling from somewhere else, but it doesn't have to end with you.
And you'll hear it, the lines they'll drop to get you to stay out of guilt.
"I need you."
My response - I need myself.
My response - I'll suffer the consequences.
"I can't make it without you."
My response - I can't make it with you.
It is so much easier said than done. An addict needs somebody by their side to hold them and to tell them that it's okay that they relapsed, that they have someone looking out for them. It is so hard for an addict to truly be alone and accountable for the consequences of their actions and addiction. No addict can truly get better with somebody by their side validating their failures and telling them that it will be okay. It's a nasty vortex to get sucked into, one that will leave you feeling unfulfilled and miserable. I think that women can relate to this, I know I can. I know I have nurturing tendencies and that I want to make the world better, person by person. I know I have a lot of love to give.
I know also that for the sake of my mental health and my own recovery, I need to turn around and give that love to myself first and foremost. It is important to me and my own addiction that I focus on myself first and foremost. And if I wasn't an addict myself? I think it's still important to put yourself first and remember that you can't save everybody. Not everybody has the coping skills to deal with an addict - I sure don't.
You need to value yourself. You need to put yourself first. You deserve so much better than being walked all over. You deserve to be happy, whether you receive that from yourself, another, or both. Ideally, always yourself.
Addiction truly touches us all and it's painful and it's sad.
For more resources on how to cope with an addict in your life
Addiction Recovery Guide (USA)
Did you know also that AA/NA meetings are not strictly for addicts? You can also work through AA/NA to cope with a partner/friend/family member's addiction, as well as create a mental support group for yourself in coping with another's addiction. Always be sure to check whether or not the group is closed, open, or gender-specific.
Addiction causes suffering, but you don't have to suffer for the actions of another. It's so much easier said than done, but once the pain outweighs the effort, you may find it easier to simply walk away. It is so difficult, but not as difficult as the pain that an addict can cause.
You deserve better.
It's not easy coming clean about your recovery. Admitting to recovery means admitting a problem and that's not an easy thing to do.
When I first quit drinking I didn't make it public knowledge. My close friends and family knew about it but that was it. I think the more people that know, the heavier the weight feels on you - in the beginning at least. These days for me it's a breeze publicly admitting to both my sobriety and my drinking problem. But it took about six months of continued sobriety before being able to admit to myself that my drinking was a problem.
Since then I've met friends and formed relationships and in social scenarios when offered a drink, I have always said, "I don't drink." To me it seems easier to say that than, "I've quit drinking." When acquaintances find out you've quit drinking, there's always questions, and sometimes they aren't easy to answer. It was easier for me to say I didn't drink. But at this point in my recovery I'll tell anybody my story happily.
The reactions you get are interesting, sometimes heartbreaking, and every one will truly be eye-opening. People will define themselves based on their reaction to your sobriety and recovery - believe me.
I've found close friends and family to be incredibly supportive.
Of course my family first and foremost has been my rock. They've watched me struggle intensely with issues regarding self-esteem, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, you name it - they've watched it all since I was a child. Alcohol for me was a trigger for the negative emotions in my life. When I told my family that I wanted to quit drinking they encouraged it. Actually my mother and I used to enjoy having a glass of wine together with dinner, and sometimes a few more ... whoops! This wasn't enabling. We used to bond with wine. When I go to visit her now, we drink juice or soda together. This is something she's changed about herself when I'm around - that support has been amazing. Thank you, Momma.
My close group of friends has seen the same struggles. These are even friends that I used to use and drink with in years previous. These are the friends who talked behind my back and called me Jess the Mess and had no idea how to get me help. Little did they know I'd come to help myself! These are the friends who have always been here for me and while our relationships then may have been based on common interests such as drinking or using, we have managed to forge an intense friendship without any artificial stimulants. How amazing! These friendships I have come to treasure most intensely.
New friends! I've made an entire new friend group since my sobriety. People who have never seen me drunk or high. To me this speaks volumes because these people take me at my word about my problem and addiction and still support me fully. I drink ginger ales right, I still go to parties and shows, and I drink my ginger ales (in a green can). I have one friend who every once in a while looks at me out of the corner of my eye, spots the green can, and imagines for a split second it's a Cariboo beer. I've seen his face fall, his hand hit his heart, his body crumple, and then he realizes it's a ginger ale. This is also the same friend that bought me a shot of apple juice to commemorate my first open mic. These are the people who have loved me for me - maybe even more of the me that my lifelong friends may have gotten to know (so far!) - a truly authentic me that I was able to discover through sobriety and self-love.
Then ... there's the enablers.
I won't even call them friends. There are always going to be these people - just recently I got a Facebook message from an old drinking buddy regarding one of my celebratory sobriety posts. "What the fuck? You're sober? Oh, and for fourteen months? You sound like some idiot talking about their toddler. Booo, you're boring sober, you were more fun drunk. Come camping and get drunk, I won't tell anyone." This was extremely upsetting and I let myself sit on it and contemplate it before responding. I removed him from my friends list and explained exactly why - I don't require outer support for my recovery, I rely on myself. I like to celebrate my successes. I avoid people who are detrimental to my mental health.
I allowed myself to think about the entire scenario and I recalled the way that this person and I used to binge-drink together and it hit me - he was unable to deal with my problem, because it would mean having to admit to his own. It's so much easier to tear down somebody who is bettering their life, than to be forced to analyze your own. To convince your buddy they don't have a drink/drug problem, because you want somebody to use or drink with. In the earlier stages of recovery this is so dangerous.
You may find your friendships aren't quite what they used to be, with people you used to call close. This is a hard-hitting reality. I experienced a huge loss of self when I realized that there were people in my life that I had nothing in common with - save for drinking. I could have chosen to relapse. Instead, I chose to go out and find and make friendships with people who were genuine - people who may drink here and there, but people who will call and ask me to come to the beach, or go canoeing, or 4x4ing, or any other sort of activity that creates a real human bonding. The people who don't rely on intoxicants to form friendships.
At the end of the day I define and control my relationship with alcohol, my friends, and myself.
The greatest person that I have encountered in my sobriety is myself. I love my friends, and I love my family, and the insurmountable support that they have given me. I even love the people who haven't supported me, because they have taught me important lessons about myself and how much value I have to place upon others.
So if you've either supported me, or opposed me, thank you!