We sat at the parade and my friend said, "Yes, you've lived a lot of lives." And I answered, with a lump in my throat, "Oh yes, I have."
I grew up in a town where the 4th of July is a really big deal. If it falls on a weekend, it's an especially long party complete with red and white and blue and a whole lot of people, and even more alcohol consumption than on the average summer weekend in Midwestern Minnesota.

It took me until the 3rd to realize that this year would be different. In the years before marriage and children, I would go to the parade, hang out on the lake, and drink, and then go to the bar and drink some more. After meeting Ryan and having our kiddos, I would spend the day with my family and then always be sure to have plans with friends, to socialize and drink, and then drink some more and more, out by the lake, seeing people I hadn't seen in a long time.

This was my first sober 4th of July long weekend. It was harder than I thought it would be because I've been coasting along the last month or so, not feeling so heavily weighted by my addiction. And then it just snuck up and waved memory flags, leaving me grieving in a way. I was watching my two worlds collide. The new against the old, crashing around and pulling on me, begging me to let go and to hold on. It's really hard to do both of those things at the same time.

Everything is still the same while I am not. And as grateful as I am for how I've changed, the sameness of everything else around me stings sometimes. I find myself missing the way I used to take part in some things, not only because I'm an alcoholic and therefore I wish I could drink like the average social drinker and can't, but because it's as if I'm learning a whole new culture with its own unique language and customs. I'm walking on new legs with shoes that don't quite fit yet. It's not even so much about the drinking, it's about the painful healing.

Time will help all of this, but for right now, it hurts. I know that as I take these steps on this new terrain, I'll grow and I'll heal more and more and that's so good. I think maybe I'm just afraid of the healing, of what I'll have to walk through as the memories crash. Because there is so much work to be done, I know that. I know because of the way I feel, actually really feel, when I feel time-warped. I'm a mess in it because the feelings are strong and I know they're telling me to keep walking, keep pushing through, keep feeling, keep grieving what I've done and what's been done to me. When it hurts, I'm stepping closer to being free of all of it, and sometimes I wonder if that's even possible, even while I know because of the last five and a half months, that anything is possible.

It's scary. My past holds dark places, and it is what it is while I am not, and while I am.

I am the girl who chain-smoked and listened and talked and listened and talked with good friends, gripping the glass and lifting the glass over and over while believing this was the way to go deeper into meaningful conversation, loosening us up. Like that was the only way to round the edges and let down the guard and say it like it is. I am the girl that would say, We have our best talks when we go out, the emptying bottles nearby.

I am the girl who drove anyway.

I am the girl who tolerated the advances and with each drink swallowed her voice, the one that begged to say no.

And as I grew out of that, while still drinking, I was the girl who made grown up choices and lived a grown up life while drinking faster and more in a way that would keep people from knowing.

If I was living the 4th of July one year ago, I would have made plans to be at the bar on the beach and I would have drank before I got there so that drinking so very much would not seem quite as much to my friends. And I would have had a moment or two of fuzzy and light and carefree and then the night would be spent chasing that buzz and never finding it. I would be the girl, standing there, trying to listen while obsessing about what to drink next or how much was left in my glass or if I had enough money in my pocket for just the right fix.

I was that girl, I am that girl, but I am not that girl.

I am not that. I am this.

I carry her, though, for right now. All of her stories are a part of me and it's impossible not to cry while I walk through this. I will let go of her, finding more freedom every day. But closing the door on yourself and starting again is not only a new chapter, it's like starting to write an entirely new story without any idea how to type or spell or think at all. And I'm trying to do it while life spins quickly on around me in its sameness and its newness. There is so much tension in the transition, the building of the plot with strange new characters, including me. Some days there's just too much tension and I'm beyond grateful that I have a place to go, to sit and say it and be heard, going deeper in conversation than alcohol could ever take me.

