Dear Alcohol, What Are You Here For?
Push it down, it comes out sideways
Push it down, it comes back up ~ Travis Meadows, Sideways
There was a time I didn’t understand why people had addictions to drugs and alcohol. These addictions were the “ones” that I knew I would never have to deal with – or so I thought. I viewed alcoholics and drug addicts as the ones that didn’t know how to deal with life – they were weak. I mean how could their life really be that difficult?
It wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s that I realized I had my own private addiction. It wasn’t clear to anyone…well not that I knew of. What was my hidden addiction? I was a people pleaser. A pleaser to the point I placed everyone else’s needs, feelings, wants, and requests ahead of my own. Everyday. My addiction didn’t have me slurring my words; it had me withholding my thoughts. My addiction didn’t cost me money; it cost me time, and lots of it. My people pleasing addiction had me doing what everyone else wanted me to do. Day in and day out. My addiction silenced my voice and controlled my time. I wasn’t a threat to people on the road with my addiction; I was a threat to my own personal freedom.
And then it happened, I found the personal freedom I’ve been looking for and I went wild with it. I was my own boss, my own keeper, my own person. Let’s celebrate, who wants a drink?! And before I knew it, I had traded one addiction for another. Alcoholism came knocking on my door just over one year ago. It knocked and I let it in. It started out as a good time, every night. It started out as freedom from others, freedom to do what I wanted to do. But without realizing it my celebration took hold of me and I was drinking 5-6 gin and tonics every night. Doubles.
Often times, I went to bed so drunk the room spun for a good hour. Other times I was throwing up before I went to sleep. Every time I’d wake up the next day, my heart heavy. Immediately, I’d be inundated with remorse and an onslaught of reasoning about why I was drinking so much. My mind was consumed – why couldn’t I stop myself from drinking. The pages of my journal filled with self-loathing, turmoil and negative feelings toward myself and my love affair with alcohol. But they are also filled with the countless revelations of what I was discovering about myself.
Once I got everything on paper for that day I would pull up my boot straps and have a productive day. But come 4 or 5 pm it would all start again. I told myself this was a “healthy” time to start drinking. Pretty soon, I didn’t care about the “healthy” time to start drinking and I started when I felt like it. Sometimes that was 11 am. As if this wasn’t enough for me, I started sneak-drinking and hiding it from my girlfriend. I was ashamed and I didn’t want her to see how many drinks I was having.
A few days ago, I woke up with another piece of clarity about why I have turned to drinking. It might not have been a new revelation, but it spoke differently to me that morning. I sat down to write and the epiphany came like a downloaded book to my laptop. As I wrote I was recalling my 35 years growing up in the church, conditioned to perform since the young age of 5. As long as I performed correctly, ”followed the rules”, according to the Bible and the standards of my church, then I was accepted. Looking back, I believe the greatest thief in growing up in the church was the way it suppressed me, the way it suppressed most people. In my experience, the church is not a place to go and find out who you are and to discover your GOD-given unique capacity as a human. Instead the church was a place where my true self had to go underground to be accepted. The suppression of any spirit will eventually come out sideways.
This past year of drinking has been my year of surrendering this hard-wired mindset of living by someone else’s guidelines – particularly the church’s. This past year has been my rebellion. The Shepherding Movement I grew up in produces disciplined followers, conditioned to follow the marching orders from the church. This produced a lifestyle where I didn’t get to think about the details of how I wanted to live my life. Looking back, it feels like prison – told where to go, how to think, who to socialize with, where to live, how to live, what I need to place importance on, bias against my sexuality. I had a blueprint for my life given to me by the church community, and in order to be accepted into the fold of the community, I followed. For years and years, I didn’t know there was freedom on the other side of those four walls.
For the first time in my life, at 42 years old, I answer to myself only. I’m not following anyone anymore. I’m not doing things out of pressure and guilt. I’m not performing for anyone anymore. I make the rules and I can break them without fear of being rejected. The choices I make everyday aren’t dependent on the pressure of others and how they think I should live. I have no ties to performing for anyone. I don’t have to divulge anything I do to be loved. I can finally just BE. Broken and all.
Why am I writing all this? I write to heal myself and I write in hopes of helping others who are struggling with similar issues I struggle with. I don’t have to tell you that addiction is not just limited to alcohol, drugs or people-pleasing. Some of you are addicted to shopping. Some of you are addicted to sex. Some of you are addicted to narcissism. Some of you are addicted to another person. Some of you are addicted to chaos. Some of you are addicted to perfectionism. Some of you are addicted to running from yourself. Some of you are addicted to always being a victim. All addiction is RESISTANCE to our authentic self, our best self.
