One of the most important parts of my recovery has been learning about myself. It seems kind of funny to me that at 46 years old, I am still having an identity crisis. Although, I think the term “crisis” is over used and a bit dramatic. Any crisis I had before was largely due in part to my brain being saturated with alcohol; the ole synapses just couldn’t fire properly.
I literally had to figure out who I was from the ground up. When I first got sober, I had no idea what I liked in terms of people, books, food, clothes, anything. My opinion was your opinion. I like whatever you liked. All I wanted was a person to like me so I could come along for the ride. Never mind that I wasn’t even sure if you knew my name.
I often hear people who come into the program who have literally lost everything: their home, spouse, children, license, car. Everything. I didn’t lose anything. Now hold up before you think I am bragging.
I didn’t lose anything because I didn’t have anything. How do you lose self respect and self esteem when you never had any to begin with? I couldn’t lose what wasn’t mine. So my bottom as we call it in AA was much different from other people’s in my mind. (Time has told me, however, that I am not that different at all…)
So in order for me to begin this quest, I had to slow down quite a bit. I had to stop and think about my answers before I would blurt them out. Where did I want to eat? Hmm.That’s such a loaded question for me because that would involve determining what food type I actually liked and was in the mood to eat, if I had washed my hair and it looked decent, if I had on nice clothes or lounge clothes. A simple question became a process- one that to most people comes rather naturally and quickly. I needed patience from those around me while I entered into the new realm of “Who am I?”.
Slowly and quite deliberately, the answers began to come. Learning to be mindful of what my body is telling me and not necessarily my outer mind became the experience. Giving myself permission to not know was so freeing to me. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to have THE answer not did I have to apologize for not knowing it. Allowing myself time to discover was like having a new lease on life. Today, i invite new questions because it enables me the opportunity to stop and think – something I never did before.
With anything, I don’t always do this perfectly. Sometimes I still jump at an answer or I look to people around me to try to read their faces and assimilate to their needs. The difference is today I catch myself much sooner doing so. That progress is what helps to propel me forward and to continue on this path of new me.
It’s exciting, really, because who I thought I was and what I thought I cared about have changed dramatically. Friends and places are different. Some are the same, but for the most part, my circle of trust has shifted. Because I am learning to trust the woman I am becoming on the inside, I am more apt to discover “unsafe” people and learn to quiet myself. (notice I didn’t say “Shut up.” That is how I talk to my new inner me.) Sometimes I hear “What is wrong” when I am quiet. I bring myself back to the conversation, smile, and say, “Just planning where I am going to find happiness today.” They can take that however they want to. It keeps me safe, focuses my mind into a healthy direction and alleviates the desire to join in and say things I will regret later. I spent enough time in my drinking days saying regretful, hurtful things and feeling ashamed later that I try to minimize those opportunities in my present life.
Reshaping and discovering my inner identity has opened new doors- doors I didn’t even know were available to me. But being mindful, slowing down and breathing through a situation has afforded me some pretty great opportunities. I hope trying this will do the same for you.