Last night my mom was sharing concern for someone struggling with sobriety, and said something to the effect of “We know this pattern, we’ve been there, they lie, you lied a lot.” Ok – I am not saying that was verbatim (sorry Mom!) But the general gist was that she has seen this before; struggling with substances, and lying to everyone around them. The reason she knows is because I was the one to introduce my parents to this. For some reason this hit me like a ton of bricks, and shame, and guilt. I KNOW my truth, but hearing the truth out loud is challenging, and for some reason felt like a stinger.
The truth hurts.
I have always faced my past; however my approach to recovery has always been pro-active, focused on what I can do now, what I am working towards, and how to approach the challenges in front of me. This has worked for me. Along the road I did apologize for my past. But how do you apologize when you can barely remember everything you have done?? Words only go so far, and I wanted to prove to my loved ones that I COULD and WOULD turn my life around. I was not a victim; I would decide to fight, to live. In one moment I decided “I have everything to lose and everything to gain.”
I don’t look back often, which is why writing my memoir has changed from a perspective of “in my eating disorder and substance abuse” to that of “my recovery story.” I for one think that is something not nearly shared enough.
I sit here with my birthday on Friday, and my sobriety/recovery 3 years next week. It has been an amazing journey, and while I ALWAYS say I am grateful for my struggles, because they have made me who I am, somewhere in my head I still have to remind myself to practice love and self acceptance, letting go of the past. When these flurries of guilt fly into my eyesight, I can choose to watch them pass, see everything I am grateful for, everything I have worked for, and know I am not defined by my past.
I feel in order to know myself, and for others to know who I am, I am like an onion, peeling back truths layer by layer. Perhaps now, nearly 3 years into recovery, it is at a safe place to address some of the lies.
“We tell lies when we are afraid… afraid of what we don’t know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger.” Tad Williams
Lies are on several layers, the lies we tell others, the lies we tell ourselves and the lies the disorder/should monster says. I consider my word very important. My word is everything I am. I try to practice honesty, transparency in everything I do. When I look back to those darker days, I don’t even recognize that person who lied. I know I was lying to myself. I just didn’t see anything clearly. I saw immediate gratification over long-term consequences, a common theme for many who struggle.
I honestly never felt, even being a writer, that words could express the amount of my understanding of what I put everyone through. I know I could easier say “it was the alcohol talking” or “this or that is causing me not to want to eat all day and binge drink to de-stress.” But I believe choices are an element of any struggle. I knew what I had to do for a LONG while. I knew the tools, having gone to IOP for six months. I just didn’t want to stop. And while drinking, I would have moments where I fell apart and wanted recovery but didn’t know how. The struggles we face are dynamic, I often feel conflicting thoughts, emotions, and have to remember to not over analyze myself. For me, it is good to just listen to the Universe, sit in quietness, breathing, and let things pass by.
In the end, I guess I haven’t completely forgiven myself for my lies, the hurt I caused, and the lies I told myself and others, whether through my words or actions.
I accept this for now. I have recognized it, and will reflect and let go. I may have hiccups of flashbacks (which I still get a lot), I may feel guilty for past decisions, but I know it is my decisions today that matter. At any part in our day we can CHOOSE to turn it around, or re-guide ourselves. We can pick up and move forward. We can use our tools, reach out to support systems, make a recovery tool box, and question if what we are doing is in alignment with who we are.
I learned how to communicate my truth through all my therapy, IOP, etc. I learned to communicate with my parents, and while that didn’t go well, it was a start towards the relationship we have now. I knew from the beginning of my recovery, in order to stay true and future focused, I would have to be accountable and responsible for my actions. So I started telling everyone who supported me when I struggled. I used my voice, to share my truth. I had hidden, lied, and done too much, so I knew I needed to explain everything, even if people didn’t understand. It wasn’t about being understood, it was about being heard.
The lies, the disorder, the substance, all grow in secrecy. In hiding. No matter where you are in your struggle, or in recovery, remember – you are never alone. The lies of the past do not have to be your future. You can take small steps towards your goal. I know the people around me have forgiven me, and yes, sometimes I wish I could have a blank slate on some of the old memories, but I am who I am. I am not the liar, the problem in the family. That itself is amazing. To go from where I was, to who I am now, being admired, respected and trusted was something I never thought would happen, at least at first. That changed once I embraced recovery. I fought for my life, and that is what it felt like a lot. I slipped, fell, and face planted many time, but kept moving forward. To get lost in our struggles is hard, but when you are struggling, and lying, reach out to someone, tell your truth, use your voice. With practice, using your voice gets easier.
A few closing thoughts:
- You are not defined by your struggles
- Your life, health (body, mind and spirit) MATTER, YOU matter
- Try not to compare your recovery to another, everyone is different
- Find people who inspire you to be pro-active, positive and supportive in your journey
- Self forgiveness comes slowly, in its own timing, and that is OK
- Our actions today help us reach our goal, we are empowered by our choices
- Never be afraid to live your truth, use your voice, and fight for your dreams, goals, and health
- There is hope in recovery, and even if you are faced with your past lies, you are not the lies. ED lies, and sometimes we lie to ourselves, and others, but you can move past that and move forward, one step at a time