The first time I landed in rehab, I met a woman who’s addiction ended up saving her life. She had two children, a husband, a home in the country, and a small apartment near the Ivy League university where she taught (for late nights when she was too exhausted to make the long drive home).
A few months before voluntarily checking into rehab, she sunk into a low place where she felt broken beyond repair and decided that what she wanted most was to kill herself. But before doing it, she wanted everything around her to be perfect, because she hated the thought of inconveniencing anyone. She deep cleaned the carpets and laid liners in drawers and responded to student emails and wrote letters to her daughters. No matter how many tasks she completed to tie up all of the loose ends, the list just seemed to grow. To numb her exhaustion, she started doing meth. What began as an occasional boost quickly grew into a raging addiction.
When she realized that she had spiraled from “just” suicidal to suicidal addict, she was forced to admit that what she had previously defined as her rock bottom wasn’t really the bottom. This inability to determine just how fucked up her life could become comforted her. She decided that leaving would be so much worse than staying and that she was, in fact, NOT broken beyond repair.
I’ve thought about her a lot over the years.
I turned 33 yesterday. If someone had told me on my last birthday what the year ahead would look like, I would have started drinking immediately and stayed shitfaced for the entire twelve months. Unfortunately, I don’t have any psychic friends, and I don’t keep alcoholic beverages in my home. (Side note: My mother still brings up that one time in 1992 I called the Psychic Friends Network for eleven minutes at a rate of $3.99/min. Please let it go, ma.)
I allowed myself to feel dirty emotions like grief and regret and shame. I sunk into a deep depression. On days when I spent the majority of my time in bed, hiding away under the masses of pillows and blankets, I agonized over the poor life choices I’ve made since becoming a teen, and I realized that I hadn’t ever carefully considered what it is that would make me feel like a whole person.
And because I am not yet whole, I am afraid that my pockets of emptiness will swallow anyone that crosses my path. I don’t hug my daughter as much as I want to. A very large part of me believes that my dirtiness will rub off on her and sully her remarkable sheen.
Processing my past took me to Ghetto University. I’ve known for some time that by holding on to the ghosts of people and places and moments that are no longer part of my present experience, I’ve relinquished my right to enjoy life. But still, letting go seemed like such a waste- all the effort I had put into obsessing about what could have been or what I was owed or what I still owed others.
I stayed away from blogging. Everything I wrote looked exactly the same, week after week. I was waiting to be perfect to start again. Which is, like, totally fucking weird, because I’ve never been perfect before. The probability of stumbling into perfection while eating Kit Kats in bed and then throwing the empty wrappers on the floor is extremely low.
Because I have lived for so long suspended in the belief that I’m not equipped to make smart decisions for myself and that I don’t really deserve forgiveness, I didn’t know how to step out of that pit at first. Peace seemed foreign. But strange places can be wonderful.
I’m still working my way out, but all of it, every ugly crack I’ve tripped over, has been worth it.
I must remember: I do not have to be perfect to be good. This applies to you too.
P.S. Yesterday also marked the 3rd anniversary of this blog. I had no idea when I started that this would bring so much goodness into my life. For between-post updates and random (t)hug life thoughts, “like” the Flourish in Progress Facebook page or follow along on the Instagram (username: flourishinprogress) grind.