I walked along the sidewalk with no actual destination in mind. I was frustrated, agitated, and defeated.
I was aware of the cars going by, the cracks in the sidewalk, and the heavy raindrops hitting the top of my head. With each step, I felt as if I was moving farther away from hope. The urge to step out in front of the next truck gnawed at me, tearing little bits of flesh off the brittle bones of my willingness to keep going.
Trudging along in the wet chill, I thought about Jennifer's words and my reaction to them. I didn't trust anyone in my life, but even in my confused state, I knew she couldn't help me anymore if I would not believe her. That would mean trust.
Whether it was her intention, she had put me in a place to choose. I was fresh from my hospital discharge and I had assumed my only option would be another treatment center. Now, based on the past hour, it appeared I had more to consider. I had to decide, and I didn't want to be wrong.
I caught the bus as the rain picked up. I was wet and tired, still sick from the lack of alcohol. My mind was all over the place and I wanted to get to a safe place, safe from myself, safe from temptation, and safe from the building anxiety of being in public.
As I sat there, I knew it was the safety of a treatment center I had expected. It scared me to have freedom, but I also knew I was seeking the path of least resistance. It would be easier. It would protect me, locked away to sober up, buying a little more time before facing reality. I think Jennifer knew that too.
She had expressed her belief that alcohol, while destructive and debilitating and therefor a problem, it wasn't the real problem. I could focus on trying to treat the symptom, or I could, with her help, go after the real problem. Trying to be sober, while simultaneously refusing to admit how mentally sick I was.
I had lived much of my life knowing I was not okay. It was my secret, wrapped around other secrets, a secret that I fought every day to hide. The real me was so fucked up, he needed to be away from everyone, but I spent every solitary moment with that fucked up me.
Drinking, gambling, or any other addictive behaviors had been my only vacations from him. While Jennifer and perhaps others knew about that secret me, nobody knew what he was. He was the embodiment of traumas and hurt from long ago, fattened up over the years as I fed him a steady diet of fresh pain, shame, and hurt. Now, critically obese and killing me from within, he was the problem. The thought of facing him, what that would take, the trust I would have to place in Jennifer, filled me with paralyzing fear.
The next several days I lived in a devil's dance of internal turmoil. Trusting completely, if I could get there, also meant going with her to places so deep and frightening that even the thought of it paralyzed me. Maybe it was just too late. Maybe I was just too weak. Maybe I should have followed through and ended it. Back and forth I went.
After another sleepless night, I sat and watched the sun come up. I was so tired, but it filled me with a building acceptance of what had run my life forever. Fear. Fear of everything. Thinking through my life, snapshots racing before my eyes, I saw fear at the helm of every decision I had ever made. Even now, fighting to stay on the planet, this destructive fear was trying to make this decision too. It was fear that I detested.
Tired of living in fear.
Like my alcoholism, I had been hiding behind it, using it to keep me safe from a past I wanted desperately to forget. Fear had been slowly killing me, and enough had finally become enough. I became angry... a good angry that ignited a fire of courageous clarity that allowed me to see the true face of the demon in front of me.
Everything shifted in that moment. I understood I would never recover, never heal, or live again if I allowed fear to win. To go where I needed to go, there could no longer be fear in my world. I had stared down death... there was nothing left to fear.
Fear became my mortal enemy and I would eradicate it from my world, sending it battered and bleeding back to the depths of hell.
I would be fearless.
I would trust.
I would recover.
I would find a life I could live.
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Disclaimer - I base my articles on my own personal experience as a recovering alcoholic and addict. I share about what has helped me, what I have learned about myself, and are to provide insight into my recovery. I encourage anyone struggling with mental health and addiction challenges to consider talking to a professional clinician. You are worth it.