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.