Being kind should come easy, so I thought. Especially when I quit drinking. Surprise! My bleeding heart is not so passionately caring as I assumed it was. People piss me off. I piss me off. Especially when feeling all of the things so very, very much. I’m used to tapping out, tuning off. And yes, I am well equipped with lots of “healthy” ways to unwind: whether it’s movement, journaling or cooking something wonderful. But sometimes I don’t want to do any of that, I just want to lay around and watch the Haunting of Bly Manor without feeling guilty about it. Alas, I am but a human.
Collectively, we are going through a fuck of a year. People are tense, understandably so.
I’m learning, more than ever, how important it is to be kind to yourself. Show up for yourself, today, just worry about today. You’ll automatically be a little nicer for the world around you. And by “showing up for yourself” I don’t mean packing your schedule full to the brim, doing every little thing, just pick a few things that are really important for you, for your soul. How can you be nicer to yourself today?
Do you notice yourself reaching, as we all do, for something to numb the pain? Alcohol, Ativan, Percocet, candy, deep fried food, porn, gambling, snorting coke, retreating into your bed away from the world, pot, shopping, scrolling through Instagram, you name it. We all have something. Some of these things are perceived to be worse than others, but guess what, we’ve all dabbled with addictive behavior. It’s human nature. We are all collectively sighing, because the world is not perfect, and neither are we.
I can be especially not nice with myself. I like to beat myself up for my perceived mistakes. I replay things in my head. I have a little bully inside that likes to make fun of my clothes, my body, my words, my work. I’m hypercritical of everything I do and that sometimes manifests itself in how I treat the world around me. One of the major reasons I decided to have a Sober October: I tend to get sad when I drink and I get super hard on myself (especially the next day.)
There’s this sort of ongoing dialogue that keeps happening inside of me, it often feels like it’s two people arguing inside of my psyche. There’s the logical, reasonable, healthy Rae who just wants to take care of herself and protect her heart (which is vulnerable to cardiomyopathy, the stretching of your heart muscle, also caused by alcohol consumption). Then there’s the badass, rebel, fuck the system Rae who feels a lot, likes to have fun and let loose. Drinking has often been the key way I let myself go, the rigid, critical side of me.
I got to about the two week mark, somehow I almost miraculously made it through Thanksgiving, without any alcohol whatsoever. That’s when the little voice spoke up,
“Rae, you’ve done so well. You can handle one glass of wine with dinner. They keep saying how amazing this wine is and how they especially bought it to go with the lamb. You can handle just one.”
And so, without much more thought, I had a glass. These decisions often feel like they happen without much forethought. One second, you’re two weeks strong alcohol free, the next, you find yourself giving in without even putting up a fight. I had the wine, I didn’t want a second glass, I was surprisingly good.
Rather than celebrate the fact that I was able to moderate, I pushed any and all emotion about it down. (And to the surprise of some members of AA, I didn’t end up in a ditch with an empty bottle of rubbing alcohol bottle because my soul was so terribly deprived of booze.) I didn’t even really miss it. I just wanted to pretend it didn’t happen at all, I didn’t even want to recognize it.
Eventually, the mean voice that was telling me I’d failed, just got louder and louder.
Deep down, the rebel voice had won the battle and she was gaining momentum, fuck it all, fuck Sober October, you messed it up anyways, you’re being too strict. The logical, heart-protecting, healthy part of me was disappointed, giving up. I had let myself down. I looked at the two weeks I had built up for myself, how I’d crumpled those 14 days away and tossed them in the trash. They were worthless now. The numbers, clearly, mess with my head.
And I think that’s where I should have stopped, reflected and dropped in to what I was truly feeling. Instead, I kind of just suppressed those thoughts and decided I was going to keep on moving forward. I found myself two days later, a handful of drinks deep, wondering why the fuck was I doing this again.
This is where the kindness comes in.
I had not been kind to myself, I allowed these two pieces of my identity to bicker and fight within me since I caved and had that glass of wine.
And you know what? It’s fucking exhausting. It’s exhausting to be honest about this, to be open about my addictive neurosis. But, deep down, I know this is what keeps me moving forward. I don’t even feel like I have a choice in the matter. If I stop talking about it, reaching out, telling my story and being honest then I find myself drinking again and again. Numbing myself out.
I learned about anaesthetizing early in life, surgery after surgery, trying new devices to protect my heart that would only keep slipping and tearing the sensitive tissue under my skin. Medical trauma is real, it’s scary and it taught me at a young age that I can take something outside of me to make the bad feelings inside go away. I’ve been getting quite good at self-anaesthetizing since I was 19 and no longer wanted to deal with the fact that, every year, I was being cut open in some way or another because of a genetic heart condition that I couldn’t control.
So fast forward to where I am now. I’ve come a long way and I’m slowly learning to celebrate myself. Two weeks is a HUGE win. I’m going to keep going. There will be more weeks. The time strings itself together and I spend much more time sober, taking care of myself and creating than I ever have since that scared, young teenager was diagnosed with ARVC.
I will never be perfect, I will always have that rebel heart that wants to fight against the norm. I will always be working on myself. Nobody is perfect, as much as Instagram likes us to think otherwise, we are all messy humans doing the best with what we have. So basically what I’m trying to say is, it’s really fucking hard to be kind to yourself, but it’s so important.
The kinder I am, when I feel I’m slipping, the less badly I fall. And falling down is OK, we learn to pick ourselves up.
So take some time when you find yourself reaching for that illusive thing that makes the dread go away, to tune back in. Why am I reaching for this drink? What do I need more of in my life? Is this really what you need right now? Can you moderate it? You don’t have to be perfect, but can you harm yourself a little less today?
Sometimes yeah, have the candy, have thing thing that will make you feel better. But is this thing going to keep creeping up, every day, and is this the best way to be coping with it? Is doing this thing kind? Sometimes, we do have to allow ourselves a human moment, but being conscious of what energy we allow, what boundaries we create for ourselves, is an act of radical kindness.
It’s not black and white, it’s not the high road or the low road, it’s finding middle ground. We’re all paupers and saints, depending on the day. I hope my words can bring a little more humanness into your day, because believe me, you’re not alone.
Whatever’s going through your head, dark thoughts, loneliness, self-criticism, you’re not alone and you don’t have to keep living in it. You can be a little kinder, just for today, for yourself. Regardless of what you do, try and do it with kindness.
I’ll leave you with a beautiful set of principles that I was recently reminded of: