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
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
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.