Here are a few things I am learning and have put in my tool belt for being human:
It takes work to unlearn patterns in our lives. We must be kind to ourselves. We are talking about rewiring our thinking around feeling uncomfortable or anxious or uneasy or sad. We won’t learn more about ourselves until we deliberately choose to walk directly through it. Whatever it is, you are not going to die by facing your feelings head on.
When you are dealing with a habit or mindset in your life that you feel shame about, instead of feeling shitty about your inability to annihilate it, try asking “What are you here for? What are you here to teach me?” And keep asking. Even if it takes years. Keep asking. Stay open to what you are to learn.
What if instead of escaping what we are feeling, we relaxed into what is? In the very moment of unease. Practice being okay with what is. In. This. Very. Moment.
Whatever you are dealing with in your life now, know that you are okay. Be kind to yourself. We are all made up of layers and when we stay open to what is, we give ourselves the chance to show up. Relax into what is. Be wary of judging someone else’s behavior because that very thing you are judging may very well come knocking on your door.
P.S. If you need some good music that relates to being human…listen to Travis Meadows. He has been through the ups and downs of being human.
Good work Jilly Beaney – Are you going to quit drinking then? Are you just going to white knuckle it or go to a program?
“We must be kind to ourselves.”
“Whatever it is, you’re not going to die by facing your feelings head on” …
This most obvious of statements however it’s a lie that hooks many of us. When in reality we die little by little by NOT FEELING (surfing the rising and falling waves of emotion) trading authentic emotion for numbing out and denying our True Self. What is left is more of a characature that only resembles the actual Soul that abides and is Enough As Is.
For me, this is a daily practice – allowing my feelings to ebb and flow – to simply Be with them without my familiar habit of over analyzing them but rather befriending them as messengers leading me back Home . We are so complex and yet all so similar this Being Human. We all really do just long to be seen, accepted and loved – I must offer this spacious Belonging to myself before I can receive or offer it to another.
I love your thoughts, feelings and your unique perspective in which you see the world, Jill.
Thank you for your brutal honesty that encourages me to show up as I am in my world 💗
I always love your comments, my dearest friend. Thank you for shedding your light on my blog post and sharing how you show up every day to be YOU.
Love you Anam Cara!
I feel like I have been slapped repeatedly across the face with a cold, wet wool sock full of corn snow.
Thank you for sharing your beautifully written piece on your your addictions and the things which you felt controlled by, the things all of us are controlled by, or as you insightfully noted, we seek to be controlled by. Or, best of all, allow ourselves to be seduced and controlled by.
My worst, as I recall, was being controlled by the companies which gave me a pay check in return for as much of my time as I would sacrifice to them, often in excruciating agony. They paid me, they felt they owned me. They didn’t have to care and, as was often my case, did not. I thought I had to put up with it. I thought I had to work horrid hours for managers so uncaring as to be witlessly cruel. My last severance from such an abusive company left me with the parting gift of an incredible sense of elation that took weeks to wear off. I still float off a bit when I think back on it.
Of course, I now work for myself and jeez, can I be a jerk to work for. The hours! The pay! Sometimes, the Universe allows us to create our sense of an ideal world, and then sentences us to live in it. Hopefully, the experience has made me a kinder, more empathetic person.
But Jill, my dear, dear Jill: I have done you wrong. Over the past year, I have offered and given you drinks under the heading of good hosting, thoughtful socializing or simply the desire not to drink alone. You took me up on many of my offers. At least for the good stuff you did.
Was I enabling you? Giving you a stronger reason to drink, or providing an acceptable cover to do so? I do not ask for an answer, except to the next question: We will see each other again; could you please tell me how you would like me to handle the social drinking situation next time you are here? Infinite scenarios are running through my mind, please help me make it easier for you to break out of your confinement.
Your obedient servant and secret admirer, –Vince
You are a beautiful soul, Jill.
Danica, your words brought tears to my eyes. It means a lot to hear from you. I’d love to catch up one day if we are ever near each other in proximity:) xo
Jill ~ Thank you so much for sharing. I’m deeply touched by your website. Your openness is simply profound. I hope I can get in contact with you; it’s refreshing to hear such truth as I have also walked through some very rough ground these last many years since the MC days. What a lovely person you are. Be encouraged:)
Meg, sorry for my delayed response to your sweet comment. I wanted to thank you for taking the time to read and write something. I’d be happy to get in touch with you. You can email me jsonsteby at gmail dot com. I hope you are finding yourself in 2019!