A Girl Finding Her Identity

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When I was young- probably 9 or so- my cousin called me selfish.  Yet to explore any sort of self discovery or identity, I was shocked.

This stuck with me for years, and later I began to show many behaviors that were selfish.  I continually told myself I was misunderstood, different, and unloved.  I began to doubt myself and who I was as a person.

Where did I fit in this world?

I faked sick on family holidays and refused to believe I belonged.  I detached from the people who loved me the most, unaware how important family and my roots were.  I was antisocial, confused, and misunderstood.  How could anyone understand me if I couldn’t even understand myself?

On a 9th grade trip to the Birch Run outlets with my mom, I remember picking out a sleek dark purple jacket at Ralph Lauren.  I felt like a star.

Upon returning to Traverse City, I pranced around downtown, running errands with my mom wearing my black Express pants, envisioning myself in a place like Chicago or even New York City.  I dreamed of being somewhere different- somewhere no one knew my name.

Somewhere along the way I started to identify as the “black sheep.”

I didn’t know who I was at age 15, but I was certain I didn’t belong in Michigan.

As I went on to college, making new friends and seeking the approval of fraternity boys (some of which I’m still friends with today), I was lost in a sea of vodka and $1 beer. I did whatever I could to find love, but most of all, acceptance.

My drinking began to get out of control, and so did my self respect.  After college, I moved in with an older boyfriend who I later got engaged to.  I thought this relationship would save me from the all-nighters and my bad behavior- which it did, for about a year.  Then, I gave back my Princess cut diamond and took off to San Francisco.

I did the cities- 7 in all.  I worked in fashion.  I considered law school.  I did the startup thing.  I had no idea what I wanted, so I kept running from myself- only to find myself right back where I came from 12 years later.

As an adult, I’m aware I’m still a little selfish- and now, it’s okay.  This kind of selfishness is self-care, which at the core isn’t selfish at all.

The difference today is that I know how to set boundaries, but also to welcome the love that surrounds me.  My identity was never lost- I needed to mistakes, try things out, and move around to truly learn who I am as a person- and that being myself was all I ever needed all along.

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No One Can Define My Sobriety (Or Life) But Me

It’s no surprise to most people when I tell them I don’t drink.

Whether they’ve seen me out of control in the past or have read my articles, I am finally open about being sober these days- and that’s a breath of fresh air.

I’ve made mistakes, though.

There have been many relapses (or “slips,” as some may say) since deciding to get sober in 2011, including a full two and a half years where I went back to drinking consistently.  I damaged relationships and racked up many, many new stories during that period of time, yet I learned a lot about myself- and what I do and don’t want out of life.

I went back to drinking several times while living in Boston, racked up even more stories, and learned that a structured recovery program gives me more anxiety than it does comfort and strength.  Although community helps many people, I am more of a one-on-one type of person.  I believe in therapy, working on yourself, and taking responsibility for your actions.

This may be controversial, but this is my truth:

I don’t want or need entities or other people to determine the quality of my sobriety.

I’m the only one who has to determine what is best for my life- and I want people to judge who I am based on my character, not my sobriety date.

I have a serious issue with groups who judge or push others to open up about things to they don’t want to.  There is no “one size fits all” method for anything in life, and putting down the booze is no different.  I have put so much pressure on myself over the years and have had immense anxiety about what other people think of me- but I am done with that.  

I’m honest with my family, good friends, and even strangers online- and that works for me.

There are several friends of mine who aren’t “in recovery” who have told me the same thing- that I don’t have anything to prove to anyone but myself. “You don’t drink now,” two of them said. “That’s all you need to say.”

Below is something my friend of 22 years texted me yesterday:

Amen.

It’s also no one else’s business if I am on a prescription, if someone has Medical Assisted Treatment, or what “date” someone put down the drink.

It’s my life, not theirs.

People have the option to do what works for them.  For me, it’s connecting with people who are healthy and aligned with my spirit.  It’s nature, writing, and self discovery.  It’s mediation and mindfulness.  It’s been open and honest about who I am and what I stand for.  It’s living in my truth, and living a spiritual life of reflection and growth.

I hope my own journey can inspire someone who go on their own journey, no matter what way it may lead.

Never let anyone make you feel bad about choosing your path- you know what’s in your heart and in your soul.

People Pleasing

I caught myself in a wicked web- and I’m not talking about Halloween spiderwebs.

No, I’m referring to a web of lies that went out of control- lies I knew at the time would bite me in the butt, just like a spider, actually.

I didn’t mean it.  I went along with assumptions about me and what my life in Boston was like, quickly to realize I was stuck.  With a new job opportunity and people supporting a path I wasn’t sure I wanted to take, I realized I wasn’t being authentic.

I was doing and saying things to please other people, not doing what was in my heart.

Half truths, I realized I need to have a conversation with one of my good friends.  A face to face conversation.  A conversation that may leave me with my tail between my legs, but would set me free.

Looking to re-integrate into the community, I began to connect with people and tried to appear much stronger than I am.  I didn’t want anyone to view my abrupt move as a weakness, to offer me help, or to view me as broken.

Things didn’t exactly leave off pretty in Boston.  I quit my job, I left my apartment, and packed my things up with my mom.  It wasn’t a move I expected, but it was the perfect time for me to come home nevertheless.

As I look at what aligns with my heart and my goals for my life in Michigan, there’s a lot of things I may have done in the past to gain acceptance- but today I don’t have to do those things.

I know what works for me for my social life, my sobriety, and my overall mental health.  I know who is supportive, what I want, and where I see my life going.  Dishonesty doesn’t please people at all, and it especially won’t make me feel content.

Oh, the tangled webs we weave- but now I can unwind them and be true to myself.

That’s true freedom.