It was my mom who told me I’d been sober for twenty-one months this Tuesday. Because I don’t celebrate small victories. Anything less than a year doesn’t mean anything. They tell us “one day at a time”, but I have trouble giving praise between the markers. Only get credit for the grand achievements, for the fireworks, for the things that take breath away.
Exhausted. The lack of worthy accomplishment leaves me feeling like a constant disappointment. And failing every day just makes you want to quit. That’s why people like me relapse. That’s why we don’t reach our goals. That’s why we stop trying.
In therapy I told Leif, “I come up to the edge of my natural abilities and I just… I quit. I get terrified of failure and I just walk away. I don’t know how to push.”
He looked at me like he didn’t believe an ounce of it. An explanation drenched in feelings of inadequacy. My words refusing to give me any credit. He said, “You know how. You’ve never had to push this hard before, but you know how to.”
I just shook my head.
In the morning I went running. I left my GPS watch. I left my heart rate monitor. I brought my headphones. Bright red shoes pounded pavement in the dark. Bob Dylan wailed in my ears, “It’s-a hard, it’s-a hard, it’s-a hard rain’s a-gonna fall…”
I ran and I tried to forget that I should be running faster. That I should be able to run further. That this hill shouldn’t be so challenging. And at some point in the second mile I did.
For just a few moments toward the end of my run my brain got quiet. The only time during the day when I didn’t think about how disappointed I am in myself. Didn’t think that I’m completely incapable of any of this.
I’m not even sure how I think I can do this wrong. All this. I just get the idea in my head that there is a way I am supposed to be living. Because I think I’m broken. Because I think I am somehow uniquely fucked up.
Or maybe I want to be. Maybe I need to be because I recognize that person. I know the version of myself that needs fixing. And that’s what this is all about really, isn’t it? The great realization that if I do the things I say I want to do I will become a person I don’t recognize. That if I get healthy and safe I will have no idea who I am.
Not knowing who you are is way more terrifying than being a junkie, a drunk, a basket case, a slut. Not knowing what labels to put on yourself feels aimless, like floating, a sheet blowing in the wind. You start to wonder if maybe you don’t mean anything at all.