Come As You Are
There have been a few moments in my life when I have found myself at a critical crossroad. I find myself asking myself the simple questions:
Are you happy?
Is it worth it?
Unfortunately, a few of those times landed right in the middle of an alcohol and drug addiction, when I was already living in constant moments of weakness and my self-esteem was in the toilet. And so, I often stayed at the metaphorical party too long and the damage became very close to catastrophic.
I was married to a man I met in rehab when I was twenty one years old. He was tall, gorgeous, funny, and had all kinds of fucked up just simmering below the surface. I found him the perfect match to my own brand of crazy, also lying in wait and doing pushups, waiting for the day I opened the door and let it out. It didn’t take long and I spent two years of my life pretending to be someone I was not, and becoming someone I never wanted to be – an alcoholic, cocaine addicted, abused wife of a narcissistic, alcoholic, cocaine addicted, abusive husband.
Every single relationship in my life for a solid decade was toxic. My relationship with my parents was always a best excuse for self-harm in the form of reckless abandon. My friends, which is a term I used loosely, were a means to an end. I used people for what they could offer me whether it be validation, consolation, or simply a place to party. Every day I chipped away a little more at the person I wanted to be, knew I could be, but didn’t believe I deserved to be.
Every day I took a new action that muted the voice inside me, the voice of my true self. I quieted that voice by any means possible because I had no idea how to wake up to who I really was. It never occurred to me to stop all the self-deprecating bullshit, follow my intuition and say,
Every day I just wanted to do what it took to be liked by everyone else, no matter who they were. I always had the instinct in me to know that my first impressions of people were usually dead on but I never followed that instinct, never thought twice about the choices I was making, whether it be the people I chose to let into my life, where I lived, where I worked….every who, what, where, when, and how in my life was fucked up.
I spent years believing that pain was pleasure and pleasure was pain. Sadly, all those years, when I thought I was leading, I was actually following while chanting in my head, ‘Just like me. Please. Just like me.’
Until the day I didn’t and I made a choice that might sound dramatic but, I promise you from the bottom of my soul, it was truth. It wasn’t just the alcohol or drugs that would kill me, it was my choices. All of them. I had been dying a slow death for years and my addiction was only throwing fuel on the fire
I was the problem.
‘Just be yourself.’
Three words. Simple enough, right?
But what the hell does that mean and more importantly the big question at the time was
Who am I?
I started to realize that for all the good I was at being able to form a first impression, fucked up or not, I wasn’t able to see that I was an asshole. I was a drunk, a user, a lousy friend, a disrespectful daughter, and a cowardly wife.
No, I wasn’t happy.
And no, it wasn’t worth it.
And so I woke up and I walked away. Aside from my parents, not one person in my life twenty years ago is in it today. Not one. I had surrounded myself with people I despised because I was convinced that was what I deserved and most of them told me what I wanted to hear.
I changed my playground as well as my playmates. I have spent the last two decades, and am still working on, waking up to who I am and getting to know my true self.
As it turns out, that part of me that slept for so long, is a pretty decent person. I have stopped wishing (most days) to look like someone else or be liked as much as someone else seems to be. I am learning to accept my imperfections and embrace my quirks. I enjoy my dark sense of humor and superpower of sarcasm. I choose my friendships very carefully and when I make decisions today I try to do so rationally, stopping to check my motives.
I think Will Smith puts it simply:
“Don’t chase people. Be yourself, do your own thing and work hard. The right people – the ones who really belong in your life – will come to you. And stay.”
I have found this to be very true.
Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I still suck and I am always willing to apologize for my actions. But I don’t apologize for who I am. By the same token, I cannot regret my past because there is absolutely nothing I can do to change it. What I can change is my way of thinking today, so I don’t make rash and unhealthy decisions and shit all over the future.
My traits no longer consist of dishonest, self-centered, needy, lazy, and limited. Today, because I am able to think a little more clearly and make better decisions, knowing what’s right for me and no longer feeling the need to people please I find myself adding tags liked humble, encouraging, straightforward, kind, motivated, confident….unstoppable.
I like that.
My choices today, including my friends, are a direct reflection of the person I truly am. I have hundreds of acquaintances. I have a handful of friends.
Not everyone will like me. Not everyone does. And you know what? That’s okay. In turn, I am not going to like everyone I encounter either. That is also okay. I don’t need to collect people simply because they are there. I need to surround myself with people who share my ideals, encourage me, enlighten me, strengthen me, want nothing from me but my friendship, and don’t mind my dark sense of humor. I have found those people and they aren’t enough to form an army, but they are most certainly enough.
I know my limitations and what I am willing to put up with, how far I’m willing to go before I am teetering on the edge of compromising my own hard earned truths.
Although I still struggle with the idea, I am learning that change is okay and sometimes very necessary.
Without it we may never know what greatness lies ahead.