When I initially accepted my alcoholism in 2016, I felt empowered yet misguided. I focused solely on abstaining from alcohol, assuming my problems stemmed from drinking. Wrong. What I failed to understand was that addiction isn’t just a physical dependency—it’s an emotional and mental dependency as well. Whether angry, stressed, or even elated, drinking was my solution or my reward. I was avoidant, self-critical, and highly temperamental. I was a ticking time bomb and alcohol temporarily suppressed the bomb. I blocked every emotion and hid my cards from my loved ones. I was inexperienced in exposing normal emotional distress. When I removed alcohol from the equation, I still felt inadequate, stressed, and angry, along with a slew of other sentiments. Within a few months of my sober journey, I met Stefan. Despite my glaring flaws and lack of coping skills, I simply couldn’t let him go. He was one in a million, in a pool of men more emotionally incompetent than I was.
For the first year of our relationship, I released steam through self-destructive behaviors. I refused to cry, and never invited him into my emotional space. I was cheating myself out of a genuine partnership. I feared loss, success and, most critically, myself. My identity was adrift; my self-confidence was derived superficially. I lusted after a “perfect” life for erroneous reasons. I craved artificial perfection that would precipitate attention from strangers via social media. Why was I still seeking validation from everyone else when all needed was validation from myself?
Over the past 2 years, I’ve learned to understand myself and my temperament. I’ve reassured myself that crying is an appropriate expression. I confide in my boyfriend, friends, and coworkers when I am sad, angry, or stressed out. I invite them into my emotional and mental space instead of shooing them away. I don’t falsify happiness or suppress my past. The open dialogue I have with myself helps me overcome imperfect days. Voicing my journey through my book has enhanced every aspect of my life. My story may upset people, but I am proud to share my experience. Refusing to please everybody has allowed me to focus on internal happiness.
Most importantly, I have cultivated a newfound appreciation for my boyfriend. He is a gift. Instead of pushing him away, I utilize his strength by confiding in him. I express when I’m moody, I cry when I’m stressed, and I appreciate when we laugh. Taking the “good times” for granted was one of my greatest undoings. But how was I supposed to acknowledge the highs if I never acknowledged the lows? Today I accept mood swings, depression, and anxiety because for every low, there’s a high. By numbing the rainy days, I was inadvertently cheating myself out of joy in the sunny days.