Yes. In this post, I’m going to write about feelings.
Writing about feelings is, to me, the blogging equivalent of looking for your seat on a crowded international flight and realizing it’s next to the single mom with a newborn and a toddler.
A special kind of hell.
As I’ve committed more time to sobriety, “feelings” have begun cropping up. Nothing happens in a vacuum and my drinking/hangover hours have been filled with other activities, not necessarily of my choosing. In the evenings, rather than have a glass of wine, I have a sober conversation with my 9-year-old about his anxieties. In the early morning hours, rather than deal with a hangover, I deal with my “committee,” the voices in my head that love to go on about things, both trivial and great.
A great deal of my feelings have to do with things that happened many years ago. Things that cannot be changed, but things that changed me. These things made alcohol an attractive partner. Together, we would numb my feelings and stuff them into uncategorized emotional cells, to be processed never.
Alas, despite my best efforts, that emotional penitentiary system is no longer working. And so, here I am, feeling things from ten years ago and trying to act all cool about it. Trying to act as if nothing has happened. Trying to act as if the only tool I know how to wield against “feelings,” i.e. my trusty prison cop, my bottle of wine, is still at my disposal.
“Get your shit buttoned up,” I’ve been telling myself for years. “Other people have real problems. You’re being ridiculous.” And I did keep my shit buttoned up. Successfully. Except for the isolated, nightly, over drinking. And even that I successful kept buttoned up. So much so that I now have to convince my husband and my friends that I really do have a drinking problem. Really.
I think it was another sober blogger who shared Brené Brown’s “Empathy vs. Sympathy” video clip. It made an impact on me when I saw it last year. I sent it to my friends and we talked about how we needed to avoid offering the “at least” advice/comfort in moments of distress. We laughed at how easy “at least” comes out of our mouths even when we know better.
“At least the Navy pays people to move you every 9 months!”
“At least you have a husband, even if he’s always deployed!”
“At least your kid only has ADHD.”
These, clearly, are not helpful verbal offerings. And yet, these poisonous sentiments are what I’ve been offering myself for ten years – those sentiments and a daily bottle of wine.
The past few sober weeks, as I’ve been talking to my kid, and my committee, and myself, I’ve heard myself use “at least” a lot. I can’t stand it anymore. Yes, other people have terrible problems. Yes, I have much to be thankful for.
But I was in a deep hole. I was stuck. It was dark and I was overwhelmed.
You see, I was alone on that international flight, except for my infant and my toddler. I was that woman.
I am that woman.