“The lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud.”
Twelve years ago, over a romantic dinner with my husband, feeling more confident and happier than I had in years, I found myself saying, “I think I’ll have a glass of wine”. I had been sober for 18 years.
I had, over the years, made a mess of my life more than once, almost destroyed our marriage several times, and made some really (really) bad decisions. But I still didn’t consider myself an alcoholic. I was just someone who was better off not drinking.
In a span of six months, I found out that this is one of the most dangerous things an alcoholic can think. I also learned that, yes, in fact, I am an alcoholic, and I can no longer, under any circumstances, play with fire. As gut-wrenching and “sobering” as it was to permanently close the drug and alcohol “escape hatch”, I chose to say goodbye to unconsciousness, self-deceit, and death, and said hellO to hitting bOttOm, again.
Bottoms bring us face-to-face with the things we are hiding from, the impact we are having on those we love, and who we are in this moment. Sometimes it’s a pretty painful and ugly picture. But the best thing to do at this point, no matter how scary, is to just keep looking.
In the looking, and all the hard work that comes with it, bottoms also have the potential to change the trajectory of our lives. They help us hear the wisdom of our hearts, support us to make choices that are life-sustaining, and put us in touch with the yearnings of our soul. In truth, hitting bottom is where real magic can happen.
During the last 4+ years of navigating this chronic illness, I have found myself on my knees many times. It is only recently that I’ve been able to relish the richness of these ‘hitting bottom’ places. I have fought like hell to keep my head above water, but I’m realizing that sometimes being in the murk and mire is the best place to be. Really.
The bottom is not comfortable, pleasant or fun, but there is real wisdom to be found there. We don’t choose to hit bottom. In it’s wisdom, it chooses us. And I’m finding myself more and more grateful for each one. How else would I have begun to find my artist self, my natural pace, my deep desires, or the things that really light me up?
The truth is I feel happier, more alive, more authentic, and stronger than ever before. It’s the kind of strength I’ve wanted my whole life. Strength that comes from the inside out. I never would have guessed it would take being at my weakest, to find true strength.
My dear friend Sharon taught me that life happens in moments. I’m really just beginning to learn what she really meant.
Keep listening, dear friends, to the wisdom of your beautiful hearts. And if you happen to find yourself hitting bottom, in whatever form it may come, know it is a place of rich possibility and great love. Dive in if you dare, and find what is waiting for you there.
P.S. I’ve recently completed 2 orders of my Bottle Bling art. Yes, ironically, I make art for wine bottles. Making them always brings me much jOy, and puts me in touch with what is good and right and true. (Insert eye roll here.)
I’ve realized that is what I have wanted from alcohol all this time. To feel good and right and true (and calm, smart, comfortable, strong.) And this morning, along came these words:
It’s not what’s in the bottle,
it’s what’s in your heart.
Yup, that works for me.
One of my biggest fears in life is to be thought of as selfish. Where I come from, it is one of the most serious of “sins”. And sins are those terrible black marks on your soul that stop you from getting into heaven. Pretty heavy stuff for a child to deal with and make sense of. (Not that this is even possible, mind you.)
Over the years, as I’ve slowly recovered from a childhood filled with fear, unrealistic expectations, alcoholism and neglect, the issue of self-care has repeatedly been the focus. But how do I truly take care of myself without being a sinner? How do I take responsibility for myself first, without adding more of those ugly marks on my soul?
The truth is, my wounded child self and my soul have been dying for my attention for many years. The more recovery I have, the more I’m finding that codependency and addiction are driven by the deep pain of despair that we feel when we stop listening to the needs, wants and desires of our beautiful and authentic hearts. So how do I reconcile the message of “total self-sacrifice is of highest importance” with my knowing that “self-care and self-responsibility” is the healthier, more balanced way to live? Is it time to give up the promise of heaven?
Addiction and codependency run rampant in my family tree. It’s like Dutch elm disease, but worse. These two demons are a very toxic and powerful tag team. They truly suck the life out of everyone and everything. One demon speaks of self-importance, manipulation and an indulgent ego, while the other speaks of total self-sacrifice and “bleeding out” for others. I bounced back and forth between those two places many times in my life, until I realized there was no peace (for myself or the people I love) in either place.
Over the past 2 1/2 years, as I had more time to go inward and listen, I began to hear some profound (and sometimes scary) truths:
- I am solely responsible for my happiness. (Not my husband, not my sisters, not my parents, not my friends, and no, not even Jesus.) Good riddance codependency! (I will be practicing this for the rest of my life.)
- It is my job to choose myself. It’s nice to be chosen by others, but the real healing happens when I choose myself. (Who knew?)
- Help is available, but it is up to me to ask for it. (Still working on this ; )
- There is no such thing as perfection. (Excuse me!?) Now, after many, many lessons, given the choice between perfection and love, I chose lOve, hands down, every time! (Perfection is a very painful standard to hold yourself, and love ones, to. And there is truly nO peace in it. Trust me, I tried. My dear husband has been my greatest and most patient teacher on this one. Thank you, Honey!)
- The Reader’s Digest was right – laughter is the best medicine:
So, to answer my own question – yes, it is time for me to give up the promise of heaven. I know this choice is not for everyone, and I’m really ok with that. Coming to this conclusion, I am feeling relief and a deep sense of happiness and peace. The unbearable pressure has been lifted. I will continue to do my best by showing up, loving deeply and letting go. Because another of my truths is:
I am grateful beyond words for my art – the process, the lessons, my teachers and the outcome. My creative artist self is so darn happy, and I am so grateful that I have had this time to explore my own heart and my own truths. I highly recommend it! Thanks so much for all your lOve and encouragement. Want to be an artist?
SO, as Batman says…
Be gentle. Be brave. Be true.
check Out mOre new vickiO art HERE!