I've written often about change. I suppose it's because there has been so much of it. My life is vastly different today than it once was, and it is this personal evolution that I am most aware of lately.
For me, recovery seems to be both fast and slow, ebb and flow, and learn and grow. While it is easy to count days of sobriety, one 24-hour period added to another, recognizing and counting changes has often been more difficult. It is, however, the changes I find more gratifying than the measurement of time. It really was the need to change that was going to allow me to live.
Deciding that my life was no longer worth living, planning to end it, and experiencing all the emotional and physical pain such a decision thrust upon me, was horrifying. I didn't want to die, but I just couldn't do it any longer. I remember saying, "I want to be here, but I can't be here like this anymore." I think that was the first truly honest thing I had said in years and was perhaps the first slight change.
Maybe it was the acknowledgement I wanted to be here. I had worked hard to convince myself of the opposite and found affirmation of it in every failure, challenge, heartbreak, and my overwhelmingly hopeless future outlook. It had taken me over 10 years of failed recovery to get to that place. That is a long time. In that time, I had lost my belief in a rock bottom. Each time I thought I had reached a rock bottom, I would soon discover that I could find a pickaxe, a shovel, or a stick of dynamite to keep on digging deeper. I think the real rock bottom is death, and there is no coming back from that.
Laying in the hospital bed, having uttered those words, forced me to shift my perspective. My challenge, in that moment of truth, was not whether to keep breathing, but to accept that I couldn't be here like this. In accepting that, came the frightening clarity that things would have to change... I would have to change. Even though I could not yet fathom that change was even possible, based on my experience, I had at least determined I did in fact, want to live. Looking back on it, that changing of my mind, was a tiny shift in beginning to look at things differently.
I believed that my real, unbearable sadness stemmed from the belief that I was unwanted, unloved, and discarded by those I loved. I had, through my own doing, made toxic my mere presence in their lives. Over time, I realized that the genuine sadness was that I was unwanted, unloved, and discarded by me. It didn't matter that others may have wanted to love me as it was futile in any regard. I had made receiving any form of love impossible through my own self-hatred.
It is these minor changes, slight shifts in perspective, and the tiny nuggets of revelation that I try to count now. They are often hard to see, but they are there and that is what my continued recovery and healing has become. Sure, I am aware of my accumulating sober time, but I care more about my efforts to heal from my long untreated mental illness and self-minimized trauma.
I don't know where I am going, who I will be, and if I ever will. I know I am moving in a different direction now; I am a different person today, and perhaps enjoying the discovery that constant change will undoubtedly bring in the days ahead will be enough.
Maybe that's living. I know what not living is... and I am not doing that anymore.
For now, I think I'll just keep counting change.