You know, the thing is, I want to keep her. She knows what she knows because of living her story. And so I think what I need to do is hold on to her while finding me. She has a lot to teach me. I hope she continues to talk, to sneak up on me and remind me of all she's seen and known. And I hope that when she does, it won't always feel this way, so raw.

I believe that it won't, and so I'll keep walking, until I've worn these shoes to comfort.

P.S. In this new life, the one that clashes with the old, I am their mother. So most of the time, I choose to live in the moment, with them, because this life of mine is really really good.

32 clicked right here to comment:

Andrea said...

Captivating. I have so much to say and I don't know that I can, but I SO relate to your journey. I have lived man lives too and my sting still comes from a divorce that happened over 12 years ago. Even now, it haunts me. And my many lives since that trauma have all carried the sting of that time. Even on a wonderful vacation to my hometown last week I was looking over my shoulder fearing an accidental reunion. But at the same time, I have learned from that life and wouldn't have this one without it, so I am thankful.

And if I don't meet you at BlogHer even for 1 minute I will consider the whole trip a failure :-)

Elizabeth @claritychaos said...

big hug, sister. proud of you for your honesty and your determination to heal and be free.

love you.

Heather of the EO said...

Andrea-Just be sure to come to the Serenity Suite! We'll for sure meet, lady.

We've all lived so many lives in so many different ways. And I'm thankful for that. Not because I'm glad that we've all hurt and then ended and started again, but I'm thankful we can relate and triumph together. Oh, humanity.


Trece said...

Dear, dear Heather - I get it. I know hat you mean. I went thru that my first holidays abstinent. Everyone was stuffing their face, and I did not. I felt left out, clean and scared.
It will get better, I promise. My husband has been sober 18 years.
You words, as usual, are exquisite.
Love, me

Joy said...

I think that holding onto the other you while you find this one is exactly it. I have this same in-between feeling (different circumstances). I've been so unsettled, but I'm realizing the value of what the other me has learned and that I need to honor that even as I wait for the metamorphosis.

Thank you for sharing. It's encouraging to know I'm not alone.

Beth said...

"I've been through the water and come out clean, and I've got new clothes to cover me. And you don't wear your old shoes on your brand new feet when you've been through the water..." ~Kyle Matthews


Anonymous said...

Your honest moves me beyond words, your strength in sharing here inspires me. That you are moving forward without denying the power of your past is incredibly insightful.

I'm certain you'll move to a place of peace, but for now I think the feeling, and the acknowledging are powerful tools to help keep you on track. At least I hope! And I send hugs to go along with that hope.

Kristina P. said...

I think that the 4th symbolizes a new kind of freedom for you now, as well.

Ann Imig said...

You are one seriously gifted girl--in the realms of writer, friend, mother, and humanist.

Sorry you are grieving drunk girl right now, but there is no way around it, just through it, right?

I've met both girls. I'm a huge fan of both girls. But I prefer the one who remembers me back ;)

april said...

I keep her you should. Just because we become a new self, doesn't mean we should forget the old self. You're so right, they will help us through.

Much love, friend.

Adventures In Babywearing said...

It's so strange how I know this life of you, none of your others, so it's hard for me to imagine those Heathers. And I am certain the same goes for all the lives I've lived (and often I am dumbfounded and thankful for His Mercy how I did indeed live through them.)

Also so funny, how, those are our "past lives" but I look back and I was never really living.


Kimberly said...

Oh that refiner's fire. It can hurt so much even as it heals. I love the perspective you're finding throughout this process. Huge life changes really do cause that breaking away from the old self and the new, and yet you can't stuff her into an old suitcase and pretend she never existed. She's part of the wonderfulness that is YOU.

Mrs4444 said...

These photos are so precious. What a gift you are giving them through your sobriety. Congratulations on your first sober 4th, where you had two kinds of independence to celebrate :)

Mrs4444 said...

P.S. unless you're planning other brilliance this week, I think you should link this one up on Saturday :)

Allison @ Alli 'n Son said...

Congrats on making it through the weekend! Hang on to your former self, she's a constant reminder of how far you've come. You don't want to lose sight of that.

