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Painting on the Blank Canvas of Sobriety

I remember being the little girl who would always wait and watch. I was waiting for others to show me who I needed to be, to be accepted, to be loved, to be worthwhile. I spent so much time doing this in efforts to find somewhere I belonged, that I never really got to know myself.

The intensely felt sense of scarcity, that “never enough” feeling matched with overwhelming anxiety was the perfect storm for my alcoholism and addiction. When I was drinking and using, I didn’t feel so afraid. I thought I had finally found a solution to my inner critic and deep insecurity. Later I would learn the “solution” I had found was the very shovel digging a much deeper pit of shame and guilt that would take years to climb out of.

In the end of my active use, I remember the fear of not being accepted or loved by others had been replaced by a deep self-hatred and pain. I remember finding myself baffled by my inability to make choices that didn’t hurt myself or others. I remember feeling this overwhelming sense of panic at the thought of people seeing me for what I knew was really underneath all of the deception and manipulation I wore like armor. I was afraid people would see the empty, bland, scared shell I thought I was.

When I finally sought out recovery, I remember feeling so unbelievably raw. I had no idea who I was, what I liked, what I could do, what I wanted. It was almost as if I was a blank canvas in a pitch-black room. The darkness inside of me was so thick and unavoidable I didn’t even know the empty canvas was there waiting. As I began to listen to others experiences, I felt less alone. As I began to share my experiences, I felt less shame. As I began to be honest, willing and open, I felt more connected. Little by little the darkness was replaced with light and the heavy thick air lifted.

Healing had begun and only then did self-discovery happen. I found myself with some good sobriety time, in a relationship with a man I love, with a career I was passionate about, and with two beautiful children. All of the things I never thought I deserved I had been gifted in recovery. Life was busy and full. I admit I had been happily distracted until COVID 19 hit. Like so many others I found myself in this new world of encouraged isolation. I found myself increasingly more restless, agitated, and bored. I found myself staring at this blank canvas that I had started, and then forgotten. I realized that getting sober was so much more than getting honest, cleaning the wreckage of my past and “doing the next right thing”. It was learning who I am, exploring new things, taking myself on a hike, getting lost in a book, going back to therapy, painting, doing yoga, and finding new ways to challenge myself.

For the first time in my life, I intentionally stopped looking outward for the directions of my life. I stopped looking to others to show me where to go next or who to be and I started looking inward. I started to listen to my inner self, I started to do the things that FEEL good to my soul. I started to add some color to the canvas I spent a lifetime neglecting out of fear of being criticized for its content. These things have allowed me to learn who I am outside of being a mom, a partner, an employee, a daughter, sister and friend. These things are not dependent on any role or relationship in my life. Recovery has given me the opportunity to take part in the greatest creation of all. In place of fear, I can live in the excitement of the lifelong adventure of self-discovery and self-love.

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