Part 3: Eyes Wide Open
Vulnerability used to be something I was terrified of because it meant being seen, heard and possibly judged. That fear, like all of my fears, were and continue to be fueled by not feeling enough. From a really young age I remember that feeling of not enoughness. And it wasn’t until this year that I got real and uncovered that and how it has been the driving force behind so much in my life.
Once May rolled around, I started to have moments of intense clarity. What I now realize was happening was that I was unraveling and shedding old layers of myself in order to become who I am today. But at that time, it was unfamiliar, messy and painful. I entered some of the darkest moments of my life because I was getting real with my deepest fears. I didn’t have any of my former vices to lean on. Instead, I found myself sitting in a shadow, alone and unsure. And sobriety became my flashlight to help me find my way.
By this time, my desire to be sober far exceeded my desire to drink. That high of feeling alive and awake, even despite the messy and painful moments, started to convince me that maybe I never had a problem. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought. And then I felt my first urge to drink again.
It was in September and I was getting ready for to go out and celebrate my 34th birthday. I picked up my amazing boyfriend and we headed to the restaurant. In the car I told him that I felt nervous and that I was thinking about how times like these were when I would love to drink. Love it because it took the edge off my nervous awkwardness and gave me the ability to feel more myself. I felt a longing for that old familiar ease to wash over me.
He squeezed my hand and asked me if I was okay.
Of course, I said.
And I was.
I knew I wasn’t going to but it was the first time I actually physically felt the craving for alcohol and had to really focus on not taking a drink. I walked in and sat down surrounded by my friends and enjoyed a special mocktail and rang in my 34th year.
A few weeks later, I went to my first Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. That urge scared me. And I realized that I couldn’t do this alone. If I wanted to stay sober and on this path of awakening, then I needed to start asking for help and leaning on others to support me. Two things that my not enoughness held me back from doing all these years because I didn’t want to be needy or a burden.
I grew up in an AA family. I thought I knew what it was all about and so when I quit drinking, I didn’t think it was for me. But a dear friend of mine offered to go with me and in my tenth month of sobriety, I knew if I wanted to maintain it, I needed to show up- so I did. I was so nervous, that overwhelming sense of this idea I didn’t belong sept through.
I felt defeated. I thought I could do this on my own. I read a lot of books. I did special yoga, I meditated and listened to podcasts on staying sober. I went to therapy and sought out mentors. But I never thought I would be sitting in an AA meeting.
I never thought that I would need AA because I convinced myself my drinking wasn’t that bad.
Yet there I was. And that first meeting I was surrounded by a wall of judgment I built to protect myself. To protect myself from the realities that alcohol was a problem for me. All beliefs I created myself out of fear, out of not enoughness.
I’ll never forget the moment of complete clarity I felt when I read The Untethered Soul a few years ago. The one part that has stuck with me was when author, Michael Singer wrote about removing our inner thorn. For me, my inner thorn has always been not enoughness. This thorn was a constant source of unease and discomfort. Yet I became so comfortable with the discomfort that I was too afraid to see what would happen if I removed it. So instead, I washed around the thorn, keeping it clean and leaving it intact. I would feel the sting like a sensitive nerve each time it was triggered but instead of removing it, I let it be. Sometimes the anticipation of pain is more painful than actually experiencing it.
I spent so much of my life protecting myself from the problem that it manifested into an even bigger problem. My not enoughness spread out like wild weeds, growing into different types of fear that kept me stuck, afraid and alone.
October was when I finally broke free. I had still been hanging on but it took me this long to finally loosen my grip. I was in Bainbridge Island on a retreat. The whole trip I felt like a chrysalis ready to emerge from my cocoon. I could feel how different I felt. Not that I changed but how I’ve grown.
On my final day we walked out into the cold ocean water. My heart was pounding. My breath was deep. I hesitated to fully submerge and then once I finally did, a warmth overcame me. I came back up for air and felt the heaviness that once held me wash away. I felt lighter. I felt enough.
Sobriety is the flashlight that helped me uproot all of my not enoughness. It has helped me shine light on the darkness and shadows. For without it, I would have never been able to see my thorn. Being sober is the light I needed to see how everything that held me back, kept me small, and stuck in the grip of fear didn’t have to stay. It gave me not only the insight to see my thorn was there but the courage to access my power and remove it.
My addiction wasn’t to alcohol but to filling that void of not enoughness. Sobriety just helped me find my way. It has been the key to helping me unlock all the greatness and aliveness within me. Ever since I committed to not only sobriety but the active work of removing my thorn, my eyes have opened up to all the possibilities that lie before me.
Sobriety has kept me awake in order to start to see all the richness around me. It has revealed to me who I truly am and what I am capable of. It has aided in me in reclaiming who I am.