I’ve said it hundreds of times and I’ll say it again: since starting down this path of, I don’t know, alternative living (I still struggle with finding the appropriate word for this and me – “..sober”? “..alcohol-free”? “..drinking less”? “..cutting back, like, ALOT”?) the jigsaw puzzle of my life has been coming together. For 30 years I was a hot mess, an over-full water balloon just barely holding in its innards, on the verge of bursting at any given time – I did not ever, truly, have my shit together. I felt like the world didn’t, couldn’t see me for who I was, lest it fall to its knees and retch in disgust. Outwardly, this was manifested in all my “bad karma,” or really, labile karma. I’d swing quickly from branch to branch, from fulfilling to failing relationships, from dancing in my underwear to crippling depression, caught in an endless struggle with my body and eating and not eating and eventually, with drinking (and not drinking). I was either hyper-prepared or nearly fetal in my demeanor. I could be a friend’s rock, or the rock through their windshield. I was either full to the brim or I was so empty I could physically feel the universe still trying to take more, more from me, sucking at my blood and bones and spirit until I begged for it all to stop. I just thought this was it, this was the way I was, doomed to be curled up, living inside this pendulum I couldn’t control, forever and ever.
When I started to realize drinking was becoming a “thing” for me, I didn’t recognize it as a problem but more like “yeah, that sounds about right. Let’s ride this one out.” Just another way for me to express my gluttony, particularly for punishment. Drink to drown, drink to reward, drink to punish, then drink some more to forget about all that dang drinking. Seemed like standard Danielle logic. I’d like to say I knew the real me was buried deep in there somewhere, but I honestly didn’t think I had an authentic self at that time, atleast not one that I loved or respected or wished to acknowledge. So I just kept drinking, not worried if the real Danielle would sink or swim or if she even had a clue what I was doing.. some things were better left unknown.
When I stopped drinking, my world seemed to open up almost ::snaps:: instantly. I felt like I was willing things to happen all around me, and to me. It felt like my labile karma had finally started taking its Lithium, had kicked the kids off the see-saw and things were leveling out. I wasn’t even instinctively waiting for the other shoe to drop (or, as Brene Brown calls it, “forboding joy”) like I normally would have when things seemed to be going OK in my life. I launched myself completely into the unknown, because the unknown was terrifying but it was still better than what I knew, and that was that I wasn’t cultivating any life worth living. Once I quit struggling against the current, turned on my back and let go, I back-floated right into everything I had ever sought.
When I say I willed things to happen, I am talking huge things: the Navy messing up my paperwork and cancelling my orders to Italy, which I had regretted accepting since day one, to small things: I really needed a vacuum, and there one magically appeared in my alley. I was torn on buying Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, and a $2 copy turned up in a used book store I randomly perused in Joshua Tree. I found my boyfriend, and not just any ol’ boyfriend – one who not only supports but loves that I don’t drink, and who also prefers not to base every social event around drinking either. One who loves coffee and dessert and working out as much as I do, and who can see through the facade of alcohol and spend Friday nights philosophizing with me and early Saturday mornings watching movies and making breakfast, rather than taking turns nursing one another’s hangovers. I found my current job which was a terrifying prospect at the time, coming from a 7-year stint in the Navy and absolute zero experience navigating the job search realm. It was the first and only interview I went on, it was a dream opportunity and the timeline worked out perfectly. I was concerned about making rent in my expensive beach home once the Navy was no longer paying for it, and I found a wonderful roommate who quickly became an even better friend – and who also doesn’t drink (this wasn’t even a requirement in my craigslist ad!).
Ever since I was 16 and had just begun therapy, a phrase from my first therapist rang in my ears: “just trust the process.” It’s been getting louder and louder over the last few months. Back then, and for close to 15 years after that I said “OK lady, sure, easy for you to say, here’s your 100 bucks for listening to a child’s problems for 45 minutes” and didn’t trust shit. Not myself, not anyone else and certainly not the farce, the fraud, the (mimicking voice) pro-cess. But once I hit the wall, where I had nothing left to sabotage and things could not get much worse – well, what the fuck – let’s leave it up to “the process.” If nothing else this likely started as a practice in my standard masochism. ..Sure, let’s “trust the process” and let go of the reigns, let everything just run right off the road because I sure as hell can’t control it anymore. I had been struggling against everything for decades and I finally decided to let the horses run fucking buckwild. But the strangest thing happened; when I finally let go, the horses didn’t go wild. They looked back at me, with love and compassion in their eyes, turned to face forward, and kept on walking. Calm, composed, perfect, beautiful, with a resolve and confidence I’d never before seen.
So here I am, living my dream life not because of any 6-figure job, perfect body or 80 likes on one instagram post (or even just my entire instagram). This life was always right there, right on the other side of my struggle for power, for control in all the wrong places. All I had to do was shut my eyes real tight, let go and trust the process. I move through life daily with this underlying knowledge that everything will just work, and my mantra has become “control is an illusion.” Of course I still have rough days or hit patches of anxiety, but I have this subtle calm beneath it all and sometimes, I’m even able to bring it out.
“I truly have the faith, I have alot of optimism that kind of living this way will bring good things, and I feel that for you too.” -Jolene, Edit podcast
Edit: Editing our drinking and our lives podcast, Episode 6. “Life Without Alcohol.”