October is both my favorite month and one of my biggest struggles. Today I turn 49 and, God willing, I will celebrate 10 years of sobriety on October 23. Knowing the life I led and the choices I made prior to getting sober helps me to remember to be grateful that I am here to turn 49. Still, research shows that you stop aging when you start using (12) and then age one year for each year of sobriety. In those terms, I’m 22. I feel like I’m turning a cross between the two – like some sort of Gen X millennial crossover edition.
I have a lot for which to be grateful – even in 2020. For all its challenges, I do believe that I will come out of 2020 healthier and happier than I went into it. I’ve managed to surround myself with an exceptionally good village – my husband, my children, a good therapist, and great communities including Who Quits Healthy, Project Healthy Body, and the SHAIR Recovery Community. I finished grad school this year, continue to work as a Nurse, and began working as a freelance writer. I launched some projects and am working on some others. My 48th year has been filled with more good than bad. I traveled some. I laid my eyes on the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. I even went to Disneyworld.
And while my birthday makes me happy, it also makes me sad. Birthdays and holidays are a reminder that the people who brought me into this world have chosen to exist in it without me. While I continue to tell myself that I have made my peace with being estranged from my parents, I have not. It’s a peace I have to continue to make – over and over again. Their decision, prompted by my setting a boundary, was the culmination of years of being told that I was oil and they were water. I am certain that their version of the story is quite different from mine and I’m not interested in revisiting all of the gory details. My life experience has taught me that there are always 3 versions – mine, theirs, and the truth.
This week I was reminded of how their labeling of me as oil created this default programming where I view myself as the problem when there is any sort of conflict in my life. Everyone else must be water right? Maybe, but maybe not. I’ve been wondering if that’s just the story I’ve told myself over time. It’s not a very nice story but it seems to carry the added bonus of keeping focus outside of myself. Viewing myself as the oil leaves me with the belief that I am somehow different than everyone else, that it’s my fault when I don’t “mix”, and that it will always be this way.
My gift to myself this year is to continue to examine the stories that I have told myself and to rewrite the parts that simply do not fit or are untrue.