After my last meeting with Ron I felt lighter in my steps as I walked out of the clinic. We’ve covered a lot of ground over the past 15 months and my mind is no longer spinning, my shoulders are no longer hunched, and I’m not filled with that gray, foreboding sense of dread. I don’t feel like I’m rushing between things, or bouncing around like a pinball ricocheting off of flashing bumpers that ding and buzz as they shoot me off wildly in another random direction. My breathing is gentle and my mind is clear. I feel focused but also more aware of the little things that are happening around me. I pay attention and have renewed interest in others. I feel less selfish as I get stronger and I’m better able to share myself with others.
When I get home I usually discuss some of what we talked about with Veloice – mostly to let her know I’m seriously working on some issues that needed to be identified and addressed, but also to show her that reaching out for help can really make a difference. My communication tools with Veloice are some of the ones that have rusted the most in our marriage over the years, but by working with Ron I’ve cleaned some up and replaced others with new ones. That afternoon we sat on the porch and had a good talk. I thought I’d share one or two of the four topics that I had discussed with Ron in the morning, but we ended up talking at length about all of them.
What put me into the ditch? Drinking. What caused me to drink to the point I went into the ditch? Pain. Resentment. Anger. Fear. Low self esteem. What events led to these negative feelings about myself and/or others? That ball of yarn would have to be slowly unwound and each length laid out and examined individually. Ron couldn’t do that for me – he could only encourage and support my journey into those dark, primal recesses of my mind – but as each colorful length was separated from the ball it could be seen for the simple piece of yarn that it was. Each piece of my life could be looked at for clues. They were there. They were not unique. In fact, I’m sure they are quite common among most people who become dysfunctional in their addictions. It’s not the problems that occur during our lives that make us, or break us, it’s how we respond to those problems when they occur. And they will occur in each of our lives. Why did I choose to stuff feelings? Why did I choose to mask the pain, resentment, and anger with alcohol rather than deal with the underlying issues? I suppose there were lots of reasons – probably just excuses. And lies. The worst lies being the ones I told to myself. I believed them.
Our lives are made up of so many individual strands – relationships (parents, siblings, spouses, kids, friends), work, hobbies, spirituality, money, sex, schedules, health, and numerous life experiences along the way (both good and bad). Some we control and some we can’t. Some can come to control us. Each strand is a piece of yarn wound into a ball with all the other lengths. The ball is soft and colorful. There is no beginning and no end. A kaleidoscope of colors blending together – intertwined into a chaotic mix – no ball the same as another.
My time with Ron has been spent unwinding the ball and separating the strands of yarn so I could look at each colored length individually. A few of the many strands were black. They were the ones I had to separate and take a deeper look at. They couldn’t be ignored or quietly discarded. I had to be open to what I’d find and honestly confront the ones that caused pain and anguish. I had to change the ones I could change and accept the ones I couldn’t change – then let them go. They would no longer have power over me if I did the heavy lifting to understand them for what they were. Even these black lengths of yarn added definition, beauty, and character to the colorful ball of yarn. They are simply part of my story, and part of who I am.
Today I feel alive. I want to feel happy and joyful. Who doesn’t? But I also want to feel disappointed, sad, and lonely. I want to feel them for the simple emotions they are so I can ask myself why I feel that way and do something positive about it. Talk about it. Go for a walk and think it through. Or just listen to music and enjoy the summer afternoon and my body walking smoothly up a hill without aching or breathing hard. I appreciate my 60 pound weight loss, good diet, and recent surgeries to fix things I can fix, and for being in the best physical shape I’ve been in for 25 years. Being in good physical health goes hand in hand with maintaining good mental and emotional health. I want to be the best “me” possible – for Veloice, my daughters, and my grandkids. For me, too. I know it will take more work, but I think I’ve come a long way. I can do it. Little steps – keep putting one foot in front of the other. One day at a time.