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Cleaning out my Closet

July 29, 2021

The problem with being a recovered alcoholic, is the temptation to forget that we have a mental illness that’s simply in remission. For me, I went so far as to reject the disease theory, thinking that the 12 Step model was outdated. Fortunately, I had a moment of clarity where I understood, if alcoholism is not an illness, and is merely a crippling coping mechanism to manage trauma, then that would mean a healed person, holistically healthy, can safety take a drink again. May I never think I can ever take another drink again.  

As I become fully integrated into this society with all its ups and downs, I privately celebrate my accomplishments. I forget that it’s only by grace that I recovered; grace that I miraculously accepted. I forget the pain of the past, partly because the mercy of time lets me forget, and partly because I shut the door on it. When I cleaned out my closet in preparation of moving, determined to bring nothing negative with me, and went into boxes of my history, I was slammed with remember-when’s.  

One of those memories made me laugh out loud, one made me sob and have to take a time out, some made me ponder and reflect on the truth behind those memories, and all of them made me feel the pain of my mental disease, which manifested in my life years before my first drink. The book Alcoholics Anonymous says, “The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.” (30). It’s strong language, but necessary, because it is so easy and tempting to forget the insanity or self-defeating behaviour that we can get involved in, with, or even without, alcohol.

On the outside, I am a model citizen. I pay my (back) taxes, I have a fulfilling job, I get along with my neighbours, I don’t steal, I drive the speed limit (mostly), I have healthy relationships, and I want to be good. On the outside, I know through and through now that I am “normal”. But on the inside, I’m still the other. I still feel awkward and hated and diseased, I just push it down – until I pull out my high school yearbooks, and the raw emotions that made alcohol a decent solution come flooding in. This time though, I sort through those feelings of pain and discomfort and otherness, not drown in them.

My program of recovery teaches me to not regret the past or fear the future. I’m still working on those compulsions, but today I know that “progress not perfection” means being human, and not an excuse to be lazy. I was hard on myself for a long time in recovery, and when people pointed that out, I was insulted. I felt mediocracy was being condoned. Now I know true health means going slow as much as possible, and making honest mistakes.  

As I work toward a minimalist lifestyle, and move through the grieving process of losing my father, I feel hopeful for the future. I work to let go of my pride, and I dream of what my practice as a health coach will look like. In my cleaning I saw old report cards with lots of “satisfactory” efforts made, which today makes me smile, not cringe as it used to. I saw where my strengths naturally lie, and I am grateful for the gifts and talents that God gave to me. I work on my new passion, mindfulness, and I continue to develop my relationship with my higher power, and that excites me.  

I am not my past, and what I do in the present helps me get to where I want to go in the future. I had to let a lot of things go, but I see now, that’s what my purest self would have done. This world is not what it seems, and when I can live in the moment, or rely on my higher power when the present moment seems too intense, I can be okay.  

Photo by John Towner on Unsplash

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