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  • Brooke Patricia

Off Crutches

I’ve needed a proverbial crutch for a good few years now. Nothing wrong with that, as

we’re all finding our feet at times, especially when we’re younger. But having had my

pride and ego stripped to the floor, I’m only just beginning to develop a healthy sense of

confidence in myself. I’ve had next to none.


That might surprise some people. In a recent group therapy session, each individual –

all known to one another – was asked to go around the room and describe every other

person in one word or a simple sentence, then apply the same to themselves. I was

described as sassy, twice. “Beautiful.” “Talented.” “Kind.” “Love.” “Comfortable in your

own skin.” “Confident.”


This wasn’t an exercise of flattery. It was intended to build the very thing I’ve been

lacking yet something I was described as exuding – confidence. I described myself as

composed.


It has its advantages. I’ve had to and can hold myself together in some very difficult

situations. Sober. (Or at least ish.) I don’t have any bottles left to hide anymore – and I

became the polar opposite of composed with alcohol. You see, I used to be a fun,

tabletop dancing, popular ‘student night’ drinker. It would usually end in the girls and I

getting McChicken burgers and seeing each other home safely in a cab at around 3am.

Fast forward until fairly recently and I became an almost 24/7 black out drunk. I’d say or

do things that were either completely untrue, utterly delusional or hugely dangerous.

Trouble is, I wouldn’t know what I was saying or doing – or even how I got home. That

is, if I made it back to my own one. I’ve blacked out on the street and woken up to

paramedics. I’ve woken up unaware of what hospital I was in. And yes, I’ve woken up

places that aren’t my own and I honestly can’t put a number on that. Which is even

worse.


Towards the end of my last relapse, I used to dread checking my phone the next day.

I’d have no recollection of who I’d contacted, or at least what I’d said. I’d scroll and

scream – inwardly, and at myself. It wasn’t me at all. Those who know me, know that.


Christine, the CEO of the treatment centre where I did over seven months of

rehabilitation, rightly feels like I’ve still been wearing a mask despite my newfound

sobriety, coupled with my acceptance that I’m an alcoholic and sincere surrender to my

recovery programme. But we also agree that I don’t mean to be nor do I want to be.


So what am I masking? That brings me back to what I described myself as – composed.

I’ll chuck confused in there, too. I’m good at hiding my feelings. Well, I guess that’s wise

sometimes. Other times, I don’t even know how I’m feeling, or I’m feeling all sorts of

things at once. One of the biggest reasons I’ve struggled to show my feelings is


because trust has terrified me – trust in others and also in myself. I’ve had my trust

broken so many times and in so many ways. I’ve been scared I’ll get hurt. Or I’ve

already been hurting but too scared to let it show. I’ve also worried far too much about

what others think about me and far too little about what I think of myself. I have been the

victim of some seriously malicious gossip, and some of it’s true.


All feelings pass – but if all I share are my ‘good’ feelings and mask my ‘bad’ ones, then

most people are left with the false impression that I’ve got it together when I’m falling

apart. Then I’m left feeling lonely with a brain that won’t shut up and a mouth that’s

afraid to speak up.


I need to start speaking as I really think and feel – to assert myself then and there, as

appropriate. I’ll try not to open my mouth and insert my foot. They keyword being try. In

turn I need to stop over thinking or getting unnecessarily anxious. Should I have said or

done that? If not, and if I’m sober and my intentions were good, then so fucking what?

That’s life and that’s how I’ll learn.


Speaking of life – that thing I’m very lucky to still have – I’ve begun 1-1 counselling to

help me create a new one. It includes doing everyday stuff naturally, in which one

shouldn’t seek meaning but rather just get on with. It baffles a lot of people to think I

could go on stage in front of the public sober but needed a drink to go out amongst it.

Why? The former situation was me portraying someone other than me, and in the latter

case I was stuck with only me. Cue a crutch.


Getting and staying sober is one thing. But being mentally well is another. The rooms of

recovery, like the rest of the world, come with their alcohol free weirdos. I want, and am

fortunately capable of, overall good health. In therapy, that starts with how I view myself,

which in turn starts with taking my power back from anyone other than myself, and

anything other than my Higher Powers.


Just as alcohol became a self-centered crutch for me, I also now realise that it’s

incredibly selfish to have another person as one – to expect them to always be there. I

cannot put my life on hold for things I can’t control, hoping they’ll go my way and my life

will be better. This sort of behavior leads to resentments and co-dependency. It’s

certainly drained my self esteem and self care.


So it’s time I got out of my head and on with my life, one day at a time. I need to reclaim

my power over myself, irrespective of whether other people, places and things are as I

would like them to be. In learning more about myself, and learning to love that person, I

effectively give my Higher Powers and other people permission to give me the love I

want and need. Hitting pause on my life to try to make something beyond my control

happen doesn’t work. Neither does pretending to be someone I’m not, simply because I

don’t know who I am anymore. Yet. So, there you have me unmasked now. I guess we’ll

find the new me as I start to paint the blank canvas I’ve been blessed with, off crutches.




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