Content Note/ Trigger Warning: Talk of addiction, self-harm, a messy ride to sobriety, and relapses.
I didn’t know what I was getting into when I stepped behind the wheel. A past filled with pain, starring me down from the rear-view mirror. But I was staring down the future in the windshield and I was hoping to god that it was everything that I ever imagined it would; sobriety that is.
Because that was what this journey was about. Getting sober from an addiction that I had used for so long to cope with life.
The road ahead of me was going to be long, and I knew that. What I was putting behind me though, that was worth however long it took to go forward. Escaping the past was worth whatever it took.
What even is sobriety though?
When I packed my bags, I thought I was packing for a trip to the beach or a walk in the park. To put it simply, I thought it was going to be easy. Don’t get me wrong, I had been on this journey before, but I always turned around and headed home. This time however, it would be a walk in the park because this time I had a passenger sitting beside me.
Or at least that’s what I thought.
I have always been one of those who would religiously say that a relationship will not fix your mental illness. Day after day I have seen teenagers believing this craziness that the person they are dating is suddenly going to make everything about their mental illness disappear. And for years I have fought that. I have advocated for loving yourself, finding help in a professional way, and self-care.
But then it happened, I fell in love. And it was/is so different from any love I had experienced before.
While I knew it wouldn’t fix my mental illnesses, for some reason I was convinced that the journey would be sunshine and rainbows having them beside me. I always believed that a support system is key. Every time I have ever had a major breakdown that has always led to an attempt at my life, my support system kept me going when I didn’t know where to go and wanted to give up.
Now here I am, driving down the curvy road and realizing that this journey is so much messier than I thought it would be.
We took a trip to California over the summer. This journey to sobriety reminds me a lot of driving cross country. Sleeping in the car, falling asleep in uncomfortable positions, fighting because you’ve been in a car for hours and you are cranky, and eating things you don’t want to for the simple fact that you need to. Whereas with my journey to sobriety it has been; sleeping in the car on short rides because you are exhausted, falling sleep in the bathtub because you are crying and trying not to completely break down and relapse, and eating things when you feel sick because you are so upset and don’t know how to cope, but you need to eat.
This trip to sobriety has been a lot like that road trip as well. There are up hill climbs that literally make me feel sick to my stomach. Curvy roads that make you think you are about to fall off the earth. Having to turn around and go back a way because you forgot something.
For the entirety of the trip, I thought sobriety was the end destination. But I am starting to think I was wrong.
I think what sobriety for me looks like, is a journey. And a messy one. It is a broken road needing to be fixed and having to find ways around the broken spots. Sometimes, it is going back because breakdowns are inevitable. Taking a break because you need to work on self-care because other parts of you are suffering.
I’ve had breakdowns, I won’t deny it.
Because fuck what people say, it’s not as simple as stopping. There is so much more to it than simply quitting. The addiction for me, self-harm. So, what do relapses look like? Starting a fight with my fiancé simply to feel the pain because I think I have fucked up and deserve the punishment. Pulling my hair out because it gives me some form of relief that, shocker, only makes me more anxious in the end. Digging my fingernails into my skin so that I can feel a little pain in a physical way to help mute the emotional pain.
Taking long baths because crying in a bath tub seems better than crying in bed and messing up the sheets.
It’s messy, and hard work. I have been struggling to keep my head above water.
What people never understand about my addiction is that, I don’t actually like the pain.
It’s not about liking pain for me, it’s about feeling like I deserve it. I deserve the pain because I am a failure, everyone hates me, and it’s because I am horrible person. As unhealthy of a coping mechanism as it is, it’s the only one I have ever really had. Every time I have ever tried to find a new way to cope with things, it fails.
And I always fall back to my old ways.
Maybe that’s why I have had such a messy ride. I swear at times it feels like people are throwing slushies at my windshield, and I am having a hard time driving when I can’t see where I am going. At times I feel like I am driving through a tornado. And let me mention, I don’t even have a drivers license. Let that sink in. Because it perfectly describes this journey. I am sitting behind the wheel with very little experience, people are throwing slushies at me while I try to drive away from a tornado, and I can’t see through the slushies and tears.
Sobriety is where I thought I was heading, but it’s not a place at all I think.
I think it’s a state of mind. It’s excepting it will be a hard road, and trying with everything in you to be “sober”. But also, it’s accepting that there may be relapses, it won’t be easy, and you are going to struggle.
My ride has been filled with bumps that have shaken up everything in my life. Its been messy, and hard, and I have cried more than I think I have ever cried before. Each day seems a little bit harder. At the same time, each day that I can honestly say that I haven’t done something to intentionally hurt myself, I feel accomplished in a way that’s new to me.