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

Silenced. ... Well, almost. I have enough words to tell you what a marvelous, victorious story this is. But you know that.

Is it weird to say I'm "proud" of you? Well, I'll say it anyhow.

lynsey said...

we have lived such different lives but your words resonated deeply with me.

though i haven't struggled with sobriety, i completely relate to coming out of a darkness that i have lived in for 29 years now and am looking back on the girl who was and realizing she no long is, but a part of her will always be. and i feel the same, that i don't want to let go of her completely, because i don't want to forget what it took for me to struggle and ache and fight my way out.

i don't want to ever forget. but let go? oh yes, i would like to let go.

thank you again for writing such deep and thoughtful words. i can't tell you what they mean to me! {and i'm working on the courage to write my own...someday very soon i hope.}

ali @ an oridnary mom said...

Oh, yes, that life of your IS so good! Enjoy it, live it, love it, experience every bit of it, and be thankful for it!

Corinne said...

This weekend was hard.
Reading this was painfully beautiful. And hit close. Love you.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

This is beautiful, Heather. It's true of all of us, to some degree. It's just that your lives are diabolically opposed to each other. It makes the accepting and keeping of them much harder.

Hope you had a good Fourth anyway. Small town Independence Days are the best. (Of course, it helps if the air isn't so humid you could slice it and top it with ice cream. But still.)

Stephanie said...

I like how Corinne said that this post was "painfully beautiful", because that seems the only way to put it. Painful that you have to endure something so hard, but beautiful that you are overcoming it and finding who you really are in the process. Thank you for sharing your words and for being you.

darcie said...

Have truer words ever been spoken? 'Everything is still the same while I am not' -
thank you for always being so willing to share with the rest of us...

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Love the concept of many lives, and the hope that it gives because every day we can choose the life we live. It can be different than the last one. Talk about freedom!

Cynthia said...

What a beautiful post. You always help me UNDERSTAND that which I cannot understand. Thank you for that. I need your insight to better love and support the alcoholic in my life. SO beautifully said. I'm so glad we're blog friends!

Shaina said...

I'm glad you have the boys and your husband to carry you as you carry that old version of yourself. It seems the hard is always easier when there's someone there holding your hand as you struggle through, and the reward on the other side is so very worth it, Heather. Worth every ache and every pain.

da mainiac mama said...

You are much much stronger than I. Your holidays in Minnesota sound exactly the same as our holidays here in Michigan. Everyone gathers around the grill and you can literally hear all the tops popping off of the bottles/cans/what have you alcoholic beverages. It is enough to drive a person in recovery insane.

Keeping a firm eye on the girl of the past will most definitely keep you in the present. For me it is because that girl barely remembers some of the "good times" and now I remember everything. Every small detail. That alone is worth going a little insane during the holidays.

Jen said...

This was powerful and inspiring, although I don't have a drug or alcohol addiction, I have had some in my family and have taken on my own set of addictions...My past holds many dark places as well...trying to break free from that is so hard! it takes courage! It takes time too.Thanks for sharing.

maggie, dammit said...

My long weekend was pretty similar, that colliding, that unexpected mourning. But hey, it's Tuesday, yet another Tuesday, yet another 24, and here we are.

Love this, love you.


My Bottle's Up! said...

you are amazing. that's all i got. amazing.

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

What a difficult journey... I hope the day was peaceful and happy.

Sarah said...

Beautifully written. I hope that you enjoy this "freedom" that you have now - live every moment and squeeze all the juice you can out of it. It will quench your "thirst."

Janie said...

Duane referred me to your post after I confided in him about my most recent d.w.i. I have/had my own blog sight which I revealed very openly about the last six years of my life and my addiction to the drug of my choice, wine.
I have now joined your link and look forward to your blogs. Thank you for this site for people like me who are powerless over alcohol but now have 6weeks under my belt and depend on God one day at a time. I am very proud of you. Jane Haislip

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Blog Designed by: NW Designs